The All-Star break is roughly one month away. Which teams will be in a better place, and which teams will slide in the conference standings? A crucial four-week stretch awaits various teams.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Atlanta Hawks
Thursday, 3:05 PM ET
NBA Basketball Betting Odds: Nets -1.5
This game is being played at night… because it’s in London, England. The Nets and Hawks are traveling across the pond, playing one of the two international games on the NBA’s regular season schedule. The other one was a Minnesota-San Antonio game in Mexico that was cancelled due to a fire in the arena.
How will Brooklyn and Atlanta deal with this trip? That’s the biggest mystery in this game, and the secret to predicting which team will win. Atlanta is generally younger than the Nets, who took on Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett near the ends of their careers. This figures to be a situation in which the Hawks will be the more fluid and vibrant team, adding up to a win on the betting lines.
New York Knicks @ Indiana Pacers
Thursday, 7:05 PM ET
NBA Basketball Betting Odds: Pacers -10
The Knicks just can’t stay healthy or stable this season. Tyson Chandler continues to deal with back problems, and J.R. Smith is a supremely enigmatic, erratic person whose performances cannot be predicted on a nightly basis except in one respect: He is going to be unpredictable – that’s the one thing you can safely predict about the tormented shooting guard. The Knicks’ instability stands in marked contrast to what the Pacers have cultivated this season. Indiana is a legitimate NBA championship contender precisely because it is so relentlessly good on defense, especially in the third quarters of games. If Indiana struggles in second quarters, it thrives in third quarters. The ability of head coach Frank Vogel to make halftime adjustments is a big reason why this team seems to have long-term staying power in the NBA. Indiana should be able to shut down New York when it matters.
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Houston Rockets
Thursday, 9:35 PM ET
NBA Basketball Betting Odds: Rockets -2.5
This is an interesting game to pick for a number of reasons. First, Oklahoma City will be playing without Russell Westbrook, its engine at the point. Reggie Jackson is a solid point guard, but he’s not Westbrook – no one is. Everyone in the NBA saw how much Westbrook’s absence mattered in the 2013 playoffs. It’s going to be hard to see how Oklahoma City can miss Westbrook’s quickness at both ends of the floor and still handle a potent Houston team that loves to spread the floor on offense and set up its perimeter shooters behind the three-point arc. Westbrook’s speed and his ability to be a help-and-recover defender would have enabled Oklahoma City to contain Houston’s offense. Without Westbrook’s defense – not just his offense – the Thunder are going to be exposed.
The other thing to look at in this NBA betting game is that Oklahoma City’s supporting cast has struggled in recent weeks. Kevin Durant can’t beat Houston by himself. The Rockets have to be given the edge here.