The Thursday night TNT double-header features a couple of intriguing matchups that we might see later on in the playoffs. Here’s are preview of those games as well as the other game on the Thursday card:
Denver Nuggets @ Milwaukee Bucks
Thursday, 8:05 PM ET
NBA Basketball Betting Odds: Nuggets -3.5
This game should be like almost every other game the Bucks have played this season: a loss. Milwaukee is by far the worst team in professional basketball, the one team that arrived at the All-Star break with fewer than 10 wins. Moreover, the second-worst team in the league solely in terms of overall record is the Philadelphia 76ers, at 15-39. The Bucks have disintegrated without Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis this season. It’s true that the start of the second half of the season might give Milwaukee’s players a chance to make a new beginning of sorts, at least in their minds, but when a team has been as bad as the Bucks have been on a consistent basis, it’s really hard to pick them to win.
Miami Heat @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Thursday, 8:05 PM ET
NBA Basketball Betting Odds: Thunder -3.5
The big story on the betting lines surrounding this contest is that it is likely going to mark the return of Russell Westbrook to the Oklahoma City lineup. Out for more than a month, Westbrook should have a lot of energy to burn in this game if he indeed plays, but the concern for the Thunder has to be Westbrook’s level of sharpness. He could easily be rusty, and what’s more is that Oklahoma City – which went 22-8 without Westbrook – will have to reacquaint itself with Westbrook’s tendencies and methods. No, this process won’t take weeks – it will be quicker than that – but it might have an effect in this one game, so soon after the return from the injured list. Oklahoma City’s offense might be ineffective. This is an opening the Heat will take advantage of.
Houston Rockets @ Golden State Warriors
Thursday, 10:35 PM ET
NBA Basketball Betting Odds: Warriors -2.5
The Rockets moved into a tie for third place in the Western Conference by the time the All-Star break arrived. Houston won seven games in a row while San Antonio and Portland sputtered, changing the race for the second through fifth spots in the West. The Rockets were playing with a great deal of comfort, and so in many ways, they did not want the All-Star break to come; Can this team pick up where it left off at the end of the first half of the season? All things are possible, but with Golden State getting some time off after a challenging first half that knocked the Warriors down to eighth place (well below expectations) in the Western Conference, the Rockets might face a hungry and determined opponent on the road in Oakland. The NBA betting sense here is that Golden State will play this game with more intensity and a greater sense of purpose.
Pick: Golden State