This week’s edition of the Thursday NBA doubleheader on TNT could be very interesting – even with a few injuries to big-name stars. Oklahoma City and Chicago will tip things off in the early game before the attention switches to the Los Angeles Clippers traveling to Portland.
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Chicago Bulls
Odds: Thunders -1.5
The Thunder have been up and down to start the season and the trading of James Harden to Houston was a major shock, but make no mistake about it: Oklahoma City is still the favorite in the Western Conference. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook can take over games at any time, all this team needs to do is improve a little defensively, especially late in games. Fatigue is also an issue as Durant, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka all played Olympic basketball this summer.
The Bulls will be without Derrick Rose for most of the season, but if you haven’t noticed, Chicago is built on their defense and as long as they continue to play well on that end of the floor, they’ll be a problem in the East. No team has scored more than 89 points against the Bulls through their first four games of the season and for a team that doesn’t score that many themselves, Chicago needs to stick to their defensive guns.
Oklahoma City has won three of their last five against Chicago, but the Bulls should still be close favorites at home. Remember that isn’t the Chicago team that many picked to go to the Finals last season as Rose’s injury threw a wrench into that plan, but they’re still a top five or six team in the league, so make them your NBA betting pick in this contest:
Los Angeles Clippers @ Portland Trailblazers
The Clippers have their own injury woes to worry about it as Blake Griffin has an issue with his elbow and could end up sitting out this game, especially as the Clippers play on Wednesday night. Griffin also has a neck strain and after an offseason that was dimmed by a knee injury that forced him off the Olympic team, this can’t be encouraging for the Clippers. Griffin’s high-flying style of play has left him susceptible to injuries and it’s far too early in the season to be worrying about this already.
The Blazers don’t want to hear about any team’s injury problems after what they’ve been through in recent years. But they’re in good shape to start this regular season, and as long as J.J. Hickson continues to pound the glass, that allows LaMarcus Aldridge to stay out and play his midrange game and that is great for Portland’s chances in 2012-13.
Those who bet the NBA should not that the Clippers won three of four meetings last season. Watch out at the point as Portland rookie Damon Lillard goes up against the Clippers’ Chris Paul, who is in the top two of three in the league when it comes to the point, which is arguably the most loaded position in the league.
Pick: Trail Blazers