The All-Star break is just a week away now. Teams are hoping to find their legs, gain an extra measure of energy, and push through until they can rest for five full days.
San Antonio Spurs @ Brooklyn Nets
Thursday, 8:05 PM ET
This game is intriguing in light of the Spurs’ rash of injuries, which pertain mostly to Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili. Danny Green, who has been injured, is slowly being re-integrated into the Spurs’ lineup this week, but this team is still noticeably shorthanded, particularly because of the absence of Leonard. One cannot easily express the extent to which Leonard’s injury matters. He performs just about every task imaginable. He’s a versatile defender who can handle banging in the low post but also extend to the perimeter and stay with a wing due to his quickness and wingspan. Leonard scores near the basket, but he can step behind the three-point line and knock down shots as well. He’s a tremendous rebounder, and his poise is far beyond his 22 years of age. The world saw just how complete a player Leonard had already become when it watched the 2013 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. Without Leonard, this will be a close game. The question is if the Nets are good enough and tough enough to beat the Spurs. They barely skated by the Philadelphia 76ers at home on Monday night. That’s not a strong recommendation on the point spread. Go with San Antonio by one or two buckets.
Pick: San Antonio
Chicago Bulls @ Golden State Warriors
Thursday, 10:35 PM ET
NBA Basketball Betting Odds: Warriors -8
The Bulls keep making their way onto the TNT Thursday night schedule this season, and you can understand why. Derrick Rose was supposed to be the point guard for this team in 2013 and 2014. The Bulls were viewed as top-line contenders for the Eastern Conference championship alongside the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat, assuming that Rose remained healthy. This put the Bulls back on the map and made them a powerful television draw for TNT. This is why they’re on so many Thursday doubleheader lineups.
However, with Rose out, the Bulls are hardly a prime-time kind of team. They’re a .500 team that’s good enough to make the playoffs in a laughably bad Eastern Conference, but that’s about it. The Bulls would almost certainly be several games below .500 if they had to deal with the Western Conference on a regular basis, and they have to face a Western team in this contest in Oakland against Golden State. The Warriors have not been exceptionally good this season. If anything, they’ve been slightly disappointing after planting a seed of expectations with their run to the Western Conference semifinals last season. Harrison Barnes, in particular, has not been able to play the way this team had hoped, given his breakout showing in the 2013 playoffs. Yet, Golden State is still 10 games above .500 in a strong conference. The Warriors should have more than enough weapons for the Bulls.
Pick: Golden State