There’s an excellent Thursday night game in the NFL this week with the New Orleans Saints visiting the Dallas Cowboys in a matchup of division leaders. However, some sports fans will be focusing on basketball from at least 8-10 p.m. ET or so when the Golden State Warriors visit the Toronto Raptors in the first game of the TNT doubleheader.
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
This could be a preview of the NBA Finals – which Toronto has never reached – as the Raptors have the league’s best record and are favored to win the Eastern Conference. The Warriors aren’t quite atop the Western Conference yet but surely will be by the end of the regular season if healthy and remain heavy favorites to win a fourth NBA title in five years.
Two individual side plots for this game. First, Warriors All-Star and two-time MVP Stephen Curry could return from a groin injury that has kept him out the past 10 games. Golden State is absolutely loaded but not the same without Curry and just 5-5 without him in the current stretch. There was no early betting line on this game because of Curry, who did return to practice Tuesday.
Second, this will be the first time that new Raptor Kawhi Leonard faces the Warriors since Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference Finals when he was with the San Antonio Spurs. They took a 25-point lead in Oakland in that one, but Leonard injured his ankle and the Spurs collapsed and lost. Leonard wouldn’t play again in the series and San Antonio would be swept. Leonard barely played last year at all and not once against the Dubs. Golden State has won the past eight games against Toronto but covered just one of the previous six.
The TNT nightcap features the surprising Los Angeles Clippers at the vastly improved Sacramento Kings. That’s the second of a back-to-back for Los Angeles, which hosted Phoenix on Wednesday. The Kings have lost five in a row in this series and an incredible 11 straight at home, but this Kings team is much better than any of those were. Los Angeles opened as a 3-point betting favorite for the contest.
Just one other game on the schedule, and it’s the Indiana Pacers visiting the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s Indiana’s first look at LeBron James since nearly knocking off his Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of last year’s Eastern Conference playoffs. James would lead a Game 7 close victory to stay unbeaten in first-round postseason series in his career. The Lakers opened as 5-point favorites hosting Indiana.