If it seems like the same handful of teams are showcased every Thursday on the TNT doubleheader, well, that’s largely true. The network paid a few billion for the solo national rights to telecast the NBA on Thursdays, so it has a say in which teams it wants to show.
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
The TNT opener this week is the Toronto Raptors at San Antonio Spurs. Solid matchup on the court, but the clear story line is Kawhi Leonard’s return to San Antonio. He forced his way out of town by barely playing last year, and the Spurs shipped him and Danny Green north of the border this past summer for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick.
For this year, the Raptors are clear winners of the trade as Leonard is playing at an MVP level and Toronto is battling for the NBA’s best record – it’s the betting favorite to win the Eastern Conference. However, Leonard can still walk after this season as a free agent. The Spurs are a bit above average with DeRozan, who is having one of his better seasons. Where the Spurs might win that trade long term is the fact DeRozan is under contract through the 2020-21 season (if he exercises a player option).
Toronto has lost its past nine in San Antonio and covered just one of its previous six, and is listed as a 1.5-point underdog for the contest.
The TNT nightcap features the Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors, last year’s Western Conference Finals matchup. The Dubs rallied from a 3-2 series deficit in that because Houston lost star point guard Chris Paul to a hamstring injury for the final two games. Paul isn’t expected to play Thursday, either, as he has been out since injuring that hamstring on December 20.
Houston has thrived without Paul for the most part because reigning league MVP James Harden is playing out of his mind – eight straight games of at least 35 points – in carrying the club. Houston’s 11-14 start is a distant memory.
The Rockets beat the visiting Warriors 107-86 on November 15 behind 27 points from Harden. Golden State was without Steph Curry, and only Kevin Durant (20) scored more than 12 points that night. Klay Thompson was 5-for-16 from the field and missed all five three-pointers, while Draymond Green had as many points as you or I did in 24 minutes. The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven in this series. Golden State opened as an 8.5-point favorite.