One of the longest sports weeks of the year for bettors is the week the NBA is on its All-Star break, but that ends Thursday night as the Association returns with a six-game schedule.
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
Per usual, TNT has the marquee doubleheader Thursday and that tips off with a potential Eastern Conference playoff preview between the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, who opened as 5.5-point favorites. Boston comes out of the break sitting fourth in the East but tied with Philadelphia with a 37-21 record. Milwaukee leads the East at 43-14 – one game ahead of the Toronto Raptors – and is the current betting favorite to claim the conference title.
Let’s just say for the sake of argument that the Bucks do finish first and the Celtics fourth. That means, presuming chalk held in every first-round playoff series they would meet in the Eastern Conference semifinals. They met in the first round last year and the Celtics prevailed in seven games – the home team winning all seven.
Milwaukee and Boston have split two meetings this season, the home team winning each, and this concludes the season series. The favorite is 5-0 ATS in the past five regular-season matchups.
The TNT nightcap features James Harden and the Houston Rockets visiting LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, who are set as small home underdogs. Harden carries a streak of 31 straight games scoring at least 30 points that is tied for the second-longest of all-time. The chances of Harden breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s record of 65 in a row (Wilt also is tied with Harden at 31 straight for second) is less than zero.
Harden is averaging 44.7 points against the Lakers this year as Houston looks for just its second-ever season sweep of Los Angeles. The Rockets may get a huge boost in the return of starting center Clint Capela, who has been out since mid-January with a thumb injury. Houston is 8-2 ATS in its past 10 at the Lakers.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, would miss the playoffs as things stand and there are reports that Coach Luke Walton has lost the locker room and that his job status is very tenuous. The Lakers have lost eight of 11 to fall under .500 for the first time since they were 5-6. The Anthony Davis trade rumors appear to have negatively affected some of the club’s younger players who were rumored to be in the offers for Davis. The Lakers have covered just one of their previous six at home overall.