The NBA on TNT doubleheader this Thursday, the last day of February, is another good one as the Philadelphia 76ers visit the Oklahoma City Thunder in the opener, followed by Utah Jazz at Denver Nuggets in the nightcap.
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
Sixers-Thunder normally would showcase four All-Stars from the game earlier this month in Philly’s Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons along with Oklahoma City’s Paul George and Russell Westbrook, but Embiid will sit again with a sore knee. Why did the team even let Embiid play in the All-Star Game if he was having problems? He hasn’t played since and is not likely to until next week at the earliest.
The Sixers are legitimate Eastern Conference contenders with a healthy Embiid but not close without him. He’s averaging career highs in points (27.3), rebounds (13.5), assists (3.5), minutes (33.7) and free throw percentage (81.1). Always concerning when a big guy has knee issues, and Embiid hasn’t exactly been a bastion of health in his pro career.
Simmons, meanwhile, is essentially the Eastern Conference version of Westbrook in terms of the talent to put up a triple-double every night. Simmons’ eight this year are fewer than only Westbrook and Denver center Nikola Jokic.
Oklahoma City goes for the season sweep as it won 117-115 in Philadelphia as a 3.5-point underdog on January 19. George converted a four-point play with 5.1 seconds left. He was fouled by Jimmy Butler while making a three-pointer. Westbrook and Embiid almost got into it at one point and talked smack about each other after. They have a bit of a history. OKC has covered the past four in the series, and sits as a 7.5-point betting favorite for Thursday.
Jazz-Nuggets could be a Western Conference first-round playoff preview and features two of the West’s best centers in Jokic, an All-Star this year, and Utah’s Rudy Gobert, who should have been one as he leads the NBA in double-doubles and in field goal percentage. Gobert was the 27th overall pick of the 2013 draft by the Nuggets but was immediately traded to Utah for a second-round pick and cash. Talk about a mistake by Denver. But Gobert was a relative unknown Frenchman back then.
The styles of Gobert and Jokic couldn’t be more different as Jokic is a passing savant, while Gobert is a defensive demon. The Jazz will be at a disadvantage here playing the second of a back-to-back. That’s bad enough, but the thin air of Denver makes it doubly so. The Nuggets have the NBA’s best home record this year at 27-4 and have covered their previous five at the Pepsi Center against Utah. Denver is a 6-point favorite on the Thursday odds.