We usually preview the two TNT games on Thursday in the NBA because those are the marquee matchups of the night with the national TV audience. This week, there’s nowhere else to go because the only two games on the entire schedule are the doubleheader: Indiana Pacers at Milwaukee Bucks, followed by Oklahoma City Thunder at Portland Trail Blazers.
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
The Bucks have the NBA’s best record and could win 60 games for the fifth time in franchise history and first since 1980-81. But, boy, do they seem to lose focus at times. How else can you explain Milwaukee getting swept this season by arguably the NBA’s worst team, the Phoenix Suns?
On November 23, the Bucks were 13.5-point home favorites and stunned 116-114 by the Suns on a last-second shot. That loss really isn’t explainable. However, the Bucks’ 114-105 loss at -13 in Phoenix on Monday perhaps is because it concluded a five-game road trip, the last four out west. Teams are always apt to be out of gas in the finale of a trip like that. Milwaukee became the last team in the NBA this season to lose consecutive games (also Saturday at Utah).
Bucks-Pacers could potentially be a playoff preview with Indiana sitting third in the East – should Indiana finish fourth, which is very possible, it would face Milwaukee in the conference semifinals if the Bucks finish atop the East and then chalk holds in the first round of the playoffs. Thursday wraps up the regular-season series, with the Bucks leading 2-1. Each game has been decided by at least nine points. The home team is 7-2 ATS in the past nine meetings, and Milwaukee is a 10.5-point Thursday betting favorite.
Oklahoma City and Portland are battling for the third and fourth seeds in the West – neither are likely to catch No. 2 Denver – and home-court advantage in the first round of the postseason. Thursday’s spread will be affected by whether the Thunder have All-Star forward and MVP candidate Paul George. He seems likely to play after returning in Tuesday’s loss at Minnesota. George had missed the previous three with a knee injury. Keep in mind this is the front end of a back-to-back for OKC, so maybe the Thunder don’t want George playing both ends.
Portland will be playing at home for the first time since February 13 as the Blazers finished a season-high seven-game road trip at 5-2 following Tuesday’s upset loss at Memphis. This concludes the season series between the Thunder and Blazers, with Oklahoma City looking for the four-game sweep. George averaged 40 points and 9.3 rebounds in the first three. OKC is 1-4 ATS in its past five in Portland, and is a 3.5-point underdog for Thursday.