Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
There are only three games on the NBA schedule this Thursday. Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks (7:30 p.m. ET) and Miami Heat at Sacramento Kings (10 p.m. ET) are solid enough matchups. The Bucks are legitimate title contenders but struggling right now, while the Raptors and Heat could make some noise in the Eastern Conference playoffs, presuming they get there.
The Kings have the longest playoff drought in the NBA, last playing extra basketball in 2006. They might sneak in this year but it will be tough in the much-deeper Western Conference.
However, the clear matchup of the night is Brooklyn Nets at Los Angeles Lakers with a 10 p.m. ET tipoff and nationally televised by TNT. That’s a potential NBA Finals preview and the odds-on favorite to be the exact matchup. The Lakers are favored to repeat as NBA champions, while the Nets are second-favorites to win their first championship and also favored to come out of the East.
Thursday might be the only meeting of the regular season as it’s not clear how the NBA will schedule the second half. Had everyone been healthy, five of the NBA’s biggest stars would have been on the court in the Nets’ Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving and the Lakers’ LeBron James and Anthony Davis – it could be all five are on the U.S. Olympic team this summer, although with the late end to the NBA Finals just before the Summer Games in Tokyo (if they happen), some of these guys might take a pass.
Alas for Thursday, Davis is expected out until after the All-Star break with an injury suffered Sunday, and Durant is very questionable with a hamstring injury that has cost him the past two games.
Durant, Harden and James have all won NBA MVP Awards, and LeBron is currently the favorite to win his fifth career, which would tie Michael Jordan and Bill Russell for the second-most all-time behind the six by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Durant is playing at an MVP level, too, after missing all of last season rehabbing a torn Achilles tendon. He and LeBron faced off in a few NBA Finals matchups. Durant and James are currently the leading vote-getters for the 2021 NBA All-Star Game next month in Atlanta. Irving and LeBron brought the Cleveland Cavaliers their lone championship in 2016.
It’s still a great matchup but certainly loses a bit of luster with Davis out and perhaps Durant too – early odds had Los Angeles as a 2.5-point favorite but this line won’t be settled until KD’s status is made clear. If Durant plays, the Lakers could be home underdogs in a regular-season game for the first time since April 9, 2019.