Most NBA teams have now reached the halfway point of the season. The Milwaukee Bucks lead the league with a 36-6 record while LeBron James and the Lakers are top of the Western Conference with a 33-7 record.
Those two franchises are the runaway leaders at the top of the league but the playoff picture is still fairly compact. There is a couple of games taking place this week that will have a big impact on the final standings.
Toronto Raptors @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Wednesday 15th January 8:05PM
Both of these sides have performed above expectations through the first half of the season. The Raptors are 25-14 and currently sit in 4th position in the East. The Thunder are 7th in the West with a 23-17 record. Thunder Coach Billy Donovan has lead his team to eight wins in their last ten games.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chris Paul have formed a strong front court partnership for the Thunder and they will be a match for any pairing in the league. SGA scored 32 points the last time these faced at the end of December. The young Canadian is one of the form players in the league and he will be expected to put some big numbers on Wednesday. Back Gilgeous-Alexander to score over 19.5 points with CanPlay at -120.
On paper, the Raptors have the stronger roster and should have enough to take care of the Thunder. However, the Thunder are on a roll lately and we’re tipping them to win at -135 with CanPlay.
Boston Celtics @ Milwaukee Bucks
Thursday 16th January 8:00PM
This game is the highlight of the week for NBA fans. 2nd placed Boston Celtics travel to face 1st placed Milwaukee Bucks at the Fiserv Forum on Thursday night.
The Bucks have already built up an almost unassailable lead at the top of the Eastern Conference. Boston are nine games back in 2nd place and a win here would only serve as a confidence boost should they meet again in May.
Milwaukee are the highest scoring team in the NBA, averaging 119.4 points per game. MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo provides most of the scoring power but he is ably assisted by Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, Khris Middleton and Donte DiVincenzo.
They will face a Boston side who have won of the best defenses in the league. Brad Stevens’ team allow only 104 points per game.
This will be a clash of styles and we like the Celtics’ chances of picking up a road win over the Eastern Conference favourites.
Portland Trail Blazers @ Dallas Mavericks
Friday 17th January 9:00PM
An interesting Western Conference matchup. The Trail Blazers will follow Wednesday night’s game in Houston with another Texan battle against the Mavericks.
Last year’s Western Conference finalists, Portland, have not been able to recapture last season’s form and currently lie in 10th place in the West with a 17-24 record. However, they are only two games back from the Memphis Grizzlies in 8th seed and a quick uptick in form could see them shoot up the rankings.
The Mavericks are in sixth position in the West yet only three games behind the second placed Utah Jazz. Luka Doncic’s injury coincided with a dip in form and he is key to their success. The Slovenian is averaging 28.9 points per game. The Mavericks should have enough in the tank for this one, back them to win with CanPlay.