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NBA Games Preview – Sunday 26.01.2020

 

We are close to the All-Star weekend now. Starters from both Conferences have been announced this week with the reserves picks coming up on Tuesday. No big surprises except Jimmy Butler omission from East starters in favour of Pascal Siakam probably. First things first though, let’s look at tonight’s card:

 

Denver Nuggets - Houston Rockets (20.30 UK Time)

 

This is the 4th and last regular season game between the teams. Rockets lead 2-1 with each team winning their home games. Both teams have some injury woes. James Harden played on Friday night in Houston’s win over Wolves in Minnesota but he wasn’t his real self obviously. The Beards scored just 12 points on awful shooting percentage and seemed bothered by his thigh injury. He is listed as questionable for tonight at this stage. It looks probable that the organization wouldn’t risk him even though this being a quite important regular season game for tie-breaking purposes.

Denver continue to play without two starters – point-guard Jamal Murray (almost surely out for tonight) and veteran forward Paul Millsap. Paul missed the last 7-8 games because of this knee injury and there’s no timetable set for his return too.

Verdict: The oddsmakers will probably wait until the last moment before releasing the opening lines here, in relation to Harden’s news. It’s logical teams to split the season series by 2 wins apiece and continue chasing each other in the standings. I like Denver here, regardless of Harden’s participation in the game. Nuggets have played better lately and Jokic seems back to his usual MVP-like form. It’s tricky to estimate the opening lines with all the personnel problems in the teams. There surely will be a lot of opportunities to back Nuggets in-play though. I’d pull the trigger on anything around Denver -4 or better.

 

 

 

San Antonio Spurs - Toronto Raptors (21.00 UK Time)

 

Both teams have raised their level of play in the past few weeks. Spurs are 6-4 in their last 10 games and breathe in Grizzlies’ necks for the last available play-off spot in the West. San Antonio trails Memphis by a single win. Popovich would want his team to sweep Toronto after their one-point win on the road two weeks ago.

Raptors’ resurgence directly connects to the return of all the starters with injury problems. Toronto share the second spot in the East with Miami. They are on good run of 6 straight wins and have won 8 of their last 10 games. No time for rest in the crowded East play-off standings though and every single game matters.

Verdict: Raptors are obviously the better and deeper team. They should be able to even the series with San Antonio. Oddsmakers will probably install the Canadians as a slight fav here. I’d be willing to take Raptors to cover any spread up to 4 points max, pre-match or live.

 

 

New Orleans Pelicans - Boston Celtics (Monday, 23.00 UK Time)

 

The big talk around the league this week is Zion Williamson’s NBA debut. The first overall pick finally made his delayed debut against San Antonio last Wednesday. He played again on Friday night against Denver on Friday. Of course the medical staff will insist Zion be on a strict minute’s restriction for the whole remainder of the season. Not that it matters much for Pelicans. New Orleans is long out of the play-off battle. The coaching staff will just use the remaining games for Zion to gather some much needed NBA experience and develop some chemistry with the team and especially with Ingramm who was the team’s leading scorer so far. What we saw from the young prospect in these two games is extremely promising anyway. Zion was shooting the ball efficiently, grabbing rebounds and blocking a few shots. Add his ever-present boldness in attacking the paint and the rim and Pelicans really have a reason to believe the future is bright. Let’s just hope his knees are durable enough for a long and decorated NBA career.

Verdict: Zion or no Zion, Pelicans still lost both games. They need to gel together and learn how to make their defense more effective. It will take some time, probably in the summer. Boston have injury problems. Tatum and Brown are nursing injuries and both are listed as day-to-day. Even with these problems Celtics won 3 straight games, one against Lakers in Boston and one against Magic in Orlando. They have deep bench and find ways to deal with lesser teams even without some personnel. I would favour them to win in New Orleans too, providing the spread is the right one. If Boston is available to cover 5 points spread max, pre-match or live, that’s a bet opportunity.

 

 

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