MARCH 3rd is a big day in the NBA with 22 teams in action across 11 games of round ball goodness.
The sliding Chicago Bulls look to keep the playoff chasing east at bay as they visit Orlando for a date with the youthful and exciting Magic at the 11am tip off time, shared by the Charlotte Hornets at the lowly Philadelphia 76ers.
Half an hour later, at 11.30am, The Portland Trailblazers take on the Boston Celtics, the Utah Jazz head north for a date with the Toronto Raptors and the Houston Rockets cling to their playoff spot against the New Orleans Pelicans.
The west rivalry heats up at the bottom end of the table at noon when the Memphis Grizzlies welcome the Sacramento Kings, the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks square off in a clash of two underachieving east teams, the action stays on the east side with the Washington Wizards meeting the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Detroit Pistons head to Texas for a date with the invincible San Antonio Spurs.
The 1pm game is a bit of a fizzer, with the Los Angeles Lakers heading to the Mile High City for a date with the Denver Nuggets, before Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder head to Hollywood for the game of the day against Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers.
We’ve cast our eagle eye over the games and picked out four results we think could give you some bang for your buck in your multi.
Orlando Magic to defeat Chicago Bulls ($1.67)
Portland Trailblazers at the line +5.5 vs. Boston Celtics ($1.91)
Toronto Raptors at the line –5.5 vs. Utah Jazz ($1.91)
Los Angeles Clippers to defeat Oklahoma City Thunder ($1.89)
Four leg multi pays $11.50 with Sportsbet.com.au
Chicago Bulls at Orlando Magic
Our tip: Orlando Magic to defeat Chicago Bulls ($1.67)
The Bulls had a stinking run of five straight losses, before looking like they had turned it around with three wins on the trot. But the ugly head of locker room discord and a general disinterest on the court has reared its ugly head again, producing disappointing losses against the Atlanta Hawks and Portland Trailblazers. It’s not as if the Bulls can all of a sudden gel, but they need to find some inspiration somewhere if they are going to make the playoffs. They went from being one of the favourites in the east, to a four way battle with the Hornets, Pacers and Pistons for three playoff spots. It’s a dramatic fall from grace and while it hasn’t been helped by injuries to stars Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose and Nikola Mirotic, something just isn’t right in the Windy City. While the Magic would be happy with Chicago’s record, they can take some stock from some improved play in recent weeks. They are already looking to next year, but will be heartened by the performances of the likes of Victor Oladipo, Elfriid Payton and Mario Hezonja. But the biggest improver has been robbed NBA Slam Dunk contest competitor Aaron Gordon. Gordon pulled off one of the greatest dunks of all time, but still lost to Minnesota’s Zach Lavine. He’s taking it out on the league, averaging a near double double since the all star break, including 22-7-3-2-1 in his last outing win over the Philadelphia 76ers. This one would normally be an easy one for the Bulls, but they’ve made nothing look east in recent weeks and we think the Magic might surprise.
Portland Trailblazers at Boston Celtics
Our tip: Portland Trailblazers at the line +5.5 vs. Boston Celtics ($1.91)
If we told you at the start of the season these two teams would be two of the hottest in the NBA at this point, you’d have laughed us out of town. But that’s exactly the case as the third in the east Boston Celtics welcome the west’s great improver, Portland. The Blazers looked gone for all money at the start of the season, but they have gone 17-4 in their last 21 matches to put themselves in a playoff position and allow them to dictate where they finish. It all starts with the back court of Damien Lillard and CJ McCollum. Big Game Dame is among the best point guards in the NBA, while his team mate McCollum has had a mortgage on the Most Improved Player Award since about 10 games into the season. A highlight of the season was Lillard’s epic 51 point night that helped the Blazers sink the NBA’s best team, Golden State, in a 137-105 blow out annihilation. The dynamic duo forms a tough one-two punch that will be difficult for the young Boston back court to contain. But those Celtics smalls have some fire power of their own, led by Mighty Mouse Isaiah Thomas, who is having a career season with 21.5 points per game and 6.7 assists per night. And defensive machine Avery Bradley will be further fuelled by his game saving block on Utah Jazz star Gordon Hayward, which gave the Celtics the impetus to move to a 100-95 win last time out. Boston is third in the east and has won 11 in a row at home and should be able to do enough to win this one, but we think the Blazers will keep it close and hold the line.
Utah Jazz at Toronto Raptors
Our tip: Toronto Raptors at the line –5.5 vs. Utah Jazz ($1.91)
The journey north to visit Canada has become one of the toughest trips in basketball. The Raptors have turned the Air Canada Centre into a fortress, having gone 21-6 in all games at home this season. They will be keen to bounce back from a shock loss to the Detroit Pistons last time out, 114-101, which came on the back of one of their best wins of the season, defeating the top of the east Cleveland Cavaliers on a Kyle Lowry game winner, 99-97. Lowry is this team’s Most Valuable Player and he showed it against the Cavs, producing a brilliant 43 points, nine assist, five rebound, four steal night. Lowry missed the game against Detroit, showing just how important he is to this team. The Utah Jazz are sliding. After winning seven straight games before the all star break, the Jazz have come out without purpose, winning just two of eight and dropping their last three. The latest heartbreak came against the aforementioned Celtics, 100-95, pushing them half a game outside of the playoffs. The Jazz, on their day, can match it with any side, possessing talent at all positions and depth off the bench. Gun small forward Gordon Hayward is a bona fide star, averaging 20 points, five rebounds, four dimes and over a steal per night, but they have great contributors in big man Derrick Favors (17 points, 8.5 boards) and surprise late first round draft pick Rodney Hood (15 per night). But they have a woeful away record, having won just nine of 28 and we can’t see them improving on that one in Toronto.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers
Our tip: Los Angeles Clippers to defeat Oklahoma City Thunder ($1.89)
Will the Oklahoma City Thunder be mentally scarred from the loss inflicted on them by ‘The Shot’? Ok, maybe we’re going a bit far comparing NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry’s remarkable long range game winner that sunk the Thunder to Michael Jordan’s iconic finisher against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1989 eastern conference first round, but you get the picture. The Thunder threw every thing at the NBA leaders – 37 points and 12 boards from ex MVP Kevin Durant, 26 points and 13 dimes from explosive point guard Russell Westbrook and 15 points and 20 boards from big man Serge Ibaka – but it wasn’t enough to get the win as Curry finished them off with the game winner – and 46 points on 12 three pointers – 121-118. The Thunder did vanquish the lowly Kings, on the back of Russell Westbrook’s ninth triple double of the season (18 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists), but the real test comes against the Clippers. The Clipps had won eight of nine, before alternating wins and losses in their past six games. They were in action against the Brooklyn Nets as this story was being written, but their last outing produced a 117-107 result against the Kings, thanks to a brilliant 40 point, 13 assist night from Chris Paul. CP3 has been asked to do a lot since star Blake Griffin went down with injury and he has been the key figure in the Clippers’ success. How he goes against Westbrook will be a telling factor in this match. The Thunder have the best player in this game, but the Clipps have more depth and with Paul leading the way, should be able to eke out a tight result.
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