NBA Basketball Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 1/28/2014
Clearly the NBA game of the week to circle on the schedule is Wednesday's Oklahoma City at Miami showdown, a matchup I certainly expect to see again in June -- sorry Pacers and Spurs -- unless injury sidetracks one of the teams. The Heat are +200 favorites on Sportsbook.ag to win a third straight NBA title while Oklahoma City is the third favorite at +550 (Pacers +220).
It's the first matchup this year between the Thunder and Heat, and the teams will play again on Feb. 20, a TNT game I will preview then. Miami enters having won three straight now that Dwyane Wade is back, including an impressive win over San Antonio in a 2013 Finals rematch on Sunday. The Thunder have won eight in a row, and it's them I want to talk about here, specifically Kevin Durant.
You can expect to see re-posted NBA MVP odds at the all-star break. And when they are, Durant simply has to have overtaken LeBron James as the favorite to win his first MVP Award. Durant is on one of the hottest streaks we have seen in years. He hit the game-winning shot on Monday against visiting Atlanta and finished with 41 points (the 15th game-winning shot in the final minute of a game in Durant's career). It was Durant's 11th straight game of at least 30 points, the most in The Association since Tracy McGrady 11 years ago. He has at least 40 in five of those games and has six 40-point games overall on the season. No one has else more than two. Durant has 516 points this month, the sixth-most in a January in a single season since the merger. If he continues averaging the 36.9 points he is this month for Wednesday's game against Miami and Friday's in Brooklyn, Durant would tie George Gervin's January mark of 590.
I am beyond excited to see Durant and James face off as LeBron has given Durant problems in the past -- and you know LeBron is a prideful guy and wants to remind the world just who the four-time league MVP is. This Durant streak probably ends whenever the injured Russell Westbrook gets back, if not before, because Westbrook is not exactly shy about wanting the rock as well. With Westbrook in the lineup, Durant as averaging 28.2 points. Since Westbrook went down on Christmas, he's averaging 36.5 while taking about four more shots per game. Westbrook could return right after the Super Bowl.
Here Come The Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies remain on the outside of the Western Conference playoff field looking in, but it's now just a matter of time before they get into the Top 8. As I expected, Memphis has looked like a different team since Marc Gasol returned from his serious injury on Jan. 14. The Grizzlies have won five of six since then, including a win over Oklahoma City and a weekend home-and-home sweep of Houston. No team has sniffed 100 points against the Grizzlies in that stretch. Of course, Gasol is the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year. All six games in that stretch have stayed “under” the total.
Now that Memphis is playing well, it probably means that the team will have to hold on to Zach Randolph through the trade deadline and give this group one last shot together. The Griz began a three-game road trip Tuesday night in Portland in the ultimate clash of styles with the Blazers leading the NBA in scoring.
It's starting to look like Kobe Bryant won't make it back by the all-star break after all. The fracture in Bryant's knee hasn't fully healed yet, meaning he's out at least another two weeks and perhaps a month. The Lakers are 4-16 entering Tuesday's game with Indiana since Bryant’s knee fracture was diagnosed. They may get Steve Nash back from his long injury absence on Friday against Charlotte, but more likely early next week.
Keep an eye on the news out of Minnesota today. Center Nikola Pekovic had to leave Monday's win over the Bulls in Chicago because of a sore right Achilles’ tendon that has been bothering him for a while. He's having a great season, averaging career highs in points (18.4), rebounds (9.3) and minutes (33:06) per game. In the past six weeks, he is averaging 20.8 points and 9.8 boards while topping 30 points in a game three times. If Pekovic is out an extended period, that seriously hurts Minnesota's chances of getting into the playoffs. It seems likely he misses at least Wednesday's game against New Orleans in which Minnesota tries yet again to get over .500. The Wolves finish the week Friday at home against Memphis and Saturday in Atlanta.
Toronto leading scorer, DeMar DeRozan, missed Monday's win in Brooklyn with a sprained ankle and is very iffy for Wednesday's game in Orlando. The Raptors, trying to hold off the Nets in the Atlantic, start a tough five-game trip out West on Friday and clearly would love to have DeRozan back by then. They can beat the Magic without him.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
Most Recent NBA Handicapping
- Free NBA Picks Wednesday 1/20/2021 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Friday 1/15/2021 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Wednesday 1/13/2021 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Friday 1/8/2021 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Wednesday 1/6/2021 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Friday 1/1/2021 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Wednesday 12/30/2020 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Friday 12/25/2020 and Opening Line Report
- Free NBA Picks Wednesday 12/23/2020 and Opening Line Report
- 2021 NBA Championship Odds and Expert Predictions