Could the voting for NBA MVP actually be somewhat close? Golden State's Steph Curry is going to win it, but he has been in a minor slump of late and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook has been a triple-double monster. He had a 15th this season on Tuesday and third in a row, and the way he's going could get to 20 by the end of the season. So that's basically a triple-double 25 percent of the time. Amazing, and it makes what Oscar Robertson did in 1961-62 in averaging a season triple-double even more astounding. Westbrook actually has been much more unselfish this season with a healthy Kevin Durant by his side. The Thunder are 19-1 this season when he shoots 15 or fewer times. They're 30-12 when he records 10 or more assists. Westbrook has 12 games with at least 15 assists. If you give me the choice to start my franchise right now with one player in the NBA, it's Westbrook.
Pelicans at Pacers (-12.5, 208.5)
Your lone national TV game on NBA TV as TNT is again involved in the NCAA Tournament this week. Depleted New Orleans lost 113-99 at home to Miami on Tuesday. Things are so dire that Luke Babbitt is getting major playing time and he had a season-high 23 points. Forward Ryan Anderson, the team's second-leading scorer, missed a second straight game. Now there's talk he might be shut down. Yeah, bet against the Pelicans going forward. Indiana beat visiting Philly 91-75 on Monday to assure itself a winning home record for a 27th straight season, the NBA's longest active streak. Indiana won in New Orleans 91-86 on Jan. 8. The Pacers' nine-game winning streak in the series is their longest active streak over any opponent.
Key trends: The Pelicans are 0-8 against the spread in the past eight meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in five of the past six.
Early lean: Pacers and under.
Cavaliers at Nets (+9, 209.5)
Sit-down alert! I wrote earlier this week how Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue admitted getting his key guys rest was more important than potentially getting the East's top seed. Cleveland hosted Milwaukee on Wednesday, so I could easily see LeBron James or Kyrie Irving taking a seat here as the Cavs should beat the sorry Nets without one of those two. Brooklyn lost a third straight Tuesday, 105-100 at home to Charlotte but actually got some rare good news in this lost season: the return of rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. He had missed the previous 50 games following an ankle injury. RHJ had five points, three rebounds and two assists in 15 minutes. He's one of the few potential building blocks this franchise has. The Cavs are 2-0 vs. Brooklyn this season and haven't allowed the Nets to top 88 points. Cleveland is only averaging 90.5 points in the two.
Key trends: The Cavs have covered just one of the past five meetings. The under is 4-1 in those five.
Early lean: Wait and see but I'm inclined to lean Nets. Certainly under.
Bulls at Knicks (+5, 201)
These teams played in Chicago on Wednesday night, and in the second of a back-to-back you have to monitor whether the likes of Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol and Carmelo Anthony play here. They had split the first two meetings. The Knicks haven't won the season series since 2010-11. I wouldn't be surprised if the Knicks were big suitors of Gasol when he hits free agency this summer. Gasol is a worldly type of guy and probably would love to live in NYC. Plus, Phil Jackson still loves Gasol from their Lakers days.
Key trends: The home team is 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 5-1-1 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Whichever team loses Wednesday.
Jazz at Thunder (-10, 199.5)
Utah was in Houston on Wednesday night. Oklahoma City beat Houston 111-107 on Tuesday for its fifth straight win. Westbrook had 21 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds. It was his sixth triple-double in March, the most by any player in a calendar month since Michael Jordan had seven in April 1989. Westbrook is the first player with at least 20 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in three games in a season since Jason Kidd did it in 1995-96. It was Westbrook's third streak of at least three triple-doubles in his career. Only the Big O (13), Wilt (six) and Magic (four) had have longer streaks. The Thunder are 15-0 when Westbrook has a triple-double. Magic holds the record for consecutive wins in games with a triple-double at 24. Utah looks to avoid the four-game season sweep here. And the Jazz have dropped nine straight in Oklahoma City.
Key trends: The Jazz have covered only two of their past nine in OKC. The under is 7-0 in the past seven meetings.
Early lean: Thunder and under.
Trail Blazers at Clippers (-5, 214)
Los Angeles was at Golden State on Wednesday, so I don't expect the Clips to have much left in the tank here. Jeff Green was to return from a one-game absence for that one. Portland hosted Dallas on Wednesday again without big man Meyers Leonard (left shoulder injury). The Clippers lead the season series 2-1. Portland is 1-7 in the past eight games against the Clippers at the Staples Center. The lone win was 98-93 last season on March 4, 2015.
Key trends: The underdog is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 7-3 in the previous 10 in Los Angeles.
Early lean: Blazers and over.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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