I'm not happy the bowl season is over -- Monday's National Championship Game technically isn't a bowl game -- but am somewhat glad I don't have any college football distractions on Thursday because I'll be focused on the Oklahoma City-Houston game and the spectacular matchup of the two leading MVP candidates and triple-double leaders in the NBA: Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Rockets counterpart and former teammate James Harden. Westbrook is the slight MVP favorite at all the books, generally around +120 with Harden at +180. It's going to be one of these two guys barring injury. Westbrook is No. 1 in scoring and second in assists, while Harden is No. 4 in scoring and No. 1 in assists. Westbrook has a sizable lead in triple-doubles. The vote could literally come down to how they play against each other if the record of each team is similar and the overall statistics are. But right now, Houston is a superior team.
Nets at Pacers (-10.5, 218.5)
Brooklyn lost a third straight Monday, 101-89 at home to Utah. It was tied after three quarters. Trevor Booker led the Nets with 17 points and 15 rebounds. Indiana won a third in a row Tuesday, 121-116 at Detroit. Paul George had 32 points. The Pacers are 2-0 at Detroit this season and 3-13 in all other road games. The Pacers earned a 118-97 home win over the Nets on Nov. 25, tied for their largest margin of victory this season. Indiana has won three straight and five of its last six regular-season home games in this series.
Key trends: The home team is 4-0 against the spread in the past four meetings. The "over/under" is 4-0 in Indiana's past four.
Early lean: Nets and over.
Jazz at Raptors (-6, 205)
Utah saw a four-game winning streak end in losing 115-104 in Boston in the second of a back-to-back Tuesday. Gordon Hayward led Utah with 23 points. Rudy Gobert had 13 rebounds, extending his streak of 10 or more to 21 consecutive games. George Hill sat out with concussion-like symptoms. So did Alec Burks in the second of a back-to-back after making his season debut Monday. Toronto concluded a six-game road trip and looked out of gas in a 110-82 loss at San Antonio on Tuesday. Kyle Lowry had a season-low six points and the Raptors scored a season low in points. Toronto won in Salt Lake City 104-98 on Dec. 23. Lowry had 36 points. Utah lost by 10 in Toronto last year.
Key trends: The Jazz are 0-7 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 8-2 in the previous 10.
Early lean: Raptors and over.
Hornets at Pistons (-3, 201)
Charlotte hosted Westbrook's Thunder on Wednesday. Detroit hosted Indiana for the final time at the Palace of Auburn Hills -- site of the infamous Malice at the Palace brawl between Indiana's Ron Artest and fans in 2004; the Pistons are moving downtown next season -- on Tuesday and lost 121-116. Tobias Harris led the Pistons with 22 points. These two teams have split two meetings this season. Detroit has won two of the last three games at home against Charlotte.
Key trends: The home team is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 12-3 in Charlotte's past 15 in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
Hawks at Pelicans (-2.5, 210)
Atlanta was in Orlando on Wednesday. New Orleans had a four-game winning streak snapped in a 90-82 defeat in Cleveland on Monday. Anthony Davis had 20 points and 17 rebounds but the Pelicans blew a 10-point third-quarter lead. That's a game the Pelicans need to win with Cleveland not having Kyrie Irving. In their first meeting of the season in Atlanta, New Orleans led by as many as 35 points on the way to a 112-94 victory.
Key trends: The Hawks are 2-6 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 7-0 in the Pelicans' past seven vs. the East.
Early lean: Pelicans and under.
Thunder at Rockets (-7.5, 222.5)
First of the TNT doubleheader. Westbrook and Co were in Charlotte on Wednesday and I'll break my TV if Westbrook gets this game off, but that's not happening unless he gets hurt. Houston won a fifth straight Monday, 101-91 over Washington. Harden had 23 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his third straight triple-double and ninth of the season. Eric Gordon, a terrific offseason addition, had 31 points. Guard Patrick Beverley, who would probably guard Westbrook (Harden is terrible on defense), missed a second straight game with a sprained right wrist. These teams have split close two meetings this year in OKC. Harden is averaging 17.0 points, 12.5 assists and 8.0 rebounds. Westbrook is averaging 28.5 points, 9.5 assists and 8.5 rebounds. Houston has won the past four at home in the series.
Key trends: The Thunder are 0-8 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 6-1 in the Rockets' past seven.
Early lean: Thunder and over.
Suns at Mavericks (-4.5, 206.5)
Phoenix ended a two-game losing streak with a 99-90 home win over short-handed Miami on Tuesday. Devin Booker had 27 points and rookie Marquese Chriss a career-high 18. Brandon Knight sat out with a sprained right wrist. The Suns hadn't beaten the Heat since Nov. 3, 2009. Dallas beat visiting Washington 113-105 on Tuesday. Harrison Barnes had 26 points and Deron Williams, who was questionable, had 21. Andrew Bogut banged knees with a Washington player and had to leave but said after the game he was OK. First meeting of the season between Phoenix and Dallas. The Mavs have taken the past four overall and three at home.
Key trends: The Suns are 3-12-1 ATS in their past 16 vs. the West. The over is 6-2-1 in the Mavs' past nine at home.
Early lean: Mavericks and over.
Spurs at Nuggets (+6.5, 213)
San Antonio took advantage of a tired Toronto team and rolled the Raptors 110-82 on Tuesday. The Spurs' excellent defense held the Dinos 29 points below their season average. Kawhi Leonard had 25 points, and LaMarcus Aldridge added 23. Denver lost a third straight Tuesday, 120-113 at home to Sacramento -- the Nuggets have allowed at least 120 points in each loss. Danilo Gallinari led Denver with 24 points. Forward Kenneth Faried missed his second consecutive game with a back injury. First meeting between San Antonio and Denver this season. The Spurs took three of four last year but did lose the most recent one in Denver.
Key trends: The favorite is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 5-2 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Spurs and under.
Lakers at Trail Blazers (TBA)
Second TNT game. Portland was at Golden State on Wednesday with Damian Lillard doubtful. Los Angeles ended a three-game losing streak with a 116-102 home win over Memphis on Tuesday. The Lakers made a season-high 17 3-pointers, all but one coming in the first three quarters. Julius Randle had a triple-double of 19 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists. First meeting of the season between L.A. and Portland. The Trail Blazers have won eight straight games against the Lakers, matching their longest winning streak vs. L.A. in franchise history. The past six have been by double digits.
Key trends: The favorite is 6-0 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 11-5 in the previous 16 in Portland.
Early lean: Wait on Lillard.
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