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NBA Friday Specials: Rockets and 76ers our picks

Wed, Dec 27, 7:58pm by Staff Writer

The 2017-18 NBA season continues throughout the festive period, with five marquee matches including a rematch of the 2016-17 finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day.

The Warriors once again got the better of the Cavs despite being without their best scorer in Steph Curry.

ESPN Australia features two blockbuster matches on Friday afternoon with the Houston Rockets visiting the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers taking on the Portland Trailblazers.

Houston Rockets at Boston Celtics

Friday, 29 December 2017 at 12pm AEDST at TD Garden, Boston

Just a week ago both the Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics led their respective conferences.

The Rockets (25-7) and the Celtics (27-10) now occupy second place in their conferences after injuries to some of their key players.

Chris Paul who is undefeated in Rockets uniform has missed the last three games with an ankle injury, but is expected to play in Boston on Friday.

The Rockets lost to the lowly Los Angeles Clippers and the resurgent Oklahoma City Thunder during the past week.

The Boston Celtics have had their struggles recently, losing to the New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls, as well as a Christmas Day loss to the Washington Wizards.

The Celtics are struggling for offensive production outside of point guard Kyrie Irving. They are reliant on rookie Jayson Tatum and second year forward Jaelyn Brown for the bulk of their offense.

In losing point guard Chris Paul, the Rockets have to shift James Harden into a ball handling role, something which he is familiar with as he played point guard for the entirety of last season.

The Celtics are a strong home team (14-5) and the Rockets are a strong road team (12-2).

Houston have more offensive firepower than the Celtics and with Chris Paul back in the lineup, should be favoured by at least three points in this match up.

Best bet- Houston Rockets to win and cover any handicap that is under three points at Sportsbet

Philadelphia 76ers versus Portland Trailblazers

Friday, 29 December 2017 at 2.30pm AEDST at Moda Center, Portland

The Philadelphia 76ers snapped a five game losing streak when they defeated the New York Knicks on Christmas Day.

The 76ers welcomed back centre Joel Embiid from injury and his presence made an immediate impact.

A visit to Portland begins the first game of a three game road trip for the 76ers, where they will also visit Denver and Phoenix.

Portland have been without point guard Damien Lillard for their past two matches and have struggled.

A big loss to the Denver Nuggets was followed up by a narrow last gasp win against the Los Angeles Lakers.

With Lillard contributing 26 points per game to the Blazers offense, his presence was always going to be sorely missed.

The 76ers dominated the Blazers in their earlier meeting this season beating them 101-81.

That win was fuelled by a dominant 16-0 start, something which they Blazers never clawed back.

Philadelphia have too many offensive weapons in this match-up, with the Blazers lacking a skillful point guard to run their offense.

Best bet- Philadelphia 76ers to win at Sportsbet

*Sportsbet odds will be posted when they become available

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