Wed, Jan 24, 9:36am by Staff Writer
Three matches feature this week on ESPN’s regular Thursday slate, including a match on ESPN2.
Chicago Bulls at Philadelphia 76ers
Thursday, 25 January 2018 at 11am AEDST, ESPN2
Since their trip to London where they lost to the Boston Celtics, the Philadelphia 76ers (22-20) are on a three game winning streak and have won eight out of their last 10 matches.
Last week centre Joel Embiid was named an All Star starter, with rookie Australian point guard Ben Simmons expected to feature among the reserves when they are announced later this week.
The 76ers went through a major form slump during December but have turned things around in January.
Wins against Toronto, Boston and Milwaukee in their past three matches shows that Philadelphia is certainly a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference, having toppled the top two seeds in the conference in the past week.
The Chicago Bulls (18-28) had a terrible start to the season, but after welcoming back Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls have been a team capable of competing hard against the league’s elite.
While Chicago remains 5.5 games behind 8th seed Milwaukee, a strong second half of the season should be enough to convince Bulls fans of this teams upside for next season.
The last time these two teams met in late December, the Bulls beat the 76ers 117-115. The 76ers were without Joel Embiid for that match and they were on the road.
Philly will most likely have Embiid in their starting lineup on Thursday and will play in front of a raucous Wells Fargo Centre crowd, likely to be buoyed by the town’s NFL team, the Philadelphia Eagles making the SuperBowl.
The 76ers should win this match by double digits, so keep an eye out on the Big Win Little Win markets for some extra value.
Best bet- Philadelphia 76ers to win by double digits
Houston Rockets at Dallas Mavericks
Thursday, 25 January 2018 at 12pm AEDST, ESPN
The Dallas Mavericks (15-31) host the Houston Rockets (32-12) for the first time this season.
The Rockets welcomed back James Harden last week and he led them to a victory against the Golden State Warriors, nailing a clutch 3-point basket.
The Rockets are 3.5 games behind the conference leading warriors through 44 games.
The Mavs have had a disappointing season, sitting in 14th position in the Western Conference, just 1.5 games ahead of last placed Sacramento.
One bright spot for the Mavs this season has been the play of rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jnr who is a leading contender for rookie of the year.
Smith has shown that he is a franchise player for the Mavericks going forward and Dallas fans have a lot to be optimistic about with Smith Jnr at the helm.
When these teams met in Houston in October, the Rockets ran away 16 point winners.
This match should be a lot closer given that it is in Dallas, but the Rockets still have a strong road record (15-6), while the Mavs have been less than convincing on their home court (9-15).
A handicap of 8 points would be as much as we would be willing to give Houston, so if it becomes available, take the Rockets to cover.
Best bet- Houston Rockets to cover a handicap of 8 points or below
Boston Celtics at Los Angeles Clippers
Thursday, 25 January 2018 at 2.30pm AEDST
The Boston Celtics continue a four game road trip in Los Angeles with a back-to-back game against the Clippers on Thursday afternoon.
Boston (34-13) are two games clear of second placed Toronto in the Eastern Conference, but have appeared sluggish since their return from London, losing their past three matches.
Point guard Kyrie Irving has suffered from shoulder soreness which saw him miss the team’s loss to Philadelphia. Despite Irving returning on Sunday, his 40 point effort was not enough for Boston to defeat the lowly Orlando Magic.
The Clippers (23-22) have been a pleasant surprise over the past few months, leapfrogging Denver into the 8th seed in the Western Conference.
L.A. have been a strong home team (14-9) and will catch the Celtics on the second night of a back-to-back and in the worse form they have had all season.
If the Clippers are able to stop the Celtics key weapon in Irving, then their two-pronged attack with Lou Williams and Blake Griffin should cause Boston problems.
Griffin has traditionally been a hard match up for a Celtics team that has lacked size.
The Clippers are likely to start this match as underdogs, and if they do, they are most certainly value.
Best bet- L.A. Clippers to win
*Sportsbet odds will be posted when they become available
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