Tue, Dec 19, 1:35pm by Staff Writer
With over a third of the 2017-18 NBA season complete, the conference standings are beginning to take shape, as the quality teams begin to distance themselves from the chasing pack.
In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors continue to be the benchmark teams, all with over 20 wins and only single digit losses.
In the Western Conference, the Houston Rockets have a league best 24-4 record, second only to the Golden State Warriors with 23 wins and six losses.
ESPN Australia will be televising the Los Angeles Lakers’ visit to Houston this Thursday at 12pm AEDST. We will also be previewing another blockbuster clash on a packed NBA Thursday card.
Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets
Thursday, 21 December 2017 at 12pm AEDST
The Houston Rockets juggernaut is not showing any signs of slowing down. The Rockets (24-4) are brushing aside almost every team they are facing by double digits.
Point guard Chris Paul is undefeated in the matches he has played this season and has added a layer of polish to a team brimming with shooters.
Shooting guard James Harden is said to be battling a knee injury, but will play through it as he did on Sunday against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Los Angeles Lakers continue to show signs of improvement this season.
The Lakers are a top 10 defensive team in the NBA, a vast improvement on their league-worst defensive rankings a season ago.
Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball continue to improve with each game they play this season and the Lakers have hung around in most of their road games so far.
This presents the greatest test they have faced on the road this season, against a Houston Rockets team that can blow a game apart in a matter of minutes.
The Lakers don’t have the shooting to contend with the Rockets, particularly in Houston.
When these two teams met in Los Angeles at the start of December, the Rockets were convincing 23-point winners.
We expect a similar result here, with the Rockets to dominate the contest.
The Rockets to win by 11+ in the Big Win Little Win market appears the best wager for this contest, as Houston’s hot streak is set to continue.
Best bet- Houston Rockets to win by 11+
Minnesota Timberwolves at Denver Nuggets
Thursday, 21 December 2017 at 1pm AEDST
A match-up of two rising teams in the Western Conference pits the Minnesota Timberwolves against the Denver Nuggets.
The Wolves (17-13) are coming off a disappointing week where they lost to both the Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers at home.
They now face a tough road trip to Denver to face a Nuggets team that is 11-2 at home this season.
Denver is not without its injury concerns, with centre Nikola Jokic on a minutes restriction and coming off the bench after returning from an ankle injury.
Paul Millsap remains out with a wrist injury and Wilson Chandler questionable with an ankle complaint.
Despite their decimated front court, the Nuggets continue to shoot well from the perimetre, with role players Gary Harris and Trey Lyles providing offensive spark in the absence of Jokic and Millsap.
A trip to Denver is always a tough task for visiting teams, with this the first of four contests these divisional foes will have this season.
The Wolves continue to rely heavily on the play of Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler, with Karl Anthony Towns often underutilised.
The Timberwolves bench continues to be a concern, with scoring coming from predominately two players only in Jamal Crawford and Tyus Jones.
Denver should have too much offensive firepower for the Wolves in this contest, particularly off the bench.
Best bet- Denver to win and cover any handicap less than four points
*Sportsbet odds will be posted when they become available
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