Wed, Jan 17, 10:45am by Staff Writer
ESPN Australia has a Western Conference double header for basketball fans on Thursday afternoon.
At noon the Oklahoma City Thunder host the Los Angeles Lakers, followed by the Denver Nuggets visiting the Los Angeles Clippers from 2.30pm AEDST.
Boston (34-10) and Toronto (29-12) continue to control the Eastern Conference standings, with the Celtics returning from a trip to London where they defeated the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Miami Heat are on a seven game winning streak and have surged to 25-17 and 4th place in the conference.
Golden State (35-9) has a 3.5 game lead over second placed Houston (30-11) in the Western Conference who remain without James Harden.
Los Angeles Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder
Thursday, 18 January 2018 at 12pm AEDST
The Oklahoma City Thunder (23-20) host the Los Angeles Lakers (15-27) in Oklahoma City for the first time this season.
The Lakers have won four straight games since the return of point guard Lonzo Ball, who gives them direction on the floor, something which their reserve point guards were incapable of doing in his absence.
The biggest win of the Lakers recent streak came last Friday afternoon against the San Antonio Spurs when they recorded a 93-81 victory.
After losing three straight games, the Thunder bounced back with a 101-91 win against Charlotte on Sunday.
The Thunder are a much better team at home (14-7) than they are away (9-13), but their biggest road victory came just a few weeks ago against the Lakers when they dominated Los Angeles to win 133-96.
Rookie Terrence Ferguson piled on 24 second half points to lead the team, with the win being the biggest for the Thunder all season.
The Lakers will enter this match with confidence, but unlike the injury beleaguered Spurs and the lowly Hawks, Kings and Mavericks whom they have beaten recently, the Thunder have three superstars capable of dominating the game.
This should be a high scoring contest, but the Thunder will prevail by double digits.
Best bet- Oklahoma City Thunder at the line at Sportsbet
Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Clippers
Thursday, 18 January 2018 at 2.30pm AEDST
The Clippers and Nuggets meet for the first of their three game series this Thursday afternoon when Denver visits Staples Centre.
The Nuggets (22-21) occupy eighth position in the Western Conference, with the Clippers (21-21), just a half game behind them in ninth.
Denver has lost three of their past four games, with the sole win coming against a poor Memphis team.
Conversely the Clippers have surged to a 0.500 mark recently after at one stage looking destined for the draft lottery.
Superb play from Louis Williams and the return of Blake Griffin has buoyed the Clippers who have looked smooth offensively and engaged defensively.
Despite being without Austin Rivers, Danilo Gallinari and Patrick Beverley, the team has received excellent contribution from role players such as Montrezl Harrell and C.J. Williams.
Williams is out indefinitely with an ankle injury adding to the Clippers injury list, which may also include centre DeAndre Jordan.
Despite these woes, the Clippers should have enough points in them to defeat a Nuggets team which has struggled on the road and matches up poorly against Los Angeles.
Outside of centre Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets will struggle to exploit any match ups offensively, while remaining vulnerable to the play of Blake Griffin defensively.
We are tipping Los Angeles to win this match by at least five points.
Best bet- Los Angeles Clippers to cover any handicap under five points
*Sportsbet odds will be posted when they become available
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