Tue, Jan 9, 2:00pm by Staff Writer
ESPN Australia presents two matches this Thursday featuring four playoff-calibre teams in the Western Conference.
The much-improved Minnesota Timberwolves host the surging Oklahoma City Thunder at 12pm AEDST; followed by the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors battling rivals the Los Angeles Clippers.
In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics (33-10) and Toronto Raptors (27-10) continue to be the two standout teams, with the Cleveland Cavaliers (26-13) playing poorly the past fortnight.
In the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors (32-8) have regained number one seed, with the Houston Rockets (27-11) missing star James Harden for a fortnight.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Minnesota Timberwolves
Thursday, 11 January 2018 at 12pm AEDST
Division rivals the Thunder and Timberwolves play for the final time on Thursday afternoon when they meet at the Target Center.
This series has been closely contested this season, with the Wolves winning 115-113 in Oklahoma City in the second week of the season thanks to an Andrew Wiggins half court buzzer beater.
The Wolves were also victorious on October 27 by three points, 119-116, before the Thunder took out the pairs third match of the season 111-107 in early December.
The Thunder (22-18) have enjoyed their best run of form all season during the pat month, winning seven of their past 10 games.
The trio of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George is finally starting to gel. The Thunder’s bench continues to be a concern, as their lack of depth is forming their starters to playing long minutes and often claw back deficits late in quarters.
The Wolves (25-16) have been the most surprising team in the Western Conference this season. Possessing a wealth of young talent, coach Tom Thibodeau is coaching the Wolves to their best season in over a decade.
The Wolves will be coming off a match with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday afternoon, which will be an emotional and physically demanding match.
We are expecting a slight let down from the Wolves for this clash, with the Thunder keen to square the ledger and playing on the back of four days rest.
Best bet- Oklahoma City Thunder to win at Sportsbet
Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors
Thursday, 11 January 2018 at 2.30pm AEDST
The Los Angeles Clippers (17-21) sit just two games outside of the 8th placed New Orleans Pelicans in the Western Conference and face a familiar foe on Thursday afternoon when they visit Oakland to play the Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors have won the past 12 matches between the two teams, with the last seven being by double digits.
These two teams met less than a week ago and on that afternoon, the Warriors were 121-105 winners.
The Clippers have been playing tougher defensively in recent weeks, after a dismal run of play during November had the team sitting near the bottom of the Western Conference.
The Warriors have been a poor first quarter team all season, with the sluggish starts attributed to the fact that their starting lineup has seen numerous changes due to injury all season.
Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green have all missed games at various stages. Despite this, the Warriors remain the team to beat in the West.
The Clippers have an awful record in Oakland, but are likely to regain the services of Blake Griffin, who misses Tuesday’s game with Atlanta due to concussion.
The Warriors will be double-digit favourites in this match and should clear any line that is around 12 points.
Anything more, and a wager on the Clippers to cover the handicap is preferable, particularly given the Warriors lack of depth when coach Steve Kerr uses the second and third units late in blowout games.
Best bet- Golden State Warriors to cover -11.5 points and below or LA Clippers to cover +12.5 points and above.
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