Tue, Mar 6, 1:53am by Staff Writer
Philly are on course for its first playoff berth since 2012 when they bowed out of the hands of the Boston Celtics. The 76ers stumbled against the Bucks on Monday blowing a 16-point lead, but they showed enough promise to keep a few teams in the Eastern Conference worried.
The Rockets have the opportunity to put their championship swagger to the test when they go up against Russell Westbrook and his merry men. The Thunder love putting on a show and if the real OKC do decide to put in appearance, then we could have a high calibre match-up on our hands. The Rockets need to keep winning to keep the fast finishing Warriors at bay.
These two high quality match-ups could shape the destiny of the seedings in each conference.
Philadelphia 76ers at Charlotte Hornets
Wednesday 7th March 2018, 10am at Spectrum Centre Charlotte
The 76ers have enter the final stretch of the season with the playoffs in full view, if Philly can find some consistency then they will worry some of the major players in the Eastern Conference.
The 76ers possess one of the best young rosters in the league with Simmons and Embiid in the line-up. The 2019 version could potentially include the likes of Jonah Bolden, Mark Fultz and potentially two marquee signings.
The worrying signs for Philly coach Brett Brown is his side’s inability to close out games they should be winning.
The Monday loss to the Bucks (118-110) is the classic example of side lacking the finesse of a LeBron or Harden to close out games. The 76ers were up by 19 points against a short-handed Milwaukee side but had a record 26 turnovers to let the Bucks back in the game.
The 76ers (34-28) and half a game ahead of Milwaukee in sixth spot in the Eastern Conference, a loss to the Hornets could potentially start a fall down the ladder to eight seeding and in a dogfight with Miami and Detroit for the final spot in the playoffs.
Charlotte (28-36) are in a three-game skid that included a loss on the road to the 76ers and have struggled to put together a meaningful run since the All-Star break. Charlotte’s bad run has seen them drop out of the top eight in the East behind the Pistons and the Heat. A win for the Hornets could potentially open a door back into a playoff position if they can continue the momentum.
Sportsbet haven’t released the odds yet, but with Philly shocking Charlotte less than two weeks ago they’ll start as favourites. We’ll update the odds once they’ve been released
The 76ers need the likes of JJ Reddick to keep Kemba Walker quiet for the night. The Hornets swingman topped the scoring with 31 points the last time these two sides met.
The dynamic duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons should cause the Hornets plenty of headaches at both ends of the court. The 76ers will have learnt a lot from the mid-week loss to the Bucks and will bounce back to pick up the win on the road.
Best bet: 76ers for the win at Sportsbet
Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder
Wednesday 7th March 2018, 11am at Chesapeake Energy Arena
The Rockets have shaped as the team most likely to end the monopoly of the Warriors in the Western Conference. Houston came of age with a Monday win over another heavy hitter for the title, the Celtics (123-120). The three-point win was highlighted Houston’s ability to close out the clutch moments in the clash.
The Rockets put the Celtics to the sword 15-12 to climb over the top for the win in clutch time. The duo of James Harden and Chris Paul have a perfect record when they’ve both been on court with the game in the balance.
After passing the test against the Celtics, the Rockets will feel they can handle anything that the Thunder decide to throw at them. A lot will be made of the starting line-ups on both side, but this match will be won off the bench rotation. A look at the numbers this season and the Rockets have a clear edge, Eric Gordon hit 29 points from the bench in the win against Boston.
The Thunder have struggled since the loss of Andre Roberson for the season. Roberson would be the go to guy for putting the brakes on the likes of Harden and Chris Paul and the results show the Thunder are missing their Defensive Player of the Year.
The Thunder lost out against the Blazers (108-100) on Monday and struggled to contain the likes of CJ McCollum. Russell Westbrook had a 30-point triple double and Paul George hit 20+ points for the eleventh time in a twelve-game stretch.
Sportsbet haven’t released the odds yet but the Rockets will start favourites. We’ll update the odds once they have been released into market.
The Thunder can score but they’ve leaked 100+ points to the likes of the Suns, Mavericks and the Magic. The Rockets bench depth gives them an extra layer on offence, that will take them over the top of the Thunder for the win.
Best Bet: Houston Rockets to win by 1-10 points at Sportsbet
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