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NBA Weekend Specials: Cavs and Thunder to salute

Fri, Apr 6, 2:00pm by Head Editor

There is less than a week remaining in the 2017-18 NBA regular season, with all eight contenders in the Eastern Conference locked in and seedings still to be determined.

In the West, just 2.5 games separate the fourth seeded Utah Jazz from the tenth seeded LA Clippers. At the top of the conference, the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors have secured the top two seeds.

ESPN Australia features two matches this weekend with playoff implications. On Saturday, the red-hot Philadelphia 76ers host Cleveland at 9am AEST and on Sunday, the Thunder visits Houston from 10.30am AEST.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Philadelphia 76ers

Saturday, 7 April 2018 at 9am AEST

The 76ers have won 11 games in a row and have raced up the Eastern Conference standings to occupy the fourth seed, two games ahead of Indiana in fifth position.

Philadelphia will start this match as $1.65 home favourites with the Cavs $2.31 underdogs at Sportsbet.

If the 76ers want to guarantee home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, a win against the Cavs is essential.

Cleveland has found form at the right time of the season, winners of four in a row and nine of their past 10 matches, the Cavs are looking a scary prospect in the East once again.

Philadelphia are being favoured by 3.5 points at $1.95, despite being without centre Joel Embiid who is recovering from an orbital fracture.

Amir Johnson has stepped in to cover for Embiid, with Ben Simmons and JJ Redick helping to cover the scoring load.

In their win streak, the 76ers have only beaten one current playoff team and that was a 120-108 home win against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Wins against the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Memphis Grizzlies and Charlotte Hornets mean that punters shouldn’t get too carried away with Philadelphia’s meteoric rise.

LeBron James loves a big game and despite being on a back-to-back he will want to prove a point to this young 76ers team.

As we have alluded to, Philadelphia hasn’t exactly been challenged in their winning run and have faced teams who have nothing to play for. That won’t be the case on Saturday, with the third seed in the Eastern Conference up for grabs. The home crowd will be vocal at the Wells Fargo Center, but LeBron and co should just squeeze home.

Best bet- Cleveland Cavaliers to win at $2.31

Oklahoma City Thunder versus Houston Rockets

Sunday, 8 April 2018 at 10.30am AEST

The Houston Rockets have secured top seed in the Western Conference and have been the best team in the NBA all season.

A 63-15 record is highlighted by a 30-9 road record and they are six games clear of Golden State with only four games remaining in the season.

The Thunder has had a patchy season and they look to be in one of their lulls at the moment. OKC is 5-5 through their past 10 games and cling to a playoff spot, just 1.5 games ahead of Denver, but they do not have the tiebreaker after Denver won the season series.

This is the Thunder’s toughest remaining fixture as they visit Miami on Tuesday and host Memphis in the final regular season game.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni has said that he won’t look to rest his star players in the final games of the season, but it is hard to see him staying true to his word.

There would be little benefit in playing the likes of Chris Paul and James Harden in meaningless games down the stretch, with the Rockets final three games including the home game against the Thunder and away trips to the Lakers and Kings.

Stay tuned for lineup information ahead of this match because the Rockets starters may only play a half in their final home game before the playoffs.

The best way to stay abreast of all news is to check out the team’s official Twitter pages or follow NBA beat reporters who will have all the breaking news.

This could be a good spot for the Thunder to get some momentum regardless of which team lines up for Houston. It is the Thunder’s first and only visit to Houston in the regular season, but the teams could meet in the playoffs.

They have split their season series at 1-1 so far, with the Thunder winning on Christmas Day by five points and losing a month ago by 10 points

This will be a close game, so look to back the Thunder as underdogs or Thunder at the handicap.

Best bet- Back Oklahoma City Thunder to win


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