NBA fans have a blockbuster televised double-header on Saturday as the red-hot Indiana Pacers travel to Philly to meet Aussie Ben Simmons and the 76ers, before the Thunder head to the mountains of Colorado to tackle Denver.
Indiana Pacers @ Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers will be looking to bounce back after a rare and disappointing home defeat against Brooklyn on Thursday. It was just their third loss from their past 13 games, and the squad hasn’t suffered back-to-back defeats since October 24/25 in two road losses.
The Pacers, meanwhile, just welcomed back Victor Oladipo after an 11-game absence and are coming off an emphatic victory over the high-flying Milwaukee Bucks. They come into this contest riding a 5-game winning streak.
Odds: Philadelphia $1.50, Indiana $2.65 with Ladbrokes
Overall Record: 19-10
Avg. Points For: 114.2
Avg. Points Against: 112
Overall Record: 18-10
Away Record: 8-6
Avg. Points For: 106.4
Avg. Points Against: 101.3
Joel Embiid (Philadelphia) vs Myles Turner (Indiana)
Embiid has taken his game to another level this season, putting himself in the early MVP conversation with 26.3ppg, 13.1rpg and 3.6apg. Embiid is now widely considered the best centre in the league, and at just 24 years of age it’s scary to think what he could still become.
Turner has taken things up a notch as well, averaging 12ppg, 6.7rpg and 2.8bpg, putting an underwhelming 2017/18 season behind him. During his side’s current winning streak, Turner is posting 17.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2 assists and 3.6 blocks per contest, including back-to-back scoring games of 20+ (26 and 23).
Putting It All Together
There’s no doubt that Philly are a much better side at home than on the road, but the absence of Jimmy Butler really seemed to hurt them against the Nets. The Pacers are an ever tougher proposition of course, and their defensive style of play will test the Sixers’ depth even more.
It’s very much a case of offense vs defense, and the home side will need more from the likes of JJ Redick and their bench to overcome the absence of Butler against the red-hot Pacers.
The match-up could be a potential preview of what’s to come in the East playoffs and could go all the way down to the wire.
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Denver Nuggets
After a slow start to the season, both the Nuggets and Thunder are rolling right now to sit 2nd and 3rd in the congested West standings. Denver has won 8 of their last 10 matches to be a half-game behind the top-seeded Warriors, with close wins over the Raptors and Trail Blazers highlighting a recent road trip. They will have 4 days off coming into this clash.
Meanwhile the Thunder have recovered from an 0-4 start to the season once Russell Westbrook returned to the lineup. Their recent form reads well in terms of wins and losses, but they’ve had a relatively easy stretch of games with 9 of their past 10 wins coming against sides who are currently at .500 or worse; the other win was against a banged-up Warriors missing Curry and Green.
Overall Record: 18-9
Avg. Points For: 110
Avg. Points Against: 103.7
Overall Record: 17-9
Away Record: 7-6
Avg. Points For: 111.7
Avg. Points Against: 105.2
Jamal Murray (Denver) vs Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City)
Murray is still just 21 years of age but has been impressive in just his third NBA season, boosting his numbers to be averaging 17.4ppg, 4.2rpg and 4.9apg. He is shooting 41.8% from the floor and 30.5% from beyond the arc, which speaks to the inconsistencies that still remain in his game at this stage. Nonetheless, he’s already showing what he could be capable of in years to come.
His opposing point guard is a triple-double machine and is averaging triple figures in points (22.1), rebounds (10.6) and assists (10.2) for the third straight season. His form has been up and down, and his turnover numbers have been high of late (averaging 5.6 over his last 5 games) as he continues to find his feet after his delayed start.
Putting It All Together
Both sides are winning plenty of games of late and come into this game sitting in the top 3 in the West. The Nuggets took out the last meeting between these sides in Oklahoma, which was three weeks ago now, and will fancy their chances of doubling up on their home floor, where they have fallen just three times this season.
Denver is an historically tough place to play with the change in altitude for visiting ball clubs, and coming off a four-day rest break they will hold an even bigger edge this time out.
The Thunder’s stars are as good as anybody’s but their depth is lacking and that is somewhere that the Nuggets excel – they currently have six players averaging double figures in points but nobody is averaging more than Murray (17.4).
If the Thunder are to leave Denver with a victory, it will be after Westbrook and Paul George have had to carry them there.
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