A monster NBA double-header hits our screens on Thursday, with East heavyweights Boston and Toronto kicking things off before Anthony Davis leads his Pelicans against Golden State.
Toronto Raptors @ Boston Celtics
Many expected Boston to be challenging for the title, but instead the Celtics are sitting at 25-18 and outside the top four in the East. Gordon Hayward hasn’t fully recovered from his broken leg, while Jaylen Brown looks to have taken a step backwards after a super impressive 2017/18 season.
Their opponents, meanwhile, are the ones stamping their authority on the Eastern conference. The Raptors have the best record in the NBA right now and are riding another five-game winning streak into Massachusetts.
Kawhi Leonard is having an MVP-calibre season and will no doubt be the focal point of the Boston defense.
Overall Record: 25-18
Avg. Points For: 111.7
Avg. Points Against: 105.7
Overall Record: 33-12
Away Record: 15-8
Avg. Points For: 114
Avg. Points Against: 108.5
Kyrie Irving (Boston) vs Kyle Lowry (Toronto)
If Irving is fit, two All-Star point guards will do battle in a mouth-watering match-up. Lowry is leading the East in assists with 9.6 per game (only behind Russell Westbrook) and has a massive reason for Toronto’s performance so far this season.
Irving missed his side’s last match – a loss at Brooklyn – with a quad contusion, but is likely to suit up. Boston certainly need their superstar on the floor, with another defeat here seeing the Celtics drop three games behind the top four with the All-Star break fast approaching.
Putting It All Together
There’s no doubting that Boston is a much better side in their own gym, boasting a 15-5 record at home this season so far. However the 2018/19 Raptors look like genuine title contenders and will be tough to beat.
The Celtics are a deep ball club but their chances of toppling their northern neighbours hinges on Irving’s availability. Banking wins is as crucial as ever for the team in green, and a win against the best team in the league could be the catalyst to kick-start their season.
New Orleans Pelicans @ Golden State Warriors
The Warriors come into this clash having found their groove in the past week. Four straight wins and the imminent season debut of All-Star DeMarcus Cousins has the short-priced title favourites right in the box seat for a three-peat.
Anthony Davis’ Pelicans are getting healthy again after a mid-season spate of injuries, which led to losses. A 20-23 record has them sitting 2.5 games behind the 8th-seeded Lakers, meaning they’re right in the hunt. The wins simply must start coming though.
Overall Record: 29-14
Avg. Points For: 117.4
Avg. Points Against: 111.7
Overall Record: 21-23
Away Record: 5-17
Avg. Points For: 117
Avg. Points Against: 114.8
Kevin Durant (Golden State) vs Anthony Davis (New Orleans)
DeMarcus Cousins is expected to return later in the week, missing a match-up with his former teammates in this one. Davis vs Cousins in Boogie’s return would have made for brilliant viewing.
Instead we will settle for another tantalising battle between two of the top five players in the world. Obviously Durant isn’t a natural centre like Davis, but with Cousins on the sidelines the Warriors have run without a recognised centre all season.
The two 7-footer superstars will clash throughout and for the Pelicans to win, Davis will need to be the dominant player on the court as a starting point.
Putting It All Together
The Warriors are a well-oiled machine when up and running, and at home they’re only harder to contain. A 17-6 home record this season is slightly below par compared to recent seasons, but is still amongst the best home marks in the league nonetheless.
Davis is the main attraction for the prime-time television networks in this one, but his Pelicans play an attractive brand of basketball and have the firepower to keep up with Golden State on that end.
It’s the defensive end where the Warriors will hold the biggest advantage, and likely where they will win their 18th home game of the season.
The NBA season has hit it’s halfway point but there’s still plenty of action to come.
NBA Specials is currently showing another profit this season, following on from a $20,000+ profit in season 2017/18.
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