Two top teams in the East go head-to-head here – though the star attraction is getting the night off. Kawhi Leonard, the man brought in for his playoff bottle, is going to be taking it easy tonight, having missed last night’s game against Sacramento too for a rest.
Not a bad life, is it?
Still, the Raptors focus should be on making a real run at the championship this year, and there’s no risk of them missing the playoffs, so using players smartly in the regular season should pay some dividends come May.
It is a shame he won’t line-up tonight though, because the Pacers are a team that could trouble Toronto postseason progress should they meet.
Injuries to other important pieces will hamper the visitors further, and they are 1-8 against the spread on their travels recently, so Indiana will fancy covering the -2.5 handicap.
It’s not easy to call this one with Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons both in doubt for Philly, but it’s live on Sky for you insomniacs so we’ve got to take a look.
The Spurs sprang back into the West’s playoff picture in December with a string of wins, but they haven’t looked quite so hot recently, and the Sixers will give them a test, whoever suits up for them. Philadelphia have one of the strongest home records in the league too.
It’s San Antonio’s high-profile trade haul from last summer whose play is costing them recently. DeMar DeRozan’s gone way off the boil since the turn of the year. He was averaging 20 points per game before Christmas, but hasn’t hit that figure in his last six games.
ICYMI: Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan doesnt mince words after Clippers loss…when asked about how health, shooting slump, DeMar said: "Physically I'm OK. I've just been playing like shit." DeRozan avg 15.3 ppg in Jan, still reb and assisting well (?@adamthephotog) #KSATsports #NBA pic.twitter.com/nXsrWYUoob
— RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) January 21, 2019
Given his own admission that he’s playing like “s**t” at the moment, the under on 19.5 points for him appeals at Evens.
The Jazz have hit the right notes recently, taking care of a weak schedule to climb the scales of the Western Conference and put themselves back in the playoff spotlight. Their fortunes flip-flop with the scoring of second-year star Donovan Mitchell. When he’s on his game, their defensive effort led by Rudy Gobert can stop most teams enough to win. When he isn’t, they can’t.
Similarly, Denver’s climb from outside the top eight last season to an early table-topper this has been built by drastically improving their play without the ball.
It’s made them one of the surprise teams so far, though whether they can sustain it through a full 82-game campaign is a doubt. There are signs of the league getting wise to their scheme recently, with some disappointing results, including a loss to Phoenix, in the last few weeks.
That’ll encourage the Jazz, who are yet to prove their turnaround is real against a top side. This is their chance, and -3 looks reasonable given Denver are 1-9-1 in their last 11 against the spread in Salt Lake City.