Thursday night sees the NBA resort to its shortened TNT schedule with a trio of games that really could prove to be a mixed bag.
The marquee match of the evening takes place in TD Garden where Boston hosts New York. Meanwhile, Toronto and Orlando will be embroiled in a bottom-dwelling dogfight, while the Clippers look to return to winning ways with a trip to the desert.
Here’s Casino Review’s picks for tonight’s action.
Toronto Raptors @ Orlando Magic
7:00 PM ET
The jubilance of Sunday’s win over the Lakers didn’t last long for Toronto (15-27, 4-18 road). The Raptors lost to Miami in overtime on Wednesday night, and now face a second straight Florida night.
Meanwhile, Orlando (14-27, 8-14 home) returned from Detroit with the wrong kind of streak still intact. The Magic has now lost three straight and 14 of the last 16. That streak includes two losses to tonight’s opponent.
The Raptors have proven to be a nightmare for the Magic this season, winning three games, two of which came – as tonight’s game will – at the tail end of a back-to-back.
Toronto enters the game with a slight edge in scoring, and ranks as the No. 3 team in the league when it comes to turning the ball over. Orlando won’t like the sound of that, particular as the Florida side is last in the league in steals.
This Season: The Raptors have beaten Orlando in all three games this season, including a 35-point blowout the last time the two met (Dec. 29).
Odds: Orlando is favorites, with the spread at 4. The over/under is 199.
Take: TORONTO – Whilst it seems implausible that the Raptors will achieve anything of merit this season, the team from north of the border may be able to score a season sweep over the Magic, if for no other reason than the fact that the Raptors (22-19-1 ATS) are one of the better sides against the spread. Take the total to go over as has often been the case with these teams.
New York Knicks @ Boston Celtics
8:00 PM ET
New York (25-14, 11-8 road) will look to snap a two-game losing streak with a visit to division rivals Boston (20-21, 13-8 home). The Celtics will be looking to buck their own four-game losing streak, a streak that has seen Doc Rivers’ side drop below .500.
New York’s scoring may have been down of late but the team still averages 101.5 points per game, thanks in many ways to a 39 percent average from behind the arc. Despite their recent woes, the Celtics are one of the better shooting teams in the league, something that will come in handy against a Knicks team that doesn’t give the ball up but allows opponents a high-shooting average.
This Season: Boston defeated New York in the only meeting between the sides this season, the infamous Jan. 7 game in which Carmelo Anthony went in search of the Celtics’ bus and Kevin Garnett after the game, which was quickly followed by a suspension.
Odds: New York is a 1½-point favorite on the road. The total stands at 189.
Take: BOSTON – The Celtics represent another great chance for bettors to make some money off an underdog. Records can be thrown out the window in this one, which could get a little feisty. This is a rivalry game and both teams will play like it. Although Boston (15-23-3 ATS) has been terrible against the spread, take them to upset the bookmakers. Take the total to go over.
Los Angeles Clippers @ Phoenix Suns
10:30 PM ET
The Los Angeles Clippers (32-11, 13-6 road) round out Thursday’s schedule with a trip to Western Conference doormat Phoenix (14-28, 10-11 home).
The Clippers have lost two in a row to current conference high-flyers Golden State and Oklahoma City. Those losses have seen the Clippers lose ground on both the Thunder and San Antonio Spurs.
Phoenix has no worries about falling behind the leaders. Instead, the Suns are looking to get ahead of New Orleans just to be off the bottom of the Western Conference standings. If the Suns are to get a second straight win, now’s the best time, with Chris Paul missing from the Clippers.
In all reality, this game represents a much better opportunity for the Clippers to snap their losing streak than it does Phoenix extending its winning streak.
This Season: The Clippers have won both meetings between the sides this season by an average of 22 points. Los Angeles’ last trip to Phoenix (Dec. 23) finished 103-77.
Odds: The Clippers are favorites on the road. The spread is 6½ while the total is 193.
Take: LA CLIPPERS – Phoenix is in need of one series rebuilding program, and coming face to face with one of the best teams in the league isn’t about to change that. Take the Clippers (25-18-0 ATS) to run rampant and cover the spread against the pitiful Suns (17-24-1 ATS). Take the total to go over.