The NBA season is almost a month old. It’s been a record-breaking month as new officiating patterns have increased the scoring and the pace of play continues to rise. Threes are being shot more than ever and teams are regularly surpassing the 140 mark.
The entertainment is only going to grow from here. Some teams – looking at you, Wizards – have a long way to recover from disastrous starts, while others might just be dreaming of a special season.
Here are a few thoughts and tips on four of this week’s best games…
Philadelphia 76ers vs INDIANA PACERS (Thursday, 1am)
The 76ers have started slowly. Joel Embiid has been brilliant on both ends of the floor, but an alarming lack of shooting has caused endless problems.
Dario Saric has been cold thus far, Markelle Fultz is short on confidence and Ben Simmons cannot score from outside the paint. Philly are 6-5 after a disappointing loss to the Nets on Sunday.
Indiana are riding a three-game winning streak having beaten the Celtics last time out. They face the Rockets before their matchup with Philly, though, which could halt that momentum.
It will be interesting to see how the Sixers guard Victor Oladipo – particularly after some of Fultz’s defensive difficulties.
Indy are the team to back in this one, though a points bet on Embiid is a safe option given his red-hot start.
TIP: Indiana Pacers to win
Minnesota Timberwolves @ LOS ANGELES LAKERS (Thursday, 3:30am)
The T-Wolves and Lakers both sit at 4-6 at the time of writing.
Minnesota are yet to solve their Jimmy Butler-sized problem, while a meeting between Magic Johnson and Luke Walton has attracted more attention than it should have done.
Minnesota beat the Lakers earlier this season. These two teams should be relatively well-matched at the moment, but it’s hard to know which version of each side we will see.
The Lakers have shown flashes of a playoff team, and then looked very ordinary. The Timberwolves are up and down as ever – as we saw with their 81-point effort against Portland – and Butler is in and out of the line-up for ‘rest’.
Picking a winner isn’t easy here. The Lakers are just about the better price with home floor advantage.
TIP: Los Angeles Lakers to win
Houston Rockets @ OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (Friday, 1am)
Houston’s horrible start to the year has been corrected a little with wins against the Nets and Bulls. The defence has been dreadful, though, which will surely be exploited by the Thunder.
The Rockets are already five back on the Warriors and are missing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah A Moute after losing both in the offseason.
The Thunder had a poor start themselves but have now won four in a row.
The attention will be on James Harden and Russell Westbrook, but the matchup of Clint Capela and Steven Adams will be pivotal in the early hours of Friday morning.
With tough games to come even before they play this one, the clash in OKC will be huge for both sides as they try to turn things around. The Thunder will be good value to edge it.
TIP: Oklahoma City Thunder to win
MILWAUKEE BUCKS @ GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (Friday, 3:30am)
The Bucks sit atop the Eastern Conference at 8-1. Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee to a blowout of the Kings on Sunday evening and the Greek Freak is looking every bit the MVP candidate we all expected.
He has been surrounded by shooting and it’s paying dividends. Golden State, though, are 9-1 at the time of writing and playing on another planet.
Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson have taken turns at having enormous games.
Milwaukee broke their own three-pointers made record against the Kings, but a shootout with that trio is only ending one way.
This is a brilliant matchup right now. Durant guarding Antetokounmpo will be good to watch, and it should be a high-scoring affair with shots flying into the Oracle atmosphere at regular intervals.
TIP: Over 240.5 points
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*