NBA Thursday Preview
Los Angeles Clippers at Houston Rockets
Thursday, March 15, 8 p.m. (ET) NBA TV
NBA Betting Pointspread: Houston -11.5
Total Line: 227
Los Angeles at Houston Game Matchup Overview
The Clippers are 37-29 and they continue to battle a trio of teams for a spot in the Western Conference playoffs. They have really helped their cause with a straight-up 7-3 record in their last 10 games. Tuesday’s 112-106 road victory against Chicago was their third win in a row SU, but they failed to cover as 7.5-point favorites. Los Angeles is now 2-5 against the spread in its last seven games with the total going OVER in four of those contests.
DeAndre Jordan (29 points) and Lou Williams (26 points) led the way against the Bulls. Los Angeles connected on 48.7 percent of its shots from the field, but it went a dismal 8-for-29 from three-point range. Williams remains the team’s leading scorer with 23.1 points per game and Jordan’s 18 rebounds on Tuesday eclipsed his team-high average of 15.3. The Clippers are ranked seventh in the league in points (109.4) and 12th in rebounds (44.0).
Houston has opened-up a two-game lead at the top of the standings in the West at a NBA-best 53-14. Its recent 17-game winning streak came to an end last Friday in a road loss to Toronto, but the new streak stands at two games both SU and ATS with back-to-back victories against Dallas at home and San Antonio on the road. The Rockets are 26-6 SU at home this season, but they are just 3-5 ATS in their last eight home games. The total has stayed UNDER closing line in their last four games overall.
The combination of James Harden and Chris Paul has been almost unstoppable at times with role players such as Eric Gordon, Clint Capela and Trevor Ariza contributing heavily to Houston’s success this season. Harden continues to lead the NBA in scoring with 31.0 PPG and Paul is averaging 18.8 points and 8.1 assists a game. The Rockets are the second-highest scoring team in the league with an average of 113.7 points.
SPARTANS HOPING FOR LONGER TOURNAMENT RUN THIS SEASON
It has been quite a season already for the Michigan State Spartans basketball program. The team entered the season with high expectations and many had them as the eventual national champions. The Spartans returned some of their key pieces from last season in forwards Miles Bridges and Nick Ward as well as guard Cassius Winston. Bridges had a chance to head to the NBA after a strong freshman year but decided to return to help MSU win a championship.
But along the way, a shadow was cast over their university and also their basketball program. In the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal, where Nassar worked with female gymnasts, ESPN offered up new allegations that involved members of the Spartan basketball program. This brought Head Coach Tom Izzo and the program under fire and created a distraction for the current players.
However, Izzo tried to keep his team focused and concentrating on basketball while he was forced to try and answer questions from probing reporters. The team rallied behind their long-time coach and for the most part continued to win while rumors about the program swirled all around them. Sure there were some bumps, such as escaping with an overtime win at home against Rutgers, and coming back from 27 points down against Northwestern to steal a win.
And there were a few losses along the way including an early season loss to Duke, a blowout loss to Ohio State and two losses to in-state rival Michigan. But other than those four games, the Spartans won every other game on their schedule to finish with a sparkling 29-4 overall record.
In the final AP Top 25 poll, MSU finished as the 5th ranked team in the country. Entering the NCAA tournament and it’s new seeding process, they were hoping for no lower that a No. 2 seed but ended up as a No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region. The good news, however, is that they get to start the tournament at the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, which will definitely give them a bit of a home court advantage for the first two games of the tournament.
The Spartans first round game will be against the Patriot League regular season and tournament champions in the Bucknell Bison. Bucknell has been on a roll coming into the tournament having won 8 straight games and 18 of their last 19. Granted, none of those wins were against ranked teams but being a mid-major program, that’s to be expected. The Bison finished with a 25-9 overall record with a 16-2 conference mark.
After a tough start to the year with losses in each of their first four games. Bucknell has turned things around and won their 7th regular season Patriot league title in the last 8 years. The team is led by senior forward Zach Thomas who averages 20.3 points per game and 9.2 rebounds. Senior guard Stephen Brown chips in with 14.9 points game and leads the team in assists averaging 4.3 per contest.
And before you count Bucknell out playing against a national power such as Michigan State in their own backyard there are a couple of things to remember. It was just two years ago when a highly rated Spartans team took on another mid-major in Middle Tennessee State in round one and lost. Also, back in 2005 as a No. 14 seed like they are this year, Bucknell shocked Kansas in round one pulling the upset and advancing over the No. 3 seed Jayhawks.
But the Spartans are heavily favored in this game and with a week and a half to get ready they should be well prepared. Izzo has a deep bench and is able to use his depth to his advantage. In addition to Bridges, Ward and Winston, the Spartans also feature freshman Jaren Jackson Jr., junior Matt McQuaid, sophomore Joshua Langford and senior guard Tum Tum Nairn.
To get a win, the Bison will need to try and jump on the Spartans early and hope the layoff from the Big Ten tournament affects them. They’ll also need to find a way to counter the size the Spartans have up front with Ward, Jackson and senior Gavin Schilling. And as we all know, in the NCAA tournament anything can happen, so stay tuned.
NBA Thursday Preview
San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors
Thursday, March 8, 10:30 p.m. (ET) TNT
Pointspread: Golden State -11.5
Total Line: 218
San Antonio at Golden State Game Overview
The Spurs got past Memphis 100-98 on Monday at home to post just their third straight-up win in their last 11 games. They failed to cover as heavy 12.5-point favorites to fall to a dismal 4-8 against the spread over their last 12 contests. The total stayed UNDER 201-point line on Monday after it had gone OVER in 10 of their previous 12 games. San Antonio is 37-27 on the year with a SU losing 14-19 (14-17-2 ATS) record on the road.
The playing status of center Pau Gasol is currently listed as doubtful for Thursday after he injured his shoulder in Monday’s game. Kyle Anderson was the only starter in double figures (11 points) in that game and Tony Parker was the leading scorer with 22 points off the bench. The Spurs went just 6-for-22 from three-point range in that game. Overall, they are ranked 27th in the league in scoring with 102.3 points per game.
Golden State continues to keep pace with the blazing Houston Rockets for the top spot in the Western Conference with a SU six-game winning streak. It failed to cover 15-point spread in Tuesday’s 114-101 victory against Brooklyn at home to fall to 2-5 ATS over its last seven outings. The total has stayed UNDER in four of the Warriors’ last five games. They are now 25-7 SU at home with a 14-17-1 record ATS.
It has been business as usual for Golden State during this current winning streak. Stephen Curry led all scorers on Tuesday with 34 points, while Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson added a combined 37 points to help pace the win. This trio has accounted for more than 62 percent of the team’s NBA-high 116.0 PPG scoring average. Draymond Green rounds things out as the leader in both rebounds (7.7) and assists (7.4). The only chink in the armor is a 107.5 points-allowed average that is ranked 20th in the league.