After an extremely busy Wednesday night (12 games!) the NBA cools things down quite a bit with just three pro basketball contests on Thursday night. It’s just gearing us all up for a loaded weekend, but we don’t mind the break. The light schedule should allow us to focus on the games a little better than usual, which should help us feel extra comfortable about laying some money down.

Let’s break down all three games slated for Thursday night and see who should come away with the win:

Toronto Raptors @ Charlotte Hornets

Toronto heads to Charlotte to take on a very depleted Hornets team tonight. Already down Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Al Jefferson, Charlotte will also be without swing man Nicolas Batum tonight (illness). That should sap Charlotte’s scoring quite a bit and put extra emphasis on their defense. Toronto has some issues of their own with Jonas Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll out, but as they stand appear better prepared to withstand the hits in this showdown. The Hornets are a pretty stout 10-4 on their home floor, but the injuries should take a toll tonight.

Pick: Raptors 104, Hornets 98

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Cleveland Cavaliers

This is a massive superstar showdown, as Kevin Durant and LeBron James go head to head tonight. James and the Cavs have to hold the early edge with this one being at Quicken Loans Arena, especially since Cleveland has lost at home once all year and is kind of hot with three wins in a row. Cleveland hasn’t fared all that well against the top flight teams, though, and the Thunder certainly qualify when it comes to star power. OKC is even hotter right now with four consecutive wins and an 8-2 record in their last 10 games, but they’re not really bringing their A game on the road so far (5-5 away from home). OKC could easily take this, but I have to side with the Cavs at home.

Pick: Cavs 101, Thunder 99

Houston Rockets @ Los Angeles Lakers

Dwight Howard returns to L.A. tonight as the Rockets and Lakers square off for the second time in the past week. Houston destroyed the Lakers in Houston just a couple of days ago, but it’s safe to bank on this one being a little closer with the Lakers at home. Houston also has played down to their opponent’s level quite a bit this year, while they’re currently riding a two game skid. I think the Rockets get back on track with a nice road win, but I also feel like the Lakers will hang in this one.

Pick: Rockets 111, Lakers 107

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