The Golden State Warriors are the defending champions and have 69 wins this year, yet two losses at the Oracle Arena have them one more loss way from missing out on NBA history. Golden State’s chase for the NBA’s best single-season record seems to have consumed them to the point where they’re almost reeling.
The reality, of course, is this is still a team that has lost just nine times all season and typically because they play down to their level of competition in their losses. They can get sloppy with turnovers and if the shots aren’t falling, they can be in danger when their opponent’s are.
Tonight they’ll certainly be at risk of missing out on the record, as they welcome the San Antonio Spurs to town. It could be a mild relief if the Spurs did win, but the mere possibility puts two bets down tonight at the same time: can Golden State win the game, and can they also build momentum toward winning their final four games to be the first team in league history to notch 73 wins. The probability of them doing so is now down to 14%, and it very well could end with a loss tonight.
There’s more than just the Warriors and Spurs on the docket tonight, though, so let’s get to breaking down Thursday night’s five-game NBA slate:
Raptors @ Hawks
Line: Hawks -3.5 Total: 200
Cleveland lost last night, giving Toronto faint hopes of chasing down the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference if they can just win out. A loss tonight in Atlanta probably crushes their chances, and with the Hawks also fighting for the Southeast Division title, a Raptors win is no lock. The Hawks have been very strong on their home floor (25-14) and will want to avoid the season series sweep tonight. Look for them to cover in a big win.
Pick: Hawks 104, Raptors 97
Bulls @ Heat
Line: Heat -5.5 Total: 206
Chicago is losing serious life when it comes to their plight for a playoff bid, as they’ve lost six of their last 10 games and now get a very good Heat team that is still fighting for the Southeast Division title. Miami can’t afford to slip up, leads the season series 3-0 and is quite stout (26-13) on their home floor. It will take a huge effort from Jimmy Butler and co. to steal this one, but I do anticipate a close game and can see Chicago beating the spread.
Pick: Heat 102, Bulls 99
Suns @ Rockets
Line: Rockets -13.5 Total: 217
Houston’s playoff hopes took a huge hit with a loss in Dallas last night, but they have to turn right around and try to make up for the loss at home against the Suns. They’re certainly better than Phoenix and still are within striking distance of the Western Conference’s 8th seed, so caving here isn’t an option. They almost never seem to blow teams out, though, so don’t be shocked if Phoenix beats the spread.
Pick: Rockets 108, Suns 102
Timberwolves @ Kings
Line: Kings -4.5 Total: 223
DeMarcus Cousins will be on hand tonight and we’ve got a really fun matchup between two teams full of quality young talent. There is a ton of offense here and very little defense, so promoting the Over on the Total isn’t out of line. Promotion is one thing, and believing is another. That’s just too gaudy of a Total to chase, especially since these two teams have combined for even a 200+ Total once in three previous meetings. Sacramento is favored – as they should be – as they’re at home and should have all of their key stars healthy and active. Minnesota surprisingly leads the season series 3-0, but I doubt Boogie will like the idea of getting swept in his own house.
Pick: Kings 105, Wolves 101
Spurs @ Warriors
Line: Warriors -5 Total: 212.5
This is without a doubt the game of the night IF Greg Popovich doesn’t randomly sit his key players. Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge are all expected to play, but could also all just as easily be held out. The Spurs probably can’t catch Golden State for the Western Conference’s #1 seed, and they might be more interested in playing harder when these two teams meet in San Antonio one more time this weekend. San Antonio has a great shot at taking that one and despite their recent struggles, the Warriors are still a brutally tough out at the Oracle Arena. Look for the bid for 73 wins to live another day.
Pick: Warriors 107, Spurs 104