Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Clippers
Utah’s clash with the Clippers this weekend could be considered a dress rehearsal for a possible playoff meeting between the sides, and they will both be determined to lay down a marker. The Clippers may have been playing in the shadow of the Golden State Warriors in the Pacific Division, but they have put together a decent run recently and their defensive performance in a 108-78 victory over the mighty Cavaliers was particularly encouraging. Veteran shooting guard J.J Redick has started to blow hot again and, when he is on form, the Clippers can compete against anyone.
Utah’s winning record has been hovering around the 60% mark for most of the season, just like the Clippers, but they have work still to do to clinch the Northwest Division title ahead of Oklahoma. The Jazz had also lost three straight matches before managing to edge out the New York Knicks on Wednesday, and a trip to the Staples Center may prove to be just too much of a challenge in their current form.
- Top Tip: LA Clippers to win
Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets
Oklahoma City are breathing down Utah’s necks at the summit of the Northwest Division after a run of six wins from seven matches. Russell Westbrook has been the inspiration all season and continues to set records, including a remarkable effort against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday when he became the first player in NBA history to achieve a triple-double without missing a shot.
The Thunder face a tricky test in Houston this weekend, though, with the Rockets still in contention for the Southwest Division title. Houston have also delivered some sparkling displays over the past few weeks and, while Oklahoma have Westbrook, Rockets fans will argue that James Harden has an even stronger case to be named MVP. The match-up between the two star players is just as tantalising as the game itself, and it seems most likely that the winning margin either way will only be a few points.
- Top Tip: Houston Rockets to win by 1-5 points
Cleveland Cavaliers at San Antonio Spurs
Both teams have already wrapped up their playoff spots, but will be setting their sights much deeper into the postseason and it could well be that the Cavaliers and the Spurs end up together in the NBA finals. Defending champions Cleveland have entered some choppy waters over the past few weeks, though, having really struggled for consistency, and LeBron James has called for his teammates to show more toughness this week. Cleveland should get back on track soon with their top men all now fit again, but it won’t be plain sailing against the Spurs on Monday.
San Antonio have the second best record of anyone in the NBA, behind the Golden State Warriors, and have barely had a wobble all season. Kawhi Leonard and co will be relishing the chance to go up against Cleveland again before the playoffs start, having just got the better of the only other match between the sides this season. That game ended 118-115 after overtime in January, and another narrow win for the Spurs could be the way to go for punters this time around.
- Top Tip: San Antonio Spurs to win