No one is feeling sorry for the champions.
The Golden State Warriors became the first team in NBA history to have four all-stars in consecutive years, but the Pacific Division leaders were last seen struggling before the break.
The Warriors (44-14) have lost four of their last eight games — all against teams with records above .500. They now return to regular-season play with two road games, sitting a half-game behind the Houston Rockets for the best record in the league.
“I’m ready to finish out the season,” Golden State’s Kevin Durant told the media during the all-star break. “I feel like we’re ready to play some of our best ball.”
Twenty-four games remain in the regular season, so it’s definitely time to play their “best ball” if they want to make a trip to the Finals for the fourth consecutive season.
Twelve teams return to action on Thursday. Let’s try to pick a winner against the spread (ATS) in two of the six games and cash a winning parlay ticket.
VGB’s NBA parlay pick (odds provided by Bovada) — Take Cleveland (-5) over Washington and Orlando (-4) over New York. If both teams cover the spread, the payoff is $66.13 for a $25 bet. If either team loses against the spread, the ticket is void.
Cavs Undefeated Against Wizards
Washington (+5) at Cleveland — The Cavaliers (34-22) are in the midst of their third-longest winning streak this season. They have won four straight with three of those victories coming on the road.
The Cavs won 13 straight in November and five in a row in December. They currently lead the Central Division by two games over the Indiana Pacers.
The Wizards (33-24), also a division leader in the Southeast, are 6-2 in the last eight games. They hold a 3.5-game lead over the Miami Heat.
The Cavaliers, who play six of their next seven games at home, are undefeated in two games against the Wizards this season. On Nov. 3, Cleveland won 130-122 with Washington as a 3.5-point favorite. On Dec. 17, Cleveland won 106-99 with Washington as a two-point favorite.
LeBron James is the leading scorer for the Cavaliers, who are 20-7 at home. He averages 26.5 points per game. Bradley Beal, with 23.6 points per game, leads the Wizards, who are 16-14 on the road.
Knicks Rarely Win On The Road
New York (+4) at Orlando — Both the Knicks (23-36) and the Magic (18-39) are on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. Unless either team goes on a huge winning streak, the two Eastern Conference franchises will end their 2017-18 seasons in early April.
New York is 11-24 against conference opponents, while Orlando is 11-25. The Knicks, who have lost eight straight games, are one of the worst road teams in the league at 7-24. The Magic, who are 4-4 in their last eight, are 11-16 in home games.
These two teams met twice this season, with the Magic winning both matchups. On Nov. 8, Orlando won 112-99 with New York as an 8.5-point favorite. On Dec. 3, Orlando won 105-100 with New York as a 2.5-point favorite.
Kristaps Porzingis leads the Knicks in scoring with 22.7 points per game, while Aaron Gordon leads the Magic at 18.4. Porzingis is out for the season with a torn ACL.
VGB’s Top 10 NBA Teams
(Current odds to win the NBA Finals listed after team record. Odds provided by Bovada.)
- Houston (44-13) +400 — Rockets have won 10 straight, 14 of last 15.
- Golden State (44-14) -175 — Champs return from break with road trip.
- Toronto (41-16) +1400 — Raps have two more meetings left with Celtics.
- Boston (40-19) +1200 — Celtics have lost three in a row, four of last five.
- Cleveland (34-22) +600 — Central Division leaders have won four in a row.
- San Antonio (35-24) +3300 — Spurs have lost three straight, six of last nine.
- Minnesota (36-25) +6600 — Northwest Division leaders 24-7 at home.
- Washington (33-24) +6600 — Southeast Division leaders 2-7 in last nine.
- Indiana (33-25) +20000 — Pacers have won three straight, 13-14 on road.
- Oklahoma City (33-26) +1600 — Thunder 5-8 against Northwest opponents.