NBA fans may have noticed all players and referees wearing a black band on their uniforms last week. That was in honor of former commissioner David Stern, who died last Wednesday at age 77. Those bands will be worn the rest of the season. The NBA was at a crossroads when Stern took over in 1984 and now it’s the most global sports league in the world. Here’s a look at two intriguing early-week NBA Betting matchups. Check back for Mybookie NBA odds.
Top NBA Betting Picks of the Week – January 6th Edition
Portland Trail Blazers vs Toronto Raptors
Two teams who were in their respective conference finals last season. Of course, the Raptors beat the Bucks in the East Finals to reach their first-ever NBA Finals. Toronto beat Golden State in six games for the first title in franchise history. Portland reached the West Finals in a bit of a surprise but was swept rather easily by the Warriors.
This wraps up the season series between two of the NBA’s most northern franchises – Portland is the furthest north and Toronto third behind Minnesota. On Nov. 13, the Raptors won 114-106 in Portland. Pascal Siakam scored 36 points and Fred VanVleet had 30 for Toronto. Siakam scored 13 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter. However, the biggest story was Toronto holding Raptors star guard Damian Lillard to just nine points in his worst game of the year. Lillard was 2-for-12 shooting from the field and was 2 of 7 from 3-point range. He did dish 10 assists. Rodney Hood led the Blazers with 25 points.
Some NumbersPortland is 1-2 on its five-game road trip following a 122-111 loss in Miami on Sunday. Guard CJ McCollum sat with an illness but should be back here. Damian Lillard had a game-high 34 points in the loss along with 12 assists. Former Heat player Hassan Whiteside had 21 points and 18 rebounds.
Lillard ranks seventh in the NBA in scoring (26.9) and is eighth in the league in assists (7.4). McCollum ranks 20th in the league in scoring (22.3). Whiteside ranks fourth in the league in rebounds (13.8), is first in blocks (2.82) and is eighth in field goal percentage (59.9%).
Toronto was a 121-102 winner in Brooklyn on Saturday. Fred VanVleet dominated the Nets with 29 points and 11 assists. Kyle Lowry played 43 minutes and had 26 points. The Dinos remain without three rotation players in Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Norman Powell due to injury. None will play here.
Miami Heat vs Indiana Pacers
Two teams that have overachieved in the Eastern Conference this season and both could be Top-4 seeds and have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Miami was supposed to be better this season with the addition of Jimmy Butler, but not this good. Indiana was expected to struggle a bit until All-Star guard Victor Oladipo returned from a serious knee injury suffered last January. He still hasn’t returned, and the Pacers could really take off when he does. That could be middle of this month.
It’s the second meeting of the season between the Heat and Pacers. On Dec. 27 in Miami, the Heat won 113-112. Goran Dragic scored in the lane with 6.8 seconds remaining to win it. Dragic’s shot was the third by Miami on the go-ahead possession, after Jimmy Butler and Kendrick Nunn both missed but the Heat were able to grab offensive rebounds.
Those were Miami’s final two boards on a night where the Heat outrebounded the Pacers 56-34. Aaron Holiday had a chance to win it for Indiana, but his 10-footer – with about a second left bounced away. The lead changed hands five times in the final 2:21. Butler scored 20 points for Miami. Bam Adebayo had 18 points and 15 rebounds. Holiday scored 17 for Indiana, which committed only four turnovers, tying a franchise record.
Some DoubtsWill the Heat have Butler for this one? He missed Sunday’s game with a back injury, although it’s not thought to be serious. Butler is second in the NBA in steals per game at 2.03. Undrafted Kendrick Nunn was named the Rookie of the Month for December, becoming the first undrafted NBA rookie to win the award multiple times (also won for October/November).
Not clear if offseason pickup Malcolm Brogdon will play for Indiana. He missed all weekend and Monday’s game with a back injury. Fortunately, coach Nate McMillan said X-rays on Brogdon’s lower back came back clean. “It’s not showing us anything that we should be concerned about other than he has spasms and he needs to take a little bit more time.”