Archive for February, 2010

Cup Series races to Sin City

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Two races into the newest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and we’ve had a shocker for a winner and a victory by one of the usual suspects. This Sunday the circuit continues with some wide-open racing with a stop in Vegas for the running of the 400-mile Shelby American at “driver friendly” Las Vegas Motor Speedway (3 pm Eastern, Fox).

Longshot Jamie McMurray won the Daytona 500 two weeks ago, paying off at +4,000 at Last Sunday, four-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson held off Kevin Harvick to win the Auto Club 500 at Fontana as a post-time +150 favorite at

Harvick, who went off at +1,500 on’s Auto Club 500 betting board last Sunday, finished second; Jeff Burton, at +2,500, took third; Mark Martin, a co-second favorite at +800, finished fourth; and Joey Logano, at +7,500, placed fifth.

Last year at Vegas pole-winner Kyle Busch fended off Clint Bowyer late to win the Shelby 427. Burton showed third, David Reutimann ran fourth, and Bobby Labonte took fifth.

Carl Edwards won the Vegas event in 2008, and Johnson won at Vegas three times in a row from 2005-07. Matt Kenseth won there back-to-back in 2003-04, and Jeff Gordon took checkered at Vegas in 2001.

With JJ and Gordon in the cockpit, Chevies have won four of the last nine races at Las Vegas. And with Edwards and Kenseth, Fords have won three of those last nine Vegas events.

As of Thursday morning has Johnson listed as the favorite to win Sunday’s race at +300. He’s followed by Martin, Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart at +600; Gordon and Denny Hamlin at +800; Harvick at +1,000; Edwards and Burton at +1,500; Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Juan Pablo Montoya and Kasey Kahne at +2,000; Greg Biffle at +2,500; Kenseth at +3,000; McMurray at +4,000; Ryan Newman and Joey Logano at +6,000; Brian Vickers at +7,500; Reutimann at +10,000; and Martin Truex Jr., David Ragan, Marcos Ambrose, Brad Keselowski, Sam Hornish, Jr. and AJ Allmendinger at +12,500. And “The Field” is listed at +5,000.

Oddsmaker is also offering driver-vs.-driver action on Friday’s Shelby American qualifying (6:30 E, Speed).

Over the course of the 12 Cup races that have been run at LVMS, the winner has started from a top-five position three times, from a top-10 position five times, and from 21st or worst four times. Kenseth won at Vegas in 2004 after starting 25th.

And racing bettors should also take a look at’s updated 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship betting board. Johnson, of course, tops the betting as of Thursday morning at +300, followed by, among others, Stewart at +600, Hamlin at +800, Montoya at +2,000, and McMurray at +4,000.

Playing Jockeying Continues on Hardwood

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

The NBA’s regular season is down to the last 25 games or so, and the top seeds and the favorites in the two conferences are clear cut. But beyond that the East playoff race consists of eight teams jockeying for seven spots and seeds, and the fight in the West goes 10 deep. That means there are still a lot of games being played that mean something to somebody.

Wednesday’s Association slate includes several interesting matchups. The Portland Trail Blazers, the eight seed in the West at the moment, visit the current five seed in the East, the Toronto Raptors (7 Eastern). And as they sit just 4.5 games behind the first-place Boston Celtics in the Atlantic Division, the Raptors are, as of Tuesday morning, getting +2,500 at to rally and win that division title.

The Orlando Magic, coming off a win over East-leading Cleveland on Sunday and owners of the two spot in the East, visit the Houston Rockets, who sit 2.5 games out of the eight spot in the West (8:30 E).

The Oklahoma City Thunder, recent winners of nine games in a row and owners of the five seed in the West, roll into San Antonio to take on the seventh-seeded Spurs (8:30 E). OKC is 33-21 vs. the pointspreads this season, and as they sit just three games back of first-place Denver in the Northwest, they’re getting +800 to win the division at

The defending league champion Lakers, who lead the West by five games over second-seeded Denver, visit the third-seeded Dallas Mavericks (9 E, ESPN).

And the Charlotte Hornets, who sit just a game out of the eight spot in the East, visit the Utah Jazz (9 E), owners of the four spot in the West. Utah is also a league-best 34-18 ATS this season, and while just one game back of first-place Denver, they’re being offered at +300 to win the Northwest at

Thursday night’s TNT two-fer features Boston hosting Cleveland (8 E) in a battle of the three seed in the East vs. the top seed. The Celtics, however, are just 21-32 vs. the pointspreads this season. And those Nuggets visit the Golden State Warriors (10:30 E), who, while they may be mired deep in the Western Conference standings, are 31-23 ATS this season.

Friday night Dallas visits the Atlanta Hawks (7 E, ESPN), who lead Toronto by four games for the four spot in the East. Also, the Raptors host the Cavaliers (7 E); Charlotte visits the Memphis Grizzlies (8 E), who sit 2.5 games out of the eight spot in the West; the Blazers hit Chicago to take on the Bulls (8 E), owners of the six spot in the East; the Spurs visit Houston (8:30 E); and the New Orleans Hornets, who, while trailing first-place Dallas by five games in the Southwest Division, are getting +1,500 to win the division at, host the Magic (9:30 E, ESPN).

Bettors may also want to check out the updated conference and league championship betting boards at for prices on all the teams mentioned above.

Sprint Cup Series races to California

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

After opening the season in Florida, NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series heads cross country for Sunday’s running of the Auto Club 500 at Fontana (3:15 pm Eastern, Fox).

Jamie McMurray picked up the first checkered flag of this new season last Sunday, winning a two-lap sprint at the end of a long day to take the Daytona 500. In doing so, McMurray provided his backers at with a nice payout of +4,000 on the Daytona 500 betting board.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who went off at +600, made a great late run to finish second last week; Greg Biffle, at +2,000, placed third; Clint Bowyer, at +2,500, took fourth; and David Reutimann, at +4,000, ran fifth.

Last week’s post-time favorite, Jimmie Johnson at +300, broke an axle late in the race and finished 35th. Tony Stewart, the second choice on the board at +500, finished 22nd. And Kyle Busch, the third pick on the board at +600, ran 14th.

Last year Matt Kenseth led 84 laps in winning the Auto Club 500. Jeff Gordon finished second that day, followed by Kyle Busch, Biffle, and Kurt Busch.

Johnson won the Pepsi 500 at Fontana last October on his way to his fourth straight season championship. Gordon again finished second that day, followed by Juan Pablo Montoya, Mark Martin, and Stewart.

Johnson and Carl Edwards won the two Fontana races in 2008; Johnson and Kenseth (sound familiar?) split the two Fontana events in ’07; Kenseth and Kahne won at Fontana in ’06; Kyle Busch and Biffle took the two races there in ’05; and Gordon and Elliot Sadler did so in 2004.

Fords have won eight of the last 15 events on the two-mile oval at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. Chevies have taken six of those last 15 Fontana events, and Kahne won with a Dodge there in 2006.

As of Thursday morning is listing Johnson as a +400 favorite on its Auto Club 500 betting board for Sunday. Martin is the second choice at +750, followed by Gordon and Kyle Busch at +800; Biffle and Edwards at +1,000; Kurt Busch, Hamlin and Stewart +1,200; Kahne, Kenseth and Montoya at +1,500; Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick and Brian Vickers at +2,500; Ryan Newman at +3,500; Joey Logano and McMurray at +4,000; David Ragan at +5,000; Reutimann and Martin Truex, Jr. at +6,000; AJ Allmendinger, Brad Keselowski, Casey Mears, Bobby Labonte, Marcos Ambrose, Sadler, Sam Hornish, Jr., Scott Speed, Paul Menard and Regan Smith at +10,000; and The Field is being offered at +5,000. is also offering prices on individual driver-vs.-driver qualifying matchups for Sunday’s race. Qualifying can be seen on the Speed Network at 6:30 pm Eastern on Friday.

Saturday set for bracket busting

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Bracket Buster Saturday may just be a television creation, but it does help give us one of the best Saturdays of college basketball so far this season. Here’s a quick look at some of Saturday’s happenings.

The action starts early Saturday with a good alliterative matchup when the 22-5 Siena Saints visit the 23-4 Butler Bulldogs (11 am Eastern, ESPN2). Butler has already clinched the Horizon League title, and is going after a good seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. Siena, meanwhile, has clinched at least a share of the Metro Atlantic crown, and after Saturday will pick up its search of the top seed in the MAAC tournament.

But while the Saints are 14-10 vs. the pointspreads this season, the ‘Dogs are only 11-16 vs. the numbers.

The champions of the Ohio Valley Conference take on the first-place team in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference when 25-3 Murray State hosts 19-8 Morgan State (noon E, ESPNU).

In a game matching the third-place team in the WAC vs. the co-leaders of the Colonial Athletic Association, the 20-5 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs visit the 18-9 Northeastern Huskies (1 E, ESPN2).

A second-place team from the MAAC, the 18-8 Fairfield Stags, goes against the second-place team from the America East Conference, the 19-8 Vermont Catamounts (2 E).

Another Bracket Buster pits the fourth-place team in the WAC, the 15-9 Nevada Wolf Pack, at the sixth-place team in the Missouri Valley, the 17-9 Missouri State Bears (3 E, ESPN2).

Next up, the co-leaders of the MAC East, 19-7 Akron, visit the fifth-place team in the CAA, 18-7 Virginia Commonwealth (4 E, ESPNU).

The 18-8 Illinois State Redbirds, who occupy third place in the MVC, host the second-place team in the OVC, the 18-8 Morehead State Eagles (5 E).

A first-place team from the Southern Conference meets a third-place team from the Colonial when 17-9 Charleston visits 16-11 George Mason (8 E, ESPN2).

And a second-place team from the Southern Conference takes on a division co-leader from the MAC as 19-8 Western Carolina visits 18-8 Kent State (8 E, ESPNU).

Around the rest of the college basketball world Saturday;

Down in the Big 12, 20-5 Baylor visits 17-7 Oklahoma State (1:30 E).

In the SEC 17-8 Florida visits 17-7 Ole Miss (noon E, CBS); and the 25-1 Kentucky Wildcats, fresh off an overtime win at Mississippi State Tuesday night, hit Nashville to take on the 19-5 Vanderbilt Commodores (6 E, ESPN).

In the ACC 18-8 Georgia Tech visits 17-7 Maryland (2 E).

The big game in the Atlantic 10 Saturday sends 17-7 Xavier to 18-6 Charlotte (2 E).

The big game in the Big 10 sends 17-9 Illinois to 21-3 Purdue (4 E, ESPN).

The first-place and third-place teams in Conference USA meet when 19-6 Tulsa hosts 19-5 UTEP (4 E).

In the big one in the Northeastern Conference, 18-9 and first-place Robert Morris hosts 18-7 and second-place Quinnipiac (7 E).

And in a real nightcap the second-place team in the Horizon League, 17-9 Wright State, heads West to take on the first-place team in the WAC, 20-6 Utah State (midnight E, ESPN2).

Besides all this action, bettors should check out the updated NCAA championship betting board at for a look at prices on all these Bracket Busting teams.

NBA begins second-half slate

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

The NBA picks up where it left off last week with the beginning of the “second half” of the regular season. Here’s a quick look at some of this week’s Association action.

On Wednesday the Memphis Grizzlies head north of the border to tangle with the Toronto Raptors (7 pm Eastern). Toronto has won three straight games and eight of its last nine to close within four games of the first-place Boston Celtics in the Atlantic Division. The Raptors also sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings. Memphis, meanwhile, lost six of its last seven games going into the break, and sits in 11th place in the Western Conference standings, three games behind eighth-place Portland.

Both Memphis and Toronto are 30-21 on the NBA totals so far this season.

Also Wednesday the Utah Jazz visit the New Orleans Hornets (8 E). The Jazz just had a nine-game winning streak snapped last Wednesday, and they’d be the four seed in the West if the playoffs started today. The Hornets, on the other hand, are tied with Houston for the nine spot in the Western Conference, two games behind Portland, which owns the eighth and final West playoff spot.

Also, Utah is a profitable 30-18 ATS this season.

And in a Wednesday nightcap, the Phoenix Suns visit the Dallas Mavericks (9 E, ESPN). The Suns are (basically) tied for the 5-6-7 spots in the West with San Antonio and Oklahoma City. The Mavs, meanwhile, lead the Southwest Division by a game and a half over the second-place Spurs, and they own the three spot in the West.

Thursday’s TNT doubleheader gives us a pair of good inter-conference matchups. First, the Cleveland Cavaliers host the Denver Nuggets (8 E). The Cavs enter the second half of this season on a 13-game winning streak, and with a two-game lead over the Los Angeles Lakers in the fight for the best record in the league. Denver, meanwhile, has lost three of its last five games, and trails L.A. by 5.5 games in the race for first place in the West.

Those Lakers host the fading Boston Celtics (10:30 E) in Thursday’s second game. The Beantowners are just 9–10 since the turn of the year, and are 19–30 ATS this season. Los Angeles, on the other hand, gets Kobe Bryant back, after he missed the week leading into and including the All-Star Game resting a sore ankle.

On Friday the Cavs visit Charlotte (7 E) to take on Coach Brown’s Bobcats, who, in search of their first-ever playoff berth, own the six spot in the East. Also, Orlando, winners of 10 of their last 13 games, hosts Dallas (8 E, ESPN), losers of five of its last seven games. The Mavs are also just 21-31 ATS this season.

Also Friday, Atlanta, owners of the four spot in the East, visits the Suns (9 E). The Hawks are 32-19 ATS this season. And the Celtics continue their West Coast road trip with a stop in Portland (10:30 E, ESPN).

Bettors will also want to keep an eye on the NBA trade ticker, where at least a few major deals could come across the wire before Thursday’s deadline.

Hot hoops action for cold Saturday

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

There’s nothing better after shoveling your way out of the most recent snow dump than settling down in front of the TV, maybe with a hot toddy at your side, for a long February Saturday of college basketball. So for your previewing pleasure, here below lies a quick advance look at some of this Saturday’s action.

The Atlantic Coast Conference features several important games Saturday. The biggest takes place in Durham when the Maryland Terrapins visit the Duke Blue Devils (1 pm Eastern, CBS). Going into their game at North Carolina Wednesday night Duke leads the ACC at 7-2, with Maryland just a half-game back at 6-2. But the Terps have four starters back from last season, and would dearly love to chase down the Dukies.

Both these teams have been kind to their financial backers this season; Duke is 14-8 vs. the pointspreads, while Maryland is 11-7.

Also in the ACC Saturday the Virginia Cavaliers, 14-7 so far in their first season under new head coach Tony Bennett, visit the Virginia Tech Hokies in a game matching two teams tied for fourth in the conference (8 E, Raycom); and Wake Forest’s Demon Deacons, who are tied with Maryland for second place in the ACC, host the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who are tied for sixth (8 E, Raycom).

Up in the Atlantic 10 the Rhode Island Rams hit Philly to take on the Temple Owls (4 E). Both teams are 7-2 in A-10 play and are tied for third place, one game back of the first-place Charlotte 49ers.

Over in the Ivy League first-place Cornell’s Big Red visits Princeton’s second-place Tigers (6 E). With a win Princeton would move into a tie atop the Ivy. And remember, the Ivy League awards its NCAA tournament berth to its regular-season champion.

Cornell is 13-5 vs. the pointspreads this season, while the Tigers are 9-3 ATS.

In a good late-season interconference matchup Xavier’s Musketeers, the second-place team in the A-10, visit Florida’s Gators, who are tied for third place in the SEC East (6 E, ESPN).

And the featured game of the day goes off down in Lexington when the Kentucky Wildcats host the Tennessee Volunteers (9 E, ESPN). Kentucky leads the SEC by a game over Vanderbilt, and two games over the Vols, as they try to chase down a top seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

Bettors will also want to check out the updated NCAA championship betting board at The Kansas Jayhawks lead the betting as of Wednesday morning at +200, followed by, among others, Kentucky at +300, Duke at +1,500, Tennessee at +4,000, Georgia Tech at +6,000, Maryland and Wake Forest at +7,500, Florida at +8,000, Temple and Xavier at +12,500, Rhode Island at +20,000, and Virginia and Virginia Tech at +25,000.

NBA preps for All-Star break

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

The unofficial first half of the NBA regular season comes to a close this week as the league heads into the All-Star break, so teams will want to finish strong before they take a few days off. Here’s a quick look at some of this week’s Association action.

Wednesday’s sheet includes several matchups of playoff-bounds or playoff-hopefuls.

The Orlando Magic, who have recently re-taken the lead in the Southeast Division from the Atlanta Hawks, visit the Chicago Bulls (8 pm Eastern). Orlando also owns the two seed in the Eastern Conference standings, while the Bulls are tied for the six spot in the East with the Charlotte Bobcats.

The Magic are also 22-30 on the NBA totals this season, while Chicago is 19-29 on the OVER/UNDER.

The Boston Celtics, who are only 9-12 since Christmas, visit a hung-over New Orleans to take on the Hornets (8 E, NBA TV). Boston leads the Atlantic Division by five games over the second-place Toronto Raptors, and they own the three spot in the East. But the Celtics are just 19-29 vs. the pointspreads this season.

The Hornets, meanwhile, have lost four of their last five game and have fallen into last place in the Southwest Division. Also, they’re tied for 10th place in the Western Conference standings, 2.5 games back of the eighth-place Portland Trail Blazers

Speaking of Portland, losers of five of their last eight games, they visit the Phoenix Suns (9 E) Wednesday. Phoenix has won five straight games, and owns the five seed in the West.

And also out West those defending league champion Lakers trek to Utah to tangle with the Jazz (9 E). L.A. leads the Pacific Division by 8.5 games over second-place Phoenix, they’re five games up on Denver in the race for the best record in the West, and they’re a game and a half back of Cleveland in the battle for the best record in the league.

The Jazz, meanwhile, have won eight straight games to jump into the four spot in the West, and they’re a profitable 29-17 vs. the pointspreads this season, the second-best ATS mark in the league.

The Lakers have also managed to win their last two games, over Portland and San Antonio, without Kobe Bryant, who’s dealing with a sprained ankle. His status for Wednesday night is uncertain.

Thursday night’s TNT TV doubleheader, the last night of action going into the All-Star break, consists of a couple of possible playoff series previews. In the East, Orlando visits Cleveland (8 E). And in the West, Denver hosts San Antonio (10:30 E).

Through Monday the Cavs have won 11 in a row, and lead the East by six games over the Magic.

San Antonio trails first-place Dallas by 2.5 games in the Southwest Division, and is tied with Oklahoma City for the six spot in the West.

Denver, meanwhile, which is just 3-3 over its last six games, leads the Northwest Division by two games over second-place Utah.

Almost everybody then takes a long weekend off, while a couple dozen of the best players in the league congregate down in Arlington, Texas for Sunday’s All-Star Game (8 E, TNT).

Colts favored in Super Bowl

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

The NFL is down to the final game of the 2009-2010 season; Super Bowl XLIV (that’s 44, as Papa Joe would say, for all you non-Romans out there). On one side, we’ve got the Indianapolis Colts, champions of the AFC, led by a man-machine at quarterback, winners of this game three years ago. On the other side we’ve got the New Orleans Saints, offensive-minded, champions of the NFC, playing on the big stage for the first time.

Those two teams will decide the championship of the professional football world Sunday night (6:25 Eastern, CBS)

Ten days ago, was listing the Colts at -5.5 over the Saints, with the total set at 56.5. Indy was also being offered at -210 on the moneyline, with New Orleans getting +175. And all those numbers held steady until Wednesday, when the Colts were dropped to -5 on the betting line and -200 on the moneyline, with the Saints getting +170. And that’s where things sat as of Thursday morning.

Those who took either Indianapolis or the Saints to win Super Bowl 44 back in September at got ’em both at +1,500. And those who backed Indy before the season started to win the AFC cashed in at +800, while those who took New Orleans to win the NFC got +1,200 on their money.

Indianapolis is 16-2 straight up and 12-5-1 against the pointspreads this season. They started 14-0, won the AFC South, clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, then famously (or rather, “infamously”) benched a bunch of starters, and lost twice, thus forfeiting a chance at NFL immortality.

But in the playoffs the Colts kicked both the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets to win their second AFC championship in the last four years.

New Orleans is 15-3 SU and 9–9 ATS this season. The Saints started 13-0, won the NFC South, clinched HFA in the NFC playoffs, then lost their last three regular-season games. But in the playoffs, helped along by an opportunistic defense, New Orleans grounded the Arizona Cardinals and outlasted the Minnesota Vikings in overtime to win its first-ever conference championship.

The big injury news of the week surrounds Indy DE Dwight Freeney, who tore ligaments in his ankle late in the AFC title game. His status for Sunday is still up in the air, and is probably the main reason for the line movement of this week.

These two teams last met in Week 1 of the 2007 season, when Indy pounded the Saints 41-10. The Colts picked off New Orleans QB Drew Brees twice that Thursday night, and the Saints’ only touchdown came on a fumble return.

New Orleans is 9-9 on the totals this season, even though Saints games have averaged a healthy 54 points. Indy is 10-8 on the totals, as Colts games have averaged 44 points.

Since the NFC won 13 straight Super Bowls from 1985-1997, the AFC has won nine of the last 12, and five of the last six. is also offering lines and totals on the Super Bowl by quarters and halves, and is challenging bettors with many dozens of Super Bowl proposition bets, some of the crazy variety.

Big East focus on big Saturday

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

College basketball’s conference races are shaping up all over the country, as they are apt to do when we flip the calendar to February. And that only provides better betting action. Here’s a quick look at some of this Saturday’s college hoops happenings.

The only game of the day matching two ranked teams takes place in the Big East when the Villanova Wildcats visit the Georgetown Hoyas (noon Eastern, ESPN). Villanova tops the Big East standings at 9-0, and has its sights set on not just a conference title, but one of the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament that would likely come with it. G-Town, meanwhile, is 6-3 in the Big East, and one of four teams from that conference ranked in the top eight.

The Wildcats are also a profitable 15-5 vs. the pointspreads this season.

The game of the day in the ACC sends the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest to Charlottesville to take on Coach Bennett’s Virginia Cavaliers (noon E). Neither of these teams was expected to contend for either an upper-division conference finish or an NCAA berth this season. But as of Wednesday Wake sat at 15-5, the Cavs at 13-6, and both trailed first-place Duke by just a half-game in the ACC.

In the Atlantic 10 the first-place Xavier Musketeers head to Dayton to play the sixth-place Flyers (noon E, ESPN2), and the second-place Temple Owls visit the fifth-place Richmond Spiders (2 E, ESPNU). These games are especially important for these teams, considering that, unlike the power conferences, the A-10 probably won’t send more than a couple of teams to the Big Dance.

The Colonial Conference features a couple of important games Saturday. In one, the third-place Old Dominion Monarchs visit the fifth-place VCU Rams (4 E). And in another, the fourth-place Drexel Dragons host the first-place Patriots of George Mason (4 E).

Over in the MAC, the East-leading Kent State Golden Flashes visit the West-leading Central Michigan Chippewas (7 E). Kent State was slated for a middle-of-the-road finish in the MAC this season, but has won five games in a row to take over the top spot in the East. Central Michigan, meanwhile, was the favorite to win the West, and that’s just where they sit.

Moving to the Mountain West Conference, the third-place UNLV Rebels host BYU’s first-place Cougars (4 E, Versus), and the fourth-place San Diego State Aztecs visit the second-place New Mexico Lobos (6 E).

And in a Conference USA nightcapper, two of the three teams tied atop the standings at 6-1, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane and the UTEP Miners, hook up in El Paso (10 E, ESPN2). will not only offer betting action on all of Saturday’s college basketball games, but bettors might also want to check out the updated NCAA basketball championship board at the site.

Thunder, Hornets highlight NBA slate

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

NBA playoff races are getting interesting, and we haven’t even hit the All-Star break yet. Here’s a quick look at some of this week’s more relevant Association action, and some futures bettors might want to consider.

Wednesday, the Oklahoma City Thunder, riding a nice collection of young talent toward a playoff berth, visit the New Orleans Hornets (8 pm Eastern). The OKC, as of Tuesday morning, is tied with the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot. The Hornets, meanwhile, have won 13 of their last 19 games, and trail the Thunder and Grizz by a half-game in the West standings. But New Orleans is now playing without its great point guard Chris Paul, who hurt his knee last week, and is not expected back for at least a month. Rookie Darren Collison takes over at the point for the Hornets.

In Boston, the Celtics, who just snapped a three-game losing streak, host the Miami Heat (8 E, ESPN). Miami has lost four of its last five games, and while they own the eight spot in the East at the moment, they’re only two games up on Milwaukee. Boston, meanwhile, is looking a bit long in the tooth, and has seen its lead in the Atlantic Division dwindle to five games over second-place Toronto. And the Celts have dropped into a tie for the three spot in the Eastern Conference standings, 6.5 games behind top-seeded Cleveland.

Also Wednesday the non-stop nightly battle for the final four Western Conference playoff slots continues when the Utah Jazz, recent winners of 10 of 11 games, host the Portland Trail Blazers (9 E). And the Phoenix Suns visit the Denver Nuggets, winners of 12 of their last 14 games (10:30 E, ESPN).

And in an interesting coaching matchup, Larry Brown’s Charlotte Hornets visit Phil Jackson’s Los Angeles Lakers (10:30 E).

Thursday’s TNT-TV doubleheader features a couple of good intra-conference matchups. First, the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lead the Lakers by one game in the race for the best record in the league, host Miami (8 E). After that, Portland hosts the San Antonio Spurs in a meeting of two teams tied for the five spot in the West (10:30 E).

Friday night the Chicago Bulls, who have played their way into a tie for the six spot in the East by winning nine of their last 11 games, visit Atlanta (8 E, ESPN). Also, the Houston Rockets, who trail Memphis and OKC by a game in the race for the final Western Conference playoff spot, visit the Grizz (8 E). And in a rematch of the West Finals of last season, the Lakers host the Nuggets (10:30 E, ESPN).

As of Tuesday is listing the Lakers as -150 favorites to win the NBA championship this season. The defending champs are followed on that board by, among others, Cleveland at +100, Orlando at +300, Boston at +400, Denver at +500, the Dallas Mavericks at +800, San Antonio at +1,500, Atlanta at +2,500, Phoenix at +3,000, Chicago and Portland at +4,000, Utah and New Orleans at +7,500, Houston and Oklahoma City at +10,000, Miami at +12,000, and Memphis at +15,000.