NBA begins second-half slate

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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.

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