NBA Week Preview

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The NBA regular season turns the calendar on a new year this week as the halfway mark approaches. Here’s a quick look at some of this week’s pro hoops action.

Wednesday night’s slate includes two good matchups. In an Eastern Conference clash, the Atlanta Hawks (21-8 through Monday) visit the Cleveland Cavaliers (24-8) at The Q (7 pm Eastern). And in what should be a good interconference bout, the Phoenix Suns (20-12) host the Boston Celtics (23-7) out at the Purple Palace (9 E, NBATV).

Atlanta, which trails first-place Orlando by just a half-game (through Monday’s play) in the Southeast Division, has also been the best team in the league so far this season to put money on; the Hawks are 21-8 vs. the NBA betting lines. Cleveland, meanwhile, leads the Central Division already by 10.5 games, and has won nine of its last 10.

This will be the first meeting this season between these two teams. Last season, the Cavs took three of four games from Atlanta during the regular season, then swept the Hawks in four games in an Eastern Conference semifinals series.

Boston leads the Atlantic Division by nine games, but had lost two straight games after falling at Golden State Monday night. Phoenix only trails the division-leading Los Angeles Lakers by five games in the Pacific, and they beat LA on Monday night. But the Suns have cooled considerably after a hot start, going 6-9 over their last 15 games.

Back in early November Phoenix beat the Celts in Boston 110-103.

Amidst the revelry New Year’s Eve, Thursday’s schedule also features what should be some good action. Down in Houston the probably McGrady-less Rockets (18-13) host the Dallas Mavericks (22-9) at the Toyota Center (7 Eastern). Just down I-10, the San Antonio Spurs (17-11) welcome the Miami Heat (16-12) to The Barn (7 E, TNT). And in the OKC the upstart Thunder (16-14) host the Utah Jazz (17-13) at the Ford Center (8 E).

The Mavs lead the Southwest Division by 3.5 games over the Spurs, and by four games over the Rockets. They’re also 11-4 both straight up and against the pointspreads on the road this season.

After winning 23 games all of last season, Oklahoma City is already two-thirds of the way to topping that this season. And they’re only three games out of first place in the Northwest Division. The Thunder are also 19-11 vs. the numbers this season.

Friday’s slate looks like three mismatches. In Atlanta the Hawks take on the New York Knicks (11-19) at Philips Arena (7:30 E); Up in Minneapolis the Timberwolves (7-24) host the Orlando Magic (22-8) at Target Center (8 E); And out in LA the defending league champion Lakers (24-6) run with the Sacramento Kings (14-16) at Staples Center (10:30 E).

The Lakers and Celtics still top the NBA championship betting board at +200. They’re followed by, among others, the Magic at +250, the Cavs at +500, the Mavs and Suns at +1,000, the Spurs at +1,500, the Hawks at +4,000, the Jazz and Rockets at +7,500, the Thunder at +10,000, the Kings at +12,500, the Heat and Knicks at +15,000, and the Timberwolves at +60,000.

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