NBA Thursday: L.A. vs. L.A./Miami vs. OKC

With 28 NBA teams free to go on their All-Star break vacations, four NBA squads still have work to do on Thursday. Fortunately for bettors and basketball fans, they’ll still get plenty of bang for their buck as the two match-ups on tap for Thursday are premier to say the least. First, the Heat roll into OKC for a NBA Finals re-match with the Thunder and then the Lakers take on their in-city rival, the Los Angeles Clippers. It should be an exciting and official finish to the first half of the regular season. Here’s a look at each game.

Miami Heat +4.5 at Oklahoma City Thunder -4.5

It would be a massive understatement to say the Miami Heat are hot. Not only have they torched their last six opponents, but LeBron James set an NBA record during that stretch by scoring at least 30 and shooting better than 60% in six consecutive games. And since the Thunder aren’t exactly known for their defense prowess, there’s no reason to think James can’t make it seven.

Although the Thunder have cooled off a bit recently as winners of only six of their last 10, they still hold the second best record in the NBA and are nearly flawless on their home floor (23-3), which, luckily for them, is where the game will be held today.

Of course, when analyzing a match-up between these teams you have to look at recent history. They’ve had some intense battles for sure, including in last year’s NBA Finals, but the Heat have won most of those, including the other time the teams met this season.

Although the Thunder are one of the best teams in the league at home, it would be criminal to go against the defending champions, who are playing their best basketball of the season right now. And considering the Heat seem to have the Thunder’s number, this actually seems like a pretty easy decision. Take the Heat to cover +4.5 and win outright.

Los Angeles Clippers -3 at Los Angeles Lakers +3

The Lakers have managed to scrape together some wins lately, but they certainly haven’t looked pretty. The Lakers are coming off a 91-86 win over the Western Conference’s worst team – the Phoenix Suns – wherein Kobe Bryant scored just four points. Four points! The Lakers were lucky to earn the W there, but they’ll have to step up their game today against the third best team in the West.

After a short dry spell, the Clippers are starting to pick up the pace again as winners of their last three contests. That’s probably because the Clippers are healthy again with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin back in the lineup. That combo has not boded well for the Lakers, who are 0-2 against the Clippers this season.

Considering the Clippers are back on the upswing and they have had recent success against their in-city rival, I think it’s safe to take them to cover -3 today.