The Utah Jazz laid down a championship marker on Monday night as they toppled the number one side in the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers, to extend their winning run to eight matches.
The Jazz have won 19 of their last 20 matches to set the pace at the top of the Western Conference with a 23-5 record and now lead the standings by two games from the reigning champions, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Despite being the form team in the league, the Jazz are still
11/1 to win the NBA Finals, while they are
5/1 to be crowned kings of the west, both markets that are lead by the Lakers, who are
12/5 to retain their NBA Championship.
LA will look to close the gap to Utah on Tuesday when they take on the bottom side in the Eastern Conference, the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Lakers Hamstrung by Davies Setback
The Lakers are 6.5-point favourites and are
25/27 to cover the spread, but won’t be able to call upon Anthony Davis, who is set for a spell on the sidelines until at least the start of March after suffering an Achilles injury.
Without Davis, who is averaging 22.5 points per game this year, there will be even more pressure than usual on LeBron James to dominant games and the Timberwolves are
9/4 to pull off the upset.
Pushing Utah and the Lakers hard are the LA Clippers, who have won three straight to stay on the coat tails of the pace setters in the Western Conference.
The Clippers, who lost in the conference semi-finals last year, could go within half a game of the lead if they win their next two matches, both against the Jazz with the headline two-game series starting on Wednesday.
Top Two on the Slide
The 76ers battled gamely in their 134-123 loss to Utah, particularly in the absence of MVP candidate Joel Embiid, with Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris putting up a combined 78 points between them.
However, it wasn’t enough to prevent Philly slipping to a third successive defeat as they dropped to 18-10 on the year. Fortunately for the Sixers, their closest rivals, the Milwaukee Bucks, are also on a three-game losing run, most recently going down to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Bucks are struggling without Jrue Holiday in the line-up and face a tricky assignment on Tuesday when they take on a Toronto side who are up into the playoff places after recovering from a poor start to the season, although the Raptors remain inconsistent.
Toronto have lost the last two but have played well against the Bucks in the past and are
25/27 to win with a 5.5 point start.
Net Closing in on Sixers
The struggles of the top two have allowed the star-studded Brooklyn Nets to close the gap at the top in the East to 1.5 games and they are the
6/4 favourites to win the Conference, with the Bucks
5/2 and the 76ers
It is fast developing into a three-horse race at the top of the standings with the Nets the form side after three successive wins.
Brooklyn’s ‘big three’ of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden have hit their stride during their ongoing road trip out west, but they’ll be without Durant when they face the in-form Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.
The Nets are the
33/20 underdogs against a Suns team that has won nine of their last 10 matches and ranks in the top-10 on both offensive and defensive efficiency.
*All odds correct at time of writing