Lakers wait on LeBron and Rockets can keep firing

There are some intriguing match-ups in the NBA over the weekend as Golden State Warriors face a test in Portland and the Los Angeles Lakers have a chance for an act of quick revenge over Sacramento Kings but we’ll start at the Smoothie King Center.

The New Orleans Pelicans are a side in freefall and they welcome Houston Rockets to Louisiana.

Roaring Rockets can outgun Pelicans

Houston Rockets look to be back in top form after a horrendous start to the season and should be able to continue their fine run in New Orleans over the weekend.

The Pelicans looked set to challenge for the playoff spots earlier in the campaign but their form has nosedived and they now find themselves second from bottom in the Western Conference.

Injuries have played a part in New Orleans’ struggles and it remains to be seen if that situation will have improved when the Rockets arrive, although even at full strength it is hard to see them getting anything out of this game.

Despite Houston’s early season struggles they still look the most likely contenders to deny GSW a place in the NBA Finals. Last season’s top seeds in the West are 13.00 to win the Championship outright and they should be able to claim a comfortable win over the Pelicans.

Portland poser for Golden State

Portland Trail Blazers secured a surprise overtime victory at the Oracle Arena earlier this week and now have a chance to claim back-to-back wins over the champions.

The Moda Center is never an easy place to visit and the Blazers boast a 7-3 record over their last 10 games at home.

Golden State will be fired up for this one but after two home defeats in a row, their confidence may have taken a hit.

GSW, who are1.60 to win the Championship, may well sneak a win but Portland have a habit of taking down the big guns – having seen off Toronto Raptors in Oregon earlier this month – and are worth a look in the point spread.

Lakers can triumph with or without LeBron (December 31st, 2.30am)

A groin injury means LeBron James is rated as questionable for the Lakers ahead of the visit of Sacramento but his fitness may not be crucial for this fixture.

The Kings fought back to beat a LeBron-less Lakers at the Golden 1 Center earlier this week but they may find it a big ask to repeat the trick in LA.

Sacramento won by 12 points in the fourth quarter to claim a one-point win and the Lakers will be eager to settle that score.

The Kings are a team who are greater than the sum of their parts and are very much involved in the battle for a postseason spot.  Sacramento also have a 9-9 record on the road but at home the Lakers have been excellent and their recent results at the Staples Center suggest a home win could be on the cards in this one.

The Lakers are 12-3 n their last 15 home games and can improve on that record against the Kings, even if superstar James is forced to sit out again.

Pacers can punish Hawks

Indiana welcome the Atlanta Hawks to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Monday and the Pacers should be able to keep the pressure on the teams above them with a straightforward victory.

The Eastern Conference looks wide open at present, with Boston failing to match their potential and it remains to be seen whether the Celtics can hit top form.

Toronto Raptors may boast the best results in the NBA but their recent record in the playoffs will be a cause for concern for the current pacesetters.  The Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers will fancy their chances but Indiana – at a generous 19.00 to win the Conference – are not out of the equation just yet.

The Pacers have been a tough team to beat at home in recent years and that trend has continued this season. In contrast, Atlanta already look destined for a second year without playoff basketball and seem destined for another loss at Indiana.