Houston can derail Bucks top seed bid

After an awful start to the season, Houston have hit a real purple patch and the Rockets face a big test of their Championship credentials when they entertain Milwaukee this week.

The Bucks have moved ahead of Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference and look well placed to mount a serious bid for an NBA Finals spot.

Boston Celtics were expected to dominate this season but they are yet to find any consistency.  Toronto led the way early on and remain a threat but their recent postseason record will be a concern throughout – meaning Milwaukee, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers have to be considered as real contenders right now.

The Rockets are 13.00 to win the NBA Championship outright and the Bucks are 19.00.  It may be an outside chance but this week’s match-up between these two teams is a possible Finals preview and that adds to the intrigue.

Home comforts key for Houston (Jan 10th, 1.00am)

Houston lost their first four games at the Toyota Center but have been beaten just once at home in 15 outings since.

The visit of the Bucks will provide Mike D’Antoni’s team with a real test as Milwaukee have impressed on the road of late with four wins in their last five.  The Bucks have a winning record on the road with 9-7 and beat key rivals in Boston and Toronto in December, as well as claiming an eye-catching 23-point win over Golden State Warriors back in November.

However, Houston have been sensational in Texas and go into this game on the back of 10 straight home wins.  Only one team during that run has managed to get within five points of the Rockets and they can secure an important win over the Bucks as they look to put pressure on the West’s top three.

Surging Spurs can down slumping Grizzlies (Jan 10th, 1.00am)

A playoff spot would probably be considered a success for San Antonio in this season of transition and the Spurs should be able to maintain their push for a top-eight finish in the Western Conference with a win at Memphis.

The Spurs head to their Southwest Division rivals on the back of a five-game winning streak and they sit sixth in the West with a 22-16 record overall.

In contrast, the Grizzlies are on the slide with six straight losses – including disappointing home defeats to Brooklyn Nets and Detroit Pistons.

San Antonio have dominated the fixture recently with seven wins in the last eight meetings and they can claim another win over Memphis this week.

The Spurs are 7.00 to win the Southwest Division outright, Memphis are 12.00 and Houston are the favourites at 1.33.

Nuggets too strong for Clippers (Jan 11th, 2.00am)

Denver continue to defy expectations as they remain the pacesetters in a Western Conference packed with quality and the Nuggets are not to be discounted from going all the way and claiming the Championship at 41.00.

Admittedly, it is hard to see them beating the likes of Golden State or Houston in a best-of-seven series but they are a well-organised unit, who as a team, are more than the sum of their parts.

Denver are back at the Pepsi Center later this week after a two-game road swing and they can overcome visitors the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Clippers look good for a postseason spot themselves but they have struggled against quality opposition recently.  The LA team are 6-4 in their last 10 games but only two of those wins have come against teams currently in the playoff spots.  One of those victories came against a LeBron James-less Lakers and the other was a home clash with Denver.

This looks an excellent opportunity for the Nuggets to claim some quick revenge and they should be able to secure the win in this match-up.

Kings can reign in Sacramento (Jan 11th, 3.00am)

Sacramento Kings have hit a rough patch but they can get back to winning ways against another out-of-form outfit in Detroit Pistons at the Golden 1 Center.

Both teams are pushing for playoff places and home advantage could well see the Kings over the line in this one.

Sacramento have lost three of their last four home games but those defeats have come against Portland Trail Blazers (in overtime), Golden State and Denver – and Detroit should be easier prey for Dave Joerger’s men.