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HEY, LET’S WELCOME BACK THE NBA!

WE GET YOU A PAIR OF THURSDAY NIGHT GAME PREVIEWS (SEE NETS AT 76ERS, ROCKETS AT WARRIORS) PLUS, THERE’S NCAA HOOPS ACTION TOO!

There are – give or take – 25-or-so games left on the NBA’s regular-season docket for each team out there and so we quickly move into overdrive with a slew of questions at hand:

Are the Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks (46-8) gonna cruise to the proverbial finish line with the best record in the association (they currently sport a four-game lead in the all-important loss column over the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers)?

Are any of the West’s playoff hopefuls — that’s Portland, San Antonio and / or New Orleans – gonna be able to track down a #8 seed and likely get a head-to-head first-round playoff matchup against the mighty Lakers?

And, finally, who can we expect to heat up versus the vig from this point forward:

Will Oklahoma City (the Thunder’s a league-best 35-19-1 against the spread), Boston (32-21-1 ATS) and Dallas (32-23 ATS) each continue to pound out profits for their backers … or will someone else out there get super-hot versus Mr. Vig?

We’re just wondering but maybe Houston (just 27-27 spreadwise so far in this 2019-2020 season) rips off a batch of spread wins?

Perhaps Philadelphia (an ugly 24-28-3 ATS this season) finally heats up?

Note that both of ‘em are in action on this “Welcome Back, NBA” night here on Thursday, February 20th.

And now hear this …

Jim Hurley’s Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will keep beating the Las Vegas and offshore books with more College Basketball and NBA winners. So, let’s cash in big all this week right here at www.jimhurley.com or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453.

On Thursday night, it’s …

BROOKLYN (25-28) at PHILADELPHIA (34-21) – 8 p.m. ET, TNT

Is it now-or-never time for these Philadelphia 76ers? The “Trust-the-Process” bunch never did pick up any momentum in the unofficial first half of this here-and-now campaign but now the Sixers will face off against five fellow Eastern Conference foes before back-to-back early-March road games at the Lakers and at the LA Clippers.

The first order of business is beating a Brooklyn Nets team that – surprise, surprise – is without PG Kyrie Irving (shoulder) who has missed more than half of his new team’s games this year. The Irving-less Nets need three-point gunner Joe Harris to heat up here while there are plenty of fouls to spread around while defending Philly’s All-Star C Joel Embiid.

Spread Notes – Philadelphia’s shabby .462 winning rate against the odds has been a bummer and no doubt the 76ers skidded their way to the recent All-Star Game break while failing to cover six of their last eight tilts dating back to January 19th. Overall, Philly is 8-3 against the odds in home games since December 21st. On the flip side, Brooklyn is a dead-even but vig-losing 26-26-1 against the odds this season but it’s worth mentioning that Kenny Atkinson’s crew closed the first half having covered seven of its last eight games.  

HOUSTON (34-20) at GOLDEN STATE (12-43) – 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT

There were plenty of folks asking “what’s wrong” with the Rockets these first four months of the season but maybe Mike D’Antoni’s crew just needed some time to acclimate PG Russell Westbrook into the same lineup with lefty James Harden … hey, the duo is averaging 62.5 points per game between ‘em but there have been some really bad losses along the way including a – get this – 36-point loss in Phoenix earlier this month.

If the Rockets – currently the #5 seed in the Western Conference and two full games back of Utah (36-18) – are gonna step on the gas pedal and start covering some prices, then the Harden / Westbrook tandem is gonna have to get a “third wheel” with G Eric Gordon hurting (lower leg) but expected to suit up here.

Spread Notes – As stated up above, Houston is a mere .500 team spreadwise this season despite sporting the league’s second-ranked scoring offense (118.2 ppg). Overall the Rockets have failed to cover eight of their last 11 road games including a 116-104 Christmas Day setback in the Bay Area here against the Warriors when Harden and Company were 11-point road favorites. Note that Golden State is a respectable 26-28-1 ATS this injury-riddled season and the Warriors enter this clash with a decent 9-7-1 spread log as underdogs since early January.

THE COLLEGE HOOPS REPORT

On Thursday night, it’s …

#25 OHIO STATE (17-8, 7-7) at #20 IOWA (18-8, 9-6) – 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

A Top 25 battle in the Big 10 and better believe there’s plenty on the line:

Ohio State is hoping to upgrade its seed position (we had the Buckeyes as a #6 seed at last check, a whole lot better than most of the other “experts” out there) while right now we have Iowa penciled in also as a #6 in next month’s NCAA Tournament.

Hit question for this game: Can the Buckeyes get Iowa C Luke Garza (23.7 ppg) in foul trouble here?

Spread Notes – Iowa is a rock-solid 16-9-1 ATS this year but note the Hawkeyes are just 7-7-1 spreadwise in Big 10 games. Ohio State, meanwhile, is 14-11 versus the vig overall this hoops season and the Buckeyes have been one of the streakiest spread sides around (see seven-game winning spread streak early in the year and a seven-game spread losing skein that started Dec. 29th versus West Virginia).

#14 OREGON (20-6. 9-4) at ARIZONA STATE (17-8, 8-4) – 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

Back to the NCAA Tourney seeding topic, for a sec:

The Oregon Ducks – currently a 25-to-1 shot to win it all – are a #4 seed in our Big Dance projections while we have Arizona State on the outside looking in despite the recent five-game SU (straight-up) winning streak.

If the host Sun Devils wish to square this season series, then Bobby Hurley’s club likely needs 40+ points from top scorers Remy Martin (19.6ppg) and Alonzo Verge, Jr. (14 ppg). Oregon’s super-duper PG Payton Pritchard (19.5 ppg, 5.8 assists per game and 4.3 rebs a game) remains in the running for National Player of the Year.

Spread Notes – Oregon is 15-11 vig-wise this year (a .578 winning rate) and the Ducks enter this Pac-12 clash at just 2-5 spreadwise in conference road games. Meanwhile, Arizona State’s 13-12 ATS overall and a decent 7-6 ATS in Pac-12 tilts. Note the ASU Sun Devils slipped under the bloated 10.5-point price in a 78-69 loss to Oregon back on Jan.11th.

NOTE: Catch up on all our NCAA Hoops coverage in the next edition of Jim Sez and remember there’s wall-to-wall winners – in both college and pro – when you check in with us at the toll-free # of 1-800-323-4453.