It's a possible NBA Finals preview -- not saying that it's likely, just possible -- Tonight in San Antonio the defending champion hosts Toronto. The Spurs opened as 7.5-point favorites on NBA odds.
Raptors In a Funk
Toronto (38-25) is a lock to repeat as Atlantic Division champion, but the Raptors obviously would like to finish as high as No. 2 in the East and thus have home-court advantage against everyone in the conference but Atlanta. The Raptors had been No. 2 for a while but have slipped to fourth thanks to a three-game losing streak, allowing at least 103 points in each. The Raptors were Russell Westbrooked on Sunday in Oklahoma City in losing 108-104. Westbrook put on another show with 30 points, 17 assists and 11 rebounds. He made fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry look overmatched. Lowry was just 5-for-15 from the field for 14 points. Lowry really slumped in February so he recently was given a few games off to rest.
DeMar DeRozan led 24 points against the Spurs and is averaging 28.5 points in his past four while shooting .516 (47-for-91) from the field and a perfect 17-for-17 at the free-throw line. DeRozan here is looking for a fifth straight game with at least 20, something he has never done. The Raptors turned the ball over just eight times and hit 11 3-pointers against San Antonio. They have limited their turnovers under 10 in a season-high three straight games yet obviously lost them all. It was only Toronto's sixth loss in 24 games when hitting at least 10 shots from long range.
The Raptors are 29-33-1 against the NBA betting spread this season and 34-29 'over/under.'
Spurs Starting to Surge
The Spurs (39-23) hadn't looked championship-worthy for much of this season, but they do right now as they enter on a five-game winning streak. San Antonio beat visiting Chicago 116-105 in its last game behind a season-high 32 points from Tony Parker. He scored 15 straight points at one point, surpassing his total from 14 of the previous 26 games in only four-plus minutes. Parker has been a different guy of late after admitting he was struggling with a lingering hamstring injury since early December. In February, Parker averaged only 12.5 points on 39.6 percent shooting. In three March games, he's averaging 25.0 points on 64.6 percent from the field. Kawhi Leonard scored 20 points, his fourth straight with at least that many. He is averaging 22 points on 56 percent shooting with 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.5 blocks over the past four. The Spurs outscored the Bulls by 17 points with Leonard on the court. They improved to 15-1 this season when Leonard and Parker combine for at least 30 points.
I hate to make guarantees because nothing is sure in life, but I'm willing to guarantee that Tim Duncan makes a basket in this game. I say that because the future Hall of Famer was held without a field goal on Sunday for the first time in his career. That streak of 1,310 straight games with a field goal is by far the most in NBA history, with Hakeem Olajuwon No. 2 at 1,075. Duncan was 0-for-8 and finished with three points.
San Antonio is 27-33-2 against the spread and 28-34 'over/under' on NBA odds this season.
On Feb. 8 in Toronto, the Raptors were 1.5-point underdogs on NBA odds (total 202) but won 87-82. James Johnson scored a season-high 20 points for Toronto, while DeRozan had 18 points and Jonas Valanciunas a season-high 16 rebounds. The Spurs shot a season-worst 33.3 percent from the field and hit just 7-for-28 long range. Duncan was held to 12 points (3-for-14 shooting) and Parker 10. They were a combined minus-44. Leading by three with just under two minutes remaining, the Spurs wouldn't score again. It was their first loss this season when holding the opponent under 90 points (previously 8-0). San Antonio has won five straight at home against Toronto. The Raptors have a chance to sweep the season series for the first time ever.
NBA Free Pick: Give the points and go 'under' the total for this NBA pick. Toronto is 2-5 ATS in its past seven road games. The 'under' is 5-1 in the Raptors' past six vs. the West. It is 6-2 in San Antonio's past eight vs. teams with a winning record.