Nuggets at Bucks
Both Denver and Milwaukee could be active before Thursday's deadline. The Bucks have by far the worst record in the NBA and would gladly trade anyone on the team other than rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo. The only realistic options to be dealt are Caron Butler, Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour as backup depth to contenders.
The Bucks (21-32 ATS, 28-25 O/U at sportsbooks) enter on a hot streak: off a win. For them that's something. They beat visiting Orlando 104-100 on Tuesday night for Milwaukee's third win of 2014 but sixth cover in the past seven games for sports bettors. Rookie Nate Wolters gave the Bucks the 99-97 lead for good on a 3-pointer with 29.5 seconds left. The second-round pick out of South Dakota State has no right starting in the NBA, but the Bucks remain without Ridnour and big offseason free agent signing O.J. Mayo. The latter has missed 10 straight games with an illness/conditioning issues. Mostly it's his attitude. Milwaukee also remains without big man Larry Sanders, a player the team gave a big extension to but also has disappointed. Sanders is out perhaps the rest of the season with a broken orbital bone. Butler may have added to his value Tuesday with a team-high 21 points.
The Nuggets (22-30 ATS, 26-26 O/U at sportsbooks) might be ready to start a full rebuild in the Mile High City as they have lost five straight games (0-5 ATS) and seem unlikely to mount any playoff push with Danilo Gallinari out for the season and JaVale McGee likely so. Power forward Kenneth Faried definitely would have some value around the NBA. Disgruntled guard Andre Miller seems likely to go. Probably the only untouchable is point guard Ty Lawson.
Denver has been wretched defensively in its losing streak, allowing at least 112 points in all of them. That's what Phoenix scored on Tuesday night in a five-point overtime win at Denver. Faried had 21 points and 10 rebounds, but Lawson missed his third straight game with a rib injury. Lawson's backup, Nate Robinson, is out for the season.
The Nuggets beat visiting the visiting Bucks 110-100 as 11.5-point favorites on NBA odds Feb. 5, Denver's last win. Lawson had 18 points and 13 assists, while Sanders led Milwaukee with 25 points and 15 rebounds in his final full game before the eye injury.
NBA free picks: Nuggets -3 and over 207 on NBA odds. Milwaukee is just 3-12 ATS in its past 15 after a win, while Denver has covered five of the past seven meetings. The over is 6-1 in the past seven meetings in Milwaukee.
Heat at Thunder
It's probably fair to call Thursday's TNT opener between Miami (23-28-1 ATS, 31-21 O/U at sportsbooks) and Oklahoma City (32-23 ATS, 28-27 O/U) the most anticipated game the rest of the regular season as it's the final meeting between the odds-on favorites to meet in June's NBA Finals. Thus it's also the last time for LeBron James and Kevin Durant to make an MVP statement against one another. To add even more intrigue, Russell Westbrook is expected to play for the first time since Christmas for Oklahoma City.
In the most recent NBA odds, Durant had taken over as the clear MVP favorite on the strength of his 12 straight games with at least 30 points in January. The finale of that streak came Jan. 29 in Miami. The Thunder fell behind 15-2 and then OKC coach Scott Brooks took out Thunder center Kendrick Perkins and kept him on the bench the rest of the way. You could say it worked: OKC outscored Miami by 43 points over a 33-minute span to end a six-game losing streak to the Heat, who were 4-point favorites for sports bettors.
Durant was better than James that night, scoring 33 points with seven rebounds and five assists, with LeBron having 34 points, three rebounds and three assists. That loss seems to have motivated LeBron. The Heat are 6-1 this month and James is averaging 30.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and 7.6 assists. He had a signature shot of the season to beat Golden State last Wednesday and a season-high 42 in Tuesday's win at Dallas.
The question is how many shots Westbrook will siphon off Durant, who has been averaging 3.8 more per game with Westbrook sidelined than with him on the court. Durant hasn't exactly been a slouch in February, averaging 33.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists.
NBA free picks: Miami +4 on NBA odds and under 207.5. Oklahoma City hasn't lost at home since Dec. 22, but James appears to be on a mission right now to steer the spotlight back to him off Durant. Westbrook figures to be rusty and could disrupt team chemistry. The Heat still have covered six of the past seven meetings and they will send a statement for a potential rematch in June.