This TNT double-header has the potential to be one of the best of the season.
Not only are the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks having a battle of MVP candidates to kick things off, but to follow that battle will be the Denver Nuggets and their own MVP candidate defending their top seed in the West against the improving Los Angeles Clippers.
Let’s dive in.
Thursday, 1/5 at 5:30pm MST on TNT in Dallas
To kick things off on Thursday night for the first half of the TNT double-header, the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed Boston Celtics (26-12) will head to Dallas to battle with the Mavericks (22-16) who are holding onto the fourth seed in the West.
While still quite a force, the Celtics have been slipping as of late. They are just 5-5 in their last ten games and have not looked like the dominant team they began the season as. They even allowed the Oklahoma City Thunder post a mind-bending 150 without their best player Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Still, they are owners of the league’s-best offense to go with a stellar defense and one of the best candidates for the Michael Jordan Most Valuable Player trophy in Jayson Tatum. The Celtics can beat anyone on any given night so to overlook such a great top-to-bottom team would be disastrous for their opponent.
On the other hand, Dallas has the opposite issue. If they do not receive an otherworldly performance from their own MVP candidate in Luka Doncic, they likely have little-to-no shot to win against strong opponents. Thankfully for the Mavericks, Doncic is capable of posting stat lines that did not seem possible until he proved it so like his 60-point, 21-rebound, 10-assist triple-double for what is the first-ever 60-20-10 game in NBA history.
Will the Celtics find the dominant version of themselves they showed earlier in the season? Will Doncic put together a performance so incredible it does not matter? Regardless of which outcome becomes reality, it should be a blast for fans and viewers alike.
- According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Celtics are entering the game as 3-point favorites despite being on the road which feels just about perfect, but the real value might be betting on Doncic to push the Mavericks to cover +3 at home.
- Doncic of the Mavericks currently holds the highest odds to win MVP according to DraftKings Sportbook at +275, but the real value for bettors could be grabbing Jayson Tatum to win MVP at +400. Tatum has performed at an MVP level for most of the season and getting his odds this low might be a smart bet.
Thursday, 1/5 at 8pm MST on TNT in Denver
This should be a fantastic game to conclude the TNT double header. The Clippers (21-18), who will be looking to end their three-game losing streak, will have to do so in the Mile High City against the West-leading Nuggets (24-13) who are 14-3 in their home arena.
The Nuggets have continually shown up in big games and established themselves as one of the elite teams in the Western Conference behind the astounding play of Nikola Jokic. While that is true, it still feels like Denver has only shown a portion of their ceiling. Jamal Murray, while good in bursts, is still finding his rhythm and footing after tearing his ACL two seasons ago. The same can be said for Michael Porter Jr. who is still searching for the best version of himself after missing virtually all of last season after getting back surgery.
Still, Denver has been the top seed in the West for the better part of a month and are posting a record of 24-13 while stacking wins against the best teams in the league during that span. If that is how good they are without two of their most important players performing even near their best, just how good can this team be?
The same can be said for the Los Angeles Clippers who are enjoying their best stretch of basketball over the past month or so now that Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are closer to mainstays in the rotation. When Kawhi Leonard plays, the Clippers are 11-5 and in games he does not play, the Clippers are 10-13. When the Clippers have their superstar forward in Leonard, they have a winning percentage of 68.6% which would lead the league. When they are missing Leonard, their winning percentage is 43.5% which would be good for 13th-best in the Western Conference. That leaves a lot of room for this Clippers team to find another gear if they can stay healthy.
Despite the three-game losing streak they are carrying into their matchup with the Nuggets, the Clippers are still 21-18 and sitting in the sixth seed in the West despite their rough start to the season.
- The Denver Nuggets have been great this season, but being 6-point favorites at home over the Clippers according to DraftKings Sportsbook feels like an uncomfortable bet either direction. Still, hard to bet against a Nuggets team that is 14-3 at home.
- Somehow — despite winning back-to-back MVP awards the last two seasons, playing as well if not better than both of those seasons and leading the Nuggets to the top seed in the West thus far — Jokic has just the fourth-best MVP odds according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Sign me up for Jokic to win MVP at +425. That is the easiest awards bet of the year so far.