by Dan Roebuck
Hoop Dreams for UK fans as the NBA comes to the capital.
The biggest and brashest basketball league on the planet slam dunks its way to London this week, as NBA Global Games stages its now annual regular season fixture in the capital at the O2 Arena.
The sport is getting ever more popular in the UK, with tickets for this year’s clash between the Denver Nuggets and the Indiana Pacers sold out within hours. Those lucky enough to be courtside includes a Grosvenor Casinos customer who managed to top the Live Casino Leaderboard last weekend, and while they might not to see the eventual 2017 NBA Champions on show on the banks of the Thames, there is plenty at stake.
They’ll be no time for sightseeing as far as Pacers coach Nate McMillan is concerned, who said before flying out to London that this is “a business trip” and “not a vacation. We’re going over to try and get a win.”
And winning is exactly what his side have been doing recently.
The Pacers have claimed five victories on the spin, and – interestingly from a punter’s point of view – they’ve not only rewarded backers on the money line on each occasion, but also managed to beat the points spread.
The Pacers are 20-18 and sit 5th in the Eastern Conference, on course for a play-off place for the first time since 2014, when they topped the regular season standings before losing the Conference final to Miami Heat. It’s no more than they deserve, with Paul George enjoying a particularly productive season, averaging a team high 22.5 points per game.
Paul George (Indiana Pacers) to score over 25.5 points – 6/4
Paul George (Indiana Pacers) to score over 30.5 points – 4/1
However, it’s not only the Team USA gold medallist who has been flying recently.
Five of his teammates weighed in with tallies of 13 points or more in the their Saturday night win over the New York Knicks, something not lost on George, who told the Daily Star that he doesn’t have to carry the team, admitting; “It’s taken the pressure off”.
It’s this ability to keep the scoring ticking over from all angles that will worry the Nuggets’ coach Michael Malone, who has had to backtrack on criticising his team’s lack of leadership after a shocking home defeat to Sacramento Kings last week. Upset at the 120-113 loss, citing lack of effort, Malone has since come out and said in future he’ll “take it to his players behind closed doors”.
It all smacks of a club in disarray.
A club which is two places below the redline in the Western Conference and with a dreadful post-Christmas record. Five straight losses mean they’re 14-23 this term. Over those past five games, the Nuggets have allowed an average of 123.8 points, suggesting their defensive woes are far from over.
Although the Colorado club are the designated home team in London – something the Pacers will be pleased about, as it means one less trip to The Mile-High City thus avoiding playing at altitude which is always a problem for visiting teams – it’s the Indianapolis outfit that should improve on a run of just two wins in their last ten against the Nuggets.
Lineup tinkering that retained Glenn Robinson III in the starting side and shunted Monta Ellis to the second unit have been working,
The Pacers, who have scored more than 120 points in each of their last three outings, looking a well-drilled unit that work for each other. Even Ellis was happy(ish) with his shift to the bench, telling NBA.com “I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team win”.
The ‘home’ side will need a fit Nikola Jokic. The Serb missed the loss to Oklahoma City Thunder at the weekend due to flu, and a firing Danilo Gallinari – who tops the PPG average for the Denver side this season – to snap their dreadful run, but in truth, anyone backing the Nuggets is only likely to find fool’s gold.
Grosvenor Casinos Sportsbook will have a comprehensive array of markets for the match, including handicap, points spread, over and under total points and a huge number of player specials, meaning there’s ample opportunity to come out on top in a one-on-one with the odds-makers.
Tip-off is at 8pm on Thursday 12th January at London’s O2 Arena, and you can come in watch the action at any one of our 53 UK casinos.
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