What can Kevin Durant do in his second game with the Phoenix Suns?
Durant scored 23 points on 66% shooting on Wednesday as the Suns beat the Hornets by 14. The game was the team’s first with Durant on the field and it went well – although it should have gone well. Phoenix is a title contender and Charlotte is one of the worst teams in the league.
The Suns get a slightly tougher test against the Bulls in Chicago on Friday night. Phoenix is a 5.5 point favorite over the Bulls at BetMGM as Chicago have won three of their last four games to come to 29-34.
The Bulls need the win to stay in the middle of the play-in race. Chicago enters the game 1.5 games behind the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets for 9th and 10th spots in the Eastern Conference. Phoenix, meanwhile, ranks fourth in the West, but is only four games ahead of 11th in the conference and three games back for third.
The margin of error for the Suns is slim to zero as they acclimate Durant to the team. Phoenix can’t afford to slip as it targets the home field in the first round of the playoffs.
Nine other NBA games
After there were only four games on Thursday night, there are ten NBA games on Thursday. The ESPN doubleheader features the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics (7:30 p.m. ET) before the Memphis Grizzlies take on the Denver Nuggets.
The Celtics are the 10.5-point favorite and are currently half a game behind the rising Milwaukee Bucks for first place in the Eastern Conference and the best record in the NBA. The Bucks have as many wins as the Celtics, but one less loss.
The Nuggets are a 5.5 point favorite over a Grizzlies team that is just 12-18 on the road. Denver is 28-4 in Ball Arena and can extend its lead over Memphis in the West to six games with a win.
The closest nighttime lines both have light road favorites. The Utah Jazz is a 1.5-point favorite over the Oklahoma City Thunder, while the Minnesota Timberwolves are a 1.5-point favorite over a Lakers team that will be without LeBron James in the coming weeks.
Jon Rahm a big favorite at Bay Hill
Jon Rahm was +650 to win the pre-tournament Arnold Palmer Invitational. After an opening round of 65 and a two-shot lead over three players at 5-under, Rahm now has a staggering +140 to hold onto the lead.
Rahm was the best player in the world so far in 2023 with three wins in five starts. Rahm has finished no lower than a tie for seventh so far this calendar year and his lowest finish in seven PGA Tour starts during the 2022-23 season is eighth.
There is also a big gap between Rahm and everyone else on the board. Scottie Scheffler is three shots behind Rahm and is the No. 2 favorite with +850. Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele also each shot a 68 in the first round and are at +1200.
The composition of the leaderboard could change considerably on Friday. High winds are expected to wreak havoc at Bay Hill and it wouldn’t be a shock if the overall leaderboard scores look the same or worse than they do at the end of the day.
Conference tournaments continue
The betting action kicks off early Friday in men’s basketball. The first conference tournament game of the day kicks off at noon ET when Charleston Southern plays UNC Asheville. The last game of the day kicks off shortly before midnight when Pacific plays against San Francisco in the West Coast Conference Tournament.
Who redeemed tickets on Thursday?
The Golden State Warriors blitzed the Los Angeles Clippers in the third quarter en route to an easy victory and coverage on Thursday night. The Clips held an 11-point lead at halftime before Golden State defeated LA 42-16 in the third.
The San Antonio Spurs beat the Pacers 110-99 as 5.5 point home underdogs, while the Mavericks provided home cover against the Sixers and the Wizards easily defeated the Raptors as light house dogs.