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Expect sloppy play early in return

Despite a few cases of positive coronavirus tests in the Orlando bubble, the NBA is on target to resume its regular season on Thursday with each team playing eight games to determine the Playoffs field and seeding for the completion of the 2019-20 season.

Considering Florida has been the nation’s COVID-19 hotspot for the past month, the lack of an outbreak must be encouraging for the NBA to succeed in its quest to crown an NBA Champion in October. On Monday, commissioner Adam Silver commented he remains “cautiously optimistic” that the restart plan will succeed.

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Of course, the situation remains and shall continue to remain fluid. The sportsbooks are ready for the resumption of NBA betting with many books having posted lines for several weeks for the opening few days of play that begins Thursday with a doubleheader, including the potential availability of New Orleans’ Zion Williamson for the Pelicans’ game against Utah.

Teams taking part in the restart have been scrimmaging in Orlando for the past week. But the quality of play we witnessed prior to the shutdown may not be immediately evident. Players are working themselves back into shape and it could take a couple of games for most to return to peak condition. We could see some sloppy play over the first week of competition which could lead to Unders for totals bettors.

As I suggested previously, although 22 teams are participating most of the Playoffs teams are already determined. Six teams in the East and seven in the West are in with only seeding positions to be determined. With no home court advantage in Orlando, seeding position should mean little. It will be more important to get in the best shape possible than in playing to face a specific opponent.

Thursday

Lakers -4 vs. Clippers: As of Tuesday, the Lakers were laying from 3.5 to 4.5 points to their intra-city rivals. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are rested and ready to take the court. J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters have been added to the roster with Avery Bradley opting out due to COVID-19 concerns and Rajon Rondo nursing an injured thumb that will sideline him perhaps until the second round.

The Clippers have four players listed as questionable for this game — Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harris, Landry Shamet and Lou Williams — the latter due to violating pandemic rules following an approved absence and thus being forced to quarantine. The Clippers won the first two meetings this season, both played before the new year. The Lakers won the most recent meeting, 112-103, just prior to the shutdown. LAKERS

Friday

Magic -6.5 vs. Nets: This is an early important game with Brooklyn a half-game in front of Orlando for the seventh Eastern seed. Already without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, the Nets had several players opt out, including Spencer Dinwiddie and Wilson Chandler. Those opt outs saw the line rise from Orlando -2 to between -6 and -7.

Orlando is healthy and won both previous games against the Nets, covering in each. Despite playing in their home city the Magic are living in the Disney World bubble just as are the 21 other teams, so no home court advantage is evident. But their edge in depth should be the deciding factor. MAGIC

Kings -2.5 vs. Spurs: This is a key game for both. San Antonio’s streak of 22 straight playoff appearances may come to an end. The Spurs are four games behind eighth-seeded Memphis but are a half-game behind three other eighth seed challengers, including Sacramento.

LaMarcus Aldridge opted for rotator cuff surgery in June and is out for the season. Sacramento was one of the hottest teams in the league when play was suspended, having gone on a 10-5 SU, 11-4-1 ATS run. Meanwhile the Spurs entered the hiatus on a 5-10 SU, 4-11 ATS run.

Although that form was from long ago, Sacramento fared well against the Spurs in prior meetings. The Kings split two games with the Spurs, losing by one on the road in early December in overtime but blowing out the Spurs at home 122-102 two months later. The Kings are healthy with only Harrison Barnes, who tested positive but now cleared to play, listed as questionable. KINGS