Mark Kirwan casts his eye over three of tonight's NBA matches including the Miami Heat at the LA Clippers, live on BT Sport 3 and Betfair Video...
"Boston have become the first team in league history to win seven straight after opening 0-2. They will expect to make it eight on Sunday despite the Magic’s hot start to the season."
Miami Heat @ LA Clippers
Sunday, 20:40 GMT
Live on BT Sport 3 and Betfair Live Video
The early season standings make for interesting contrasts. Until last night's home defeat to Memphis, the Clippers topped the West on 5-2, while Miami enter this game in the lower reaches of the East on 3-5, undermining their dark horse status. Looking closer, however, these teams are not as far apart as the standings suggest.
The absence of Chris Paul has not hit the early season Clippers as obviously as might be expected, and Milos Teodosic's foot injury has been weathered as well. The early season form of Patrick Beverley and Austin Rivers has meant the Clippers have comfortably dispatched the weak range of opponents they've faced so far.
The Heat have struggled early. Hassan Whiteside and James Johnson have returned earlier this week after absences and should help them improve, but they will need to tighten up their control of the ball. In four of their eight games they've given up 19 turnovers or more. To recover the form of late last season they will need to protect possession better.
These teams are beneficiaries and victims of small sample size, and should play each other close. The Clippers are also playing back-to-back home games, and they've only covered the spread once in their last five home games in such situations. The Clippers should win, but take the Heat with the points.
The Celtics have dealt with the Hayward blow better than could've been expected. While Kyrie Irving has looked at ease in the spotlight without his fellow off-season recruit, it is Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart who've stepped up since the opener against Milwaukee. Boston have become the first team in league history to win seven straight after opening 0-2. They will expect to make it eight on Sunday despite the Magic's hot start to the season.
Orlando are now 6-3, their first home loss of the season an emphatic one against the less-than-stellar Bulls this week. They led at the half but then were outscored 63-38 in the second half, Justin Holiday shooting 58.3% and Orlando losing their touch from three-point range.
That defeat will have to prompt a reaction, whether it will be enough to upset the rolling Celtics is a big question. It's hard not to expect Boston to keep up their run of wins, especially if the Magic are without Elfrid Payton and D.J. Augustin again.
Boston Celtics -3.5 on the Handicap market @ [1.92]
Washington Wizards @ Toronto Raptors
Sunday, 23:10 GMT
Live on Betfair Video
Washington fans will be eagerly refreshing their twitter timelines over the coming days for updates on John Wall's shoulder. The four-time All-Star played to the end of their loss to Cleveland after Channing Frye body-checked him in the third quarter, but left the arena with his arm in a sling and is officially questionable for Sunday's game in Toronto.
Even with Wall, the Wizards have been in curious form in the opening weeks of the season. They've played Golden State close on their own court, relinquishing an 18 point fourth quarter lead, but have only really dominated the Kings.
The loss to the Suns this week, another game where they had a double-digit lead, is alarming, and they allowed 57 points to LeBron on Friday. If they play significant time without their talisman Wall, you would be concerned.
Toronto would seem to be exactly the kind of team they don't want to face right now. Assuming Wall is hampered or out, Toronto will have to be favoured to send Washington to 4-5 on the season. The Raptors will be glad to have finished off their longest road trip of the season with a win over the Jazz. DeMar DeRozan put up 37 points in that win, and their blowout loss to the Nuggets earlier may have galvanised this team as they look to step up in a topsy-turvy Eastern conference.
Toronto Raptors -5.5 on the Handicap market @ [1.92]