With three quarters of the NBA season in the books the playoff picture is starting to become clearer. Ben Steele previews three of tonight's biggest games.
"With the European duo of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis in fine form and an improving supporting cast the Mavericks are looking to solidify their playoff spot."
Young key to rare ray of light in Atlanta
Orlando Magic @ Atlanta Hawks
Thursday 00:40 GMT
The Atlanta Hawks have had a poor season and look set for a lottery pick in this year's draft, the aim for that draft has to be finding support for their immensely talented guard Trae Young. The 21-year-old is the undisputed leader in the team, averaging 29.9 points and 9.2 assists per game, and he has had a good deal of success against tonight's opponent, the Orlando Magic. Despite their lowly 17-42 record, Atlanta have won two of their three games against the playoff chasing Magic with Young top scoring in two of those games.
A prolific long distance shooter, Young has averaged 34 points per game against Orlando this season and will look to have similar success tonight. The Magic currently occupy the final playoff spot, thanks to solid contributions from a number of different areas. Aaron Gordon is showing he is more than just an accomplished dunker, while Nikola Vucevic is a reliable double-double threat most nights. I'm expecting Young's prowess to be the key as Atlanta wrap up the season series with another win.
Dallas too much for Texan rivals
Dallas Mavericks @ San Antonio Spurs
Thursday 00:40 GMT
San Antonio hosts the third installment of the series between the Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks tonight, with the visiting side coming in confident of a win. With the European duo of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis in fine form and an improving supporting cast the Mavericks are looking to solidify their playoff spot. The Spurs are four games outside the playoff spot but tonight's game doesn't bode well for their chances of closing the gap.
Despite impressive outings from DeMar DeRozan in both games this season against Dallas, the Spurs have been unable to challenge their in-state rivals and that pattern looks set to continue. Dallas star Doncic has dominated both games and should be able to do the same again, San Antonio have been strong at home this season but I don't see that making too much of a difference.
Jazz will add to Celtics travel struggles
Boston Celtics @ Utah Jazz
Thursday 03:10 GMT
The Boston Celtics boast a 40-17 record, the fourth best in the NBA, and are on course for a 13th playoff appearance in the last 14 years but this season has seem them have real trouble on the road. Of their 17 losses this term, 12 have come away from home and tonight they face one of the best home teams in the business. The Utah Jazz have played at home 28 times so far this season, winning 20 of those matchups as Donovan Mitchell continues to prove himself as an emerging star.
Mitchell will go head to head with Jayson Tatum of the Celtics, a third overall pick in the 2017 draft, who has enjoyed an outstanding February. Tatum is averaging 30 points per game this month, including a career high 41 in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night. I'm backing Mitchell and Tatum to go back and forth all night, but the Utah man is favourite to head home with a win after an entertaining battle.
Ben Steele NBA: P/L
Staked: 59 pts
Returned: 64.3 pts
P/L: +5.3 pts