With just under a quarter of the season left to play the playoff race is hotting up in the NBA. Ben Steele previews three of the best games from tonight...
"Ball isn't a prolific scorer, but he consistently accumulates the 'counting stats' (rebounds, assists, steals) as he takes a key role in the team. His versatility takes the pressure off top scorer Brandon Ingram and rookie phenom Zion Williamson."
Sixers home success will continue
Detroit Pistons @ Philadelphia 76ers
Thursday 00:10 GMT
If the Philadelphia 76ers played every game at home they'd be the best side in the NBA. The Sixers boast an outstanding 28-2 record in their games played in Philly, but are 10-24 on the road. Tonight they face a Detroit Pistons side who have won just one of their last 10 so will be confident of a big win. Detroit are likely to be without topscorer Derrick Rose and have been beaten by considerably weaker sides than Philadelphia in recent weeks.
Philadelphia are also hit by injuries, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are both struggling but their strength in depth will prove vital. Tobias Harris has scored at least 18 points in his last five games, while also providing a solid defensive threat. Harris, along with Al Horford have covered well for the injured Embiid and they'll have too much for Detroit tonight.
Miami too hot for Hornets
Charlotte Hornets @ Miami Heat
Thursday 00:40 GMT
The Miami Heat have had a similar season to the 76ers, dominant at home (27-4) and patchy whenever they leave Miami (14-19). Tonight, the Charlotte Hornets are the visitors to Miami, who sit outside the playoff spots and needing a late season surge for any chance of postseason involvement. Jimmy Butler is battling a foot problem, and may face a minutes restriction but center Bam Adebayo has had success against Charlotte already this season.
In a 117-100 victory earlier in the season, Adebayo dominated his opposite number, Cody Zeller, and finishing the game with 21 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. With Miami at home, and Adebayo likely to carry the load I'm backing the 22-year-old to feature heavily again in Miami's 30th home win of the season.
Ball the key to Pelicans run in
New Orleans Pelicans @ Sacramento Kings
Thursday 02:40 GMT
The Western Conference playoff race has the Memphis Grizzlies in the eighth seed while the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacremento Kings are trying to hunt them down and sneak in. Tonight, the adversaries face off against each other in a game that will be a real test of the Pelicans' young squad. Point Guard Lonzo Ball is building a role as the on-court leader in his first season in Nola. Ball isn't a prolific scorer, but he consistently accumulates the 'counting stats' (rebounds, assists, steals) as he takes a key role in the team. His versatility takes the pressure off top scorer Brandon Ingram and rookie phenom Zion Williamson.
Ball will go head to head with De'Aaron Fox who is Sacramento's most potent offensive threat, averaging 23.8 points per game in March. Sacramento have been in good form recently, winning seven of their last 10 games but Ball's versatile game and the ability of his teammates to score from just about anywhere on the court will give the Pelicans a crucial win as the regular season enters its final stages.
Ben Steele NBA: P/L
Staked: 66 pts
Returned: 73.6 pts
P/L: +7.6 pts