The Daily Sweat: Kevin Durant's second Suns game comes in Chicago

The Suns are 5.5-point favorites at the Bulls

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MARCH 01: Kelly Oubre Jr. #12 of the Charlotte Hornets guards Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns in the third quarter during their game at Spectrum Center on March 01, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Kevin Durant scored 23 in his first game with the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

What can Kevin Durant do in his second game with the Phoenix Suns?

Durant scored 23 points on Wednesday on 66 percent shooting as the Suns beat the Hornets by 14. The game was the team’s first with Durant on the court and it went well — though 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 Friday night against the Bulls in Chicago. Phoenix is a 5.5-point favorite over the Bulls at BetMGM as Chicago has won three of its last four games to get to 29-34.

The Bulls could use a win to stay in the thick of the play-in race. Chicago enters the game 1.5 games back of the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors for the 9th and 10th spots in the Eastern Conference. Phoenix, meanwhile, is in fourth in the West but is just four games ahead of the 11th spot in the conference and three games back for third.

The margin for error for the Suns is slim to none as they acclimate Durant into the team. Phoenix can’t afford any slip-ups as it aims for home court in the first round of the playoffs.

Nine other NBA games

After there were just four games on Wednesday night there are 10 NBA games on Thursday. The ESPN doubleheader features the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics (7:30 p.m. ET) before the Memphis Grizzlies visit the Denver Nuggets.

The Celtics are 10.5-point favorites and currently sit a half-game back of the surging Milwaukee Bucks for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and the best record in the NBA. The Bucks have the same number of wins as the Celtics but have one fewer loss.

The Nuggets are 5.5-point favorites over a Grizzlies team that’s just 12-18 on the road. Denver is 28-4 at Ball Arena and can extend its lead over Memphis in the West to six games with a win.

The closest lines of the night both feature slight road favorites. The Utah Jazz are 1.5-point favorites over the Oklahoma City Thunder while the Minnesota Timberwolves are 1.5-point favorites over a Lakers team that will be without LeBron James for the next few weeks.

Jon Rahm a huge favorite at Bay Hill

Jon Rahm was +650 to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational ahead of the tournament. After shooting an opening round 65 and holding a two-shot lead over three players at 5-under, Rahm is now a staggering +140 to hold onto the lead.

Rahm has been the best player on the planet in 2023 with three wins in five starts. He hasn’t finished 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’s a big gap between Rahm and everyone else on the board too. Scottie Scheffler is three shots back of Rahm and is the No. 2 favorite at +850. Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele each also shot a 68 in the first round and are at +1200.

The composition of the leaderboard could change mightily on Friday. High winds are expected to wreak havoc at Bay Hill and it wouldn’t be a shock to see the overall scores on the leaderboard at the end of the day look similar or worse than they do right now.

Conference tournaments continue

The betting action starts early in men’s college basketball on Friday. The first conference tournament game of the day tips off at Noon ET when Charleston Southern plays UNC Asheville. The last game of the day will begin shortly before midnight when Pacific plays San Francisco in the West Coast Conference tournament.

Who cashed tickets Thursday?

The Golden State Warriors blitzed the Los Angeles Clippers in the third quarter on the way to an easy win and cover on Thursday night. The Clips had an 11-point lead at halftime before Golden State outscored L.A. 42-16 in the third.

The San Antonio Spurs beat the Pacers 110-99 as 5.5-point home underdogs while the Mavericks covered at home against the Sixers and the Wizards easily beat the Raptors as slight home dogs.