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|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|03-23-18||Nuggets +1.5 v. Wizards||Top||108-100||Win||100||10 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: The Denver Nuggets are 1-2 on their current seven-game road trip as they get set to visit the Washington Wizards. The 39-33 Nuggets sit two games back of the final playoff spot in the West (T-wolves and Jazz are both 41-31) entering play on Thursday. Nuggets did take care of the lowly Chicago Bulls 135-102 on Wednesday but if they are going to make the postseason, they'll have to beat a winning team or two on the road down the stretch. The team's road trip gets considerably tougher from here on, with each of the next four games and six of the final 10 on the road against teams with winning records, starting with the Wizards. The 40-31 Washington Wizards fell into sixth place in the East with a loss at San Antonio on Wednesday but they are just one game behind the fourth-place Philadelphia 76ers and two back of the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers in the battle for homecourt advantage in the first round.
Denver: The Nuggets face an arduous trek that could very well determine whether they make the playoffs or not. Denver will be without leading scorer Gary Harris (17.7) on Friday night against the Washington Wizards, who will miss his fourth straight game with a right knee sprain/strain (he initially got hurt in the fourth quarter last Thursday in a win over Detroit, when he landed awkwardly as he was fouled on a dunk. Without Harris, the Nuggets are 1-2 on the trip. They dropped a seven-point decision at Memphis on Saturday followed by a 149-141 double-overtime loss at Miami on Monday, before beating the sad-sack Bulls. Jokic, a 6-10 center, is right behind Harris in averaging 17.5 PPG plus add a team-high 10.5 RPG. Five other Denver players are in double digits, including the versatile Barton (15.0-4.-4.9) and the now-healthy PF Millsap (14.2 & 6.3).
Washington: The Wizards lost 98-90 at San Antonio on Wednesday and are 4-6 since Feb. 27. Washington is a virtual lock to make the playoffs (is 8 1/2 games inside the playoff cut line) but which seed the team gets could determine how long Washington's playoff 'stay' will be. It's important to note that all six of Washington's recent setbacks (see above) have come against playoff-bound opponents. "It's frustrating because we were right there," All-Star guard Bradley Beal told reporters. "Every time we have a chance to move up (in the standings), we kind of take two steps back. All we can do is put it behind us and move on." Beal (23.2-4.4-4.6) is doing his part to move the Wizards up in the standings, averaging 24.7 points on 55.8 percent shooting over the last three games. Wizards SG Jodie Meeks (6.4) and PF Mike Scott (8.6 & 3.1) both missed Wednesday's game due to illness and are day-to-day, plus PG Wall (19.4 & 9.3) hasn't played since Jan. 25..
The pick: Both teams are fighting for playoff positioning (Denver for its playoff life!) but both are also mired mired in pointspread slumps.Washington is 2-6-1 ATS in March, while Denver is just 4-10 ATS since Feb. 23. However, I'm giving the edge to the road team here, as even without Harris, the Nuggets can score and Washington is really struggling on the defensive end of the court. The Wizards have allowed opponents to shoot 48.9 percent from the floor over their last 10 games, giving up 108.8 PPG. Make Denver a 10* play.
|03-22-18||Lakers +3 v. Pelicans||Top||125-128||Push||0||9 h 21 m||Show|
The set-up: The Pelicans had a make-up contest last night with the Pacers, in a game postponed back on Feb 7 because of a leaky roof in the Smoothie King Center. It marked the middle contest of three games in as many nights for New Orleans, as part of a stretch during which the Pelicans will play five times in six nights. New Orleans' 96-92 victory over Indiana gives them a chance to sweep its three games in three nights ordeal and post the team's fourth consecutive overall win when the 42-30 Pelicans host the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday. The 31-39 Lakers come in having dropped three straight games after enjoying a stretch in which they had won eight of 10 games. They suffered a 110-100 loss to the Pacers on Monday in the opener of a four-game road trip that includes stops in Memphis and Detroit.
LA Lakers: Rookie Kyle Kuzma had 27 points and eight rebounds in the loss to the Pacers andhe is putting together a season unlike any rookie in NBA history. Kuzma needs 78 rebounds and 15 three-pointers over the final 12 games to become the first rookie in league history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 150 3-pointers. The first-round pick out of Utah (2th overall) has exceeded all expectations by averaging 15.6 & 6.2, establishing himself as a key figure in the team's rebuilding project. That can also be said about second-year swingman Brandon Ingram (16.2-5.4-3.9) but he will miss his 10th straight game Thursday with a groin injury. PF Julius Randle (15.9 & 7.9) is also having his best-ever season plus no one can forget Lonzo Ball (10.1-6.8-7.1)
New Orleans: Anthony Davis (28.2 & 11.2) isn't looking fatigued, scoring 28 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking five blocked shots against the Pacers for his sixth double-double in the last seven games. The latest victory leaves the Pelicans three games clear of the ninth-place Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference playoff competition (also just a half-game back of the 4th-seeded Thunder) with just 10 games remaining. Combo guard Jrue Holiday (19.0-4.4-5.8) was back in the lineup versus the Pacers after battling the flu caused him to miss his first game this season. He had 10 points and five assists. Guard E'Twaun Moore (12.3) scored 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting and forward Nikola Mirotic, who missed his first seven 3-point attempts against the Pacers, hit from long range on back-to-back possessions in the final four minutes. Don't knock Mirotic, as he's averaging 13.3 & 7.9 in his 21 games with the Pelicans (team is 14-7).
The pick: The Pelicans have won four of the last five against the Lakers, including both games this year. However, this marks a third game in three nights for the Pelicans and the Lakers had been on a 20-8 ATS run before dropping their last three SU & ATS. Take the points and make LA an 8* play.
|03-21-18||Pacers -1.5 v. Pelicans||Top||92-96||Loss||-110||11 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: The 41-30 Pacers and the 41-30 Pelicans New Orleans will play tonight in New Orleans, making up a contest that was postponed back on Feb 7 because of a leaky roof in the Smoothie King Center. The make-up game interrupts what was slated to be a three-game homestand for the Pacers and leaves them with seven road contests in a 10-game span. However, don't expect the Pelicans to feel sorry for Indiana, as New Orleans has it even worse. This marks the middle contest of a string of three games in as many days and part of a stretch during which the Pelicans will play five times in six nights. Both teams find themselves in tightly contested battles for playoff positioning. The Pacers are 4th in the East, just a half-game back of the Cavs but still only 3 1/2 games ahead of the eight-seeded Bucks. Things are even tighter for the fifth-seeded Pelican in the West, as they are just one game ahead of the conference's 8th-seed.
Indiana: "We're tired, of course," Indiana PG Darren Collison told reporters. "But everybody in the NBA is tired right now. So there's really no excuse. We've got to go out there and perform." Second-year center Myles Turner (13.7 & 6.9) returned from a one-game absence due to an ankle issue to post 21 points and seven rebounds in Monday's 110-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. Turner is one of six Indiana players averaging in double digits. That group is led by Oladipo (23.3-5.2-4.2) and also includes back-up center Sabonis (11.7 & 7.9), who along with Oladipo, was acquired from OKC in the George trade. However, Sabonis has been out the last few games with an ankle issue and is not expected to play in this one. Stephenson (9.5 & 5.1) and Joseph (8.10 have been valuable contributers as well, mostly coming off the bench.
New Orleans: "It's not some impossible thing," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters regarding the Pelicans' busy upcoming stretch of games. "I don't want to make a big deal out of it, and we'll be able to manage it and play and do the best we can with it." Anthony Davis (28.2 & 11.1) scored 37 points on 15-of-21 shooting in Tuesday's 115-105 win over Dallas to help the Pelicans move three games clear of ninth-place Denver in the Western Conference playoff chase. Jrue Holiday missed his first game of the season on Tuesday (illness) and the hope is that the club's second-leading scorer (19.1 points) will be able to play against Indiana. Davis has been nothing short of spectacular since the loss of Boogie Cousins (25.2 & 12.9) but he can't do it alone. Mirotic has been a huge help (acquired from the Bulls), averaging 13.2 & 6.5 in 20 games for New Orleans.
The pick: New Orleans could use a bit of a cushion as it has a tough closing slate that includes games against Houston, Portland, Cleveland, Oklahoma City, Golden State and the Spurs. A date with Indiana is clearly no 'walk in the park." Yes, the Pelicans posted a 117-112 victory on Nov. 7 behind 37 points from Davis but the Pacers have won 12 of the last 15 meetings between the two clubs. Make Indiana a 10* play.
|03-21-18||Clippers v. Bucks -5||Top||127-120||Loss||-107||9 h 6 m||Show|
The set-up: Behind the Rockets and Warriors, the Western Conference No. 3 and No. 10 teams are separated by just 6 1 /2 games, as eight teams are vying for six remaining playoff spots (No. 3 through No. 8). The Los Angeles Clippers are sliding in the wrong direction, as they've lost four in a row after falling 123-109 to Minnesota on Tuesday. That contest began a stretch during which LA plays six of seven on the road. The 37-33 Clippers are now 10th in the West, 2 1/2 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot. The 37-33 Milwaukee Bucks play in the East and like the Clippers, as heading in the wrong direction. The Bucks have lost eight of their last 12 games, although they remain a comfortable 5 1/2 games inside the East's playoff 'cut line,' while holding down the 8th-seed. In fact, Milwaukee is closer to the third-seeded Cavs (four games back), than it is to the No. 9 team, Detroit (5 1/2 games clear).
LA Clippers: Los Angeles was on the rise with 12 victories in 16 games before suddenly losing four in a row, while allowing more than 120 points in each of its last three games. Head coach Doc Rivers was dismayed after Tuesday's loss as he didn't like the effort or desire displayed by his club, particularly factoring in the importance of the contest. DeAndre Jordan (12.1 & 15.4) produced 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting and 12 rebounds against the Timberwolves. He has now reached double digits in rebounds in 11 straight contests. However, Williams (22.9 & 5.3 APG) and Harris (19.6 & 6.7 in 20 games for the LAC) combined to shoot 9 of 27 (including 0 of 7 on threes), totaling just 25 points between them. Defensively, the Clippers were flat, allowing the T-wolves to make 52.3% of their shots.
Milwaukee: The Bucks suffered a 124-117 loss in Cleveland on Monday despite receiving big efforts from Giannis Antetokounmpo (37 points & 11 rebounds) and Khris Middleton (30 points). Backup point guard Brandon Jennings is being signed to a second 10-day contract after averaging six points, 5.5 assists and 2.8 rebounds in four games since joining the club. The 28-year-old played in China and for Milwaukee's G League franchise earlier this season and opened eyes with a stellar performance against Memphis on March 12, when he recorded 16 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds. Jennings spent four seasons with the Bucks from 2009-13, a stint that included his career-best 19.1 scoring average in 2011-12, and once was the team's top player.
The pick: Both teams are struggling but Milwaukee has gone 5-1 against Pacific Division teams this season. The Bucks have yet to face the Clippers (tonight's matchup is the first of two in a seven-day span) but won both meetings against the Clippers last season, when Griffin and Paul were in LA. Make Milwaukee an 8* play.
|03-20-18||Hawks +13 v. Jazz||Top||99-94||Win||100||13 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: The Utah Jazz have won nine in a row and at 40-30, are now dead-locked with the Pelicans for the 6th and 7th seed in the West. Utah is just a half-game back of the 5th-seed Spurs and two games back of the fourth-seeded Thunder. Utah closes a four-game homestand tonight against the woeful Atlanta Hawks, who at 20-50, own the East's worst record (Memphis and Phoenix both own just 19 wins in the West). Incredibly, the Jazz were once struggling at nine games below .500 but have now won 21 of their last 23 games. Meanwhile, Atlanta is experiencing a dreadful campaign and comes in on a six-game losing streak after falling 122-117 to the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday in the opener of the team's six-game road trip.
Atlanta: The Hawks have long ago fallen out of a playoff position, a the team's 10-year postseason run will end here in 2018 (it was the second-longest streak in the NBA, behind only the Spurs). Some positive news is that second-year small forward Taurean Prince is on a roll by scoring a career-best 38 points twice in the past four games while averaging 30.8 points during the stretch. Prince (13.5 & 4.9) has topped 20 points in each of the last four games and five times overall, while averaging 21.5 points in March. Schroder has taken over the PG duties from Teague and delivered, averaging team-bests in points (19.1) and assists (6.2). 6-10 Wake Forest rookie has also been a "breath of fresh air," averaging 10.5 & 7.1 in about 23 minutes.
Utah: The team's rise began shortly after standout center Rudy Gobert returned to full health after two different leg injuries. Head coach Quin Snyder said "It's an empirical fact" that Gobert is the most dominant defensive player in the NBA." Gobert is averaging 21 points and 13.5 rebounds while posting four straight double-doubles, as well as averaging 19.3 points on 68.5 percent shooting, 13.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocks during the nine-game winning streak, to raise his season averages to14.0 & 10.7. Small forward Joe Ingles leads the NBA by making 45.0 percent of his three-point shots and inherited a larger role when Gordon Hayward left as a free agent in the off-season. He is averaging 16.8 points over the past five games, although he's averaging a more modest 11.3 PPG on the season. Be sure not to overlook rookie guard Donovan Mitchell, who leads all 'freshman' in averaging 19.9 PPG.
The pick: The Jazz are fighting for a playoff spot, while the Hawks are playing out the string. That said, the Jazz just got past the Kings the last time out, 103-97 in Utah. Don't forget that Atlanta laid a surprise 104-90 whipping on Utah the last time they faced each other back on Jan. 22 in Atlanta. I'm taking the YUGE points in this one and making the Hawks an 8* play.
|03-20-18||Clippers v. Wolves -3.5||Top||109-123||Win||100||12 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: The battle in the Western Conference for playoff seeds 3 through 8 has been fierce and tight for quite some time now. The 37-22 LA Clippers will visit the Target Center tonight for a game with the 40-31 Minnesota Timberwolves. The Clippers are currently on the outside looking in of the playoff picture, as they are two games back of the No. 8 T-wolves. For its part, Minnesota is just a half-game behind the two teams holding down the 6th and 7th seeds (Jazz and Pelicans, respectively), plus sits just one game back of the 5th-seeded Spurs.
LA Clippers: The Clippers are in "worry mode" after dropping three in a row to teams ahead of them in the standings and falling two games behind the Timberwolves. LA played three games in four nights against Houston, Oklahoma City and Portland, dropping all three. After trading Blake Griffin, the Clippers didn't seem like a playoff team. However, Lou Williams has continued his big scoring (is averaging what would be career highs in both points and assists right now at 23.0 & 5.3) plus Tobias Harris, who came over for Griffin, has averaged 20.1 & 6.7 with the Clippers. Yes, Patrick Beverly, Avery Bradley and Danilo Gallinari are still out with injuries but guards Austin Rivers and Milos Teodosic have gotten healthy and we can never forget center Jordan (12.0 & 15.4 on the season, while is averaging 18.8 rebounds in nine games this month!).
Minnesota: The Timberwolves didn't do themselves any favors by losing to a pair of teams in front of them over the weekend while allowing an average of 123 points in losses to the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets. The T-wolves allowed a season-high 77 points in the first half on Sunday against Houston and didn't have quite enough left to finish off a comeback in a 129-120 loss. Center Karl-Anthony Towns is doing his part to lead the team to the postseason for the first time since 2004 and delivered 20 points and 18 rebounds on Sunday, the fourth time in the last eight games that he recorded at least 20 points and 16 boards (he's at 20.7 & 12.2 on the season). Jeff Teague (13.8 & 7.0 APG had 23 points and 11 assists vs. Houston, Andrew Wiggins (18.0 & 4.1) scored 21 plus newcomer Derrick Rose supplied a spark during the rally and finished with 14 points. However, the loss was Minnesota's fifth in seven games.
The pick: The schedule isn't letting up for the Clippers, who play six of the their next seven on the road with a pair of back-to-backs, including a date at Milwaukee tomorrow night. The T-wolves have mostly struggled in Butler’s absence and just before, going 4-11 ATS over their last 15 games. However, they have won all three previous games with the Clippers this season (including a pair at Staples Center), extending their winning streak over LA to five in a row. Make that six, so lay the points and make Minnesota a 10* play.
|03-19-18||Pistons -2.5 v. Kings||Top||106-90||Win||100||21 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: Acquiring Blake Griffin in a blockbuster deal six weeks ago was supposed to be a difference-maker for the Pistons but instead, the Pistons have played their way out of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. Detroit has lost 14 of 21 contests with Griffin since getting him from the Los Angeles Clippers in a trade deadline deal, despite Griffin averaging 19.9 points and grabbing 6.4 rebounds per game since the deal. Detroit comes into tonight's game having lost 13 of its last 16 games (3-13 ATS), punctuated by the team's inability to win on the road. The Pistons will try to snap a 12-game road slide (1-11 ATS) when they continue a six-game trip (0-3 so far) by visiting the Sacramento Kings on Monday. The 23-48 Kings are not in a playoff race either but they are not laying down with wins in two of their last three games and four straight solid performances against playoff-bound opponents. Sacramento knocked off Miami and Golden State, before falling at Utah 103-97 on Saturday
Detroit: The Pistons are playing so poorly that the future of their head coach is anything but rosy. Stan Van Gundy was quick to assign blame to the referees for Saturday's loss. "I've been here four years," Van Gundy told reporters. "I've been many more years before that (elsewhere). I've never come in after a game -- never. Might have talked about one call. Never come in after a game and talked like this. That was embarrassing. We got absolutely screwed tonight." That sound like a man who knows his job is in jeopardy. the 100-87 defeat at Portland on Saturday marked the team's 17th loss in its in last 18 on the road (going back to Dec. 15). The only exception in that stretch was a Jan. 10 victory at Brooklyn.
Sacramento: However, while the Kings own a similar recordto the Nets, Sacramento is currently playing hard. The Kings ran out of gas in the fourth quarter on Saturday while playing the second night of a back-to-back on the road but got another solid performance off the bench from guard Buddy Hield. The second-year Oklahoma product is averaging 23 points on 56.8 percent shooting over the last three games and totaled 16 assists in that span. Hield and swingman Garrett Temple (11 points) both scored in double figures at Utah as the reserves outscored the starters 56-41. Rookie guards De'Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic also continue to build, despite the inevitable inconsistency. The two were 9-for-30 and combined for 23 points in the loss to Utah but Fox is averaging 12.4 points and 4.3 assists in 28 minutes a game since the break and Bogdanovic is averaging 12.9 points and 3.8 assists in 28 minutes over the same stretch.
The pick: The Pistons are all but officially out of the playoff hunt in the East but with no pressure, I wouldn't be surprised if Detroit plays much better the rest of the way. I'm no Griffin fan but now that his team is all but 'dead, I expect this fraud of an All Star to "be the man." Throw in the fact that the Kings are 3-12 ATS as a home dog of six points or less on the season, says make Detroit an 8* play.
|03-18-18||Blazers v. Clippers -2.5||Top||122-109||Loss||-101||14 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: The red-hot Portland Trail Blazers will take their 12-game winning streak into Staples Center on Sunday night, where they'll take on the LA Clippers. Portland's surge has helped solidify its playoff positioning amid a tight Western Conference race but has by no means allowed the Blazers to "run away from the field." The 43-26 Blazers do own the No. 3 seed but they are still just four games up on the No. 8 seed (NO Pelicans). The LA Clippers are 37-31, which currently leaves them on the outside looking in on the West's playoff field. However, LA is just 1 1/2 games back of the Pelicans, as well as being just two games back of the Jazz, T-wolves and Spurs (all at 40-30).
Portland: The Blazers'100-87 win over Detroit on Saturday left them two games ahead of Oklahoma City in the race for third place in the East and the team's 12 straight wins is tied for the third-longest in franchise history (four shy of a franchise record). Damian Lillard had 24 points against the Pistons, the 10th time in the past 11 games he has reached that mark. Lillard (26.8-4.5-6.6) and McCollum (21.7) give Portland a dynamic backcourt duo but only center Jusuf Nurkic (14.1 & 8.5) is a consistent scorer outside of those two. Note that Nurkic did have 14 points and 20 rebounds in a 104-96 victory at Los Angeles back on Jan. 30.
LA Clippers: The Clippers were thought to be "giving up" when they traded Blake Griffin to Detroit. However, while Griffin has done absolutely nothing to improve the Pistons, the Clippers have gone 12-7 without Griffin, despite coming into this came off back-to-back losses. Tobias Harris is averaging 20.6 points on 48.6 percent shooting (plus 6.9 RPG) in 18 games with the Clippers, after posting 18.1 on 45.1 percent in 48 games with the Pistons prior to being traded to Los Angeles last month. Veteran Lou Williams own personal-bests of 22.9 PPG and 5.4 APG, while center DeAndre Jordan averages 12.1 & 15.4. He grabbed 21 rebounds Friday night and has collected at least 18 in six consecutive contests.
The pick: Los Angeles begins a four-game road trip at Minnesota on Tuesday and then plays six of seven away from home overall, after it is finished with Portland. Speaking of Portland, the Blazers have done most of its recent 'damage' at home but eight of the next 12 contests will take place on the road, where the team is a more modest 18-15. The Clippers lost 104-96 in Portland on Jan. 20, in what was their first game without Griffin (after the trade). This time around, the Clippers catch the Blazers off a home game last night with the Pistons, while they will be playing at home, one of just two home contests in an 11-game stretch that began on Mar. 13th and runs through the end of the month. Make LA a 10* play.
|03-17-18||Pistons +8.5 v. Blazers||Top||87-100||Loss||-102||14 h 32 m||Show|
The set-up: The Portland Trail Blazers own an 11-game winning streak but the Blazers' 11-game surge leaves them only a modest 1 1/2 games up on the fourth-place Oklahoma City Thunder and still a mere 4 1/2 games in front of the Denver Nuggets, who are currently in ninth-place, on the outside looking in on the West's playoff picture. Portland will welcome the 30-38 Pistons to the Moda Center tonight. Acquiring Blake Griffin in a blockbuster deal six weeks ago was supposed to be a difference-maker for the Pistons but Detroit comes into tonight's game having lost 12 of its last 15 games (3-12 ATS). The Pistons are currently six games back of the East's final playoff spot.
Detroit: So much for Griffin (20.2-6.5-5.7 in 19 games) combining with Drummond (15.0 & 15.7) to make the Pistons real contenders in the East. Detroit was embarrassed 110-79 at Utah on Thursday and fell into a 26-point hole at Denver on Friday before coming back and making it close in a 120-113 setback. The Pistons are 0-2 to open their current six-game road trip and will play a back-to-back at Sacramento and Phoenix on Monday and Tuesday, before closing the trip at NBA-best Houston on Thursday. Last night's loss was Detroit's 11th straight on the road (1-10 ATS).
Portland: "Each game is a challenge," Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts told reporters after a 113-105 home win over Cleveland on Thursday. "To string together the wins we have been, we've been doing good things at both ends of the floor. And tonight was an example of that as well." Eight of Portland's last 11 games have been played at the Moda Center Portland. "We're doing a good job protecting home court, taking advantage of a little stretch at home," guard CJ McCollum told reporters after the win over Cleveland. McCollum (21.8-3.9-3.2) joins Lillard (26.8-4.5-6.6) to form one of the NBA's best backcourt duos but only center Nurkic (14.1 & 8.6) is a game-in and game-out producer outside of that dynamic guard duo. However, here's the rub. Portland will play eight of its final 13 games on the road, with the remaining opponents at home including Houston, Boston and Utah.
The pick: No interest at all in taking the Pistons (see the team's current results above) but not so sure I want to be in a position of winning this by double digits in order to cover. Detroit is allowing 112.8 PPG during its 11-game road losing streak and Portland is averaging 112.1 PPG during its 11-game overall winning streak. Let's make the Over an 8* play.
|03-17-18||Wolves +4 v. Spurs||Top||101-117||Loss||-105||12 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up:The Timberwolves and Spurs meet Saturday night in a contest between a pair teams smack in the middle of the crowed Western Conference's playoff scramble. As I've noted often, the No. 3 through No. 10 seeds are separated by just five games. The 40-29 T-wolves are currenly the No. 5 seed, while the 39-30 Spurs own the No. 8 seed. Minnesota may be holding onto the No. 5 spot entering Saturday's play (just one game behind No. 4 OKC) but the T-wolves are only just one game ahead of the No. 8 seed Spurs and two games up on the No. 9 Nuggets, who are currently outside of the playoff cut line. Minnesota is trying to reach the postseason for the first time since 2004 but for San Antonio, it has not missed the playoffs since the 1996-97 campaign .
Minnesota: The T-wolves are feeling good about themselves after back-to-back wins over Golden State and Washington. Minnesota is 4-3 since losing Jimmy Butler () to knee surgery last month and has replaced him in the starting lineup with the 6-10 Nemanja Bjelica (6.8 & 3.8). "Going big" has worked well, with Bjelica averaging 13.9 & 8.3 in his seven starts. The remaining starters are familiar in Towns (20.7-12.2), Wiggins (17.9 7 4.1), Teague (13.6 & 6.9 APG) and Gibson (12.4 & 7.2).
San Antonio: The Spurs share the same record with the Jazz but would finish eighth based on the head-to-head tiebreakers with Utah. With Leonard still sidelined, only Aldridge (22.2 & 8.3) can be counted on nightly. Ten others are averaging between 4.5 and 11.1 PPG, with just two in double digits. Some good news is that the Spurs have won consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 28-30, after knocking off Orlando and New Orleans on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. After holding the Magic to 34.1 percent shooting from the floor in a 108-72 win, the Spurs held on for a 98-93 win over the Pelicans. In fact, Thursday's win over New Orleans was the first for San Antonio over a West playoff contender since knocking off Denver 106-104 back on Jan. 30, and the schedule won't let up the rest of the way. San Antonio will not face a team with a current losing record until visiting the Los Angeles Lakers on April 4.
The pick: In contrast to the Spurs' tough road ahead, the Timberwolves get two more games against winning teams with encounters against Houston and the Clippers, before playing six of their final 10 games against losing teams. A Minnesota win tonight will assure them of at least a .500 season and would be its second victory in the last 26 trips to San Antonio plus would snap an eight-game road losing streak in the series. However, Minnesota snapped a 12-game losing streak in the series with a 98-86 home win on Nov. 15, so I'll argue that the T-wolves are poised to get a "W' tonight. leonard is at best questionable for tonight's game and Aldridge was iffy with a sore knee early in the week,. Make Minnesota a 10* play.
|03-16-18||Nets +8.5 v. 76ers||Top||116-120||Win||100||11 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: The Philadelphia 76ers made it 12 wins in their last 17 games with Thursday's 118-110 comeback victory over the New York Knicks at MSG. The 76ers, who are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference at 37-30, took another step toward making the postseason for the first time since 2012 when they outscored New York 35-19 in the fourth quarter. They enter Friday's home contest against the Brooklyn Nets to begin a stretch in which six of seven games are at home. The Nets limp in having lost 18 of their last 21 games after suffering a 116-102 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday. Brooklyn's 21-47 record leaves them better than only the 21-48 Magic and 20-49 Hawks among Eastern Conference teams.
Brooklyn: "We're trying to build something here," head coach Atkinson told reporters. "Us finishing the season in an upward take, upward kind of move, it's important to us. So we're kind of playing our own playoffs. Every game for us is huge for our development." PG D'Angelo Russell has put together back-to-back stellar games by averaging 29 points and going 11-of-20 from three-point range during the stretch. He's a quality player, averaging 16.1 & 4.8 APG on the season. PG Spencer Dinwiddie is just 7-of-25 shooting over the past two games but he's shown great promise, as the injury to Lin has given him a chance to show he's an NBA player. Dinwiddie did nothing for Detroit in his first two seasons but after averaging just 7.3 PPG for the Nets last season, he's averaging 13.0 & 6.9 APG in almost 30 minutes this season. The Nets also have six other regulars who are averaging 10-plus points per game. Team D has been a big problem though, as Brooklyn allowing 110.2 PPG (28th).
Philadelphia: Center Joel Embiid (23.6 & 10.9) recorded 29 points and 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double and 35th of the season against the Knicks. He and Ben Simmons (16.2-7.8-7.7) are prime examples that Philly's "Process" is no longer a standing joke in the NBA. Simmons had 13 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists against the Knicks for his eighth triple-double of the season, the second-most by a rookie in NBA history behind legendary Oscar Robertson (26). Simmons also joined Robertson and Magic Johnson as the only rookies in NBA history with at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists. Throw in SG Redick (16.6), PF Saric (15.1 & 7.0) and SF Covington (12.6 & 5.4) and the 76ers have a 'big league" starting-five.
The pick: This is a quick turnaround from last Saturday’s meeting in Brooklyn, when Philadelphia crushed the Nets 120-97. It's true that the 76ers have won 13 of 14 SU (12-2 ATS) at the Wells Fargo Center since New Year’s Day but the Sixers have covered just 3 of 10 chances when unrested this season (like here, off a Thursday game at MSG). Meanwhile, it's true the Nets are just 9-24 SU on the road but they are 21-12 ATS, getting outscored by an average of just 5.3 PPG away from home. Take the big points and make Brooklyn an 8* play.
|03-15-18||Pistons v. Nuggets -7.5||Top||113-120||Loss||-109||13 h 5 m||Show|
The set-up: The Denver Nuggets have hurt their cause in the Western Conference playoff race with three losses in their last five games. Denver fell 112-103 at the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, falling into 10th place in the West at 37-31, although the Nuggets are just one game out of a playoff spot. The Nuggets remain a strong home team at 26-10 but they are just 11-21 on the road. So, with their longest road trip of the season on the horizon (will play) seven consecutive contests away from home, Thursday's home matchup with the reeling Detroit Pistons is practically a "must-win" scenario for the Nuggets. Acquiring Blake Griffin in a blockbuster deal six weeks ago was supposed to be a difference-maker for the Pistons but after Detroit's 110-79 loss in Utah on Tuesday, the team has lost 11 of its last 14.
Detroit: The Pistons are now 30-37 and five games out of the final playoff spot in the East. Detroit's starters combined for 43 points on 16-of-43 shooting in the loss at Utah (Griifin was 5 of 16 with points) and the defeat was Detroit's 10th straight on the road. The lopsided contest allowed rookie Luke Kennard to see a personal-high 36 minutes and he responded with 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting. However, the 12th pick in last year's draft is averaging only 6.7 PPG in about 18 1/2 MPG. Griffin's numbers are solid (19.8-6.5-5.6) but he's done absolutely nothing to improve this team.
Denver: "We've just got to win games," center Mason Plumlee told reporters after the second chippy contest with the Lakers in less than a week. "We've got to go home and beat Detroit. We're done with the Lakers for the season, so you've got to move on." Denver led by 13 points with just over two minutes left in the third quarter at Los Angeles, before fading down the stretch. The loss dropped Denver to just SU on the road, which hardly inspires confidence for a team looking forward to (dreading?) an upcoming seven-game road trip. Wilson Chandler was one of the bright spots against the Lakers, scoring 26 points. However, it's been Denver's guard trio of Harris (17.8), Murray (16.2) and Barton (14.9-4.1-5.0) which has given the Nuggets consistent perimeter scoring. Center Jokic (17.1 & 10.4) and now healthy PF Millsap (14.0 & 6.3) are tasked with the heavy lifting up front.
The pick: This is clearly a "must win" for Denver and as noted, Detroit limps in on a 3-11 SU run overall (3-11 ATS too), as well as on an 0-10 SU & 1-9 ATS run on the road. Make Denver an 8* play.
|03-15-18||Raptors v. Pacers +3.5||Top||106-99||Loss||-103||11 h 5 m||Show|
The set-up: The Toronto Raptors have won nine straight games (two shy of matching the franchise mark), as well as 16 of their last 17 and 18 of their last 20. Tuesday's 116-102 triumph in Brooklyn gave Toronto 50 victories for the third straight season and the Raptors' 50-17 mark has them 4 1/2 games up on Boston in the race for the East's No. 1 seed. The Raptors seek their 10th consecutive victory with a visit to the hard-charging Indiana Pacers, who earned a big 101-98 win Tuesday in Philadelphia to maintain their grip on third place in the East, a half-game ahead of Cleveland. Indiana's win was the team's 10th time in its last 13 contests, giving them a 40-28 record (who needs Paul George?).
Toronto: The All Star backcourt of DeRozan (23.6-4.0-5.1) and Lowry (16.4-5.6-6.7) were limited to a total of 26 points at Brooklyn but center Jonas Valanciunas shouldered the load with 26 points and 14 rebounds. Along with PF Ibaka (12.7 & 6.1), Valanciunas (12.3 & 8.5) has been a steady presence in Toronto's frontcourt. The Raptors tied a franchise record for consecutive 100-point games with 20 in a row in the win over the Nets (Raptors are the East's highest scoring team at 112.3 PPG) and now have set their sights on 60 wins. They would need to win 10 if their last 15 games. "It's never been done (in Toronto)," Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan told the Toronto Star. "Not many people get the opportunity to win 60-plus games. We came close a couple of years ago. That's big."
Indiana: Center Myles Turner (13.8 & 7.0) scored 25 points in the 101-98 triumph at Philly and has averaged 21.3 in his last four games. Thaddeus Young (11.6 & 6.1) added 19 points and 10 rebounds as Indiana showed its resiliency and depth in a tough road game that saw guards Victor Oladipo and Bojan Bogdanovic combine to make only 5-of-32 shots. However, Oladipo (23.6-5.3-4.3) and Sabonis (11.7 & 7.9), the two players acquired for Paul George, have been everything and more, for the Pacers. Indiana has won 21 of its last 30 games but in the tightly bunched East, the team is well aware that while it may be the No. 3 seed at the moment, the Pacers are closer to the No. 8 seed (4 1/2-game lead) than they are to the No. 2 seed (5 1/2-game deficit).
The pick: The two teams split their first two meetings this season, with the home team winning each one. Hard to buck the Raptors and it's not good news for Indian fans (bettors) that Domantas Sabonis suffered a left ankle sprain at Philadelphia and will miss Thursday's game. However, just like 'it felt" like a good spot to take the Raptors at home over tehg red-hot Rockets on , "it feels" like the right time to take the Pacers over the Raptors, here. Make Indiana a 10* play.
|03-14-18||Wizards v. Celtics -1||Top||125-124||Loss||-105||12 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: The Toronto Raptors easily handled the Nets 116-102 last night (the team's ninth straight win) and moved four full games ahead of the 46-21 Boston Celtics for the East's No. 1 seed. The Celtics will welcome the 38-30 Washington Wizards to the TD Garden tonight but they will be severely shorthanded. PG Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) is among the four players who will miss the contest while power forward Al Horford is questionable due to illness. Marcus Smart (thumb), Jaylen Brown (concussion) and forward Daniel Theis (knee) will also be in street clothes for a team that has dealt with injuries since losing small forward Gordon Hayward to a broken ankle in the season opener. As for the Wizards, Washington is struggling with five losses in its past seven games after losing 116-111 to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday. The Wizards currently own the East's No. 5 seed, two games back of the No. 3 seed but also just two games ahead of the No. 8 seed.
Washington: Markieff Morris (11.4 & 5.8) stood out with a season-high 27 points in the loss to Minnesota, with leading scorer Beal (23.2-4.5-4.6) adding a modest 19. However, Tomas Satoransky continues to play well in place of injured All-Star John Wall (knee) and recorded 15 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals against the T-wolves. Wall has been out for the last six weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery. He is working out but there's still no target date for a return.
Boston: Theis was ruled out for the season with a torn meniscus in his left knee. He has been a key member of the rotation lately, with averages of 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds while recording 48 blocked shots and 30 steals. The Celtics have struggled offensively most of the season (104.4 PPG ranks 20th) and know with mounting injuries, will need to rely on its excellent defense even more. Boston enters the game allowing 100.2 PPG (2nd) on 43.6% shooting (1st).
The pick: These teams engaged in a vicious seven-game playoff series last spring and have split the first two contests of their four-game season series this season, each winning on the other's court. I expect that to change here and look for Boston to win and cover in this one. The Celtics allow just 99.7 PPG at home and that's the key. Make Boston a 10* play.
|03-13-18||Nuggets v. Lakers +2||Top||103-112||Win||100||25 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: The Denver Nuggets finished off a 2-1 homestand with a 130-104 rout of Sacramento on Sunday and at 37-30, remain tied with the Jazz and Spurs for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. Denver is 26-10 at home but the Nuggets will play 10 of their final 15 contests on the road, where they are just 11-20. The first of those 10 road games comes tonight at Staples Center against the LA Lakers. The Lakers may be just 30-36 but after they fell 125-116 at Denver on Friday, they bounced back to roll over the Cavs 127-113 on Sunday at home, improving to 15-7 in their last 22 games.
Denver: If the Nuggets are going to make the playoffs, they will have to perform better on the road. Nikola Jokic notched his seventh triple-double with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in the win over the Kings, as Denver led by as many as 36 points. Long overdue for a blowout like that," forward Paul Millsap told reporters after the Nuggets' most lopsided victory since Nov. 17. PF Millsap (14.4 & 6.3) just returned from a wrist injury on Feb 27 and has averaged 12.3 & 6.6 in his seven games back (Nuggets are 4-3). Jokic (17.2 & 10.4) really stepped up in his absence, as he was the only frontcourt player of note when Millsap was sidelined. However, Denver features a strong trio of guards in Harris (17.8), Murray (16.2) and Barton (15.0-5.0-4.2).
LA Lakers: Los Angeles will be beginning a back-to-back tonight, which also involves a visit to Golden State on Wednesday. Head coach Luke Walton is electing to give standout forward Brandon Ingram (16.2-5.4-3.9), who has missed five straight games with a strained groin, both games off before he is re-evaluated. Julius Randle is averaging 22.4 points with Ingram out and Brook Lopez has posted 21.2 PPG in the same stretch. Randle is now up to 15.5 & 7.7 on the season, while Thomas checks in a 15.9 PPG in his 12 games with LA and the "steal of the 2017 NBA Draft (27th pick)," Kyle Kuzma, averages 15.3 & 6.0.
The pick: The Nuggets are not only just 11-20 SU on the road this year (where they are allowing 110.2 PPG) but they are just 5-16 on the road vs. Western Conference opponents. The Lakers are 6 1/2 games behind the Nuggets, Jazz and Clippers with 16 games left, so it's highly unlikely LA will be playoff-bound this April. However, the Lakers have won seven of their last nine and since losing 106-81 to OKC back on Feb. 8, have topped 100 points in each of their last 12 games, averaging 117.7 PPG! Make LA a 10* play.
|03-13-18||Pistons +8.5 v. Jazz||Top||79-110||Loss||-110||24 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: The Utah Jazz have won six straight and 18 of their last 20 games but can't seem to put any distance between themselves and the crowded Western Conference field, behind Houston and Golden State. The 37-30 Jazz are currently tied with the Nuggets and Spurs and sit just a half-game back of the No. 7 LA Clippers (37-29). The Jazz will try to win their seventh straight when they host the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday. The Pistons have been off since snapping a four-game slide with a 99-83 win over the Chicago Bulls on Friday and are sitting in the No. 9 spot in the East at 30-36. However, Detroit enters play on Tuesday five games behind the eighth-place Milwaukee Bucks, with the Pistons having just 16 games left to make up the difference.
Detroit: There was plenty of talk that Blake Griffin would "put Detroit over the top," but that surely hasn't been the case. Griffin is averaging 20.2-6.8-5.8 in his 17 games with Detroit but the Pistons enter this contest having lost 10 of their last 13. Center Drummond (14.9 & 15.8) is a double-double 'machine' but the fact that PG Jackson (14.6 & 5.5 APG) hasn't played since Dec. 26, remains a huge negative. Detroit has fallen off the pace in the postseason race and begins a six-game trip here in Utah, having gone just 9-22 SU away from home this season.
Utah: The Jazz know that they need to avoid the temptation of dwelling on what the other teams around them in the standings are doing. The key is to just concentrate on winning. "Winning feels good: You don't need another reward," Ricky Rubio told reporters. "It's a win, you go home and you feel good about yourself and feel you did a good job. That's why we're doing what we're doing." Rubio collected 30 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists on Sunday, his second consecutive points-rebounds double-double. Rubio's had a solid season (12.5-4.5-5.3) but the team's fortunes will rest on the shoulders of rookie guard Mitchell (team-best 19.8 PPG) and center Gobert (13.5 & 10.6). The Jazz are 19-4 since Gobert returned to the court back on Jan. 19 .
The pick: The Pistons are not only just 3-10 their last 13 but they are also just 3-10 ATS in that span. They need this game badly. Take the points and make the Pistons an 8* play.
|03-12-18||Heat v. Blazers -7.5||Top||99-115||Win||100||13 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: The Western Conference race behind Houston and Golden State features eight teams vying for six playoff berths. There are just 3 1/2 games separating the No. 3 through No. 10 seeds. However, Portland has used a nine-game winning streak to put a little separation between themselves and the rest of the pack. The 40-26 Trail,Blazers currently hold down the No. 3 seed, two games clear of a trio of teams vying for the No. 4 spot and 3 1/2 ahead of three teams tied for eighth. The Blazers welcome the 36-31 Miami Heat to the Moda Center on Monday. The Heat are in a similar battle for position in the East (No. 3 thru No. 8 seeds are separated by 4 1/2 games) and are currently holding down the No. 7 spot, with the third-seeded Indiana Pacers only 3 1/2 games in front of them entering Monday. Miami comes in with two straight wins over teams above it in the standings, most recently crushing the Washington Wizards 129-102 on Saturday.
Miami: The Heat will begin a three-game road trip with this contest, one that continues Wednesday at Sacramento and Friday in Los Angeles against the Lakers. The Heat's win over the Wizards was somewhat tempered by the fact that Dwyane Wade went down with a strained hamstring and does not expect to play on Monday. Wade is averaging 15.7 points in six games this month and the team is 7-5 in 12 games since he was acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers. The fact that center Hassan Whiteside (14.3 & 11.8) sat out Saturday with a hip issue and is questionable for Monday, makes for more bad news for the Heat. Both players made the trip to Portland but Wade has all but declared himself out of commission for tonight's game.
Portland: The Blazers aren't taking their position as the No. 3 seed for granted, as the squad continues to stay up to date on the teams chasing them in the standings. "I think we're all very much aware of what the standings are and there's not a team in that group 3-10 that has the luxury to get too excited about anything one way or the other," Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts told reporters. Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for 58 points on Friday as Portland knocked off the defending champion Golden State Warriors 125-108. Lillard is averaging 26.8-4.5-6.5 and McCollum 21.8-4.0-3.2, making for one of the league's best backcourt duos. However, center Nurkic is the only other Portland player in double digits (14.0 & 8.4).
The pick: Portland has been fortunate to face opponents with key players missing this month, including Minnesota (Jimmy Butler), Oklahoma City (Carmelo Anthony) and Golden State (Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala). The Blazers good fortune may continue tonight, as Wade is almost assuredly out and Whiteside may miss as well. That said, don't think the Blazers are no more than lucky. "They're a dangerous team out west," Miamia head coach Spoelstra said. "They have some continuity from the last couple of years. They seem to be gaining confidence. They know who they are. They have a couple of guys (McCollum and Damian Lillard) who can take over in close games. And, they're very well-coached. Terry (Stotts) has done a really nice job with that team. He has developed a program that absolutely fits the strength of that team." In particular, Lillard is averaging 34.7 points and playing some of the best ball of his six-year career over the last 11 games. Portland has taken the last four in the series, including a 102-95 victory at Miami back on Dec. 13. Make the Blazers a 10* play.
|03-11-18||Jazz v. Pelicans +2.5||Top||116-99||Loss||-102||5 h 39 m||Show|
The set-up: The 36-30 Utah Jazz are in New Orleans to take on the 38-27 Pelicans. Both teams are right in the middle of a Western Conference playoff race that features eight teams battling for the final six playoff berths. The No. 3 thru No. 10 seeds are separated by just four games, with just six of the eight being able to earn berths behind Houston and Golden State. The Pelicans are currently the No. 4 seed, while the Jazz are currently on the outside looking in on the playoff picture but sitting just a half-game back of the Clippers. who occupy the the and final Western Conference playoff berth.
Utah: The Jazz enter play on Sunday tied with Denver but just a half-game back of the 8th-seeded Clippers and for that matter, just 2 1/2 games back of the fourth-seeded Pelicans. Utah has taken the first two of its three-game trip by a total of 37 points and has won five straight and 17 of its last 19 contests. Utah picked up its 10th consecutive road win with a 95-78 triumph at Memphis on Friday in which it held the Grizzlies to 37.3 percent shooting. Utah managed to find enough offense against Memphis despite star rookie Donovan Mitchell slumping to 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting, just the third time in the last 12 games that he failed to reach 20 points. Mitchell has been a huge factor for Utah this season, averaging a team-high 19.7 PPG. The return of center Rudy Gobert (13.4 & 10.5 RPG) has also been big, as the Jazz are 18-4 since he returned to the court back Jan. 19 on .SF Jae Crowder looks like he's found a home in Salt Lake City, averaging 13.5 PPG in his 11 games with the Jazz.
New Orleans. The Pelicans' 10-game winning streak didn't provide much separation from the rest of the pack in the Western Conference and they badly missed star forward Anthony Davis while watching their winning streak come to an end on Friday. Davis suffered a sprained ankle in a 114-101 win at Sacramento on Wednesday but sat out Friday as New Orleans returned home and watched their winning streak disappear in a 116-97 loss to the Washington Wizards. Guard Jrue Holiday, who had emerged as a second scoring option behind Davis during the winning streak, was held to four points on 2-of-8 shooting without Davis around to draw the defense on Friday. Holiday (19.2-4.3-5.7 on the season), averaged 24.9 points on 52.1 percent shooting and 8.5 assists during the winning streak. The Pelicans hope to have Davis back in the lineup when they host the hard-charging Utah Jazz on Sunday.
The pick: Without Davis (28.1 & 11.2), the Pelicans will have to rely on Nikola Mirotic to fill in the gaps on the frontline against Utah. Mirotic was brought in to replace the previously injured Boogie Cousins (25.2 & 12.9) and in his 14 games with New Orleans, has averaged 15.1 & 8.2, Obviously, having Davis means a lot but I like New Orleans either way and we'll get a much better line (and a margin of error), without him. Make New Orleans a 10* play.
|03-10-18||Magic +11.5 v. Clippers||Top||105-113||Win||100||15 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: Behind the rockets and Warriors, the Western Conference playoff race is a log-jam. Only 4 1/2 games separate The No.3 and No. 10 seeds. The 35-29 Los Angeles Clippers, who have won 12 of their past 17 games, are currently the No. 8 seed (final playoff spot) but are also just 2 1/2 games back of the No. 4 seed, which would earn them a home series. LA is looking to avoid a letdown after recording an impressive 116-102 home victory over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, with the 20-46 Orlando Magic coming into Staples Center tonight. The Magic have lost 10 of their last 12 games after Friday's 94-88 loss to the Sacramento Kings, dropping them to 0-3 on their current five-game road swing.
Orlando. To add is insult to injury, Orlando is without its top two scorers, power forward Aaron Gordon (18.3 & 8.4) who is out with a concussion and swingman Evan Fournier (17.8), out with a sprained MCL in his left knee. The Magic used their 20th different lineup combination Friday and it didn't go well, as they scored fewer than 90 points for the second time in three games in the six-point loss. Swingman Jonathon Simmons (13.5) played the go-to scoring role and delivered 25 points and six assists to break out of a funk in which he averaged seven points over the previous four games. First-round draft pick, the 6-10 Jonathan Isaac (4.5 & 3.5), made his third start of the season and had only six points on 2-of-8 shooting but he will likely remain in a starting role until Gordon is cleared. Center Vucevic (17.3 & 9.1) is Orlando's best healthy player.
LA Clippers: Many though the Clippers were "throwing in the towel" by trading Blake Griffin to Detroit but the 'joke' looks to be on the Pistons, who have flopped. Center DeAndre Jordan (11.9 & 15.2) dominated the interior with 20 points and 23 rebounds against the Cavaliers and he has three 20-rebound efforts this month while averaging 16.5 points and 19.5 rebounds in four games. Veteran Lou Williams continues to produce career-best averages in points (23.0) and assists (5.5) plus Tobias Harris has averaged 19 & 7.1 in the 14 games since coming from Detroit in the Griffin deal (Blake, we hardly miss ya!).
The pick: The Clippers have won eight consecutive meetings with the Magic by an average margin of 14.1 PPG. However. off beating LBJ and the Cavs, I can see a less than focused LA team struggling to cover this big number. Sure, the Magic are short-handed but they have covered four straight in the 2nd of back-to-back games. Make the Magic a 10* play.
|03-09-18||Rockets v. Raptors +2.5||Top||105-108||Win||100||13 h 49 m||Show|
The set-up: The Houston Rockets' current play has left no doubt that this team is a legitimate threat to end Golden State's three-year reign atop the Western Conference. Houston pushed its winning streak to 17 in a row with a 110-99 win at the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday but t he team's MVP says the Rockets are not focused on the streak. "We're just out there hoopin'," James Harden told reporters. "We're not worried about wins and losses right now. We're worried about playing the right way on both ends of the floor and that's going to carry over into the postseason." No team is hotter than 51-13 Houston but the Rockets will get a real test tonight at the Air Canada Centre when they visit the 41-17 Toronto Raptors. Toronto became the first team to clinch a playoff spot and brought its own winning streak to six in a row with a 121-119 overtime triumph over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.
Houston: Obviously, Harden (30.9-5.2-8.9) and Paul (18.8-5.6-8.1) are paramount to Houston's success but Gordon (18.6) completes the league's highest scoring guard trio plus when center Capela (14.3 & 11.0) is in the lineup with both Harden and Paul, Houston has has lost just once all season. Both Harden and Paul have been singing the praises of the team's supporting players. The Rockets won on Wednesday despite missing power forward Ryan Anderson (hip) and shooting guard Joe Johnson (illness).
Toronto: DeMar DeRozan scored 42 points on Wednesday but passed up the opportunity for the last shot while well defended, instead finding guard Fred VanVleet for the game-winning basket. VanVleet was 1 of 9 before hitting the game-winner! Derozan (24.0-3.9-5.2) and Lowry (16.6-5.7-6.6) are an All Star backcourt duo plus PF Ibaka (12.8 & 6.1) and center Valanciunas (12.0 & 8.3) form a strong inside tandem, as well. Toronto scores like Houston (112.0 PPG ranks 4th) and defends better, allowing 103.3 PPG (6th-best!).
The pick: The Rockets have to lose sometime, right? Many thought Milwaukee might have been the spot but it wasn't. How about right here in Toronto? Yes, Houston has won 17 straight but Toronto is 15-2 in its last 17 and comes in 27-5 SU at home. Make Toronto a 10* play.
|03-06-18||Pelicans +3 v. Clippers||Top||121-116||Win||100||15 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: The Pelicans lost 112-103 to the Clippers in New Orleans back on Jan. 28, beginning a stretch in which they would lose five of six games. Back then, they had the look of a defeated team, having just lost DeMarcus Cousins (25.2 & 12.9) for the season. However, the Pelicans come to Los Angeles for Tuesday's rematch with the Clippers at Staples Center under very different circumstances. An eight-game winning streak (the team's longest in over seven years) has vaulted Alvin Gentry's 36-26 team into fourth place in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the 34-28 Clippers are in ninth place in the West but only two games behind New Orleans (note: The West's No. 3 through No. 10 seeds are currently separated by just four games!).
New Orleans: With Cousins out, Anthony Davis (28.01 & 11.1) has thrust himself into the MVP debate with a torrid stretch in which he owns a double-double in each of the Pelicans' eight straight wins (37.3 & 14.8). However, Jrue Holiday's improved play has also been just as important during New Orleans' surge. Holiday (19.4-4.4-5.6) is averaging 25.9 points on 55 percent shooting during the winning streak. Let's not forget Mirotic's contributions, as the former Bull is averaging 14.9 & 7.8 in 11 games since the trade. The Pelicans are averaging 126.8 PPG during their eight-game win streak.
LA Clippers: The Clippers are hardly "going quietly" after trading Blake Griffin to Detroit. In fact, LA is averaging 120.4 points over its last eight games, going 6-2 in that stretch. The team's only only defeats in that run? To the Warriors and Rockets. Austin Rivers (15.7) scored 27 points in a 123-120 win over Brooklyn on Sunday, the sixth time in the last seven games that Los Angeles has produced at least 122 points. Veteran guard Lou Williams is averaging a career high in points (23.1) and assists (5.4) this season and center Jordan (11.8 & 15.0) is a double-double machine. Then there is Tobias Harris, who is averaging 19 points on 48.3 percent shooting and 6.8 RPG in 12 games since being acquired from Detroit.
The pick: Both teams are 'lighting it up' but I'm not stepping in front of the Pelicans' 'train' (8-0 SU & 7-1 ATS run). Davis continues to be the catalyst, earning Western Conference Player of the Week honors with an average of 34 points in his last three games and 15.3 rebounds, while shooting 50.7 percent from the floor. Make New Orleans a 10* play.
|03-05-18||Blazers v. Lakers +2||Top||108-103||Loss||-107||14 h 23 m||Show|
Portland: The Blazers continue to rely on the backcourt duo of Lillard and CJ McCollum. They combined for 48 points on Saturday but contributions from further down the roster are helping fuel the winning streak. Reserve power forward Ed Davis (5.6 & 7.4) hauled in double-digit rebounds in each of the last three games and rookie center Zach Collins (4.3 & 3.4) scored 12 points off the bench on Saturday to reach double figures for the first time since Dec. 23, when he scored 11 at the Lakers. Still, after Lillard (26.4-4.5-6.5) and McCollum (21.7), only center Nurkic (14.1 & 8.3) averages in double digits.
LA Lakers: Rookie PG Lonzo Ball returned five games ago from missing 15 games with a knee injury and the Lakers are 5-0 (Ball sat out one game in a back-to-back situation). He's averaging 12.0-6.8-7.3 in his four games back and more importantly, is shooting 55.2% from the floor, including 63.6% on threes. The Lakers overcame a 17-point, second-half deficit in a 116-112 triumph at the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday, which gave them a sweep of their four-game road trip. "It shows we're growing," Ball told reporters. "At the beginning of the year we might have just gave up, take the L and go home. Be happy with a 3-1 trip. We're growing up. We know we can win every game we're in." PF Randle moved into the starting lineup shortly after Portland last faced the Lakers (Dec. 23) and his scoring average has increased every month. He averaged 19.4 points in February and has scored 25 points in both victories in March to bump his season average to 15.1 PPG (he also leads the team in rebounding at 7.5 per). Second-year SF Ingram leads the team in scoring at 16.2 PPG, IT is up to 16.1 PPG in his eight games as a Laker (has come off the bench in each one) and the 'steal' of the 2017 draft, Kyle Kuzma, continues to thrive averaging 15.3 & 5.9.
The pick: With the 3 thru 10 teams in the West being separated by just four games, the Lakers can throw some chaos into the Western Conference postseason race with a win. However, Portland enters this contest on a 14-game winning streak against the Lakers, including eight straight at Staples Center. Then again, while LA's defense tends to be invisible at times (especially when IT is on the floor), "the Walton Gang" (remember that one UCLA fans?) is averaging a whopping 121.4 PPG during its winning streak. I don't want to buck the Lakers here, as Portland is just a so-so road team. Make LA a 10* play.
|03-04-18||Nets +8 v. Clippers||Top||120-123||Win||100||13 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: Many felt as if the Clippers were "giving up" on the current season when they traded away Blake Griffin. However, after routing the Knicks 128-105 on Friday night, the 33-28 Clippers have won 10 of their last 14 game to pull within one game of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. Amazingly, the Clippers are also just three games out of The West's No. 3 seed! Los Angeles welcomes another New York-based team to Staples Center tonight, as the 20-43 Brooklyn Nets come to town. The Clippers picked up a 114-101 win at Brooklyn just prior to the All-Star break, part of the Nets' current 2-14 slide. Brooklyn allowed a game-tying basket in the closing seconds of regulation and then stumbled in overtime in a 116-111 loss at Sacramento on Thursday.
Brooklyn: The Nets are just one game ahead of the Hawks, who reside in the Eastern Conference's 'basement.' Brooklyn has dropped seven straight road games overall and it is 3-11 away from home against the West, after being outscored 43-32 after the third quarter on Thursday. In an odd twist, three players, DeMarre Carroll (22 & 10), Jarrett Allen (15 & 11) and D'Angelo Russell (15 & 11 assists), all finished with double-doubles in the loss. Russell, the team's leading scorer at 15.8 PPG, tied a career high with 11 assists. The Nets have been among the worst defensive teams all season and currently rank 25th in allowing 109.7 PPG. Considering Brooklyn ranks dead-last (30th) in offensive FG percentage (43.7%), one can see why this team only has 20 wins.
LA Clippers: Lou Williams led six players in double figures with 21 points against the Knicks. The vet is having a career season, averaging 23.2 PPG and 5.4 APG, both of which would be single-season career highs. The 6-8 Montrezl Harrell (9.8 & 3.9) collected 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting and he is averaging 18.7 points on 72.7 percent shooting over his last three games. Harris has been excellent since coming over from Detroit in the Griffin deal, averaging 18.4 & 6.6 in 11 games. Of course, let's not forget Jordan, who chips in with 11.8 PPG and 15.0 RPG.
The pick: The Clippers have recorded six straight wins against the Nets here at Staples Center but LA checks in at just 15-15 ATS on its home floor on the season. In fact, LA was on a 1-5 ATS run at home before taking down the Knicks on Friday. Meanwhile, the sad-sack Nets are a moneymaking 18-12 ATS on the road, despite going only 8-22 SU. A closer look finds them at 15-8 ATS when getting four-plus points away from home. Make Brooklyn a 10* play.
|03-02-18||Pistons v. Magic +2.5||Top||106-115||Win||100||11 h 20 m||Show|
The set-up: It's starting took as if more than a few people "jumped the gun" in their praise that the addition of Blake Griffin was going to help the Detroit Pistons secure an Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Pistons obtained Griffin from the LA Clippers on Jan. 30. They had lost eight straight but beat Cleveland shortly after the deal was completed. Griffin's arrival occurred in the second game of what would become a five-game winning streak that pushed Detroit one game above .500 on Feb. 7 after beating the Brooklyn Nets. However, Detroit then lost six of its next seven, with five of those defeats coming by double digits.The 29-32 Pistons are currently sitting in the No. 9 spot in the Eastern Conference, 2 1/2 games outside of the playoff 'cut line.' Detroit will be in Orlando tonight to face the 18-43 Magic, as they open a three-game road trip. Orlando owns the worst record in the Eastern Conference and the Magic are coming off a 117-104 home loss to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, the team's seventh straight loss. It marks the team's fourth losing streak of at least seven games this season.
Detroit: The Pistons did earn an impressive win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday (110-87) and will try to make it two in a row in tonight's game. Detroit snapped a three-game slide with Wednesday's win and a big difference was the play of the second unit, led by Johnson. He has been moved from the starting lineup to the bench and delivered 19 points, six rebounds and four assists in 30 minutes. "We've got, what? Twenty-one games left?" Pistons small forward Stanley Johnson asked reporters after Wednesday's win. "And we're back what? Three games (entering play on Thursday)? We've got to get on it. There's no sugar coating that. Everyone in the gym knows it. We know it. Y'all know it. It's our job to do our job." Griffin scored 24 points in his Detroit debut back on Feb. 1 in a 104-102 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. The Pistons are 6-6 in the 12 games Griffin has played with him averaging 18.3-6.8-5.5. Center Drummond is a double-double 'machine' (15.1 & 15.8) but the Pistons really need PG Jackson (14.6 & 5.5 APG) to get back on the court. Head coach Stan Van Gundy said he's hopeful Jackson (ankle) can return to practice at some point prior to the team's West Coast road trip on Mar. 13.
Orlando: The Magic Orlando allowed the Raptors to shoot 54.2 percent from the floor on Wednesday and is near the bottom in the NBA in field-goal percentage defense (.47.5% ranks ). "We kind of lose the same way every night," Magic swingman Evan Fournier told reporters. "We start well, we're playing good, and in the third quarter or fourth or whatever we let them get on a run and we never recover from it. They get too comfortable and once the lead is up to seven or eight, the lead keeps growing and we're just never able to come back." The loss repeated the pattern from Monday's five-point loss at Oklahoma City on Monday. The Magic shot 56 percent and scored 62 points by halftime against the Thunder, but those totals dropped to 42 percent and 43 points in the final two quarters. "It's been an issue for us all year long," Magic center Nikola Vucevic told reporters. "We have to figure out how to do a better job defensively, follow the game plan, compete and make the extra effort out there. We don't (make) enough of those plays consistently." PF Gordon (18.0 & 8.2), SG Fournier (18.0) and center Vucevic (17.2 & 9.0) are all quality players but the Magic continue to struggle.
The pick: Detroit bounced back nicely by dominating the paint and the boards in a 110-87 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday but how much does that really mean? Detroit hasn’t covered two straight in a 21game spanand is 2-11 SU in its last 13 road games. Friday begins a stretch with nine of 12 games outside of Detroit and the Pistons haven't won on the road since Jan. 10 at Brooklyn (are 9-19 SU away from home on the season). Sure, Orlando has won just 18 games all season but the Magic have won five straight here in Orlando vs. the Pistons. Take the home dog and make Orlando a 10* play.
|02-28-18||Thunder -5 v. Mavs||Top||111-110||Loss||-100||13 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: With all sorts of "tanking" stories surrounding them, the Dallas Mavericks beat the Pacers 109-103 on Monday. The 19-42 Mavs remain at home for Wednesday's game against another playoff-hopeful opponents, the 35-27 Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder bounced back from a 112-80 Saturday loss at Golden State by beating the Orlando Magic 112-105 on Monday. Oklahoma City is among a group of teams clustered between No. 5 and No. 9 in the West (currently own the No. 7 seed) and can't afford a loss to a team at the bottom of the standings.
Oklahoma City: OKC got 48 points from its reserves in Monday's win and is hoping that contributions from players other than Russell Westbrook (24.8-9.6-10.4), Paul George (22.3 & 5.5) and Carmelo Anthony (17.0 & 5.9) is something that will continue on a regular basis. "This is the way we have to perform for the rest of the year and throughout the postseason," reserve guard Raymond Felton told reporters. Felton (7.1) led four reserves in double figures with 13 points against the Magic. However, other than starting center Adams (14.0 & 9.1), no other OKC player is averaging even 8.0 PPG.
Dallas: Owner Mark Cuban was fined $600,000 by the NBA last week for suggesting on a podcast that it might be best for the franchise if the team continued to lose this season in order to improve its draft prospects but the players are refuted that position. The Mavs don't score much (102.0 PPG ranks 27th) but six players average in double digits, led by Barnes, the team's leading scorer (18.2) and rebounder (6.5) plus rookie PG Dennis Smith Jr. (14.6-3.9-4.8). Dallas is capable of getting plenty of support of its bench. J.J. Barea scored 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting in 26 minutes on Monday and the Mavericks added to the bench at the trade deadline with Doug McDermott, who is averaging 9.8 PPG in his six games with Dallas, while shooting 51.2% from the floor, including 54.5% on threes.
The pick: Surprisingly, the Mavs have taken two of the first three meetings this season, including a 116-113 win at Oklahoma City in the latest matchup back on Dec. 31. The Mavs also beat the Thunder 97-81 earlier this season here at American Airlines Center. However, it should be noted that OKC is a very dangerous (although volatile) team. The Thunder were one of four teams (Golden State, Houston, Toronto were the others) to enter the All Star break ranked in the top-10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Will OKC ever get its act together? That's TBD but in this one, OKC takes care of business. Make the Thunder a 10* play.
|02-27-18||76ers -1 v. Heat||Top||101-102||Loss||-100||12 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: The 32-26 Philadelphia 76ers are the East's No. 7 seed and the 31-29 Miami Heat are the conference's No. 8 seed. The teams meet tonight in Miami and while Philly leads Miami by just two games, the Sixers have been on quite a roll with the Heat seemingly headed in the opposite direction. Philly lost at Washington on Sunday but that defeat snapped a seven-game winning streak (club's longest since 2009). As for Miami, the Heat beat the sad-sack Grizzlies 115-89 but entered that game having had dropped eight of their previous nine
Philadelphia: Sunday's loss marked the start of a stretch of seven of eight on the road for Philadelphia, which is gunning for homecourt advantage in the playoffs (Sixers are just . two games back of Washington, which owns the No. 4 seed). Joel Embiid (23.9 & 11.2) only recently started playing in back-to-back games and came through a stretch of three games in four nights coming out of the break without a problem. He averaged 27.6 points on 55.6 percent shooting and 12.3 rebounds, serving up three consecutive double-doubles. Embiid and 6-foot-10 rookie PG Ben Simmons (16.7-7.7-7.4), veteran shooting guard JJ Redick (16.6), plus forwards Dario Saric(14.5 & 6.9) and Robert Covington (12.6 & 5.5) comprise a strong starting-five. Philadelphia's bench is now led by SG Marco Belinelli (11.8 PPG in his four games with the team), who is the team's highest scoring reserve and is similar to Redick in that both have more than a decade of NBA experience.
Miami: "It's kind of a relief a little bit," said PG Goran Dragic (17.4-4.1-4.9) after the win over the Grizz. "The last 17 games have been close games. Finally, we put together a great game where we were up 20 points. We've started the homestand well. Hopefully we'll continue that Tuesday." Shooting guard Tyler Johnson (11.8) went nine straight games without hitting at least half of his shots before going 4-of-7 in the loss at Philadelphia on Feb. 14. Johnson carried that shooting over the break and is 12-of-22 from the floor in the last two games. Hassan Whiteside (14.2 & 11.9) is a consistent double-double 'machine' but Wade has added little since returning to Miami, averaging 8.6 & 5.0 in five games (team is 2-3).
The pick: Beating the Grizzlies is hardly cause for celebration (Memphis is currently on a 10-game slide) and these teams met right before the break when Philly pulled out a 104-102 win at Wells Fargo Center on Valentine’s Day. Miami was just 7-16-3 ATS line as host before break and I do not assume much will change down the stretch, even with the return of Wade. While Miami has slipped from the No. 4 seed to the East's' No. 8 seed, Philly's been "movin' on up" and can 'smell' a possible Game 1 contest at home in the opening round. Make Philly a 10* play.
|02-26-18||Lakers -1.5 v. Hawks||Top||123-104||Win||100||14 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The Atlanta Hawks have played just once since the break, losing badly at Indiana by the score of 116-93. It was Atlanta's third consecutive loss and fifth in six games. Atlanta's 18-42 record currently leaves the Hawks last in the Eastern Conference and with a record better than only the 18-43 Suns in the entire NBA. The Hawks will host the Lakers for the only time this season at Philips Arena and will be looking to split the season series after Los Angeles won 132-113 back on Jan. 7 at the Staples Center. The 25-34 Lakers are surely not playoff-bound but this young team has shown improvement this month. The Lakers are undefeated in two games since the All-Star break and check in at 6-3 since Feb. 1.
LA Lakers: The game will be a homecoming for Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who played at the University of Georgia. He coming off his best performance of the year, a season-high 34-point effort that included a career-high eight three-point baskets in a 113-108 win over the Sacramento Kings. Caldwell-Pope (13.5 & 5.0) has scored in double figures in 39 games and had nine 20-plus point performances. Los Angeles is bringing rookie PG Lonzo Ball back slowly from a knee injury and continues to bring Isaiah Thomas off the bench, leaving PF Julius Randle and fellow forward Brandon Ingram to handle the playmaking responsibilities with the first unit. Randle (14.7 & 7.5) ripped off a triple-double in a 124-102 win over Dallas on Friday while Ingram (16.1-5.3-3.8) paced the team with eight assists in a triumph at Sacramento on Saturday.Atlanta: The Hawks never led in Friday's loss to Indiana, committing 13 turnovers in the first half (22 on the game). The bright spot was Isaiah Taylor (he avergags just 4.9 PPG), who scored a career-high 17 points and added six assists and two steals. The Hawks may be without veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova (10.9 & 5.5), as the club is working on a buyout, which would allow him to re-sign with the Philadelphia 76ers. Dennis Schroder was on a roll before the break and had averaged 22 points on 53.2 percent shooting in his last three games but looked rusty on Friday, when he was held to nine points on 3-of-12 from the floor. Still, he's been Atlanta's best player all season, averaging 19.3 PPG and 6.2 APG. The pick: It's a revenge spot for Atlanta but this team has little to play for except the No. 1 position in the draft. The Lakers are a poor defensive team (110.0 PPG allowed ranks 27th) but LA has scored in triple digits for 14 straight games and has averaged 118.5 PPG in going 2-0 since the break. The Hawks do not have the firepower to match LA right now, ranking 23rd in the league in both scoring (103.5 PPG) and FG percentage (45.0%). Make LA a 10* play.
|02-25-18||76ers v. Wizards -2||Top||94-109||Win||100||13 h 47 m||Show|
The set-up: No one is making fun of "The Process," these days. Philly's 116-105 victory over Orlando on Saturday at home gave the 76ers seven straight wins, matching the franchise's longest run since a nine-gamer late in the 2002-03 season. Larry Brown was coaching Allen Iverson on that team, one which was just two years removed from an NBA Finals appearance. These Sixers are 32-25 and while they are the East's No. 7 seed at the moment, they are just 2 1/2 games back of the third-seeded Cavs. Philly will be in Washington tonight to face the 34-25 Wizards, who are 8-3 since losing PG John Wall (19.4 & 9.3) to a knee injury. The Wizards are the No. 4 seed and while they are just one game back of the Cavs (No. 3), they are also just 1 1/2 games ahead of the 76ers (No. 7).
Philadelphia: Joel Embiid (23.9 & 11.2) scored 28 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in Saturday's win as Philadelphia recorded at least 112 points for the fourth time during the winning streak. Rookie Ben Simmons (16.7-7.7-7.4) chipped in 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting and he has made 65.4 percent from the floor over a four-game stretch. Veteran shooting guard Marco Bellinelli has produced at least 15 points in two of three games since being acquired by Philadelphia (he's averaging 12.8 PPG). Joining Embiid and Simmons in the starting lineup are SG Redick (16.8), PF Saric (14.6 & 6.9) and SF Covington (12.7 & 5.5). Philly is for real.
Washington: The Wizards returned from the break and won 110-103 at Cleveland on Thursday but then flat on their faces the very next night, losing 122-105 at home to the Hornets, a team which is seven games under .500. "We just didn't have energy, focus, no fight back, no nothing," All-Star guard Bradley Beal told reporters after the loss to Charlotte. "They flat out whooped us." Beal scored 33 points in the loss and he has made 9-of-18 from three-point range over his last three games. He leads the team in scoring (23.7) plus Washington also has five others averaging between 8.7 and 14.5 PPG, excluding Wall.
The set-up: Dropping that game against the Hornets represented Washington's 10th loss against a team with a losing record. With Philly playing so well and off that ugly (and embarrassing loss), I can't imagine Washington being 'flat' for this one. The home team has won the last six meetings between these two and the Wizards have won seven straight meetings at home over the Sixers. Make Washington a 10* play.
|02-24-18||Celtics -4.5 v. Knicks||Top||121-112||Win||100||12 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics limped into the All-Star break off an 0-3 homestand while falling out of first place in the Eastern Conference (Toronto held a two-game lead at the break). However, they emerged from the break looking more like the team that led the Eastern Conference for the bulk of the first half of the season. Boston snapped its three-game skid with a 110-98 victory over the Pistons on Thursday, pulling within a game of first-place Toronto in the East. The Knicks had dropped eight straight games before the break but snapped the team's slide with a 120-113 victory at Orlando on Thursday. Trey Burke came off the bench to post a season-high 26 points to go along with six assists as New York tied its season high for scoring, first accomplished against Phoenix in the eighth game of the season.
Boston: Rookie Daniel Theis (averaging a modest 5.2 PPG on the season) paced a balanced attack with a career-high 19 points in Thursday's win. Kyrie Irving (24.6 & 5.1 APG) produced 18 points and Jayson Tatum (13.5 & 5.1) added 15. Boston's bench outscored Detroit's by a whopping 65-21 margin, as Theis was one of four reserves to score at least 11 points, including Marcus Smart (12 points) in his return from a hand laceration. The break allowed Smart to heal a bit more and the PG, who cut his hand punching a framed picture in January, provides some much-needed defense, as well as being capable of scoring in double digits (10.1).
NY Knicks: Burke, who is averaging just 8.7 PPG in 14 games for the Knicks, was 12-for-22 from the floor in 30 minutes, displaying an aggressive approach that could yield some positive results for a team playing the stretch run without leading scorer Kristaps Porzingis (22.7 & 6.6). Another positive came in the play of Tim Hardaway Jr. (16.9 & 4.1), who broke out of a long slump with 37 points in the final game before the break before chipping in 23 against the Magic. Hardaway is now 23-for-43 (53.5%) from the floor in his two-game surge, after going 24-for-93 (25.8%) over his previous seven contests.
The pick: New York was just 1-7 ATS during its eight-game slide (no one better say "tank," these days) and I'm not sure a win over the equally hapless Magic means much of anything. Meanwhile, the Celtics are fully engaged in an effort to earn back the East's top record and Boston's19-8 SU & 18-9 ATS road record makes them a 10* play in this one.
|02-23-18||Mavs v. Lakers -3.5||Top||102-124||Win||100||15 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: Who would have expected that the Dallas Mavericks, who at 18-40 (14th place in the Western Conference), would be the league's biggest attention-grabber coming out of the All Star break. And, for all the wrong reasons. Sports Illustrated published a report on a culture of misogyny within the Dallas organization on Tuesday night and then owner Mark Cuban was fined $600,000 for publicly endorsing tanking on the "House Call with Dr. J" podcast. The Mavericks return to the court Friday night and get focused on basketball when they visit Staples Center to face the 23-34 LA Lakers. The Lakers could have been accused of tanking last season but are surely trying to win this season while developing the younger players on the roster the rest of the way, looking forward to this summer's free agent class. They are expected get rookie PG Lonzo Ball back from a knee injury on Friday but one wonders if that is good or bad news.
Dallas: "Players never play to lose," 20-year veteran Dirk Nowitzki told reporters. "It might happen, but you don't play for it. I still love to compete. That's one big reason why I'm still out there. I'll never stand for losing on purpose. It's just not who I am." Losing has been a way of life for the Mavs this season. They started by dropping nine of their first 10 games and 14 of 16 before showing some improvement with an 8-8 record in December, including a season-high four-game win streak from Dec. 26 to Dec. 31. However, the Mavericks began another free fall in January and they're 5-15 in 2018. Only the Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns have worst records of 18-41. The bright spots have been leading scorer (18.3) and rebounder (6.6) Harrison Barnes and rookie PG Dennis Smith Jr. (14.8-3.9-4.9).
LA Lakers: The offense is humming right along but Los Angeles broke down at the defensive end while integrating PG Isaiah Thomas, who was acquired at the trade deadline from Cleveland, into the rotation. LA is 0-3 with Thomas, scoring 117.0 PPG but allowing 129.3 PPG! Getting Thomas and Ball on the floor together will be a challenge for the coaching staff. Ball is averaging 10.2-7.1-7.1 (how many rookies have put up that kind of a line?) but his shooting is off-the-charts, ugly (35.6% overall, including 30.3% on threes). Ingram (16.2 & 5.2) is now the team's leading scorer, rookie Kuzma (15.7 & 5.9) is arguably the 'steal' of the 2017 draft and Randle (14.7 & 7.4) has begun to look like a solid game-in and game-out performer (he's averaging 21.4 points on 62 percent shooting over the last five games).
|02-23-18||Clippers v. Suns +4.5||Top||128-117||Loss||-105||14 h 37 m||Show|
The set-up: The LA Clippers returned from the All Star break and lost 130-127 at Golden State, as Steph Curry scored 44 points in leading the Warriors to win in which the Clippers allowed Golden State to shoot 62.7 percent from the floor. The 30-27 Clippers now sit 9th in the West, one game out of the final playoff spot. The Clippers travel off last night's loss to Phoenix, where they'll take on the 18-41 Suns, who are tied with the Atlanta Hawks for the league's worst record, having dropped seven straight games and 15 of their last 17.
LA Clippers: The Clippers not only allowed the Warriors to shoot over 60 percent for the game but also allowed more than 30 points in every quarter. The good news is, Los Angeles has played excellent defense against the Suns this year, allowing an average of 91.5 PPG in two victories by margins of 42 and 13 points. Tobias Harris, who was acquired from the Detroit Pistons as part of the Blake Griffin deal, is fitting in nicely with the Los Angeles attack. Harris scored 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting against the Warriors for his third 20-point outing in seven games with the team (17.9 & 6.7 with LA). Standout guard Lou Williams had 21 points and tied his career high of 12 assists against the Warriors and he has recorded 10 or more assists four times this season after reaching that figure once over his first 12 NBA campaigns. Williams is averaging career-highs in both scoring (23.1) and assists (5.4).
Phoenix: The Suns' next loss will clinch their fourth straight losing campaign. Devin Booker dazzled while winning the NBA three-point shooting contest last weekend,and he also enters the post-break portion of the season with a streak of 60 make free throws. Booker is averaging 24.2 PPG, while connecting on 38.3% of his threes and 89% of his FTs. Something to be closely observed down the stretch is how well recently acquired PG Elfrid Payton (from Orlando) meshes with Booker, as the club has experienced issues at the position since dealing Eric Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks in early November. It should be noted that Payton had 13 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists in the Suns' 107-97 loss at Utah before the break, his third game with the Suns and first with Booker at off guard. It was his first triple-double of the season and ninth of his career. Payton is averaging 20.3-8.3-8.7 in three games with Phoenix.
The pick: The Clippers have won 15 of the last 17 meetings with the Suns, including the last seven in a row. Sure, Phoenix has nothing to play for over the final 23 games but Devin Booker doesn't see the stretch as a lost cause. "Build on for next year, trying to get some momentum that will carry over to the summer, that will carry over to the next season," Booker told reporters. I like the Booker and Payton backcourt combo for the Suns and I'm not even a little convinced that the Clippers will do much down the stretch. On the second of a back-to-back, I'll go against the Clipps and 'bark' with the home dog. Make Phoenix a 10* play.
|02-22-18||Nets +7.5 v. Hornets||Top||96-111||Loss||-100||11 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: The NBA All Star break is over and Thursday serves up a six-game schedule. The 19-40 Brooklyn Nets will be in Charlotte to take on the 23-33 Hornets, which is not exactly a marquee matchup. Brooklyn limped into the break with losses in seven straight and is just one game ahead of the last-place Atlanta Hawks in the East. Meanwhile, Charlotte is 5 1/2 games out of the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference with 25 games left in the regular season. The Hornets will play 21 of their last 25 games against East teams and get three of their first four out of the break at home, where they own a modest 15-15 record. The teams have yet to meet this season.
Brooklyn: Head coach Kenny Atkinson has told reporters that his team need to return to play with a chip on its shoulder but one wonders, what makes him think that is going to happen. With just 23 games left until 'vacation time,' it's unlikely we'll see anything different from the Nets in this final stretch. Brooklyn did not have an All-Star but made its mark on the weekend when PG Spencer Dinwiddie won the Skills Challenge. Dinwiddie (13.6 & 6.7 APG) is a breakout player in an otherwise down season for the Nets and is logging big minutes due to Jeremy Lin's season-ending knee injury and D'Angelo Russell's knee troubles. Speaking of Russell,the team's leading scorer at 15.7 PPG, he is expected to make his first start for the Nets since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in November. He has played 13 games as a reserve under a minutes restriction since returning from his two-month absence. He averaged 18.3 points in 28.7 minutes in his last three games before the break. That, coupled with the additional week off, has gotten him deemed ready to resume the starting role he had to begin the season.
Charlotte: The Hornets went into the break healthy and got an extended rest for everyone but point guard Kemba Walker, who was a member of the winning Team LeBron in Los Angeles on Sunday. Walker came into the season as the undisputed floor leader in Charlotte and fought through trade rumors while putting together another All-Star campaign. He's averaging 22.9 points and 5.8 assists. Walker plays two solid SGs in the backcourt, Lamb (13.5 & 4.4) and Batum (12.0-4.3-4.7). There is also center Dwight Howard (15.8 & 12.6) but in what has become the norm, this big man rarely makes his team better,
The pick: Eleven of the Hornets' next 18 games are against teams with losing records, but the club went into the break with four losses in its last five games, not exactly a momentum-builder. What's more, while the Hornets won last year's season series 3-1, all four games featured tight finishes. The total margin of victory in the four games was 17 points. Sure, the Hornets have beaten the Nets in seven of t last eight meetings but the Nets have covered SIX in a row and eight of the last nine in this series. Maybe surprisingly to some, Brooklyn is 14-7 ATS a road dog of four-plus points. Make the Nets a 10* play.
|02-15-18||Lakers +10.5 v. Wolves||Top||111-119||Win||100||13 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: All-in-all, the Minnesota Timberwolves have made significant improvements as the NBA's All Star Weekend looms. However, Minnesota was 31-18 just 3 1/2 weeks ago, before hitting a slight skid lately in which the team has gone 4-7. In the team's final game before the break, Minnesota welcomes the 23-33 LA Lakers to the Target Center. The Lakers enter having had won 12 of 16 games (including eight of their last 10), before experiencing defensive issues on the first two stops their three-game trip. After allowing 130 points in Saturday's loss at Dallas, the Lakers got hammered 139-117 at New Orleans four nights later.
LA Lakers: "We’ve got to get our mojo back. We somehow lost it quickly,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton told reporters of the back-to-back setbacks. Lonzo Ball will miss his 15th consecutive game due to a sprained left knee but the rookie PG said he will be ready to get back on the floor when Los Angeles returns from the All-Star break on Feb. 23 against Dallas. Is that good or bad news? LA's roster has changed since the trade deadline but pretty much all season, the Lakers have struggled defensively, allowing 110.1 PPG (28th).
Minnesota; The Timberwolves saw their 13-game home winning streak end in Tuesday's 126-108 loss to the Rockets. All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns (20.4 & 9.7) leads the NBA with 50 double-doubles, including a performance against the Rockets in which he recorded 35 points on 12-of-16 shooting and 12 rebounds. Minnesota is considering whether or not to sign PG Derrick Rose, who currently is a free agent, as he was released by Utah two days after being acquired from Cleveland. Rose played for Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau in Chicago and was teammates with All-Star shooting guard Jimmy Butler and power forward Taj Gibson. Butler's been everything Minnesota could have hoped for, averaging 22.4-5.5-5.0, and Gibson (12.1 & 7.3) has been a solid starter at PF.
The pick: Minnesota is tied for second in the league in home wins at 23-6 but has lost three of four games overall. The lone win in that span came against the Kings and just barely (111-106 as a 13-point favorite). Tom Thibodeau has been known as a defensive coach but this Minnesota team, while greatly improved and on its way to the postseason after a long drought, is allowing opponents to shoot 47.8%, which is a league-worst! That's why Minnesota is a sub-.500 team ATS (28-30-2). Take the big points and make LA a 10* play.
|02-14-18||Clippers v. Celtics -4.5||Top||129-119||Loss||-105||12 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics have been 'Kings of the East' since the start on the current NBA season but the 40-18 Celtics now trail the 40-16 Toronto Raptors by two games in the loss column for the conference's best record. Maybe of even greater concern is that the "new-look" Cavs are showing definitive signs that their Eastern Conference reign is not about to end. "As we go forward I think that we can consistently learn from not only a game like tonight but the last few games with playing the high intense teams of the Eastern Conference, where we’ve been tested," All-Star Kyrie Irving told reporters after Boston's 121-99 home loss to the Cavs Sunday. The Celtics, losers of three of their last four, will host the 29-26 LA Clippers on Wednesday. LA is probably not looking forward to the All Star break, as the Clippers won six of their last eight and 18 of 26 overall.
LA Clippers: Head coach Doc Rivers was in Boston (Sunday) to participate in Paul Pierce's ceremony and then guided Los Angeles to a 114-101 win at Brooklyn on Monday, behind a balanced attack. Seven players scored in double figures against the Nets, led by Lou Williams' 23rd 20-point effort (points) in the last 25 games. Austin Rivers added 17 points in his best output since returning from a heel injury. Overall, the team shot 56.5 percent from the floor. Williams is averaging career highs in points (23.2) and assists (5.3 , while Rivers (15.7) has settled in to become a solid regular. Harris is averaging 16.4 & 6.6 in his six games (was part of the Griffin trade) plus there is still center Jordan and his seasonal double-double (11.4 & 15.1).
Boston: An issue in Boston's recent slump has been the downturn of rookie Jayson Tatum (13.6 & 5.1), who has seen his three-point percentage fall in every month this season, from 50 percent in October to 33.3 percent in February. He is averaging 9.8 points (nearly four below his average) on 37.5 percent from the floor during the Celtics' current 1-3 stretch. Jaylen Brown (14.1 & 5.4) joined Tatum in single digits with five points on 2-of-9 shooting in the loss to Cleveland and Brown had just nine points on 2-of-10 shooting in a win at Los Angeles last month. Kyrie (24.6 & 5.0 APG) is the unquestioned leader but the veteran Horford (13.2-7.7-5.2) remains the unsung hero. In the end, Brad Stevens' team relies on a defense allowing 99.1 PPG (2nd-best) on a league-low 43.3% shooting.
|02-13-18||Heat +7.5 v. Raptors||Top||112-115||Win||100||12 h 44 m||Show|
|02-12-18||Clippers v. Nets +4.5||Top||114-101||Loss||-105||21 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: The Los Angeles Clippers won their "trade-revenge" game at Detroit on Friday in Detroit (emotional win over former teammate Blake Griffin) but then tired down the stretch on Saturday in the second night of a back-to-back. LA's three-game winning streak ended with a 112-98 loss at the Philadelphia 76ers, after the Clippers had pulled within 95-93 in the fourth quarter. Los Angeles (28-26) currently sits one-half game behind New Orleans. The Clippers remain slightly out of eighth place because while New Orleans overcame blowing a 28-point lead to get a 139-129 double-overtime win at Brooklyn Saturday, they lost at Philadelphia on Saturday. As for those Nets, the losses are starting to pile up for Brooklyn. Since earning a 116-108 home win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 31, the Nets have gone winless with losses to the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons and Saturday's wild loss to the Pelicans. At 19-38, teh Nets are only one game up on the Eastern Conference-worst Atlanta Hawks.
LA Clippers: Tobias Harris (18.0 & 6.3) and Avery Bradley (8.5 & 5,3 plus excellent perimeter defense) are providing a spark to their new team (over four games) but the return of small forward Danilo Gallinari is another key reason the team is staying in the playoff hunt despite trading Griffin. Gallinari (15.8 & 4.8) played in just two games between Nov. 5 and Jan. 28 while dealing with a glute tear but isn't having any trouble adjusting in five games since returning to the lineup. He is averaging 21 points on 52.2 percent shooting (43.3 percent from beyond the arc) and proved himself in game shape by scoring 22 points while logging 40 minutes on Saturday. Let's also not forget center DeAndre Jordan (11.3 & 15.0), who is averaging 17.5 rebounds over the last six games (including 21 at Philadelphia) or teh career season Low Williams is having (23.3 & 5.3 APG).
Brooklyn: The Nets are losers of five in a row and nine of 10, after Saturday's double overtime home loss. Brooklyn was down 28 points to the Pelicans on Saturday before coming back to force overtime. "It's just too many times that we've gotten in a big hole," Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters. "I loved the comeback, I loved our spirit in the second half, how competitive we are. I'm just mystified how the first half was completely different. We've talked about this before. You just can't get in a hole down 28 against a very good team." The Nets have played 15 games where they faced a deficit of at least 20 points this season. Five of those instances have occurred in this 10-game stretch. In those five games where the Nets have fallen behind by 20 or more, they have been outscored by a 163-92 margin in the first quarter. Saturday was another instance as the Nets were outscored 34-22 in the opening 12 minutes, trailed by 28 before making a furious comeback. Brooklyn is allowing 112.7 points during its five-game losing streak on 49.0 percent shooting and 41.3 percent from three-point range
The pick: It seems clear that LA owner Steve Ballmer isn’t in all-out tank mode just yet. He didn't move DeAndre Jordan and gave a nice contract extension to Lou Williams. Yes, the Nets are going nowhere but LA is just 12-14 SU on the road (not good news when being installed as a road favorite) plus the Nets are 15-13 ATS at home and since right after Christmas, are 14-9 (61%) ATS in all games. Home dog barks here. Make Brooklyn a 10* play.
|02-11-18||Pistons -3.5 v. Hawks||Top||115-118||Loss||-105||8 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: Blake Griffin scored 19 points in Friday’s 108-95 home defeat against the Los Angeles Clippers, ending Detroit’s five-game winning streak, the final four of those victories coming after the Pistons had acquired Griffin from Los Angeles in a six-player deal Jan. 29. “I didn’t play the way I wanted to,” Griffin told reporters after shooting 7-for-19 from the floor and then leaving the court at game’s end without shaking hands with any of his former teammates. “We had a good five-game run and we get back to work tomorrow.” Detroit's and Griffin's "work" begins with a visit to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday afternoon. While the 27-27 Pistons enter Sunday just 1 1/2 games out of the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot, the 17-39 Hawks own the NBA’s worst record. Think it's safe to say that Atlanta's run of 10 consecutive playoff appearances (second-longest active NBA streak to only the Spurs) will end in this season?
Detroit: Griffin has averaged 21 points and 7.8 rebounds since joining Detroit and his line for the season is an imprerssive22.4-7.9-5.5. Center Andre Drummond leads the NBA in rebounding at 15.6 per contest (adds 15.0 PPG) and has raised his production of late, averaging 18.1 points with 18.4 rebounds over his past nine games. The Pistons have forced 10 or more turnovers in 53 of their 54 games, including 41 consecutive contests, which is the longest streak in the NBA this season. The Pistons are also on pace to make 877 three-pointers this season, which would surpass the franchise record of 740 set in 2015-16.
Atlanta: The Hawks pushed the Cavs for 2 1/2 quarters Friday at home before succumbing 123-107, falling to 3-7 in their past 10 games. PG Dennis Schroder leads the team in scoring (19.5) and assists (6.3) but behind him, the wealth is spread around, as six players contribute between 9.8 and 13.0 PPG (note: Marco Belinelli, who has averaged 11.4 points and shot 92.7 percent from the free-throw line in 52 games, agreed to a contract buyout Friday). Tyler Dorsey (a rookie from Oregon), continues producing as his role expands. He is averaging only 4.7 PPG on the season but he's scored in double figures for three consecutive games for the first time in his career, averaging 11.7 points and 3.7 assists in that span. The Hawks are tied for first in the NBA in forcing turnovers, as opponents average 15.3 miscues per contest, but that hasn't translated into very many wins.
The pick: The Pistons are 9-16 away from Detroit and have won just one of their past nine road games. However, Griffin is expected to change that dynamic. Playing at Atlanta is hardly a daunting task this season, as the Hawks are just 12-17 SU at home. Atlanta was 11-1 at Philips Arena against Detroit over a seven-season stretch before the teams split two games in Atlanta each of the past two years. The Pistons have had a day to shake off that "trade-revenge" loss against the Clippers and they have won four of the last five against the Hawks, including the first two games of the season series against this year (111-104 & 105-91). They have gotten 14 points and 19.5 rebounds per game from Drummond in those two wins and now the Pistons have added Griffin. Make Detroit a 10* play.
|02-08-18||Hornets v. Blazers -4||Top||103-109||Win||100||14 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The Portland Trail Blazers went 0-3 on a recent three-game road trip that featured stops in Toronto, Boston and Detroit. The Blazers now limp home to the Moda Center at 29-25, tied with the Nuggets' for the West's No. 6 seed (note: both teams are just one game ahead of the Clippers, who are currently the 9th-seed and outside of the playoff cut line). Portland will play three of its next four at home, beginning with tonight's game against Eastern Conference foe, the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets will look to bounce back after watching a three-game winning streak come to an end with a 121-104 setback in Denver on Monday. Charlotte is 23-30 on the season, leaving them four games back of the East's No. 8 seed (76ers).
Charlotte: The Hornets allowed the Nuggets to shoot 56.8 percent from the floor and drain make 18 three-pointers on Monday. PG Kemba Walker () again leads the team in scoring and overall, Charlotte does a nice job offensively on the perimeter. Shooting guards Lamb (13.6 & 4.5) and Batum (12.2-4.5-4.7) have lately seen second-year shooting guard Treveon Graham (5.2) emerge as a scoring option, while earning extra playing time over the last four games. Graham scored in double figures in three of the last four contests, matching his total of double-digit scoring outbursts from his first 36 games. Center Dwight Howard (16.0 & 12.6) averages a double-double but once again the question looms, is he making his latest team any better?
Portland: The Blazers had scored at least 100 points in 17 straight games before missing the mark against Boston and Detroit to close out the trip. CJ McCollum, who scored 50 points on 18-of-25 shooting in the last home game on Jan. 31, slumped to 14 points on 6-of-15 in Monday's setback while All-Star point guard Damian Lillard went 6-of-21 from three-point range on the trip. Portland can't afford its guard duo to play like that, as Lillard (25.1-4.7-6.6) and McCollum (21.8-3.9-3.2) are the 'heart' of this team. Only center Nurkic (14.2 & 8.2) can be counted on besides that duo to contribute on a regular basis.
The pick: The Blazers have been in trade talks over the past couple of weeks but as of Wednesday hadn't pulled the trigger on any deals. The team's two stars, Lillard and McCollum, have said they hope general manager Neil Olshey will stand pat. We'll see. The good news is that Portland takes the court tonight on an eight-game home winning streak (7-1 ATS) and while the Blazers are only 12-20 against teams that are .500 or better, they are 17-5 against teams without a winning record. The Hornets are a sub-.500 team (23-30), including an 8-16 road record. Lay the points and make Portland a 10* play.
|02-08-18||Celtics +2 v. Wizards||Top||110-104||Win||100||12 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics finish off a quick two-game road trip at the Washington Wizards on Thursday. The first stop on the trip didn't go well, as the Celtics lost 111-91 at Toronto on Tuesday and saw their lead in the Eastern Conference shrink to one game over the Raptors. Kyrie Irving returned from a quad injury to score 17 points in 22 minutes for Boston but the Celtics' 37-point first half did them in. As for the Wizards, they surprisingly won five straight after losing All-Star PG John Wall () to a knee injury, before falling flat in Philadelphia on Tuesday in a 115-102 loss. Bradley Beal scored 30 points in the loss but is averaging 23.4 points (on 50 percent shooting) and 6.2 assists over his last five games.
Boston: The 39-16 Celtics saw Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown combine to shoot 10-of-17 from the floor at Toronto but the team's three other starters , Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and Aron Baynes, scored only a combined 12 points, while connecting on just 6-of-22 shots (27.3%). "We looked slow, we looked like we weren't ready to react to their speed or their physicality," head coach Brad Stevens told reporters. "I think that was probably the case the whole night." Terry Rozier scored 18 points off the bench and is averaging 19.3 over a four-game span.
Washington: The 31-23 Wizards (31-23) have moved into the No. 4 seed position in the East (just a half-game back of the Cavs), due to their recent surge. After the Wizards had 30 assists and eight players scored in double figures against the Raptors, Beal explained the contagious ball movement as "everybody eats." Center Marcin Gortat later tweeted out "Unbelievable win tonight! Great team victory!" Many interpreted those statements as a shot against Wall, charges Beal and Gortat denied. Thursday afternoon's NBA trade deadline is looming with the primary buzz involving Washington centers plus the lingering narrative about the team's improved play without Wall. He is averaging 19.3 points and 9.3 assists and expects to be out six to eight weeks following left knee surgery on Jan. 31.
The pick: These teams had a pretty tough East semifinal last spring that Boston won in seven. Washington is 10-7 without Wall this season but his play helped lead the Wizards to a 111-103 at Boston on Christmas Day, getting a small piece of revenge. Beal scored 25 points, Wall had 21 and 14 assists plus Otto Porter finished with 20 points. However, Boston is an Eastern Conference best 18-8 SU on the road and this time around, they are the ones seeking revenge (from that Christmas Day loss), not to mention looking to "make up" from the team's poor effort in Toronto on Tuesday. Make Boston an 8* play.
|02-07-18||Wolves v. Cavs +4||Top||138-140||Win||100||12 h 21 m||Show|
|02-06-18||Grizzlies +2.5 v. Hawks||Top||82-108||Loss||-115||12 h 11 m||Show|
The set-up: The Memphis decided to sideline PG Mike Conley (17.1 & 4.1 APG) after a game on Jan 13, so he could rest his Achilles. More recently, the team announced Conley would not return this season. Memphis was 7-6 when Conley was sidelined but has gone 11-28 since, leaving them 9 1/2 games out of the West's final playoff spot at 18-34, overall. The Grizzlies will visit Philips Arena Tuesday night to take on the 16-37 Hawks, whose 10-year playoff run will come to an end this season. The Hawks are just trying to stay clear of the East 'basement,' edging the New York Knicks 99-96 on Sunday to earn their second win in four games (the Hawks are a half-game worse than the Magic, leaving them 15th of 15 teams in the East).
Memphis: The Grizzlies are trying to find their way while surrounding center Marc Gasol (18.0 & 18.6) with a plethora of young players. Swingman Tyreke Evans (19.5-5.0-5.0) was picked up for 'a song' and has been Memphis' best player but he's on the trading block and has been absent from the first three games in Memphis' four-game trip pending a potential deal prior to the Thursday deadline.The 6-8 JaMychal Green (10.1 & 7.4) is the only other Memphis player in double digits.
Atlanta: The Hawks surrendered an average of 121 points in losses to Charlotte and Boston before turning things around on the defensive end and limiting the Knicks to 5-of-23 from three-point rang in Sunday's three-point win. That victory was just the Hawks' third road win against the East, snapping an eight-game conference losing streak. PG Dennis Schroder (19.3 & 6.4 APG) is the team's lone "go-to" scorer, although six others are averaging between 10.0 and 13.2 PPG. That group includes 6-10 rookie John Collins (Wake Forest), who is averaging 10.4 & 6.9 in about 22 minutes.
The pick: The Grizzlies are just 5-29 on the road and 3-15 outside of the Western Conference but playing at Philips Arena hasn't been a home court advantage for the Atlanta, as the Hawks are just 11-16 SU. I'll take depth-shy Grizzlies, making Memphis an 8* play.
|02-05-18||Blazers v. Pistons -2||Top||91-111||Win||100||12 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: The Pistons opened the new year 2-11 and had lost eight games in a row before trading for the Clippers' Blake Griffin. This just in, the "Blake Griffin era" is off to a rousing start. The Pistons ended their eight-game slide by taking down the Cavs 125-114 the game before Griffin joined the team and then added two more wins with Griffin averaging 20.0-9.5-6.0. "Just a little more tired today - the adrenaline wore off a little bit, just the toll of the week," Griffin told reporters on Saturday. "It's amazing to see all these guys step up and play so well." Detroit gets set to host the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday. The Trail Blazers arrive in Detroit looking to recover from blowing a 16-point halftime lead at Boston on Sunday, losing 97-96 when Al Horford beat the buzzer with a 15-footer!
Portland: CJ McCollum led the way with 21 points for Portland, but after scoring at least 100 points in 17 straight games, Portland's streak came to an end in Boston. Portland,, which shoots 45.4% from the floor on the season, shot just 39.6 percent with Damian Lillard being one of the main culprits with a 6-for-19 effort (his worst single-game shooting percentage since Nov. 13. Maurice Harkless (5.4) helped to pick up some of the slack by making a career-high five three-pointers in as many attempts and scoring 19 points, eclipsing his total from the previous eight games combined. Lillard (25.2-4.7-6.7) and McCollum (21.9-4.0-3.2) are an excellent guard tandem but only center Nurkic (14.3 & 8.2) joins them in double digits.
Detroit: All-Star center Andre Drummond (15.0 & 15.3) has welcomed Griffin with open arms, and the tandem has shown flashes of dominance underneath, outrebounding Miami on their own by a 29-26 margin. Drummond grabbed 20 of those boards to go along with 23 points, four blocks and four steals, and the big man has registered six straight double-doubles. " Ish Smith scored a season-high 25 points against the Heat and is shooting 60.7 percent over his last five games. He's taken over for the injured Jackson at PG and is up to 10.6 PPG and 4.4 APG on the season.
The pick: Griffin has re-energized the Detroit franchise. The Pistons have won the first three games of a six-game homestand since acquiring Griffin from the Los Angeles Clippers and at 25-26, can get back to the .500 mark if they continue their streak against Portland on Monday night (note: the Pistons are now a half-game behind Philadelphia for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference). The early returns on the power pairing of Griffin and All-Star center Andre Drummond have been promising and note that D rummond averaged 23.5 points and 14.5 rebounds as Detroit went 2-0 against Portland last season. One wonders just how Portland recovers thsi quickly after Sunday's brutal loss in Boston? Make Detroit a 10* play.
|02-04-18||Hornets v. Suns +6||Top||115-110||Win||100||8 h 32 m||Show|
The set-up: The Suns began a three-game homestand with a 102-88 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday but that defense did not carry over to Friday, as Phoenix was trounced 129-97 by the Utah Jazz and the Suns have now lost six of their last seven to fall to 18-35 (1 1/2 games out of the Western Conference 'basement'). Phoenix completes its three-game homestand by hosting the 22-29 Charlotte Honets on Super Bowl Sunday. The Hornets have lit up the scoreboard in back-to-back wins over in Atlanta on Wednesday (123-110), followed by a 133-126 home win over Indiana on Friday.
Charlotte: PG Kemba Walker (22.9 & 5.9 APG) scored 41 points in the win over the Pacers, after getting 38 at Atlanta. "Offensively, we are playing great," Walker told reporters. "We were moving the basketball and making the extra pass and knocking it down when we needed to. Defensively, I think we can be a lot better, but I think we have been doing a great job, especially when we really need it. We are getting some big-time stops." SG Nicolas Batum is finally rounding into form as well, and followed up a triple-double at Atlanta with 31 points and nine rebounds against Indiana. Batum is now averaging 11.9-4.5-4.7, not quite at the level of production he had last season but he's heading in the right direct. Center Dwight Howard averages a double-double (15.9 & 12.7) but once again the question arises, is he really making his team better?
Phoenix: About the only positive coming out of Friday's ugly 32-point loss was the continued strong play of rookie small forward Josh Jackson. He scored 20 points to reach that mark for the third straight game, the best stretch of his young career. Jackson is averaging10.5 & 3.8 on the season but another young Phoenix player is not having such a strong run. 20-year-old power forward Marquese Chriss (7.0 & 5.0) is expected to serve a team-imposed one-game suspension on Sunday for reportedly getting into a verbal confrontation with an assistant coach. Devin Booker broke the franchise record for consecutive made free throws in a season when he reached 60 on Friday, surpassing the previous mark of 57 shared by Kevin Johnson and Mike Bratz. Booker (24.3) is the team's lone "All Star caliber" player, although one can't discount T.J. Warren's (19.5 & 5.2) consistent production. However, when a team ranks dead-last in points allowed at 112.1 PPG, most games are an up hill battle.
The pick: This Super Bowl Sunday matchup sets up as a showdown between a pair of two perceived all-star snubs, Kemba Walker and Devin Booker. The Hornets begin a four-game road trip with this one and with trips to Denver, Portland and Utah on the schedule, this is easily the team's best chance to pick up a win on this Western swing. However, it's difficult for me to view Charlotte, a team with a 7-15 SU record on the road, being a road favorite. Let me note that the home team has taken each of the last four in this series, with the Suns earning a 120-103 triumph back on March 2 in the Hornets' most recent visit to Phoenix. Make the Suns a 10* play.
|02-02-18||Jazz v. Suns +5.5||Top||129-97||Loss||-105||14 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The 22-28 Utah Jazz head to Phoenix on Friday night to open a four-game road trip, having won three in a row and four of five. The 18-34 Suns welcome the Jazz to Phoenix having snapped a five-game losing streak with a 102-88 home victory over Dallas on Wednesday. Utah's recent uptick has them within 'shouting distance' of a playoff berth (Jazz sit 10th in the West, four games back of the final playoff spot), while the Suns are already nine games out of a playoff berth, just two games better than the West's worst team (Mavs).
Utah: The NBA season is a grind but the Jazz can't help but be feeling somewhat giddy after they shot a season-high 58.7 percent against Golden State in Tuesday's 129-99 home win. "Shooting is an equalizer," Jazz head coach Quin Snyder told reporters afterward. Small forward Joe Ingles (10.0 & 4.2) had 20 points and a career-high six three-pointers, while Ricky Rubio (11.4 & 5.0 APG) had a double-double with 23 points and a season-high-tying 11 assists. Rookie Donovan Mitchell, the team's leading scorer at 19.2 PPG, had 20 points against the Warriors. Mitchell is making a strong case for NBA Rookie of the Year consideration, after averaging 22.2 points in 11 January games, with season highs of 34 and 35 points. He was named the Western Conference rookie of the month for January.
Phoenix: Devin Booker had 15 points and Marquese Chriss had his second double-double of the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds when both returned to the lineup against Dallas after missing a game. NBA folowers know all about Booker (24.4 PPG) but with a third-quarter steal Wednesday, third-year forward Chriss became the fourth player in league history to record 100 steals, 100 blocks and 100 3-pointers before his 21st birthday. LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant are the others. "I think it is pretty dope," said Chriss, averaging 7.1 points and 5.1 rebounds a game. "I like to block shots. I like to shoot. So I think that's me."
The pick: The Jazz know they need to avoid a letdown off that Golden State win, as they prepare for a trip that will take them through San Antonio, New Orleans and Memphis after leaving Phoenix. "You want to move on from it in the sense that there's some sense of accomplishment: It's over," Quin Snyder told reporters. "But how you got the win, and how you played and what you're doing -- we need to understand the things that we did that we want to do again. It becomes a question of repeating it. The more you do it, the more it becomes who you are. Games like that can give you some confidence." There is no doubt that the return of center Rudy Gobert has made a difference for Utah (14.5 PPG, 10.0 RPG and 2.7 BPG in his six games back) but the Jazz are just 7-19 SU on the road and a let down off that Golden State win seems almost inevitable. Make Phoenix an 8* play.
|02-02-18||Knicks v. Bucks -2.5||Top||90-92||Loss||-110||10 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: Jabari Parker takes the court for the first time in nearly 12 months when the 27-23 Milwaukee Bucks host the New York Knicks on Friday. Parker has been recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee. It was supposed to mark the first time Milwaukee put its core of Parker, Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Bledsoe on the floor in the same game. However, Antetokounmpo, who has been battling a knee issue this season, suffered an ankle injury late in a 108-89 loss at Minnesota on Thursday night. Making matters worse for Milwaukee, point guard Malcom Brogdon was also injured Thursday night. The team tentatively announced that Brogdon suffered a strained left calf but will undergo further testing Friday night and isn't expected to play tonight when the 23-29 NY Knicks visit . the Bradley Center.
NY Knicks: Facing a short-handed Bucks squad would be good news for the Knicks, after the team saw its a two-game winning streak snapped with a horrific 103-73 loss to Boston on Wednesday, the team's largest margin of defeat this season. The Knicks may come into the game six games under .500 and 10th in the Eastern Conference but they are still within striking distance of the playoffs, trailing No. 8 Philadelphia by three games and No. 7 Milwaukee by five. Porzingis (23.1 & 6.6) remains the "go-to" guy on offense but although the Knicks shoot well as team (46.8% ranks 7th), they average a modest 104.5 PPG (20th). Defensively, they are middle-of-the-pack a in allowing 105.9 PPG (16th).
Milwaukee: Parker had posted career-best averages of 20.1 points and 6.2 rebounds in 51 games last season prior to his latest ACL tear. Parker was informed that he will play about 15 minutes in his return and the club will certainly monitor him closely due to the fact that he's had two ACL tears in the same knee in a 26-month span). Brodgon's (13.3) injury came in the second quarter but Antetokounmpo's (28.2-10.4-4.8) came in the fourth with the Bucks trailing by as many as 17. Interim head coach Joe Prunty defended his decision to keep his star player on the floor late in a blowout loss on the first night of a back-to-back. "That's the whole thing, (the deficit) was right around 15 and that's what we were talking about, was, 'Can we make a push here'?" Prunty said. Milwaukee shoots well like the Knicks (47.9% ranks 4th) but similarly, does not score well enough (104.8 PPG ranks 19th).
The pick: The Bucks are 6-3 when unrested this year (played last night) but the injuries to Antetokounmpo and Brogdon could cause concern. Then again, the Knicks are just 7-20 SU and 11-16 ATS on the road. I'll make Milwaukee a 10* play.
|01-31-18||Heat v. Cavs -1.5||Top||89-91||Win||100||10 h 42 m||Show|
The set-up: Cleveland's 99-92 loss at Golden State on Christmas Day sent the team into a 4-10 tailspin, before back-to-back home wins over the Pacers (Fri) and Pistons (Sun) gave a glimpse of a 'light at the end of the tunnel.' However, in last night's quick turnaround matchup with the Pistons (this time in Detroit), the Cavs not only lost 125-114 to the depth-shy Pistons (due to the team's trade with the Clippers), but All-Star power forward Kevin Love (17.9 & 9.4) was removed from the game with 7:19 left in the first quarter and did not return. An X-ray showed a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal on his left hand, according to the team, and his status would be updated Wednesday. Reports have already surfaced saying that Love will likely miss six-to-eight weeks. Cleveland welcomes the Miami Heat to Quicken Loans Arena tonight, a team which has won 11 of its last 15 contests to reach 29-21, leaving them just one-half game behind the third-place 29-20 Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Miami: The Heat posted a 95-88 win at Dallas on Monday, when they limited the Mavericks to 38.4 percent shooting while holding a fourth straight opponent below 100 points. Center Hassan Whiteside had 25 points (on 10-of-15 shooting) and 14 rebounds against the Mavericks, a performance that occurred one day after an hour-long conversation with coach Erik Spoelstra. Whiteside had averaged just seven points on 6-of-17 shooting over the previous two games but whatever Spoelstra said it worked, as Whiteside (14.6 & 11.9) posted his 18th double-double of the campaign. Dragic (17.0-4.1-4.8) leads the team in scoring but with SG Waiters (14.3) out for the season, Miami is sure glad to get
Cleveland: "When it rains, it pours," downcast Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue told reporters after the setback. "Kevin has been great for us all year. To lose an All-Star in the midst of what we are going through is tough. But next man up, we've got to be ready to play. But I feel sorry for Kevin." Cleveland has dropped 11 of its last 16 contests and now will be adjusting to not having Love, although he has been involved in team friction lately, most notably with guard Isaiah Thomas. Veteran forward Channing Frye picked up some of the scoring slack last night with season bests of 20 points and four three-pointers, and figures to be one of the players asked to step up his production.
The pick: The Cavs' ATS record has been dreadful (especially at home where it's 5-18-1) but getting right back on the court after the loss to the Pistons (and the loss of Love), may just be a rallying point for this team. The pointspread has been adjusted down and I'm not convinced that Love's absence is all that big of a deal. Make the Cavs a 10* play.
|01-30-18||Thunder v. Wizards +3.5||Top||96-102||Win||100||11 h 28 m||Show|
The set-up: Russell Westbrook has elevated his game to MVP-levels once again during Oklahoma City's eight-game winning streak (longest active in the NBA) and the 27-22 Washington Wizards will now take on Westbrook and the 30-20 Thunder for the second time in less than a week. Westbrook scored a season-high 46 points in a 121-112 win over Washington at home on Thursday and the Wizards, who lave lost four of their last six, could be without All-Star point PG John Wall (knee) for a second straight game.
Oklahoma City: The Thunder are averaging 122.5 points over its last six games and with Westbrook (25.7-9.5-10.1) coming off a 37-point, 14-assist effort in Sunday's intense victory over Philadelphia, he's averaging 33.8 points and 11.8 assists over his last five games. "I play the same way," Westbrook told reporters following the 122-112 triumph. "I can't really give you another answer because I do the same thing every night, regardless of what's going on." Sunday's game was the first since the team lost defensive stalwart Andre Roberson for the season due to a ruptured patella tendon and there may have been some greater incentive to keep the streak alive while figuring out new rotations. Paul George scored 31 points and is averaging 27.8 over a five-game span. George is up to on21.2 & 5.4 the season and 'Melo is at 17.6 & 5.9.
Washington: Wall's absence didn't matter much in Saturday's 129-104 win at Atlanta, as Washington shot 57.6 percent from the from and 56.3 percent from 3-point range, as six players scored in double digits. Head coach Scott Brooks said that Wall (19.4 & 9.3 APG), who missed eight games earlier this season with a sore knee, wanted to play against Atlanta but the team exercised caution ahead of a challenging stretch of five games in eight days, the last three on the road. Markieff Morris (13.6 & 6.9) tied his season high with 23 points and Tim Frazier fell one assist shy of matching his career high when he handed out 14 in the win. Beal (23.9-4.4-3.8) joins Wall in an All-Star backcourt plus six others contribute between 6.2 and 13.6 PPG.
The pick: Wizards could not slow down Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road last week but even if Wall sits, I see this game turning out much differently. Bradley Beal scored 41 points in the earlier loss to the Thunder and note that the Wizards won 120-98 in the last meeting between these two in Washington back on Feb. 13, 2017. Yes, OKC has won eight straight (6-2 ATS) but right before the team's winning streak began, the Thunder had been on a 2-5 SU & ATS run. Westbrook "stared down" Embiid on Sunday and is a "world class" talent but has anyone reminded him he wasn't "won anything" in his career? Or for that matter, neither has George nor 'Melo. Make Washington a 10* play.
|01-29-18||Celtics +1.5 v. Nuggets||Top||111-110||Win||100||13 h 12 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics lost 109-105 in Oakland to Golden State this past Saturday but the 35-15 Celtics still own the East's best record. However, the Raptors have closed within one game of Boston after it has lost five of its last six games. The Celtics will be looking to go 2-2 on their four-game road trip with a win tonight in Denver against the 26-23 Nuggets. However, the Nuggets are looking to wrap of their five-game homestand with a fourth win and Denver is an impressive 19-6 at the Pepsi Center on the season.
Boston: The Celtics led most of the game at the defending champion Warriors on Saturday, before falling just short in a 109-105 loss. Irving was brilliant in Saturday's setback, scoring 37 points on 13-of-18 shooting while going 5-of-6 from three-point range. However, Stephen Curry "one-upped" him with 49 points! Boston's recent slump is just the latest indicator that Brad Stevens needs a tune-up for the Boston engine, as Celtics rank last in NBA offensive efficiency since mid-December. With Hayward out, Boston has falled to 23rd in scoring (102.9 PPG) and ranks 24th by making 44.7% of its shots. However, great defense has kept Boston atop the East, as the Celtics rank first in FG percentage (43.3) and second in points allowed (98.5 per).
Denver: The Nuggets followed up a 130-118 Thursday win over the Knicks by edging the Mavs 91-89 on Saturday. Being able to win a high-scoring game and a grind-it-out game is a good sign for the team. "To be a good team in the NBA, you have to be able to win (playing) different styles," head coach Michael Malone told reporters. "... It shows that late in the game, you have to be able execute on offense. And at the end of the game, you gotta be able to get timely stops." The Nuggets aren't worrying about the finals but they are focused on making the playoffs for the first time in five seasons. They occupy the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference after winning three in a row and are just 1 1/2 games behind the New Orleans Pelicans for the sixth seed (note: New Orleans just lost DeMarcus Cousins for teh season).
The pick: I realize Denver owns an impressive home record (see above) but the Nuggets have lost two home games in January to the sad-sack Atlanta Hawks and equally inept Phoenix Suns, plus nearly let one slip away against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night. Boston has an excellent 16-7 SU record on the road and is a remarkable 9-1 ATS as a dog, Make Boston a 10* play.
|01-28-18||Bucks -2 v. Bulls||Top||110-96||Win||100||8 h 3 m||Show|
The set-up: The Milwaukee Bucks are 2-0 since dismissing head coach Jason Kidd but both games were played at home against lower-rung teams like Phoenix (17-32) and Brooklyn (18-32). The 25-22 Bucks will be on the road on Sunday against the Bulls but while Chicago is just 18-31 overall, one has to note that after a 3-20 start, the Bulls have gone a playoff-worthy 15-11 in their last 26 games. That's despite coming into this contest on a three-game slide.
Milwaukee: All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (28.5-10.2-4.6) returned from a two-game absence on Friday and looked refreshed while collecting 41 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in 33 minutes. Shooting guard Khris Middleton, one of teh NBA's more underrated players who is averaging 20.4-5.2-4.2, pointed to joy as one of the reasons for the easy win. "That's what we're getting back to, just having fun," Middleton told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "We're playing for one another. When we're having fun and relaxed, but we play hard we're one of the best teams, I feel like. The last two nights we showed it. Granted, it wasn't against some of the best teams, but we feel like we can do that every night." The Bucks remain inside the Eastern Conference's playoff picture after winning back-to-back games under interim coach Joe Prunty, as they visit the United Center as the No. 8 seed but with a 3 1/2-game gap between them and the 9th-seeded Pistons.
Chicago: The Bulls are having some trouble finding a rhythm with starting PG Kris Dunn (13.7-4.6-6.4) out with a concussion and Zach LaVine working his way into the rotation off a severe knee injury. "Kris (is) obviously our best push guard and getting the ball down in a hurry and is our best player in our flow offense," Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters. "We're still adjusting without Kris, who obviously has been a big part of what we are doing here. We are trying to get Zach reintegrated into what we are doing as well. Some if it is moving parts, understanding where guys are on the floor." LaVine went 3-of-17 from the floor in Friday's loss and is shooting 38.2 percent through seven games, averaging 13.6 & 4.6. Big man Lauri Markkanen (1715.3 & 7.7) has been one of the league's best rookies and the return of Nikola Mirotic (17.1 & 6.4 in 24 games), has made the Bulls a competitive team.
The pick: Chicago has won the two previous games this season (both at Milwaukee in Dec.) by similar scores, 115-109 and 115-106. However, Chicago has struggled mightily without guard Kris Dunn, who remains out with concussion symptoms. The Bulls have lost three of four without Dunn and Milwaukee's Antetokounmpo, after missing the previous two games with right knee soreness, finished Friday's victory with 41 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks. He got an extended eight-game break by missing those two game and it seemingly provided him with the rest he needed, if results mean anything! Make Milwaukee an 8* play.
|01-26-18||Pacers v. Cavs -5||Top||108-115||Win||100||12 h 8 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers have never recovered from their 99-92 loss at Golden State on Christmas Day, entering tonight's game just 3-10 to fall to 27-19. The Cavs are now 6 1/2 games back of the top-seeded Celtics, five game back of the second-seeded Raptors and incredibly, only 3 1/2 games up on the eighth-seed 76ers (chew on that for awhile!). A team meeting and an airing of grievances hardly seems to have helped and the Cavs will welcome the 26-22 Indiana Pacers to Quicken Loans Arena looking to avenge three previous losses this season to the Pacers. Indiana has won seven of its last 10 after building a 38-point lead in the third quarter and cruising past the Phoenix Suns 116-101 on Wednesday.
Indiana: The Pacers added to Cleveland's misery by overcoming a 22-point deficit to down the Cavaliers 97-95 on Jan. 12, after winning the first two meetings, 124-107 at Cleveland and 106-102 at Indiana. Victor Oladipo was named to his first All-Star Game on Tuesday and celebrated with 21 points and nine assists in 33 minutes against the Suns. Oladipo is averaging 24.1-5.2-4.0 and scored 19 points in the Jan. 12 win while Lance Stephenson (8.6-5.6-3.0) collected 16 points and 11 rebounds in that one plus also played strong defense against Cleveland superstar LeBron James. The Pacers shoot very well (47.9% as team ranks 4th) but would surely like to get a little better point production, as they average 106.4 PPG (12th).
Cleveland: The Cavs held a team meeting on Monday that included coach Tyronn Lue and general manager Koby Altman and reportedly it got quite heated. However, nothing changed on the court as the team dropped a 114-102 decision at San Antonio on Tuesday. "When it gets tough, we've just got to stay together," Lue told reporters. "Some guys are frustrated because they missed shots. Some guys are frustrated because they can't get their rhythm. Some guys are frustrated when they get scored on. So, I think it's a combination of a lot of things. But for the most part, (we've) just got to stay together and continue to play the game." Lue signaled after Tuesday's loss that there would be changes coming to the lineup but LBJ (26.8-7.9-8.6) will naturally be expected to carry the load. The Cavs have struggled tremendously to make virtually anything work with Isaiah Thomas on the court, as in his eight games, he may be averaging 15.9 PPG but he's shooting just 39.1%, including 28.0% on threes. Lue plans to start Tristan Thompson (5.3 & 5.7) at center and slide Kevin Love (18.4 & 9.4) back to power forward, which means Jae Crowder (8.7 & 3.3) goes to the bench. Either way, the Cavs HAVE to find a way to improve a defense that is the league's second-worst, including THE worst over the team's last 15 past games.
The pick: The Cavs are a mind-numbing 12-33-1 ATS, which includes an unfathomable 3-18-1 at home.That said, in a 'TRIPLE-REVENGE" situation, I have to be on the Cavs. Make Cleveland a 10* play.
|01-25-18||Kings +10.5 v. Heat||Top||89-88||Win||100||12 h 7 m||Show|
|01-24-18||Raptors -6 v. Hawks||Top||108-93||Win||100||13 h 60 m||Show|
The set-up: The Toronto Raptors begin a stretch in which they will play 10 of 13 in Air Canada Centre on Friday against Utah. The Raptors are 17-3 at home and 31-14 overall, just 1 1/2 games back of the Celtics for the East's best record. They hope to head back to Toronto on a winning note, as they visit Philips Arena to take on the 14-32 Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. However, the Raptors are off a 115-109 loss at Minnesota on Saturday, the team's fourth loss in seven games following having won 17 of 20. The Hawks' 14 wins are tied with the Magic and Kings for the fewest in the NBA but Atlanta is on its best run of the season with four victories in its last six games.
Toronto: Saturday's loss at Minnesota wasted a phenomenal effort fby Kyle Lowry, who posted a season-high 40 points in 34 turnover-free minutes, as the team as a whole faded in the second night of a back-to-back. "We've got to come out with a little bit more energy on the back-to-back, but it's no excuse," Lowry told reporters. However, Lowry's effort was great news for Toronto, in his fourth game back after sitting out three games with a back injury. The backcourt duo of Lowry (17.0-6.0-6.7) and DeRozan (25.0-4.2-5.0) 'drive the show' for Toronto, complemented by the frontcourt duo of PF Ibaka (13.6 & 6.0) and center Valanciunas (11.1 & 8.1).
Atlanta: Taurean Prince (12.4 & 5.2) had 17 points, as 12 different Atlanta players got into the scoring column in the win over the Jazz. The victory gives the Hawks a 7-7 mark after a 7-25 start. "We've got to keep it going," Prince told reporters after matching his scoring total from the previous four games combined. PG Schroder is averaging 22.2 points and seven assists through the first five games of the homestand (Atlanta is 3-2) and 20.0 PPG on teh season, along with a team-leading 6.6 APG. 6-10 Wake Forest rookie John Collins looks to be "a keeper," averaging 10.6 & 6.9 in about 22 minutes per game.
The pick: Toronto has won its first two games against Atlanta this season by an average of 23.5 points and has had three days off since losing at Minnesota (Sat.) in a back-to-back situation. Atlanta is just 4-10 at home against Eastern Conference opponents and I don't see them having much luck staying with the Raptors, who rank third in the NBA in averaging 111.3 PPG, trailing only the Warriors and Rockets. Make Toronto a 10* play!
|01-23-18||Cavs +1.5 v. Spurs||Top||102-114||Loss||-110||12 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers season has been spiraling in the wrong direction ever since the team's 99-92 Christmas Day loss in Oakland to the Warriors. That defeat was the beginning of a 3-9 run in which the latest loss came this past Saturday in a 148-124 home loss to OKC. Cleveland has lost by margins of 34, 28 and 24 over the past six games and the defensive effort against Oklahoma City was just atrocious, as the Thunder scored at least 33 points in every quarter. The 27-18 Cavs (now six games back of the Celtics and only four games ahead of the No. 8-seeded 76ers) will travel to San Antonio in an attempt to "right the ship" but the problem is that the 30-18 Spurs own the best home record in the NBA at 19-3, despite dropping a 94-86 decision to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday;
Cleveland "It's embarrassing. It's not acceptable," PG Isaiah Thomas told reporters after the loss to OKC. "We can only go up from here, that's the only positive about that. We've got to really look in the mirror, look at ourselves and get some pride."LBJ (26.8-7.8-8.7) continues to post superlative numbers but he is more interested in figuring out his team's porous play. Speculation regarding the status of coach Tyronn Lue has arisen and that deeply concerns James, who doesn't see Lue as the problem but stopped short of giving his coach an endorsement. "I don't know what's going to happen with our team," James told reporters. "I have no idea what conversations have been going on." Kevin Love (18.6 & 9.4) played just three minutes due to an undisclosed illness in the OKC and while he's is expected to play here, he's also been the center of some recent controversy.
San Antonio: Sunday's loss to the Pacers snapped a 14-game home winning streak for the Spurs, as they committed 20 turnovers. "It happens a little too much with our team," center Pau Gasol told reporters afterward. "We get a little bit out of whack. We don't execute, we're a little sloppy at times and we pay the price." The Spurs have not played up to their reputation this season, as Kawhi Leonard has played in just nine games due to a quadriceps injury that is reportedly causing issues between Leonard and the organization. Coach Gregg Popovich decided to shake things up on Sunday by moving veteran point guard Tony Parker (12 points and five assists in 20 minutes on Sunday) to the bench and starting Dejounte Murray, who had eight points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes.
The pick: In recent seasons, a game between the Cavs and Spurs would have been one of the marquee contests of the NBA calendar but the 2017-18 season is different. Both teams are in third place in their respective conferences and because of injuries for San Antonio and a dead-legged and greying roster for Cleveland, the Cavs and Spurs are not currently in the discussion as teams that can win the league championship. The Cavs are a mess and while the Spurs won both of last season's meetings, including a 103-74 home romp, the team's Sunday home loss to the Pacers shows that these are not your father's Spurs. How low can the Cavs go? I say they snap out of it right here against a team also struggling with distractions. Make Cleveland a 10* play.
|01-22-18||Wizards -1.5 v. Mavs||Top||75-98||Loss||-110||13 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: The 26-20 Washington Wizards will visit Dallas and it's the midpoint of a five-game road trip for the Wizards. Washington dropped a 133-109 decision at Charlotte to begin the trip and was similarly terrible on defense while falling behind 29-19 after the first quarter in Detroit on Friday, before earning a 122-112 win that snapped a two-game skid The Wizards currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference. The Mavericks endured a slow start in their last game as well but didn't have enough to overcome the deficit after falling behind 33-20 in the first quarter at Portland. Dallas was down by as many of 18 points in the first half at Portland, before getting within five in the second of a 117-108 loss. The Mavericks just didn't have enough down the stretch. "The first half, I thought it was bad," head coach Rick Carlisle said. "I thought the second half was very good. But you've got to play both halves, so we've got to get a better start."
Washington: The Wizards' turnaround was sparked by reserve forward Kelly Oubre Jr. who not only played his customary strong defense in the win but continued a recent scoring binge by pouring in 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting in 31 minutes. Oubre is averaging 19.5 points over the last four games and is 14-of-23 from three-point range in that span. He's now averaging 12.2 PPG, third-highest on the team. Washington scored 45 in the third period at Detroit, with 26 points coming from Bradley Beal and John Wall, to take a 17-point lead into the fourth quarter. SG Beal (23.8-4.3-3.7) leads Washington in scoring and PG Wall (19.5-3.6-9.3) is second.
Dallas: In losses to the LA Lakers, Denver and, most recently, at Portland on Saturday, the Mavs have found themselves down big early, only to fight back in the second half. The final scores have been relatively close, which only leads to extra frustration. "We're coming out too sluggish, too lackadaisical and too nonchalant," point guard Dennis Smith Jr. told reporters after the 117-108 setback. "Whatever word you want to use, we don't have the right disposition to start games out." Smith (14.7-3.9-4.5) is one of the NBA's top rookies this season, while Harrison Barnes (18.5 PPG) is again leading the Mavs in scoring and this season, he's also the team's top rebounder at 6.7 per game. However, Dallas does not score on a consistent basis (102.2 PPG ranks 23rd) and that's reflected in the team's 15-31 record (only the 13-32 Kings are worse in the West).
The pick: Oddly enough, Dallas has pretty much owned Washington as of late. The Mavericks swept the season series in 2016-17, the sixth sweep in seven years. The Mavs will go for another season sweep here, as Dallas earned a 113-99 win at Washington back on Nov. 7, behind 31 points from Harrison Barnes. That said, the Wizards are the significantly better team in this game and with this pointspread, a win almost guarantees a cover. Mavs are just 9-15 SU at home and I'll make Washington a 10* play.
|01-21-18||Pacers v. Spurs -6||Top||94-86||Loss||-110||21 h 33 m||Show|
The 30-17 San Antonio Spurs will welcome the road-weary Indiana Pacers (24-22) to the AT&T Center on Sunday night. The Spurs come into the game on the heels of an 86-83 loss at Toronto on Friday that gave them a 5-6 record in their past 11 games. Nine of those games came on the road and the Spurs went 3-6 away from home during that stretch.
Indiana: Indiana was just brutal in going 2-of-25 from beyond the arc in Friday's loss at LA, after going 7-of-26 from three-point range at Portland on Thursday. Leading scorer Victor Oladipo was a combined 2-of-14 in the last two losses, after connecting on 7-of-12 from beyond the arc in the first two stops (both wins) on the trip. The Pacers are shooting percent from the floor on the season (47.8% which ranks 4th) and have shot less than 40 percent from the floor only four times this season, but that includes the last two games. Oladipo led the Pacers with 25 points against the Lakers and Domantas Sabonis finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Oladipo (24.3-5.3-4.0) and Sabonis (12.4 & 8.5) were the two players acquired from OKC in the Paul George trade and they've been terrific. Forward Myles Turner (13.9 & 6.5) missed his sixth straight game with a shoulder injury and forward Lance Stephenson didn't suit up against the Lakers because he was sick. It remains to be seen whether either will play Sunday. Sephenson (8.6 & 5.5) isn't having much luck on the road trip and is averaging four points so far, after going 1-of-18 from the floor over the last two contests, so maybe it's better if he doesn't play.
San Antonio: The Spurs know all about players sitting out due to injury. The team announced Saturday evening that forwards Rudy Gay (right heel bursitis) and Kawhi Leonard (return from injury management) are out for the game against Indiana and that reserve guard Manu Ginobili (right thigh contusion) is questionable. San Antonio has been asking power forward LaMarcus Aldridge to carry the load but he struggled to 6-of-25 from the floor in Friday's 86-83 loss to the Raptors. Aldridge is averaging 22.6 points on 48.9 percent shooting for the season and still led the Spurs in scoring with 17 points at Toronto. Aldridge notched his 19th double-double of the season with his 17 points and 14 rebounds (8.6 RPG on the season), as the game marked the 36th time Aldridge has led the team in points, the most games a player has led his squad in points in the league.
The pick: San Antonio is 19-2 at home (15-5-1 ATS), the best record in the NBA. The Spurs have won 14 straight home games, also a league-leading mark this season. The Spurs are averaging 107 points on 48.2 percent shooting in 21 home games but watch those numbers drop to 96 points and 43.3 percent shooting on the road. So, the fact that the Spurs will now play seven of their next eight games at home, has to be good news. As for the Pacers, the news is "not so good!" Make the Spurs a 10* play..
|01-20-18||Mavs v. Blazers -5||Top||108-117||Win||100||15 h 6 m||Show|
The set-up: The Portland Trail Blazers are looking to make it a clean sweep of a three-game homestand when they host Dallas Mavericks on Saturday. In fact, 24-21 Portland will be going for its sixth straight home victory against the 15-30 Mavs, who are battling to stay out of the Western Conference 'basement,' currently occupied by the 13-32 Sacramento Kings.
Dallas: The Mavs enter having lost five of seven but are still getting big performances from rookie PG Dennis Smith Jr., who led the way with 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting and five assists on Tuesday in the team's 105-102 loss at Denver. It marked the third time in the last four games that the NC State product scored 20 or more points, raising his season scoring average to 14.5 (3.1 RPG and 3.9 APG). Fellow young PG Yogi Ferrell (10.2-3.5-2.4) is enjoying a hot stretch as well, averaging 15.3 points on 53.5 percent shooting over the last four contests. SF Harrison Barnes leads the team in scoring (18.7) and rebounding (6.7) and while Nowitzki (12.2 & 5.5) is no longer an All Star, he's a dependable player.
Portland: The Blazers watched a 20-point lead evaporate, before holding on for a 118-111 triumph over Phoenix on Tuesday. They then had a much better showing late on Thursday, holding the Indiana Pacers to 12 points in the fourth quarter to earn a 100-86 victory. "We just made plays when we needed to in the fourth quarter," Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts told reporters. "In the fourth quarter, it was good to see just the lead kind of expand without having very many mistakes." Portland will challenge Smith and Ferrell with its star guard tandem of Damian Lillard (25.0-4.8-6.5) and CJ McCollum (21.5-4.0-3.3). However, Portland is at its best when center Jusuf Nurkic (14.5 & 8.0) is producing. Nurkic delivered 19 points and 17 rebounds in Thursday's win and averages 15.2 points and 8.7 boards in wins while posting 13.7 and 7.3 in losses.
The pick: The road team won each of the four meetings last season, with Dallas winning the two in Portland by a total of five points. However, Dallas is just 6-15 SU on the road this season while Portland's current five-game home winning streak is its longest of the season. This "more than reasonable" pointspread makes the Blazers a 10* play.
|01-19-18||Knicks v. Jazz -4||Top||117-115||Loss||-115||26 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: The Utah Jazz put together a six-game winning streak to reach 13-11 at the end of play on Dec. 4 but have since won just five of 20 games to fall to 18-26. However, after Wednesday's 120-105 win at Sacramento, the Jazz have a chance for consecutive wins for the first time in over a month when they host the New York Knicks on Friday. The Kicks are coming off a 105-99 loss at Memphis on Wednesday that dropped them to 5-16 on the road for the season and to 20-25 overall, after losing 11 of their last 14 games.
NY Knicks: New York rallied from an 18-point deficit in the third quarter at Memphis to make it interesting but the Grizzlies held on, despite playing without three starters. New York head coach Jeff Hornacek indicated he wants more from his first five. "We're all frustrated," Porzingis told reporters. "We all want to win. We just need to understand in our minds what are the things we need to do throughout the game to be able to be in position to win late in the game. Not have all that pressure late in the game, and that's when we start playing and we turn it up. We need to have that early on and then we'll be fine." Porzingis (23.6 & 6.9) has at least 21 points in five of his last six games and is averaging 3.3 blocks and 2.5 steals over the last four outings. PG Frank Ntilikina, the Knicks' top choice in last year's draft, has gone scoreless in three of his last five games, shooting a combined 0-for-11 in those three contests (he's averaging just P5.4 PG and 3.6 APG). Porous defense has been a major obstacle for New York in turning things around. The Knicks have held just two opponents under 100 points over their last 14 games (winning just three) and they rank 20th among NBA teams with a 108.2 defensive rating in January.
Utah: Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell was 14-for-19 in a 34-point performance in teh win over teh Kings and is averaging over 25 points over an eight-game stretch (19.7 PPG on the season). Mitchell has shot 50 percent or better in each of the last three contests and is adding a highlight-reel play or two seemingly every night. Mitchell is an electrifying talent but has some work to do on the defensive end before he can be included with the league's elite players. "He played very well tonight," coach Quin Snyder told the media Wednesday. "There were a number of things on the defensive end that he's going to hear about. He's gotta keep getting better in every aspect of the game. That's what he wants to do." Rodney Hood (2nd-leading scorer at 16.7 PPG), who had 30 points in a loss at New York earlier this season, added 25 points while shooting 9-for-16 in the win over the Kings.
The pick: The Knicks were talking playoff at 17-14 but they are just 3-11 since. Their road woes are well-documented (see above) and while te heazz are also just 5-15 their last 20, they are getting some good news. Center Rudy Gobert (11.6 & 9.6), who sustained a sprained PCL in his left knee and bone bruise in his tibia while missing 15 games (Jazz are 4-11), is expected to return to action against the Knicks on Friday! Make Utah a 10* play.
|01-18-18||Magic +11 v. Cavs||Top||103-104||Win||100||12 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers lost 99-92 on Christmas Day in Oakland to the Warriors and it sparked a downward spiral. The Cavs lost again to the Warriors this past Monday (MLK Day) 118-108 and are now losers of four straight and eight of their last 10 games to fall seven games behind the East's No. 1 seed (Boston) and even four games back of Toronto for the No. 2 seed. Trade rumors are already beginning, as the Cavaliers try to put their internal squabbles behind and snap their slide when they host the Orlando Magic on Thursday. Cleveland's last win came at Orlando came back on Jan. 6, 131-127 and was part of a seven-game slide for the Magic that ended with a 108-102 win over Minnesota just this past Tuesday. The 13-31 Magic are tied with the Sacramento Kings for the NBA's worst record.
Orlando: The Magic were able to snap their losing streak on Tuesday thanks to a career-high 32 points from Evan Fournier (18.0) and a strong effort in the middle from Bismack Biyombo (5.5 & 5.9) and Khem Birch (2.5 & 1.9), who combined for 22 points and 26 rebounds. Birch was playing in just his eighth career NBA game, "We have good players and when you look at the roster, you don't (think), 'Oh, they should only have 13 wins," Fournier told reporters. "The reality (of the record) is different, but when we play like this -- we play hard, with enthusiasm and with a purpose, it makes a huge difference. We have to keep playing like this. We have about 40 games left, and we have to try and fight. Just try and compete." That sounds good but the Magic have lost 27 of their last 32 games and even in a rare moment of glory for the Magic, reserve guard Arron Afflalo threw a punch at Minnesota's Nemanja Bjelica and is facing likely discipline from the NBA.
Cleveland: That said, the Cavs are a mess, considering their DNA and string of three consecutive Finals trips. Anonymous leaks to the media have several players on the team doubting that the roster as currently constructed can solve some of the issues that plague Cleveland, especially on the defensive end. The Cavaliers are 28th in the NBA in defensive rating entering play on Wednesday and allowed at least 118 points in four of their last five games while trying to work 5-9 point guard Isaiah Thomas into the scheme. Thomas is struggling at both ends of the floor through his first five games with his new team and is shooting 36.1 percent from the floor, including 23.3 percent from three-point range. Thomas played a season-high 32 minutes in Monday's 118-108 loss to the Golden State Warriors but needed 21 shots to reach 19 points. Cleveland ranks 25th in both points allowed (108.7 per) and shooting percentage (47.2%). "This is a difficult year for our team," said LeBron James, who scored 33 points with 10 rebounds and nine assists in the last game against the Magic. "Seems like I say that every year, but this one has been even more challenging. But with everybody who has been out and coming back in and the rotations and things of that nature, it's been very challenging on our team. But we have to figure it out."
The pick: Sure, the Magic own the worst record in the NBA and have lost 18 of their last 19 to the Cavs. However, the one win was this season, when Orlando came to Cleveland and rolled to a 114-93 triumph on Oct. 21. When the Cavs came to Amway Center in Orlando on Jan. 6, the Magic pushed the Cavs all the way, scoring 40 points in fourth quarter, almost erasing an 18-point deficit before Cleveland held on to win by just four. The Cavs' 3-16-1 ATS home record speaks for itself. Make Orlando a 10* play.
|01-17-18||Knicks v. Grizzlies -1.5||Top||99-105||Win||100||12 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: Either the NY Knicks or the Memphis Grizzlies will walk away from tonight's game off back-to-back wins. That's a bigger deal than it sounds, as both teams have endured lengthy stretches this season without consecutive wins. The Knicks haven't had a winning streak since a four-gamer from Dec. 10-16, while the Grizzlies are without a winning streak since October. The Knicks have been awful on the road this season at 5-15, although they are 3-3 in its last six road games after a 2-13 start away from home. For Memphis, the loss of PG Conley has been a huge blow but they have been more competitive lately, recovering from a 2-19 stretch (from Nov. 11-Dec. 21) to win five of their last nine games.
NY Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis (23.7 & 6.9) had 26 points and nine rebounds, while Michael Beasley (12.5 & 5.1) finished with 23 and 10, as the Knicks won 119-104 Monday in Brooklyn against the Nets. Beasley paced a group of reserves that combined for 70 points while shooting 54.5 percent in the win. Running the show for that group was rookie guard Frank Ntilikina, who recorded his first career double-double with 10 points and 10 assists while chipping in seven rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal. "Frank's an amazing player," Beasley told reporters. "He has to learn what pace he wants to go. But as soon as he figures it out, Frank will be an easy triple-double guy. Easy triple-double." Maybe Beasley knows what he's talking about but a check of the stat sheet reveals that Ntilikina is averaging 5.6-2.4-3.5, which is not quite Russell Westbrook-like!
Memphis: The Grizzlies recorded 24 assists and had their second-best scoring total in Monday's 123-114 win over the Lakers, as they eight different players scoring in double figures. "We shared the ball. We moved it," center Marc Gasol told reporters. "We were moving our bodies. The ball was moving faster. We have been working on that in practice. Obviously, in the fourth quarter, we got a little more static. We had a lead and our defense was pretty good throughout three quarters so we were able to mess up a little bit in the fourth." However, on a regular basis (since the loss of Conley), only Gasol (18.4-8.6-4.0) and swingman Evans (19.6-5.1-4.8) have produced regularly for Memphis, which is averaging just 99.1 PPG (29th of 30 teams). JaMychal Green (10.0 & 6.8) is the only other Memphis player in double figures (just barely) and he's been limited to 27 games due to injuries.
The pick: The Grizzlies have rebounded from one of the worst stretches in franchise history (losing 19 of 21) with five wins in their last 10 games. However, they have followed their last nine wins with losses. Can (will?) that change here? I see the Knicks playing the perfect foil.They are 5-15 on the road and since winning at Cleveland in October, their only road success has come at Brooklyn twice, and at New Orleans and Dallas. Memphis should be confident, as the Knicks haven't won at Memphis since March of 2011, with the Grizzlies six straight home wins over the Knicks in that span coming by an average of 11.5 PPG. Make Memphis an 8* play.
|01-17-18||Heat v. Bucks -4.5||Top||106-101||Loss||-108||12 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: The Miami Heat had their seven-game winning streak snapped with a 119-111 loss Monday at Chicago. Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra was peeved with his team's perimeter defense. "They lit us up," Spoelstra said after the Bulls hit 16 three-pointers, the second-highest total for a Heat opponent this season. The 25-18 Heat will look to start another winning streak when they visit Milwaukee's Bradley Center to take on the 23-20 Bucks. Milwaukee shot a season-low 31.6 percent at Miami on Sunday in a 97-79 loss but bounced back Monday with a 104-9 win on Monday at Washington.
Miami: Even with the loss at Chicago, Miami's current 14-5 run has been impressive. A big part of its current surge has been the play of Tyler Johnson, who averaged 15.9 points in December. However, he left Monday's loss with an ankle injury and is doubtful for this one. Fellow guard Goran Dragic (Miami's leading scorer at 17.3 PPG) is on a season-high run of four straight games with at least 20 points and backup Wayne Ellington (10.8) hit that mark while making five three-pointers in the loss to Chicago. Center Whiteside (13.8 & 11.6) is back healthy (knee), having played in the last 10 games (Miami is 8-2).
Milwaukee: The Bucks' MVP candidate, Giannis Antetokounmpo, finished with 27 points and a career-high 20 rebounds in Monday's win at Washington and is now averaging on the season. Antetokounmpo ranks second in the NBA in scoring, ninth in rebounding and in the top-20 in both steals (1.54) and blocks (1.24). "He was all over the floor tonight," teammate Eric Bledsoe told reporters after the Washington win. "That's the things we need from him night in and night out." Bledsoe chipped in 23 points - his best output in seven games - and recorded four steals for the fourth time this month. Bledsoe is averaging 17.9-3.9-4.2 in his 33 games with Milwaukee, teaming in the backcourt with last year's ROY, Brogdon (13.4-3.3-3.4). SF Middleton (19.9-5.0-4.2) is the last part of Milwaukee's 'Core Four," and may be one of the NBA's least appreciated players.
The pick: Miami's problems at the SG position began earlier this season when Dion Waiters (14.3 PPG) suffered a sprained ankle that required season-ending surgery. Johnson has moved into the role and thrived before issues with his neck and shoulder popped up last week. Now, it's his ankle. Miami struggles offensively with "all hands on deck," averaging a modest 101.1 PPG (27th). I expect the Heat to have a big problem here vs. a highly-motivated Milwaukee team looking to avenge Sunday's 97-79 loss in Miami. Make Milwaukee an 8* play.
|01-16-18||Mavs v. Nuggets -5.5||Top||102-105||Loss||-108||21 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The Denver Nuggets have hit a rough patch, losing four of their last five to fall to 22-21. That leaves them tied with the LA Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, as those three teams battle for the final two Western Conference playoff spots. The good news is that the trio ifsfive games ahead of the closest challenger. Denver will welcome the Dallas Mavericks to Pepsi Center Tuesday night, a team which has spent most of the first half of the season as one of the worst teams in the NBA. The Mavericks suffered a 107-101 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, losing for the fourth time in their last six while falling to 15-29.
Dallas: The Mavericks are facing tough decisions as the trading deadline looms. They can stand pat or be sellers next month and look to the future, which will soon not include Dirk Nowitzki. He is in the twilight of his illustrious career. "Dirk's really one of the most amazing athletes I've ever seen or been around," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told reporters last week. "To perform like this at the advanced age of 39 in the NBA is just unbelievable." He is averaging 12.3 PPG and 5.5 RPG in his his 19th season but has become a complimentary player to younger players like rookie PG Dennis Smith Jr. and Harrison Barnes. Barnes again leads Dallas in scoring (18.7) and also leads in rebounding (6.7), while Smith is a legitimate ROY candidate, averaging 14.3-3.9-4.5. Dallas at 18.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. he scored 23 points in the loss to the Lakers and has eight straight double-digit outings, including three of at least 20 points. Smith, the ninth overall pick in the draft, frustrated No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball on Saturday by limiting him to nine points on 4-of-13 shooting.
Denver:The Nuggets' four losses during this latest five-game stretch have come by an average of 15.8 points and head coach Michael Malone is trying to keep the squad's spirits intact. "Every team experiences the ups and downs," Malone told reporters. "The most important thing for us is how do we handle it and how do we react? Don't become too emotional. Don't become over-reactive and (proclaim) 'the sky is falling' and panic." Denver's defense had no answers for slowing down San Antonio in Saturday's 112-80 setback, as the Spurs made 14-of-27 three-pointers and scored 30 or more points in two separate quarters. Center Nikola Jokic scored 23 points and nine rebounds in the loss, narrowly missing his 15th double-double of the campaign. He's been Denver's MVP (15.8 & 10.1) with PF Millsap (15.3 & 6.2) sidelined, although the Nuggets have sure liked the play of guards Harris (16.9), Murray (15.6) and Barton (14.4-4.8-4.0).
The pick: The Nuggets have won seven of their last nine home games against the Mavericks and will surely remember losing 122-105 at Dallas back on Dec. 4. Let me note that Dallas has allowed 100 points or more in each of its last six losses and that Denver is 15-5 SU at home where the Nuggets average 109.7 PPG. Make Denver a 10* play.
|01-14-18||Pacers v. Suns +4.5||Top||120-97||Loss||-110||22 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: The Indiana Pacers overcame a 22-point deficit to knock off the Cleveland Cavaliers 97-95 on Friday, handing the Cavs their third straight loss. As for the Pacers, they have now won three of four since Victor Oladipo returned to the lineup The 22-20 Pacers will venture to Phoenix Sunday night to open a five-game road trip against the 16-27 Suns. Phoenix has lost three of its last four, after falling 112-95 at home to Houston on Friday, despite holding the Rockets to just 41.5 percent shooting (note: Houston shoots 46.1% on the season).
Indiana: The Pacers have received strong contributions from Oladipo and Sabonis, the players it received from Oklahoma City for free-agent-to-be Paul George over the summer. Oladipo is averaging 24.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists, and second-year player Sabonis has broken out, averaging 12.5 points and 8.0 rebounds. Sabonis is one of seven players behind Oladipo to contribute between 7.7 and 13.9 PPG. Myles Turner (13.9 & 6.5) owns second-highest scoring average on the team but has missed the last two contests with an elbow issue and is day-to-day. Swingman Lance Stephenson collected 16 points and 11 rebounds on Friday, but it was his willingness to guard and irritate Cleveland star LeBron James that may have been the difference in the game.
Phoenix: The Pacers have Oladipo and the Suns have Devin Booker, who averages 24.9-4.4-4.4. However, the only other regular double digit scorer Phoenix has is small forward T.J.. Warren (19.7 & 5.5). Center Monroe averages 11.5 & 8.4 but has played in just two of the team's last 13 games and only 14 for the entire season. PG Canaan was picked up in mid-December and he's averaged 10.0 PPG and 4.9 APG but has played only 10 games, while missing the last three.
The pick: The Pacers had dropped seven of their previous nine games ATS prior to Friday's upset of the Cavs and they must now travel west to play in Phoenix tonight and Utah tomorrow. A let down seems likely off that Cleveland win and don't expect another 16 & 11 effort from Lance Stephenson, without LBJ as motivation. The Pacers have covered only two of their last 13 games against the Suns, so make Phoenix a 10* play.
|01-13-18||Pistons +1 v. Bulls||Top||105-107||Loss||-105||20 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: The 22-18 Detroit Pistons are currently the East's No. 6 seed but the team's playoff position can change quickly, as there are just 2 1/2 games separating the No. 4 seed and the No. 8 seed. Detroit ended its five-game road losing streak in emphatic fashion on Wednesday, routing the Nets 114-80 in Brooklyn and tonight will try to make it back-to-back road wins when the Pistons wrap up a three-game trip by visiting the Chicago Bulls on Saturday. The Bulls also claimed a win in New York on Wednesday, edging the Knicks 122-119 in double-OT at MSG. However, that victory was just the second in the last seven games for the 15-27 Bulls.
Detroit: The Pistons limited the Nets to 36.5 percent from the floor, forced 20 turnovers and allowed just 26 points in the paint on Wednesday. "I thought our defense was outstanding tonight and everybody was involved," Detroit head coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters. "We got everybody doing their job. I thought (centers) Andre (Drummond) and Eric (Moreland) on pick-and-roll defense put a lot of pressure on the guards and made it really tough. Our perimeters did a good job pulling in and taking the roll and for the most part getting back out to the shooters." Drummond (14.4 & 15.0) collected 22 points and 20 rebounds in Wednesday's win, but it was his defense that stood out the most. Small forward Tobias Harris is averaging 24.7 points over the last three games while going 8-of-15 from three-point range. He leads four Detroit players in double digits with 18.5 PPG and 5.2 RPG, joining Drummond plus guards Bradley (15.4) and Jackson (14.6 & 5.5 APG). However, the Pistons are playing without starting PG Reggie Jackson, who has been out since Dec. 26 with a severely sprained right ankle.
Chicago: Nikola Mirotic's (17.4 & 7.0) Dec. 8 return sparked the Bulls at first, as they ripped off seven consecutive wins (also 7-0 ATS). Chicago was 10-2 in his first 12 games back but the Bulls then lost four of their next five. Mirotic has missed the last two games with a stomach illness (1-1) but will play Saturday against Detroit. Chicago is also about to get another weapon back on the offensive end on Saturday, with Zach LaVine (acquired from Minnesota in the Butler trade) slated to make his team and season debut after recovering from ACL surgery. LaVine will be joining an offense thriving behind rookie forward Lauri Markkanen (15.4 & 7.6), who scored a season-high 33 points in the win at New York while knocking down eight 3-pointers and adding 10 rebounds.
The pick: However, the Bulls have really been struggling on the defensive end, allowing an average of 120.9 points over their last seven contests. It seems that Mirotic's 'magic' has somewhat 'cooled' and he's rumored to be on the trading block (Pistons are reportedly interested). Chicago's defensive woes could be "just what the doctor ordered" for a Detroit team coming off a 34-point win in Brooklyn. Make the Pistons a 10* play.
|01-12-18||Jazz v. Hornets -4||Top||88-99||Win||100||12 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up:The Utah Jazz put together a six-game winning streak to reach 13-11 at the end of play on Dec. 4 but have since won just four 17 games to fall to 17-24. However, the Jazz won their first road game in nearly a month at Washington this past Wednesday and tonight in Charlotte will try to make it back-to-back triumphs for the first time since bridging November and December with that six-game streak. The 15-24 Charlotte Hornets returned from a 3-1 trip on a west coast road trip, including a win at Golden State, but promptly lost their first game back home 1115-111 on Wednesday to the Dallas Mavericks (Mavs are just 15-28).
Charlotte: The Hornets lost on Wednesday despite Kemba Walker (21.8 & 5.8 APG) going off for 41 points. Charlotte is just 2-8 in its last 10 home games, to drop to 10-11 overall in its own building on the season. Walker's scoring is not translating into wins of late, with Charlotte dropping its last eight games in which Walker scored 20 or more points but winning four straight when he scored 19 or fewer. Walker could use some help from his starting backcourt partner Nicolas Batum, who is 4-of-18 from the floor in the last two games. Batum had an excellent season last year (15.1-6.2-5.9) but he's been limitred to 25 games this season due to injury and his numbers are down across the board (10.1-4.2-4.8).The Hornets' biggest problem against the Mavericks was Dwight Howard's free throw shooting. He missed 13 of 18, almost single-handedly sabotaging Kemba Walker's 41-point night. One could look at Howard's numbers (15.6 & 12.1) and say "good job" but when is the last time this big man has really improved the team he's played for?
The pick: The Hornets are, to say the least, a poor home team (2-8 SU & ATS run) but anyone think Utah's Edoh and O'Neale (6.5 PPG combined on the season) will combine for 26 points again, here? The Jazz are a woeful 4-17 SU on the road, allowing 107.1 PPG. The Jazz haven't won back-to-back games since that six-game winning streak and have not won back-to-back road games all season. Charlotte can win (and over) in this one. Make the Hornets a 10* play.
|01-11-18||Celtics -1.5 v. 76ers||Top||114-103||Win||100||8 h 43 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics roared out to a 22-4 start but then had an 11-game stretch where the team was just 5-6. However, since its Christmas home loss to Washington, Boston has ripped off six straight wins (4-2 ATS) and continues to owns the East's best record at 33-10. That's three games better than the Raptors and 5 1/2 games clear of the Cavs. The Philadelphia 76ers are streaking in the right direction again and have won their last four games while averaging 114.0 PPG. Philly has also won five of six and sits at 19-19, which puts them on pace for a 41-win season, quite an improvement after consecutive seasons of 28, 10, 18 and 19 (that starts from last season and goes backwards). Boston and Philly will meet tonight in London's O2 Arena.Boston: The Celtics' sixth straight win came when they edged the Nets 87-85 last Saturday in Brooklyn. Boston stopped five shots in the final 7.5 seconds of that triumph and leads the NBA in scoring defense at an average of 97.6 PPG allowed, as well as in defensive field-goal percentage (42.9%). Rookie forward Jayson Tatum is going through a bit of a shooting slump at 16-of-43 from the floor over the last four games but he's had a strong 'freshman' season (13.9 & 5.5). 'Sophomore' Brown (14.1 & 5.7) ranks second in scoring to PG Kyrie Irving (24.1 & 5.0) while the unsung hero of the team remains veteran center/forward Al Horford (13.4-7.9-5.3). Guards Smart (9.9) and Rozier (9.3) have been key contributors throughout the season. Philadelphia: The 76ers are coming off their most impressive victory of the season with a 114-78 rout of the Detroit Pistons on Friday. "We're getting healthier, and we're starting to find ourselves again," 76ers center Joel Embiid told reporters. "It's good to see, but I think we still got a lot to work on defensively. I think we've been taking care of the ball better. We just got to keep playing together." Embiid (23.8 & 10.9) has played in 29 games this season (team is 17-12) and since Philly hasn't played since that Friday win, he'll be ready to go here. PG Ben Simmons never got on the court last season but the wait has been worth it, as he averages 16.9-8.4-7.5. The team's starting-five is quite good with Embiid and Simmons being joined by SG Redick (17.3), SF Covington (13.9 & 6.0) and PF Saric (13.6 & 6.9).
The pick: The Sixers have the league’s toughest January schedule (in regard to opponent strength) and traveling 'across the pond' to play the league's best defensive team, is among the team's "tough games." ,Boston's Horford (calf) sat out Saturday's win but is expected to play Thursday. The Celtics have beaten the Sixers twice this season, 102-92 on Oct. 20 in Philly and 108-97 on Nov. 30 in Boston. Why won't they complete the 'hat trick' by winning here in London? Make Boston an 8* play.
|01-10-18||Pelicans -1 v. Grizzlies||Top||102-105||Loss||-105||20 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies opened the 2017-18 season at FedExForum, with Mike Conley leading the Grizzlies to a 103-91 win with 27 points. The two teams reunite in the same venue Wednesday night but both teams look very different from when they last squared off back on Oct. 18. Memphis, which has made the playoffs each of the past seven years, opened the season 7-4, but the Grizzlies lost Conley (17.1 & 4.1 APG) to an Achilles injury two games later and have since plummeted to near the bottom of the Western Conference at 12-27. Meanwhile, the Pelicans, who have reached the postseason just once in the last six seasons, struggled offensively early on, scoring 100 or more points just four times in their first 10 games. However, they have the Cousins (25.8 & 12.5) and Davis (25.8 & 10.3) duo for an entire season this year and when veteran PG Rajon Rondo made his season debut on Nov. 13, New Orleans' offense has come together and the Pelicans currently sit at 20-19, which would give them the West's final playoff spot (No. 8 seed) if the playoffs would begin tomorrow.
New Orleans: The Pelicans are used to dealing with injury scares related to Anthony Davis and they are likely to be without him tonight. Davis left Monday's 112-109 win over the Detroit Pistons with an ankle injury and is considered doubtful. Davis missed five of the first 39 games with various injuries and watched his team go 3-2 without him. However, his latest injury doesn't appear to be something that will keep him out an extended period. "We've done it, and we've won games without him," New Orleans head coach Alvin Gentry told reporters of Davis, who had x-rays come back negative. "That gives the team confidence right there. Obviously, we would rather have him in the game, but if he goes out, I think it's great that our guys can maintain what we were trying to do, and even lose a lead, execute at the end of the game and be able to win a close game." New Orleans is confident it can win without Davis because it has another double-double machine on the inside in DeMarcus Cousins, who scored 16 of his 20 points after Davis' injury on Monday and added 10 rebounds for his sixth consecutive double-double. That improved offense I was talking about earlier is "for real." The Pelicans are averaging 110.8 PPG (4th) on 49.0% shooting (2nd).
Memphis: The Grizzlies sure aren't about to feel sorry for any team going through injury problems after their season went off the rails when Conley, went down nearly two months ago with an Achilles issue. Memphis is 5-22 without Conley in the lineup and has been off since Friday, after dropping the opener of the two-game homestand 102-100 to the Washington Wizards. Memphis has its own star big man in center Marc Gasol (18.3 & 8.5) but he is carrying a much heavier load with Conley out. He says he likes the challenge but the bottom line is, he just doesn't have much help. The exception is swingman Tyreke Evans, who is averaging 25.3 points over the last eight games. That surge has him taking over the team lead in scoring at 19.7 PPG, while adding 5.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists.That said, no other player scores in double digits and the team averages only 98.9 PPG (29th) on 44.5% shooting (26th).
The pick: Memphis has beaten New Orleans in eight of its last 10 meetings but this Memphis team now owns the West's worst record and only the 11-30 Hawks own a worse record in the entire NBA than the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies are long gone from the playoff discussion in the West, looking ahead instead to the draft lottery, as Conley has no timetable for a return. Meanwhile, when New Orleans PG Rajon Rondo is on the court, the Pelicans offense is 4.6 points per 100 possessions better. Make New Orleans a 10* play.
|01-09-18||Heat v. Raptors -5||Top||90-89||Loss||-108||9 h 24 m||Show|
|01-08-18||Rockets -5 v. Bulls||Top||116-107||Win||100||21 h 32 m||Show|
The set-up: The Chicago Bulls went a perfect 7-0 SU & ATS when Nikola Mirotic returned to the court and won 10 of the first 12 games in which he played. However, the Bulls have dropped four of their last five games, although only Saturday's 125-86 loss at Indiana was non-competitive. The Bulls will try to put that ugly loss behind them when they welcome the Houston Rockets to the United Center on Monday. Things have not gone well for the Rockets lately, as their Saturday 108-101 loss at Detroit in the opener of a two-game trip was the team's seventh time in its last nine games. Houston was once 25-4 but now checks in at 27-11. In contrast, after opening 3-20, the Bulls are now 14-26.
Houston: "I don't know if we're a tired team or what, but even starting the game our offense flowed," Houston head coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters. "But, you're only up six and I didn't think the intensity on defense was there and sometimes that caused some tired legs or whatever. So, we've got to regroup and get ready for the next game." The Rockets owned the NBA's best record before their recent slump and shot just 42.2 percent from the floor in Saturday's loss. "We just couldn't get in the flow of knocking down shots," shooting guard Eric Gordon told reporters. "I thought we battled pretty hard, but when you're not knocking down shots, it's kind of tough." Making it harder to knock down shots and loosen up opposing defenses is the absence of James Harden (32.3-5.0-9.1), who sat out the last two games and reportedly could miss up to six weeks due to a hamstring strain. Gordon (19.5), Chris Paul (17.2-5.4-9.3) and the recently signed Gerald Green (16.5 in six games) will need to make up the slack. Can they?
Chicago: With Mirotic back and leading the team in scoring at 17.4 PPG in his 17 games), Chicago averaged 111.3 points in 16 games prior to Saturday, when it shot 37.5 percent from the floor and was out of the game after totaling 37 points in the first half. Second-year point guard Kris Dunn is trying to become a consistent scoring threat but followed up a career-high 32-point outburst in Friday's win at Dallas with eight points on 4-of-10 shooting in 28 minutes against the Pacers. Still, Dunn (13.7-4.7-6.2) looks like he's going to be a good player and 7-0 rookie Laurie Markkanen (14.9 & 7.5) just may be the league's best 'freshman.'
The pick: Is Chicago falling back to earth after its recent surge? We also need to find out just how well the Rockets can function with Chris Paul running the offense. However, Houston's recent slide has more to do with its struggles, defensively. Houston was allowing 110.9 points per 100 possessions,(26th in the league) in the last 10 games thru Jan. 3). All the above noted, Houston is still a significantly better team than the Bulls and Green has done all (and more) than Houston good have expected, shooting 50.8% from the floor, including 51.0% from three-point range. Center Capela is a double-double man now (14.2 & 11.) and I'll lay the short price with Houston. Make the Rockets a 10* play.
|01-07-18||Jazz v. Heat -4.5||Top||102-103||Loss||-105||14 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: The Miami Heat opened 11-30 last season and despite a 30-11 mark the remainder of the way to finish 41-41, the Heat missed the postseason field by losing a tie-breaker to the 41-41 Bulls. Miami matched its longest winning streak of the season by beating the New York Knicks in overtime for a third consecutive triumph on Friday, giving Miami a 21-17 record which puts them in much better position as the current season nears its mid-point. The Heat will try to keep rolling on Sunday when they host the slumping Utah Jazz, who have lost 12 of their last 15 games to fall to 16-23, leaving them in 10th-place in the West, 3 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot.
Utah: The Jazz got off to a promising start but the team has unraveled, quickly. It hasn't helped that 7-foot center Rudy Gobert )11.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks) has been out with a left knee injury since Dec. 15. He should return later this month but without Gobert, 6-10, 265-pound power forward Derrick Favors has slid to the center spot and Utah is diminished on the boards and in terms of shot-blocking. Favors is averaging 12.6 & 6.8 but just 0.9 blocks. Backup center Ekpe Udoh doesn't get much playing time, averaging 2.8 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. The bright spot continues to be rookie guard Donovan Mitchell (18.2-3.3-3.4), who is averaging 22.6 points since the beginning of December.
Miami: The Heat have opened up their offense in the team's current winning streak, averaging 111.7 PPG (season average is 100.8 PPG, which ranks 28th). Shooting guard Wayne Ellington hoisted up a franchise-record 16 3-point attempts (made six) on Friday and finished with a team-high 24 points. Ellington averages 10.5 PPG and is shooting 41.5 percent from beyond the arc on the season. The Heat have finally settled into a groove and currently sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. "We're definitely heading in the right direction," Heat power forward Kelly Olynyk (10.5 & 6.0) said. "We're getting bodies back (from the injured list). We're playing together and playing hard. You can see the chemistry is starting to come together."
The pick: Olynyk's remark about injured players is true, as center Hassan Whiteside (14.0 & 11.6 in 20 games) recently returned to the lineup. Reserve forward James Johnson (10.7-5.0-4.0) is also back, and point guard Goran Dragic (16.7-4.1-4.8) is getting better from a nagging elbow injury. Utah opened is four-game road trip with a 99-91 loss at Denver on Friday, as the the defense fell apart during a third quarter in which it was outscored 38-16. The Jazz are now 3-16 SU (6-13 ATS) on the road and it doesn't figure to get any better, here. Make Miami a 10* play.
|01-06-18||Nuggets -4.5 v. Kings||Top||98-106||Loss||-108||13 h 10 m||Show|
The set-up: The 21-17 Denver Nuggets are gaining confidence by winning five of their last seven games. Sure it's too early to be looking at one's playoff positioning "too hard," but the Nuggets do currently own the West's No. 6 seed and find themselves 3 1/2 games clear of the West's playoff 'cut line.' Again, it may be too early to write any team off, but the Kings have dropped five of their last six games and allowed a season worst for points in Tuesday's 131-111 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. Sacramento enters this contest 12-25 and the team is already seven games out of the West's final playoff berth with four teams in between them and that final spot (that means five teams to climb over!).
Denver: The Nuggets have rarely been known for their defense but the team's current 5-2 run began with them allowing an average of 83 points during a three-game winning streak that included an epic effort while holding the potent Golden State Warriors to just 81. Denver's defense was also at its best in the third quarter of Friday's game when the club outscored the Jazz 38-16 to take a 19-point lead into the final quarter. Third-year forward Trey Lyles scored a career-best 26 points against his former teammates on Friday and has suddenly scored in double digits in 12 of the past 13 games. Lyles (10.2 & 4.8) was given a larger role after All-Star power forward Paul Millsap suffered a wrist injury and his latest performance included four 3-pointers as well as seven rebounds. Guards Harris (16.5) and Murray (16.0) are the team's top scorers but the team's most important player, especially with Millsap sidelined, is 6-10 center Jokic (15.9 & 10.2). Jokic had a rare off night Friday, scoring just eight points on 3-of-13 shooting, to end a string of nine straight double-digit efforts.
Sacramento: About the only good news in Friday's 20-point loss to the Hornets was that rookie PG De'Aaron Fox (quadriceps) returned from a six-game absence to score 17 points. PF Zach Randolph (15.4 & 6.9) has been the Kings' best player this season and he recorded 24 points and 10 rebounds versus Charlotte, but it was his first double-double since Dec. 10. Buddy Hield was the key piece in Sacramento's trade of Cousins to the Pelicans but while he's connecting on 45.5% from three-point range, the Kings must have been expecting him to score more than the 10.6 PPG he's averaged so far. Getting back to rookie PG Fox, he's averaging a modest 9.7 PPG (in about 25 minutes per) but more troubling is his 40.3 FG percentage, including 28.6 from three-point range (remind you of Lonzo Ball?).
The pick: The Nuggets have won this season's first two meetings by an average of 16.5 PPG, extendng their winning streak over the Kings to four in a row. Sacramento's defense was horrid in the loss to Charlotte as it allowed the Hornets to shoot 57.3 percent from the floor, including 15-of-32 from three-point range. "It has me speechless, there's nothing to say," guard Garrett Temple told reporters. "We have to guard. We have to man up and play defense, defend guys. ... I don't care how young we are, we have to defend." The Kings are allowing an average of 118.7 PPG over the past three games (all losses) and I see no reason for them to get things turned around here vs. a Denver team which seems to be jelling (10-2 ATS run!). Make Denver a 10* play.
|01-05-18||Raptors v. Bucks +1||Top||129-110||Loss||-108||12 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: The Bucks have won three of four and at 20-16, currently own the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. The team's lone loss in that aforementioned span came just this past Monday, when Milwaukee lost 131-127 in OT at Toronto. The Raptors visit the Bradley Center in Milwaukee tonight on a three-game winning streak which leaves them 26-10 on the season, good enough for the East's No. 2 seed (Toronto is 2 1/2 games back of the Celtics and two games up on the Cavs).
Toronto: The Bucks could not figure out how to contain Toronto star DeMar DeRozan in Monday's loss, as the shooting guard scored a Raptors franchise-record 52 points. The backcourt duo of DeRozan (25.2-4.3-5.0) and Lowry (16.2-5.1-6.9) is top-notch plus PF Ibaka (13.8 & 6.1) and center Valanciunas (10.6 & 7.60 are quality players. DeRozan has been especially hot since the calendar flipped to 2018, averaging 48.5 points in Toronto's last two contests. While DeRozan, Lowry, Ibaka and Valanciunas have been the driving force this season, Delon Wright (8.8) set a career high against Chicago in Toronto's most recent game with 25 points and 13 rebounds, plus Fred VanVleet (6.3) added 13 on 5-of-7 shooting, marking his ninth double-digit scoring game of the season. The Raptors are the NBA's third-highest scoring team at 111.6 PPG.
Milwaukee: The Bucks are creeping up the standings in the Eastern Conference and quickly bounced back from their Jan. 1 loss in Toronto by cruising past the Indiana Pacers 122-101 on Wednesday. The rout allowed Giannis Antetokounmpo to sit out the entire fourth quarter. "We would all like to have a game like this where you can keep them under 30 minutes, but unfortunately that hasn't happened a lot this year," Bucks head coach Jason Kidd told reporters. "So, this is a good win, especially having that game in Toronto (on Monday)." Milwaukee shot 58.7 percent from the floor and handed out 33 assists on Wednesday, with Matthew Dellavedova (nine), Malcolm Brogdon (five) and Eric Bledsoe (five) joining Antetokounmpo (five) in getting the whole team involved. Antetokounmpo (29.1-10.4-4.3) is a superstar but SF Middleton (20.6 & 5.7) and guard Bledsoe (18.2-4.1-4.5) are players any team would want.
The pick: I realize that Toronto has won 15 of 18 but this is a quick "re-hook" for these two teams from a New Year’s Day contest. I feel confident in saying that DeRozan won't get 52 points again and remember, even with his record output, the Raptors needed OT (at Home!) to edge the Bucks.by just four points. The Bradley Center setting gives Milwaukee the edge in this quick turnaround. Make the Bucks a 10* play
|01-04-18||Thunder -1 v. Clippers||Top||127-117||Win||100||15 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: The OKC Thunder will play a second consecutive game in Staples Center, having defeated the LA Lakers 133-96 on Wednesday. The Thunder righted themselves from a two-game skid that had followed a six-game winning streak. The Clippers have won four straight games and six of their last seven. Five of those six victories have come at Staples Center, as the Clippers are in the midst of one of their longest home stretches of the season. Tonight's game will be the Clippers' fifth consecutive at Staples Center (one game was as the visiting team against the Lakers) and they will run that streak to seven consecutive when they host the Warriors on Saturday and the Hawks on Monday.
Oklahoma City: The Thunder "took no prisoners" in last night's win over the Lakers, the team's seventh in its last nine games. OKC (20-17) shot a season-best 60.2 percent from the floor plus established a season best for points scored in Wednesday's 133-96 rout. Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook had 20 points and 12 assists to run his streak of consecutive 20-point outings to 11, while reaching double digits in assists for the sixth time in seven games. Westbrook's numbers are down from last year but the team seems to be finally finding "a balance" between its three superstars. OKC is 13-5 since Dec. 1 suggesting that head coach Billy Donovan has finally figured out how to fit Paul George (20.7 & 5.4) and Carmelo Anthony (17.6 & 6.0) around Russell Westbrook (24.7-9.5-10.1).
LA Clippers: Blake Griffin (23.5-7.7-5.3) has been back for the last three games (all wins), after missing 14 straight. However, the team's most explosive player over the last seven games has been veteran guard Lou Williams (13th year). Williams (21.7 PPG and 4.8 APG would both be career single-season bests) is on a scoring spree and it is equating to victories. He'll look to score 30-plus points for the fifth time in the past seven games tonight against OKC, as the Clippers go for their seventh win in the last eight contests. Los Angeles (17-19) has won six consecutive home games and nine of its last 13 overall contests as it closes in on the .500 mark after getting off to a poor start.
Thge pick: If a team has to play back-to-back games on the road, it can't ask for more than this situation, as OKC players didn't even have to check out of the hotel after beating the Lakers right here at Staples Center last night. Griffin may be back for LA and as noted, Williams has been great but Beverley (12.2) is out for the year, Gallinari (13.4 & 4.4) won't be back for awhile and Rivers (15.8) is listed as questionable after sitting out the past two games (Achilles). I've already noted that the offense is beginning to "find a groove" but OKC's defense is allowing just 100.4 PPG on the season, third-best in the NBA. Plus, how about this? George and Westbrook are first and second in the league in steals, collecting 2.45 and 2.00 respectively. Make OKC a 10* play.
|01-03-18||Raptors -5 v. Bulls||Top||124-115||Win||100||12 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: The 25-10 Toronto Raptors have quietly moved into second-place among all Eastern Conference teams, one game better than the Cleveland Cavaliers and 2 1/2 games behind the Boston Celtics, who hold down the East's top spot. Toronto (25-10) went 11-3 in December and will head to 13-24 Chicago Wednesday night having won eight of its last 10 games. Chicago won 10 of 12 games following Nikola Mirotic's return from facial fractures but has dropped the its last two games two at Washington and home against Portland. The two defeats have come by a total of just eight points and the Bulls have squandered leads late in each of the setbacks.
Toronto: DeMar DeRozan set a Toronto franchise record with 52 points in a 131-127 overtime victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday (the previous team record of 51 points shared by Vince Carter and Terrence Ross) . "He was playing with a lot of juice, oomph," Raptors head coach Dwane Casey told reporters of DeRozan. "You could see the bounce in his step in the first quarter, the force he was playing with coming off pick-and-rolls, bouncing up, and he maintained that throughout the whole game, which was huge for him." DeRozan (24.9-4.3-4.9) made17-of-29 from the floor and was 13-of-13 from the line (he also handed out a team-high eight assists). PG Lowry (16.2-6.1-7.0) joins DeRozan to give Toronto one of the NBA's best backcourt while PF Ibaka (13.7 & 6.1) and center Valanciunas (10.9 & 7.6) are the team's frontcourt stalwarts. Toronto is the NBA's third-highest scoring team at 111.2 PPG and do a decent job on the defensive end as well, allowing 103.5 PPG (10th).
Chicago: Mirotic is averaging a team-high 18.3 PPG in his 14 games, while adding 7.3 PPG. However, while his return has been the spark that led to Chicago's recent run of strong play, it wasn't the only factor. Second-year PGKris Dunn is averaging 15.8 points and 8.1 assists over his last 13 games and scored 22 points in Monday's 124-120 overtime loss to the Trail Blazers. "We're clicking right now," Dunn told reporters. "We're playing good basketball. These two losses, they definitely hurt. When they're down the stretch, and you feel like you can win the games, it's hard to swallow. But we're playing good basketball, and I like what we're doing so far." Let's not forget to mention rookie Markkanen, who is easily been one of the league's best 'freshman' so far, averaging 14.7 & 7.4.
The pick: The Raptors have taken each of the first two meetings this season with the Bulls, although both games were in Toronto. The Bulls are a money-making 13-2 ATS their last 15 but are entering a stretch in which most of their games will be against teams with winning records.Chicago has begun to have some trouble closing out tight games. The Bulls will enter Wednesday's game attempting to overcome a pair of losses in which they couldn't finish games when it mattered most. After a four-point loss Sunday against Washington when the Wizards scored the final seven points, Chicago again lost by four against Portland and again blew a lead in the final minute with the Trail Blazers playing without leading scorer Damian Lillard. I see that happening here. Make Toronto a 10* play.
|01-02-18||Grizzlies v. Clippers -5||Top||105-113||Win||100||15 h 28 m||Show|
The set-up: Blake Griffin has made a faster return than expected from a sprained knee and has averaged 24.5 PPG in his two games back on the court. The Clipps have won both of them but had begun a turnaround before he got back on the floor, as they'll go for a sixth victory in their last seven games. The now 16-19 Clippers will welcome the Memphis Grizzlies to Staples Center on Tuesday, a team which has also had a sudden surge, winning three of its last five.
Memphis: In fairness, the Grizzlies have (had) nowhere to go but up. PG Mike Conley (17.1 & 4.1 APG) has been shelved since last playing on Nov.13 to deal with his Achilles. Memphis would lose 17 of its next 19 before little 3-2 "mini-run." Swingman Tyreke Evans has been excellent (19.6-5.1-4.6) and center Marc Gasol (18.5 & 8.5) is an established All Star but no other player is averaging in double digits on the season. To put it mildly, the Grizzlies have struggled offensively for most of the season (98.7 PPG ranks 29th) but are suddenly averaging 112.6 points while winning three of their last five contests. "I think if you take a look at our past five games, our scoring is up, our shooting percentages are up, our assists are up and our turnovers are down," interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff told reporters. "So that's the growth that we've been looking for in our offense." Memphis is a stellar 29-of-51 from three-point range over the past two games, going a torrid 15-of-21 in a loss to the Golden State Warriors and following up with a 14-of-30 effort in Sunday's 114-96 road win against the Sacramento Kings Evans had 26 points versus the Kings for his eighth 20-point outing in the past nine contests. "He's had that edge all year," Memphis center Marc Gasol told reporters after Evans torched his former team. "He's had that same mentality, so don't take it like he came in here and did something he hasn't done every game. He's come with that aggressiveness."
LA Clippers: Griffin missed14 games due to his knee injury (Clippers were 6-8).but he contributed 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists as Los Angeles recorded a 106-98 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday (he had 24 points in his return in Friday's win over the Lakers). Guard Lou Williams (in his 13th season) has found teh 'fountain of youth,' pouring in 40 points and contributed eight assists in Sunday's 106-98 victory over the Charlotte Hornets. He made six 3-pointers in the contest and has made 24 threes over the past five games while averaging 30.4 points. "I always feel like I can get it going, but to see it early, it puts me in a different mindset, in an attack mode," Williams said afterward. "Once I get two or three early, that way I can just get everybody else involved." Williams checks in averaging a career-high 21.4 PPG (also 4.8 APG would be a career-high, as well).
The pick: Surprisingly, the Grizzlies are 2-0 against the Clippers this season, including a 115-112 victory on Dec. 23 despite a career-best 38 points from LA's Austin Rivers (15.8 PPG). However, .Rivers (Achilles) is questionable after sitting out Sunday. Still, the Clippers have centere Jordan (11.0 & 15.3) to match up with Gasol and I expect the Clippers to exact some revenge here. LA's lone loss in winning five of its last six is that Dec 23 loss in Memphis. Lay the points and make LA a 10* play.
|01-01-18||Magic +2 v. Nets||Top||95-98||Loss||-105||12 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: The Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets met twice during the first week of the season with the Nets claiming the first meeting on Oct. 20 in Brooklyn 126-121, while the Magic rebounded four days later for a 125-121 win in Orlando. The Magic opened the current season 8-4 but they've dropped 21 of 25 games since that hot start, including Saturday's 117-111 home loss to Miami in which they squandered an 18-point lead. As for the Nets, Brooklyn hasn't been above .500 since it was 3-2 after a upsetting the Cavs at home back on Oct. 25th, a victory that left them 3-2. The teams meet Monday night at Barclays Center for the third time this season and both are fighting to keep themselves out of the basement in the Eastern Conference. The Nets check in at 13-23 and the Magic at 12-25.
Orlando:The Magic still aren't winning but they may finally be getting Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier going at the same time after injuries hindered each player. Gordon scored 39 points on 14-of-22 shooting against the Heat while Fournier contributed 23 on 9-of-17, their best totals since coming back from calf and ankle injuries, respectively. PF Gordon leads the team in scoring at 18.9 PPG plus adds 7.9 RPG. Swingman Fournier is right behind him averaging 18.3 PPG. Orlando needs those two healthy with center Nikola Vucevic (17.4 & 9.3) lost to a broken hand. Bismack Biyombo has recorded two straight double-doubles and is averaging 11.7 rebounds over the course of three straight starts since Vucevic went down.
Brooklyn: The Nets know all about losing key players to injury, as Jeremy Lin was lost for the season in the team's season opener and DeAngelo Russell (20.9 & 5.7 APG) went down with a knee injury after just 12 games (he's expected back later this month). Currently, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (15.1 & 6.5) is carrying Brooklyn through its rocky stretch, scoring 22 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in Saturday's loss while helping make a tight game of what looked like a blowout early on. "We stayed poised to make a comeback," Hollis-Jefferson told reporters. "That's basketball. Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn't. But for us, now we're definitely competing. It starts with the starting unit, we've got to come out that way. And I feel like the effort's there." He is averaging 17.2 points and 8.2 rebounds over his last five games, leading six active Net players in double digits on teh season.
The pick: The last time the Brooklyn Nets played a home game, they produced their best showing of the season, delivering a resounding 119-84 win over the Washington Wizards on Dec. 22. The Nets will get several chances in the upcoming weeks to produce more home victories starting tonight, as they play eight of their next 10 games at home. Yes, Orlando has lost six straight on the road but the Magic have also won seven of the last nine meetings with the Nets. Make Orlando a 10* play.
|12-29-17||Mavs v. Pelicans -6.5||Top||128-120||Loss||-108||13 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: The New Orleans Pelicans traded for DeMarcus Cousins around last year's All Star break, banking that he and fellow former Kentucky Wildcat Anthony Davis would form a 'Twin Towers' duo that would make the Pelicans relevant in the Western Conference. It's likely true that the Pelicans will only go as far as Davis and Cousins can take them but the hope is also that PG Rajon Rondo is capable of pushing the two big men to even greater heights. Rondo became the seventh player in NBA history, the first since 1996 and the first in franchise history to hand out 25 assists in a game when he hit that mark in a 128-113 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday. "The number one thing is we got the win," Rondo told reporters. "And then me personally, I love passing the ball. When everyone touches the ball, it gives you energy and life on defense. That's what I'm a big believer in, giving everyone touches and energy on both ends of the floor." The 18-16 Pelicans will welcome the t11-25 Dallas Mavericks to teh Soothie King Center on Friday, looking for a fourth consecutive win. The Mavericks still own the worst record in the Western Conference but just finished holding a pair of high-powered offenses in check in wins over Toronto and Indiana. Wednesday's 98-94 triumph at the Pacers snapped an eight-game road losing streak for Dallas, which comes to New Olreans with a 3-14 SU road record on the season.
Dallas:Toronto averages 110.6 points but was held to 93 by Dallas on Tuesday before Indiana, which averages 107.5 points, was held under 95 on Wednesday. “We stuck with it,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told reporters after beating Indiana. Offensively, 39-year-old forward Dirk Nowitzki showed little wear on the back-to-back and scored a combined 33 points on 15-of-23 shooting in the two wins. However, getting back to reality, Nowitzki is averaging only 12.1 & 5.5 on the season and Dallas struggles on offense, averaging only 99.9 PPG, which ranks 27th of 30 teams.
New Orleans: Even 24 hours later, all anyone associated with the New Orleans Pelicans could talk about after practice on Wednesday was the dazzling passing display from point guard Rajon Rondo, who set career and franchise records with 25 assists in a 128-113 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night. "We call him 'Coach' Rondo," said Pelicans guard E'Twaun Moore, who benefited from Rondo's passing prowess by going 8 of 11 from the floor and scoring 20 points in the victory over Brooklyn. "He's always orchestrating and putting people in the right places." However, let me again offer a reality check. Injuries have limited Rondo to just 20 games this season and he averages 6.8-4.0-8.3, so he's not exactly Russell Westbrook. The Cousins (25.9 & 12.1) and Davis (25.6 & 10.4) duo is backed by guard Holiday (18.1-4.3-5.3), who is quite the complete player. New Orleans has no trouble scoring, averaging 111.1 PPG (3rd) on 49.1% shooting (2nd). However, the team's defense leaves a lot to be desired, allowing 110.9 PPG (29th).
The pick: It's difficult to ignore Dallas' 3-14 SU road record plus the Pelicans come in with a 6-2 ATS record their last eight. Three Pelicans are averaging 20-plus points this month, Cousins (27.3), Davis (25.1) and Holiday (22.2) plus Rondo's return has solidified the backcourt, as he's averaging 8.3-5.1-9.8 in December. Lay it with New Orleans, making the Pelicans a 10* play.
|12-28-17||Wolves v. Bucks -2.5||Top||96-102||Win||100||19 h 37 m||Show|
The set-up: The Minnesota Timberwolves are "making a move" with a five-game winning streak as they go for a sixth consecutive win Thursday night in Milwaukee.The Timberwolves are 22-13, which gives them the West's fourth-best record, a heady place for a franchise which last made the playoffs back in the 2003-04 season. The 17-15 Milwaukee Bucks will try to slow down the T-wolves, as well as halt a stretch during which they have lost five of their last seven games. Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) is expected to play, though the club is closely monitoring the injury that caused him to miss Saturday 's game.
Minnesota:The Timberwolves made more than a few moves in the off-season but none was bigger than the acquisition of three-time All-Star Jimmy Butler. He has helped spur the team's improvement, this season and he scored a season-high 39 points in Wednesday's 128-125 overtime win over Denver. Butler is a big reason why a club that hasn't made the playoffs since 2004 is nine games above .500 at the 35-game mark. "He's got an unbelievable will to win, and that's what makes him so special," Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters of Butler. "When his best is needed, he's always at his best. Always been that way, and that's not going to change." Butler (21.2-5.5-4.8) is now leading the team in scoring but he's hardly the only newcomer contributing. PG Jeff Teague (13.4 & 7.3 APG), PF Gibson (11.8 & 8.1) and reserve gauard Crawford (10.0) are all making solid contributions. Then there are the etam's two standout holdovers, Anthony -Towns (20.3. & 11.7) and Wiggins (17.6 & 4.0).
Milwaukee: Antetokounmpo (29.5-10.4-4.6) played through the pain on Tuesday and scored 28 points on 11-of-17 shooting to mark his 22nd consecutive 20-point effort. Coach Jason Kidd said the club will remain proactive in its observation of the 23-year-old star, who ranks second in the NBA with an average of 29.5 points. Kidd was less than thrilled with the club's rebounding in Tuesday's 115-106 loss to Chicago, saying, "That's just who we are, we can't rebound the ball. We just hope and pray that someone gets it. When that happens, we're going to get killed, and we got killed again." Milwaukee swingman Khris Middleton () was just 5-for-18 in the loss (16 points), after averaging 29.5 over the previous two contests.
The pick: Thee could be bad news for Minnesota, as PG Teague (left knee) departed Wednesday's game in the fourth quarter and will undergo an MRI exam on Thursday. I like Minnesota but have become leery (and weary) of trusting them. Many expected the Bucks to emerge as a rising power in the Eastern Conference but instead, they have been something of an enigma; capable of dominant performances against the league's better squads while looking flat-out overwhelmed against some of its' worst. The Bucks have won five of the last six meetings with the T-wolves and I'm expecting Milwaukee's "A-game" in this one. Make the Bucks a 10* play.
|12-27-17||Cavs -9.5 v. Kings||Top||95-109||Loss||-110||15 h 5 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cavs lost the opener of their three-game road swing on Christmas Day in Oakland 99-92 against the Curry-less Warriors. It was just the team's third loss in its last 22 games. It's not hard to believe that the Cavs would have loved to get the best of the Warriors in Monday's game, a rematch of teams that have met in each of the past three NBA Finals. However, Cleveland's 31.8 percent shooting percentage was the lowest of the season by a Warriors' opponent and star LBJ had a sub-par performance (7-of-18 shooting for 20 points). The Cavaliers hope to bounce back here against a Sacramento team that was awful in last night's 122-95 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. The 11-22 Kings are opening a six-game homestand but are only 5-8 at the Golden 1 Center.
Cleveland: LeBron has scored at least 20 points in 17 consecutive games but Monday's outing marked just the third time all season that he shot less than 40 percent from the floor. However, while LBJ (28.1-8.1-9.1) was off his game, Kevin Love (20.1 & 10.4) was outstanding with 31 points and a season-high 18 rebounds for his third 30-point performance of the season.The bigger problem vs. the Warriors was Cleveland's reserves. Normally, Cleveland's reserves average about 40 points per game on 45 percent shooting but against Golden State they struggled to contribute only 21 points on 6-of-26 shooting. As for Cleveland's defense, or lack of it, the Cavs will have to improve on it if the team hopes to challenge the Warriors. Cleveland is allowing 107.3 PPG (23rd) on 46.8% shooting (25th).
Sacramento: The Kings allowed 71 first-half points against the Clippers and coach Dave Joerger was disappointed in his young club's effort. "The level of focus, and being ready to go and being experienced in preparation and taking it out (onto the court), a lot of these guys are learning these things on the fly," Kings coach Dave Joerger told reporters. "We've been making a lot of strides but (we) took a step back." Sacramento misses rookie PG De'Aaron Fox (9.4-2.8-3.7) will miss approximately two more weeks with a quadriceps issue. FA, veteran PF Zach Randolph, leads the Kings in scoring (15.5) and rebounding (6.9). It's a good sign that center Willie-Cauley Stein is averaging 17.3 points (on 23-of-37 shooting) and nine rebounds over the past three games but on the season, those totals are a modest 11.0 PPG and 6.1 RPG. Buddy Hield, the key piece in the Cousins trade with the Pelicans, is connecting on 45.3 percent of his threes but the Kings expect more (and need more) out of him than is average of 12.6 PPG.
The pick: Coming off the loss at Golden State, one would think that Cleveland would be focused, even against the Kings. It likely helps that on Dec. 6, Cleveland almost got caught napping, edging the Kings 101-95 as a 12 1/2-point favorite at home. The Cavs haven't lost back-to-back games since that four-game slide during the season's first month, so the Kings are likely in the wrong place at the wrong time. Make Cleveland a 10* play.
|12-26-17||Jazz v. Nuggets -6||Top||83-107||Win||100||14 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: The Denver Nuggets have had excellent success at the Pepsi Center this season (11-3) but are a modest 7-12 on the road. However, one could not tell that by the team's shocking 96-81 win Saturday night in Oakland, over the Warriors. Sure, Golden State is less than 100 percent but the Nuggets were 8 1/2-point road dogs and the victory ended the Warriors' 11-game winning streak. After a brief (but successful) 2-0 road trip, 18-15 Denver will host the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, beginning s a stretch of four home games in a five-game stretch. Utah has won the first two meetings this season with Denver but the struggling Jazz come into this contest at 15-19, having followed up a six-game winning streak (Nov.22 thru Dec. 4) by losing eight of their last 10. Not coincidently, some of those losses have come since center Rudy Gobert (11.6 & 9.5) went down with a left knee injury that is expected to sideline him for two to three more weeks.
Utah: Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell returned from a toe sprain that robbed him of two games to score 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting in the team's most recent loss, 103-89 to Oklahoma City. Mitchell leads the team in scoring at 18.0 (also 3.1 RPG & 3.3 APG) and fellow guard Hood (17.7) is right behind him. The duo is among seven players averaging in double digits (including the currently sidelined Gobert) but the Jazz are averaging a modest 101.7 PPG (23rd). While the Jazz rank 7th in three-point percentage (38.1), the etam's triples have been hard to come by of late. Utah made just 6-of-26 long-range attempts in Saturday's loss to Oklahoma City. The defense remains good, allowing 100.7.5 PPG (5th).
Denver: The Nuggets' perimeter defense held the Warriors to a 3-for-27 shooting from beyond the arc. "I can't remember seeing many teams hold that team to 3-of-27 from the three-point line," Denver coach Michael Malone told reporters. "So it's a hell of a win for us and it's going to make Christmas obviously that much merrier." Center Nikola Jokic averaged 22.5 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the two wins and he has shot 50 percent or better in four straight games. Jokic has sure found a home in Denver, averaging 16.1 & 10.3. His inside presence is desperately needed with PF Millsap (15.3 & 6.2) sidelined for most if not all of the season. Guards Harris (16.2), Murray (15.0) and Barton (14.8) are consitsent contributors and another guard, Mudiay (9.6), is expected to return Tuesday from an ankle injury of his own after missing the previous four games.
The pick: The Jazz own a pair of wins (and double-digit covers) in the first two meetings this season but when one looks at Denver's 11-3 home nmark and Utah's 3-13 road record, it's tough to make a case for the Jazz. That's especially true with Gobert still sidelined. Make Denver a 10* play.
|12-25-17||Rockets v. Thunder +4||Top||107-112||Win||100||34 h 44 m||Show|
The set-up: James Harden became the first player since Kobe Bryant in 2007 to reach 50 points in back-to-back games when he went for 51 against the Lakers on Wednesday and then hit that exact number again against the Clippers on Friday. However, the Rockets' loss to the Lakers ended the team's 14-game winning streak and when they lost again to the Clippers (despite Harden's 51 points), Harden joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to reach 50 points in consecutive losses! The 25-6 Rockets will visit OKC on Christmas evening to face the 18-15 Thunder, who are finally beginning to get their act together. OKC has won four straight games, as the roles of their three star player are becoming more clearly defined.
Houston: ""We lost," Harden (32.5-5.1-9.0) told reporters when asked about his historic scoring binge. "It doesn't matter." Maybe more notably, the last two Houston games were finished without PG Chris Paul (17.1-5.4-9.0), who left in the fourth quarter on Wednesday with a left adductor strain and sat out Friday. The All-Star is day-to-day and remains questionable for Monday's marquee matchup. "Our aura is not right," Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters after Friday's setback. "These guys are a little tired. We've got to get guys back. This is an episode, a couple of episodes. The last two games, we just didn't play well enough and without the spirit and all that. Guys are kind of a little dead. Whether it's tiredness or whether they're into themselves a little too much, I don't know. We'll work on it, but obviously it's not good enough." As well as Paul's injury woes, it also can't be dismissed that cebnter Clint Capela (14.0 & 11.3), who leads the NBA with a field-goal percentage of .69.4%, sat out the last two games with a heel issue and remains day-to-day.
Oklahoma City: "We're playing well," forward Paul George (19.9 & 5.6) told reporters after a 103-89 win at the Utah Jazz on Saturday. "We're playing for one another. Our defense is holding up and offensively we're starting to get a little flow." Carmelo Anthony (17.5 & 6.2) is adjusting to his role playing off the ball and Paul George is turning into a defensive stopper for Oklahoma City. However, Russell Westbrook is still "the big dog" and is running the show. Westbrook (23.6-9.5-9.9) is averaging 29.8 points on 59.8 percent shooting with 9.0 rebounds and 9.5 assists during the four-game winning streak. He collected his fifth triple-double of the month in Saturday's win. George showed off his defensive prowess with six steals against the Jazz and has multiple thefts in each of the last seven contests.
The pick: With Paul and Capela both likely out, this is a tough spot for Houston, as the Thunder come in the winner of four consecutive games and six of seven. Houston took three of the four meetings last season with the Thunder, despite Westbrook averaging 36.3 points in the four games. Houston then KO'd them in the playoffs in five games. OKC has been waiting for this game in much the same way they were waiting for the Warriors to come to town back on Nov. 22, when the Thunder won 108-91. Second verse, same as the first. Make OKC a 10* play.
|12-25-17||76ers +1 v. Knicks||Top||105-98||Win||100||26 h 49 m||Show|
The set-up: The 14-18 Philadelphia 76ers were 13-9 through games played Dec. 2 but as they take the court early this afternoon at Madison Square Garden for the first game of the NBA's 5-Game Christmas Day Extravaganza, they are looking to snap a five-game slide , as well as breaking a downward spiral that has seen them lose nine of their last 10 games (1-8-1 ATS)! As for the 17-15 Knicks, following this Christmas Day game, New York plays 16 of its next 20 on the road, where its woes continued with a 104-101 setback at Detroit on Friday. The Knicks are just 2-10 on the road this season, compared to 15-5 at home, where they are also 15-5 ATS.
Philadelphia: The 76ers Philadelphia hope to have Joel Embiid (23.7 & 10.9) ready for a complete effort on Christmas (team is just 1-7 when he doesn't play). He was still bothered by a sore lower back in Saturday's 16-point loss at Toronto and he picked up a technical foul as frustrations began to bubble up. Rookie Ben Simmons was held to 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting in the loss, his first outing during the losing streak in which he shot below 50 percent. However, Simmons is having quite a first season, after missing all of last year, by averaging 17.1-8.8-7.7. SG Redick is averaging 16.5 PPG, SF Covington 14.8 & 6,2 and PF Saric 12.7 & 7.1
New York: Kristaps Porzingis (24.7 & 6.7) took 28 shots in his last outing and scored 29-points in Friday's loss. However, it was a positive step for the 7-3 star, who missed two games due to a groin injury before going 0-for-11 from the floor in a win over the Boston Celtics on Thursday. Four other Knicks are in double digits, Hardaway (17.8 & 4.2), Kanter (13.5 & 10.0), Lee (13.1) and the rejuvenated Beasley (10.9 & 4.1).
The pick: Philly's Redick has missed the last two games with right hamstring tightness and it is unclear if he will play Monday against the Knicks. However, Embiid should play and look for Simmons to bounce back from a rare off night. Also, note that Saric has scored in double figures in 12 straight games, after finishing in single digits in 10 of his first 19 contests. The Knicks were 16-13 before last season's Christmas Day game but a loss on the holiday to the Celtics kicked off a 1-10 swoon. Deja vu? I'm making the 76ers an 8* play.
|12-23-17||Clippers v. Grizzlies -4.5||Top||112-115||Loss||-110||13 h 36 m||Show|
]The set-up:The Clippers opened the season 4-0 and were 5-2 on Nov. 4 when they hosted the Grizzlies. Memphis won that game 113-104 and the defeat began a nine-game losing streak for Los Angeles. Shortly after improving to 6-3 with their early November win at the Staples Center, the Grizzlies went on an 11-game slide that contributed to the firing of coach David Fizdale. As the Clippers and Grizzlies get set to meet again here in Memphis, Los Angeles is just 13-18 (10th among the West's 15 teams) and Memphis is even worse, checking in at 9-23 (14th).
LA Clippers:The team opened the season minus Chris Paul, JJ Redick and Jamal Crawford (among others) plus are currently playing without Blake Griffin (23.6-7.9-5.1) and Danilo Gallinari (13.4 & 4.4). LA had slumped to 11-18 (6-16 since that 5-2 start) but after beating Phoenix at Staples on Wednesday, won in Houston last night! Lou Williams (20.20 and Austin Rivers (15.4) are both enjoying career years and the duo combined for 68 points (on 13-of-26 shooting beyond the arc) in Friday's upset. Rivers exploded for a career-high 36 points and Williams poured in 32 off the bench. Williams topped the 30-point mark for the third time in December and has posted a NBA-best five such performances from a reserve. Starting point guard Milos Teodosic (8.3 points, 4.6 assists) was rested Friday but will return Saturday; the 30-year has scored more than eight points only twice in five outings since returning from a 22-game absence due to a foot injury.
Memphis: The Grizzlies lost for the eighth time in nine games this past Thursday, falling 97-95 at Phoenix. It's been a long season for Memphis. Zach Randolph bolted in free agency and Mike Conley (17.1 & 4.1 APG) hasn't played since Nov. 13, due to an injury. The loss at Phoenix dropped the Grizzlies to 2-17 since Conley was given time off to deal with his injury. Memphis has had just two ":go-to" scorers without Conley, center Marc Gasol and swingman Tyreke Evans. Gasol has been terrific (18.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.4 blocks), making him one of two players in the league (along with the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo) to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists and blocks. Evans checks in at 18.4-5.0-4.1. No other Memphis player is averaging in double digits. However, Gasol is listed as doubtful for Saturday with a left hip injury.
The pick: Clearly, Gasol playing means a lot but I'm still going with Memphis, regardless. The Clippers played "way over their heads" last night in winning at Houston, scoring 128 points while shooting 47.3 percent from the floor (42.9% on threes). LA a is averaging 104.3 PPG on the season (including just 101.2 on the road), on 44.8% shooting, including 35.3% on threes. Look for a huge letdown here and Make Memphis a 10*!
|12-22-17||Wizards -5 v. Nets||Top||84-119||Loss||-115||12 h 10 m||Show|
The set-up: The Washington Wizards seem to think that they are an elite team but their 17-14 record hardly matches the team's bravado. The Wizards head to Brooklyn for the second time in less than two weeks on Friday, hoping for a better result than their last visit. With PG John Wall, still not back from a knee injury, the Wizards lost 103-98 at Brooklyn on Dec. 12 Wall returned the next night when Washington began a 3-1 homestand that was capped by Tuesday's 116-106 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. As for the Nets, that Dec. 12 victory over Washington was their last win, as Brooklyn has lost four straight since beating Wizards. Three of the four defeats have come at home, including a 104-99 setback against Sacramento on Wednesday.
Washington:Wall seems to be completely past the recent knee issues (he missed nine games) but he is shooting just 35.4 percent since returning from the knee injury. "Basically, them telling me to go out there and be aggressive and don't worry about minutes and go play," Wall (19.3-3.8-8.3) told reporters after an 18-point, 10-assist effort versus the Pelicans. "Coach has been telling me since the last game. I went out there without thinking about when I was coming out of the game or when I'm going back in, just trying to play and make the right reads." Bradley Beal (23.8-4.3-3.5) leads the team in scoring on the season but the club's hottest player right now is reserve forward Mike Scott. Scott's 24 points against New Orleans was a season high and he was 11-for-15 from the floor to leave the former Virginia Cavalier at 53-for-72 over an eight-game stretch (that's 73.6%!).
Brooklyn: When Allen Crabbe hit the game-winning three-pointer with 44 seconds left 10 days ago, the Nets had won for the fifth time in eight games. However, the now 11-19 Nets have regressed, during their skid (the team's second four-game losing streak of the season) by averaging 96.8 points on 41.8 percent shooting, including 32.9 percent from three-point range. The Nets are also allowing 111.0 PPG on 51.7 percent from the floor. The Nets have fallen behind by double-digits in each game and during this streak, they are getting outscored 244-190 in the first half and 126-95 in the opening quarters. Brooklyn's losing streak continued with a poor start in a 104-99 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. The Nets allowed 64 points in the first half, fell behind by 21 points and saw a comeback attempt fall short. The Nets fell behind 36-20 after one quarter against Kings on Wednesday, as they continued a recent trend of poor starts. Brooklyn has trailed by at least 11 points at halftime in every game of its current four-game slide. losing streak. "Giving up 36 points in the first quarter — you can't get in a hole like that. It is disappointment in our defense and our defensive mentality to start the game," head coach Kenny Atkinson told the media. The recently acquired Jahlil Okafor (from Philly) has not seen any action in the last two games, as Atkinson gives him more time to get in shape and integrated into the system.
The pick: Wall did not play in Washington's Dec. 12 loss at Brooklyn plus Beal made just 11 of 33 shots, going 3 of 15 in the second half. Wall is healthy here and no way Beal repeats that kind of shooting effort. After all, the Wizards had a seven-game winning streak snapped in the series in their last visit to Brooklyn but even with that defeat, Washington is 12-3 in its last 15 meetings. with Brooklyn. Make the Wizards a 10* play.
|12-21-17||Bulls v. Cavs -10.5||Top||112-115||Loss||-110||11 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers lost a thriller their last time out, falling 119-116 at Milwaukee to the Bucks. It was just the team's second loss in its last 20 games. The Cavs return home on Thursday night and will put an 11-game home winning streak on the line against the Chicago Bulls. The Cavs crushed the Bulls 112-91 in Chicago back on Dec. 4 but the Bulls are a very different team this time around. The Bulls opened the season 3-20 with forward Nikola Mirotic recovering from a facial fracture due to a fight with teammate Bobby Portis. However, he made his season debut against the Hornets.back on Dec. 8th, with the Bulls winning 119-111 in OT. His return has jump-started the Bulls, who have gone 7-0 SU & ATS since Mirotic's return. Mirotic had 15 points and 10 rebounds in last night's 112-94 home win over the Magic and after easing his way back in his season debut (just six points), has averaged 21.8 & 8.5 rebounds in his last six games.
Chicago: It's also worth noting that fellow forward Bobby Portis, the man who gave Mirotic the facial fractures in their preseason fight, has also stepped up his game and is averaging 14 points and 7.1 rebounds in 21.6 minutes this month. Chicago's bench came up big in the win over the Magic, as seven reserves combined for 54 points. No Bulls player logged more than 29 minutes last night, so the team should be relatively fresh despite playing on the second night of back to back games. "Our chemistry is great," Denzel Valentine told the Chicago Tribune. Valentine led the Bulls with 16 points. "We have to keep it up." 7-0 rookie Lauri Markkanen (14.3 & 7.9) leads five more Bulls averaging in double digits on the season (excluding Mirotic).
Cleveland: LeBron James (28.2-8.3-9.2) was his usual dominant self with 39 points and seven assists in the loss to the Bucks. Yes, the Cavs lost, but the team felt good about a fourth-quarter comeback that made it tight in the end. "A couple things didn't go our way but we did a good job being resilient and coming back," guard Dwyane Wade told reporters.Wade made 4-of-6 from 3-point range en route to 14 points off the bench, returning after . "Obviously, tonight (Wade) showed what he's capable of still doing," James told the media. Kevin Love Love has seven double-doubles in his last 10 games and checks in averaging 19.5 & 10.2 on the season.
The pick: For the first time in awhile,the Cavaliers will not be the hottest team on the court. The Cavs, as usual, did not practice on Wednesday. According to cleveland.com the Cavs have held just three practices since this current stretch of 18 wins in 20 games started on Nov. 11. "Guys are in here on off days every single time we have an off day," James said. "When we don't practice, guys are in here working on their game and (coach Tyronn Lue) just trusts us that we're going to be ready to go in the games, because we don't have much practice time. The Cavs may be rested but it's sure not helping the team's defense. which is allowing 107.4 PPG (23rd) on 46.9% shooting (20th). The Bulls come in averaging 111.1 PPG during thiri seven-game winning streak, so I'm making the Over a 10* play.
|12-20-17||Pacers v. Hawks +4.5||Top||105-95||Loss||-107||12 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: One has to wonder how the Pacers will fare here, after Monday's 'crazy' loss to the Celtics. Indiana battled back from an 18-point first-quarter deficit to take a five-point lead with 31.3 seconds remaining, only to be outscored 10-4 in a 112-111 loss! The Pacers have now dropped three of four as they visit Atlanta to take on the Hawks, who won for just the seventh time this season by beating Miami 110-104 on Monday. However, the Hawks' 7-23 record makes them owners of the worst record in the NBA.
Indiana: “It’s a tough loss,” Indiana guard Victor Oladipo told reporters after his team fell for the third time in four games against the Celtics. “We dug ourselves the deepest hole you can imagine and again, fought our way back like clockwork, but we come up short again.” Oladipo scored 12 of his 38 points Monday in the final two minutes and is 10th in the NBA in scoring at 24.9 PPG (he has scored 20-plus points in 22 of 30 games). The Pacers are seventh in the NBA in scoring at 108.3 PPG but also allow 106.9 PPG to rank 21st.
Atlanta: Forward Taurean Prince (132. & 5.3) led the way with 24 points in Monday's win and is shooting 49.5 percent from the floor in December, while averaging 14.7 points in nine games this month. “We’re wanting him to shoot a lot,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer told the media afterward. “Catch and shoot, shoot whenever he’s got daylight, driving and finishing.” The Hawks have revamped their roster (not for the better), with PG Schroder (19.8 & 6.6 APG) assuming the role as team-leader. The Hawks do have solid balance behind Schroder (seven players average between 7.1 & 13.2 PPG) but no stars. However, keep an eye on rookie John Collins from Wake Forest, who is averaging 11.2 PPG (on 59.7% shooting) and 7.0 RPG.
The pick: Indiana is off a brutal loss (see above) and while Atlanta has not been winning many games outright, the Hawks check in 8-2 ATS since Nov. 30. The Pacers won two of three games against Atlanta last season, including the final two meetings of the year. However, until last season, the Pacers had not won in Atlanta since the 2013-14 campaign. The home dog barks here. Make Atlanta an 8* play.
|12-19-17||Kings +8.5 v. 76ers||Top||101-95||Win||100||12 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The Philadelphia 76ers have shown plenty of promise this season but after back-to-back two-point losses, Philly finds itself having lost six of its last seven to fall under .500 at 14-15.The most recent two-point loss was 117-115 at Chicago last night (the Bulls have all of a sudden won straight) with Joel Embiid sitting out the opener of the back-to-back set to help manage his workload. The 76ers are back on the court tonight to welcome the 9-20 Sacramento Kings to Wells Fargo Center, who have dropped five of their last seven contests. That includes two in a row by a combined 38 points to start the team's four-game road trip.
Sacramento: The Kings are last in the league in scoring (96.1 PPG), with only veteran forward Zach Randolph (15.3 & 7.0) averaging more than 12.3 PPG. Buddy Hield, the key player in last year's trade with the Hornets for Cousins, checks in at 12.3 PPG, which is disappointing. Also, while so many have heard about Lonzo Ball's rookie struggles, let me note that PG De'Aaron Fox, another expected rookie star, is not exactly 'lighting thingd up." Fox is averaging just 9.7 PPG (on 25 1/2 minutes), while shooting 40.4%, including 28.9% on threes. Adding insult to injury, Fox is questionable tonight due to a quadriceps injury.Veteran PG George Hill has raised his production level over the last three games, averaging 16.7 PPG but on the season has been another disappointment (9.8 PPG and just 2.6 APG!).
Philadelphia: Embiid is averaging 24.1 & 11.0 on the season and has scored at least 25 points in four of the five games he has played this month, while shooting 47.8 percent in December. Rookie Ben. Simmons (17.4-9.0-7.9) had a huge game on Monday (19-11-9), despite missing a late chance to tie the game. Dario Saric poured in 20 of his season-high 27 points in the second half of the loss to Chicago and checks in averaging 12.5 & 6.9 on the season.
The pick: Philly is averaging 109.2 PPG at home but is also allowing 107.0. That hardly makes them a reliable favorite (especially in this range!) and note that the 76ers 'limp' into this game 2-8-1 ATS their last 11. The Kings beat the 76ers 109-108 in Sacramento the first time around and should 'hang' with them here, as well/. Make Sacramento a 10* play.
|12-18-17||Celtics -2 v. Pacers||Top||112-111||Loss||-110||20 h 50 m||Show|
Boston: "We just stayed composed and went out and executed," Boston forward Al Horford (14.3-7.9-5.4) told reporters of the strong finish. "We got some stops on defense. On the offensive end, we moved the ball pretty well. I think that was the difference. We opened up the game after that." Kyrie Irving (24.2 & 4.9 APG) led Boston with 20 points but the play of rookie forward Jayson Tatum (13.8 & 5.7) has been a key lately for Boston. Tatum had 19 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and two steals at Memphis. He leads the NBA with a 51 percent mark from three-point range and is averaging 15 points while shooting 58.6 percent overall in the team's last three wins but just 5.5 PPG on 2-of-13 shooting in the two losses.
Indiana: Victor Oladipo's breakout season continued on Sunday as he scored 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting with seven rebounds. He's averaging 24.4-5.5-4.0 on the year. Myles Turner scored 16 points against the Nets and is averaging 14.7 & 7.2. His backup, rookie Domantas Sabonis (12.1 & 8.4) registered 17 points, eight rebounds and three blocks at Brooklyn. The young big men combined for 36 points and 13 rebounds in the loss to Boston last month in a game Oladipo missed due to a bruised knee. Since missing against Boston, Oladipo is averaging 30.2 points, seven rebounds and 4.8 assists over his last five games!
The pick: The Pacers did not get much time to enjoy their latest win. Shortly after finishing off a 12-point victory over the Nets in Brooklyn on Sunday, they were taking a flight back home to face the Celtics. When Boston beat the Pacers for the fourth straight time, its record was 18-3. Since then, the Celtics are 7-4 in their past 11 games, and they have alternated wins and losses over the past six games. The Celtics turned in two of their worst displays of the season last week in a 108-85 Monday loss at Chicago and a 107-95 Friday home loss to the Utah Jazz. Those games were part of a stretch that has seen the Celtics allow 102.5 points since their last meeting against Indiana. However, Boston rebounded nicely from the Friday loss with a 102-93 win at Memphis on Saturday. The Celtics are 12-4 SU & ATS on the road this season, as Irving averages 25.6 points while shooting 44.7 percent from three-point range on the road, compared to 22.8 and 34.1 percent at home. Boston allows the fewest points in the league (98.1 per), while holding opponents to 43.9% (2nd-best). Meanwhile, the Pacers are allowing 106.8 PPG, to rank 21st. Defense wins and make Boston a 10* play.
|12-16-17||Bucks +10.5 v. Rockets||Top||111-115||Win||100||13 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: Is there any stopping the Houston Rockets? The 23-4 Rockets easily handled the SA Spurs 124-109 last night (Rockets led by as many as 28 points), the team's 12th consecutive win and 10th by double-digits during this impressive stretch of victories. "We have so many talented guys on this team that anyone can come in and have an impact on the game," James Harden said in a post-game television interview. "We just take it one night at a time. ... We just want it to be at a high level and play for each other." The 15-12 Milwaukee Bucks come to Houston scoring 100 points or more in 11 consecutive games (the franchise's best streak since a 12-game run during the 1990-91 campaign) but also having allowed 115 points in each of their last two games, losses to the New Orleans Pelicans (Wed)) and the Chicago Bulls (Friday).
Milwaukee:The Bucks offense has jelled since the acquisition of guard Eric Bledsoe (17.4-3.8-4.4) to go with star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (29.9-10.5-4.5) and solid swingman Khris Middleton (20.2-5.3-4.6). "You've got three guys playing at a high level with Bled, Khris and Giannis," coach Jason Kidd told reporters. "Sharing the ball is the key, and being able to make your free throws. Just making a play for a teammate and finding the open guy. Guys are moving the ball. Right now, the ball is going in for us." Antetokounmpo and Middleton each scored 29 points in Friday's 115-109 loss to the Bulls, although Bledsoe was limited to 12 points.
Houston: PG Chris Paul was brilliant against San Antonio with 28 points, eight assists and a season-best seven steals, as Houston improved to 13-0 with the nine-time All-Star in the lineup. Paul is averaging 26.3 points, eight assists and 3.5 steals over the past four games and has made a season-high five 3-pointers in each of the past two contests. Harden put up 28 points despite 6-of-18 shooting and has scored 20 or more in every game this season. Harden is averaging 31.5-5.1-9.3 and Paul 17.1-5.1-9.5. Add to that duo guard Gordon (18.7) plus center Capela (13.7-11.0) and the Rockets have a team the Warriors just may be concerned about by year's end.
The pick: The Bucks had won six of seven games before their back-to-back losses but there is little doubt that they are struggling defensively. Milwaukee has allowed at least 100 points in seven consecutive games and ranks 28th in the NBA with a 110.5 defensive rating in December.I realize the Rockets are clearly on a roll but the Bucks have just dropped consecutive games for the first time since losing to the Mavericks and Wizards in late November. Expect at least a little let down from the Rockets off that beatdown of the Spurs and grab the big points with Milwaukee and the spectacular Antetokounmpo, who averaged 31.5 points, nine rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.5 blocks as the teams split last season's two meetings. Make Milwaukee a 10* play.
|12-15-17||Spurs +7.5 v. Rockets||Top||109-124||Loss||-110||14 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: More than a few teams made major off-season moves in an effort to compete at a level equal to that of the Warriors but so far, only the Boston Celtics (even with the loss of Hayward) and the Houston Rockets, have seemed to "have gotten it right." Houston owns the NBA's best record at 22-4 (.) and will welcome the SA Spurs to the Toyota Center looking for a 12th straiight win (longest active winning streak). The 19-9 Spurs come to Houston having more than 'survived' without their best player, Kawhi Leonard, who is certainly ranked somewhere among the top-five players in the NBA, as the Spurs own the third-best record in the Western Conference. The teams are meeting for the first time since the San Antonio knocked off Houston in six games in the Western Conference semifinals last spring.
San Antonio:Leonard sat out the first 27 games while recovering from quad tendinopathy and scored 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting over 16 minutes in his debut on Tuesday, a shocking 95-89 loss at Dallas. "I thought he was wonderful," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich told reporters of Leonard. "He's trying to get some of the rust off and that kind of thing. Obviously, he's confident. He's a heck of a player, and it was really frustrating for him to just start getting loose and have to come off the court." Leonard's return did not get the San Antonio Spurs into the win column, but both he and the organization are looking at the bigger picture. The Spurs have struggled offensively without Leonard (25.5 PPG last season), averaging only 101.1 PPG (25th). In fact, Leonard's 13 points in 16 minutes on Tuesday is more points than any Spur has averaged per game this season, save for PF Aldridge, who has been the team's lone "go-to" scoring option this season I(22.7 PPG). The surprising stat is that without Leonard, considered the NBA's top defensive player alongside of Draymond Green, the Spurs come in leading the NBA in points allowed, at 97.5 per game.
Houston: The Rockets have yet to lose since Chris Paul returned from a knee injury. Paul was injured in the team' season-opener (a Houston win at Golden St.) and are now 11-0 since his return. The future Hall of Famer scored 31 points and had 11 assists in Houston's 108-96 win over Charlotte on Wednesday and comes in averaging 16.2-5.2-9.6 on the season. . "It's all about building," Paul told reporters. "You can win however many games you want in a row. It means nothing if you're not playing the right way, but we're playing the right way and still trying to get better." Harden is averaging 31.6-5.1-9.4, Gordon (18.9) is an excellent "third scoring option" and center Capela is averaging a double-double (13.5 & 11.0) on the season. Only the Golden State Warriors average more points than Houston's 114.8 per game.
The pick: I doubt in will take teh Spurs long to integrate Leonard into the flow of things and a visit to Houston, the NBA's hottest team right now, should be all the motivation Pop and his veteran team needs. Take the points and make the Spurs a 10*
|12-14-17||Mavs v. Warriors -11.5||Top||97-112||Win||100||15 h 60 m||Show|
The set-up: The 22-6 Golden State Warriors trail the 22-4 Houston Rockets in the West and also find themselves right behind the 24-6 Boston Celtics. However, there are 50-plus games remaining in the regular season,m plenty of time for Golden State to secure the home court edge come mid-April. Stephen Curry (26.3-5.1-6.6) has been out the last three games and is expected to be out the rest of this week (at least) while nursing an ankle injury and Draymond Green (10.1-7.2-7.3) remains day-to-day, after sitting out two of the last three with a shoulder injury, Despite all that, the Warriors won all six games of their recent road trip and will welcome the 8-20 Dallas Mavericks to Oracle Arena on a seven-game winning run. The Mavericks are tied for the West's worst record (with Memphis) but head to Golden State with a positive outlook after earning a 95-89 win over the San Antonio Spurs at home on Tuesday.
Dallas: Dallas suffered single-digit losses at Boston, Milwaukee and Minnesota before coming home and putting it all together against the Spurs. The Mavericks saw guards Wes Matthews, Yogi Ferrell and J.J. Barea score 16 points apiece while holding San Antonio's backcourt trio of Tony Parker, Danny Green and Manu Ginobili to a combined 14 points.
Golden State: Offense is never a problem for Golden State, regardless of which players are in or out of the lineup. The Warriors rank first in scoring (117.0 PPG), FG percentage (51.3%) and three-point percentage (40.0%). Kevin Durant (25.7-6.9-5.3) is averaging 33 points, 10 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 3.3 blocks in the last three games (with Curry out), to keep Golden State in the win column. "Our focus level is just on another level because of the injuries that we have on our team," Durant told reporters. "We have to be locked in on every single play; and that's hard to do in this league, and that's hard to do in December, especially after winning a championship."Klay Thompson (20.7) is scoring 23.3 PPG the last three and with that duo carrying the scoring load with Curry out, Golden State is also getting solid performances from role players like Jordan Bell, David West and Omri Casspi. Those three all scored in double figures in Monday's 111-104 win over the Portland Trail Blazers while going a combined 14-of-18 from the floor. "These night are really powerful for a team where guys are able to get out there who aren't usually in the lineup," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters. "It makes them feel good, it makes us feel good and it just strengthens the depth."
The pick: The Mavericks stunned the San Antonio Spurs 95-89 in Kawhi Leonard's season debut on Tuesday night but now head to the 'lion's den' to face the Warriors. This Thursday game is the Warriors' second in a stretch of 10 in which they never leave the state of California. They play only once on the road, Monday against the Los Angeles Lakers, between now and a trip to Dallas on Jan. 3. The Mavs are 2-10 SU on the road, where they average only 97.2 PPG. Meanwhile, the Warriors are averaging 116.8 PPG at home and have now been back home a few days off that six-game road trip. Look out below! Lay the points and make Golden State a 10* play.
|12-12-17||Lakers +3.5 v. Knicks||Top||109-113||Loss||-110||19 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: Is the bigger story LaVar Ball bringing his traveling circus to the Big Apple with a Big Baller Brand pop-up shop in Manhattan or son Lonzo Ball making his NBA debut at Madison Square Garden, when the Lakers take on the Knicks? The Lakers had lost five straight games when they began a four-game road trip with a win at Philadelphia and then picked up another "W" at Charlotte on Saturday. They will take a 10-15 record into tonight's game. The Knicks are 13-13 on the season but are a "tough out" at Madison Square Garden. In fact, New York is tied for the Eastern Conference lead with 12 home wins after Sunday's 111-107 victory over Atlanta (12-5 at MSG, so far).
LA Lakers: "This is a sign of growth for sure," coach Like Walton told reporte.2 PPG, so I'm taking the points with an LA team that's rs after the 110-99 victory over the Hornets. "And even Philly was a sign of growth because even though we blew a 16-point lead, what would've happened in the past was once we blew that lead we would've just completely melted down. ... We've been able to win some of those games at home, but on the road we haven't been able to find a way once that crowd gets into it to get the defensive stops you need to win games. We (won) in Philly and we did that again tonight." Ball is the most divisive NBA rookie in decades (thanks to his idiot father) and comes in averaging 8.6-6.8-7.1. His horrific shooting (32.1%, including 24.6% on threes) draws most of the criticism and it's not unusual for Walton to sit him down at crucial times. Kyle Kuzma (Utah) was drafted 25 spots below No. 2 pick Ball but is averaging 16.0 points and 6.7 rebounds off the bench (he started while Nance was sidelined). He has double-doubles in three of the team's last four games, his best stretch of the season in that regard.
NY Knicks: New York is getting inspired play in recent weeks from its first-round pick, Frank Ntilikina. The PG is averaging 8.4 points in December after averaging 4.7 points in October and November combined. The Knicks are also seeing a development in second-year guard Ron Baker, who played 31 minutes Sunday in New York's 111-107 win over the Atlanta Hawks. The Knicks are getting some quality minutes from their youngsters. However, no New York player gets talked about more than Kristaps Porzingis, who is still just 22 and two years younger than Baker, despite being in the third month of his third NBA season (Porzingis is averaging 25.5 & 6.6).
The pick: Yes, the Knicks have been very good at home but the Lakers come in confident and with surprising depth and balance for a 10-15 team. Eight players are averaging between Ball's 8.6 PPG and leading scorer Ingram's 16.2 PPG, so I'm taking the points with an LA team that's a single point away from being 6-3 ATS its last nine games. Make LA an 8* play.
|12-11-17||Celtics -7.5 v. Bulls||Top||85-108||Loss||-103||19 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: The 23-5 Boston Celtics own the most wins in the NBA but the 20-4 Houston Rockets have caught them for the league's highest winning percentage, .833 to .821. The Celtics opened a quick three-game road trip with a 105-102 loss at San Antonio (on Manu's three-pointer!) but then the Celtics shut down the Pistons in a 91-81 victory at Detroit on Sunday. Boston ends it trip in Chicago tonight, facing a Bulls team which owns the NBA's worst record at 5-20 but one that is also coming off back-to-back victories,.
Boston: Al Horford rebounded from a season-worst two-point performance against the Spurs to lead his team with 18 points at Detroit, while chipping in nine rebounds, six assists, two blocks and zero turnovers. Horford (14.0-8.1-5.3) has been an unsung hero for the Celtics, overshadowed by the play of Kyrie Irving. Boston's new PG added 16 points at Detroit but has been every bit an MVP candidate averaging 23.7 PPG and 4.8 APG .Playing on a short turnaround, Boston will again be without forward Marcus Morris (12.1 & 5.5), who didn't play on Sunday and who has already been ruled out for Monday due to a left knee injury. Rookie forward Jayson Tatum was 3-for-5 from 3-point range Sunday to improve his NBA-leading percentage from long distance to 52.3%, while averaging 14.8 PPG on 51.2% shooting overall. Last year's No. 1 choice, Jaylen Brown (14.7 & 5.8), is proving in his second season just why he was Boston's top choice last year.
Chicago: The Bulls had lost 10 in a row but then won 1119-11 (OT) in Charlotte on Friday, They then followed with a 104-102 win at home the next night over the Knicks. Has Nikola Mirotic's return to the lineup been the difference? Mirotic missed the first 23 games due to facial fractures and a concussion resulting from a preseason fight with teammate Bobby Portis. He scored just six points vs. the Hornets on Friday but had 19 points in 20 minutes versus the Knicks. Portis has played 16 games since his suspension from the fight and has averaged 11.7 & 6.6 off the bench. Mirotic's big effort Saturday night was part of a solid showing for Chicago's five reserves, who combined for 54 points on 21-of-37 shooting with 14 assists and two turnovers. PG Kris Dunn (12.8-4.9-5.1) led the starters with 17 points and nine assists and he is averaging 17.5 points, eight assists and 6.3 rebounds during a four-game stretch. Lauri Markkanen, the 7-footer from Arizona, has been as good as any rookie this season, leading the team in scoring (14.7) and rebounding (8.1).
The pick: Chicago has won four straight regular-season meetings with Boston at home but this is a very different Chicago team and very different Boston team. The Bulls are just 3-8 SU at home and on the season, are averaging a modest 103.2 PPG, to rank 27th. The Celtics come in with the NBA's best road record at 11-3 and are also a money-making 11-3 ATS as well. Boston is the league's top defensive team, allowing 96.1 PPG on 43.5% shooting, which ranks second-best. Take the road favorite and make Boston a 10* play.
|12-10-17||76ers v. Pelicans -4.5||Top||124-131||Win||100||12 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: The 13-13 New Orleans Pelicans are hoping to cap a short four-game homestand at 2-2 when they host the 13-12 Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night. The Pelicans are none too happy after blowing a nine-point lead with only 3 1/2 minutes left, then losing in overtime to struggling Sacramento on Friday night. The 76ers visit New Orleans on a three-game slide, after losing 105-98 at Cleveland last night, while star center Joel Embiid was rested.
Philadelphia Embiid is expected back for this one after sitting out the first game of a back-to-back (for the third time this season) last night. However, forward Robert Covington (15.3 & 6.2) left the loss with a back injury after tumbling into the stands. Covington was 5-for-7 from 3-point range and recorded 19 points before his injury,and JJ Redick (16.1) matched him in the scoring column in the loss to Cleveland. Head coach Brett Brown did not have an immediate update after the game on Covington. Embiid scored 33 points and had seven rebounds, six assists and five blocks in a career-high 36 minutes. in his last game. He has scored at least 20 points in five straight games and is averaging 23.5 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.0 blocks in 30.2 minutes per game. Ben Simmons is a (the?) leading candidate for rookie of the year, averaging 17.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.2 steals. He played his only year of college basketball at LSU, 80 miles from New Orleans, has had a spectacular season after missing his entire rookie campaign. The 6-10 point forward recorded three triple-doubles in his first 23 games. The only other players in NBA history to do that were Oscar Robertson (seven) and Magic Johnson (three).
New Orleans: Anthony Davis returned from a groin injury to provide 18 points in the overtime loss to the Kings on Friday, and head coach Alvin Gentry is well aware his team can't lose games like this (to teams like the Kings), if it is serious about contending for Western Conference playoff spot."You can't give Knute Rockne speeches every night," Gentry told reporters. "You know, as an athlete, it's your job. And it's our job as coaches (to get them ready). We have to have the energy to go out and play against a team like that and make sure we are getting the job done." Davis was expected to play about 25 minutes Friday but was able to give his team 31, and the 24-year-old reported no issues with the groin. New Orleans will hope for Davis to provide a little more support for fellow big man DeMarcus Cousins, who scored 38 points against Sacramento and is averaging 39 in 40.5 minutes over the last two games. The Cousins (26.3 & 12.6)/Davis (24.9 & 10.7) duo is formidable plus guards Holiday (16.6-4.3-5.5) and Moore (12.4) join them in double digits. PG Rajon Rondo was rested on Friday but he's coming around nicely, averaging 11.5 points on 58.8 percent shooting and 9.8 assists over the first four contests in December.
The pick: Cousins joins Embiid as the only NBA players averaging at least 23 points and 11 rebounds per game this season and with Davis back (and Rondo as well), I expect the Pelicans to grab the win here after "giving one away" against the Kings. The 'price is right' to make the Pelicans a 10* play.
|12-09-17||Magic +2 v. Hawks||Top||110-117||Loss||-110||11 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: The Magic just beat the Hawks 110-106 Wednesday in Orlando but it took overtime and they did not cover as a 6 1/2-point favorite. The Hawks haven't played since, while the Magic are coming off a 103-89 home loss last night to the Nuggets. Evan Fournier, the Magic's second-leading scorer at 18.3 PPG ,scored 27 points in Orlandos home overtime victory over the Hawks on Wednesday but he won't be available for Saturday's rematch after he sprained his right ankle at the start of overtime. More bad news comes in that Orlando's leading scorer Aaron Gordon (18.7 PPG) will also be out of the lineup. He was injured when he collided with Denver guard Gary Harris in Friday's loss and won't play again until he clears the NBA's concussion protocol.The good news for the 11-16 Magic is that the Hawks are a brutal 5-19 on the season, including just 2-9 at home
Orlando: Losing Fournier and now Gordon is just the latest injury blow for the Magic, who started the season 8-3 before going into a slide. The Magic are also without Terrence Ross (9.0) and rookie defensive standout Jonathan Isaac (6.1 & 4.4). Ross has missed the past five games with a knee injury and Isaac the last 15 with a sprained ankle. Gordon has been a real bright spot admitted head coach Frank Vogel. "Yeah, it's tough, but everybody in the league has injuries," Vogel said after the game. "You know we can't feel sorry for ourselves now. We have to go get a win (Saturday) night."
Atlanta: The Hawks have lost four of their last five games and have injury woes of their own. Center Dewayne Dedmon (11.1 & 7.8) is expected to miss his fifth straight game due to a leg injury.and rookie forward John Collins (11.5 & 7.1) will miss his fourth straight contest with a shoulder injury and is expected to miss another week to 10 days. PG Dennis Schroder has emerged as the club's top scorer (20.5 PPG plus 6.5 APG) and is averaging 24 points over the past four games. Schroder scored 26 points in Wednesday's loss to Orlando for his 13th 20-point outing of the campaign. Second-year forward Taurean Prince is averaging 12.5 points and scored 19 on 6-of-8 shooting against the Magic after being just 11-of-34 shooting over the previous three games.
The pick: The Hawks have won 11 of the last 14 home matchups with the Magic but let's remember, that was with a much different team. The Hawks have been to 10 straight postseasons (only the Spurs own a longer consecutive streak) but this year's team is a playoff imposter and is on pace for a 17-win season. Expect the Magic to win this quick turnaround re-match, as well. Make Orlando a 10* play.
|12-08-17||Raptors -5.5 v. Grizzlies||Top||116-107||Win||100||22 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: The Toronto Raptors have been dominant at home so far, as after their 126-113 win over Phoenix on Tuesday, the Raptors checked in with a 9-1 mark at Air Canada Centre. In contrast, the team is just 6-6 on the road and tonight's game at Memphis vs. the Grizzlies will kick off a four-game road trip. The Grizzlies did snap their 11-game losing streak Monday against Minnesota but then fell right back in a "losing mode" dropping a 99-88 decision at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday to fall to 8-16 on the season.
Toronto:.Toronto's backcourt of DeMar DeRozan (23.3-4.5-4.9) and Kyle Lowry (16.6-6.3-7.1) led the way in the win over the Suns, combining for 40 points and 18 of Toronto's 30 assists. "When you’re making shots, it's good, and the confidence we all have in each other to take shots and to give the opportunity to shoot the ball and we don’t care, it's always good," Lowry told reporters. Toronto is averaging 111.5 PPG (3rd-best in the NBA and topes in the East) an 48.7 percent shooting (2nd-best). The Raptors have upped that to 121 points during their four-game winning streak while making an average of 13 three-pointers per game and handing out 28.5 assists. "Everybody gets a chance to touch the ball, you don't necessarily got to work so hard," DeRozan told reporters. "Everybody gets a feel for the ball, everybody gets to make the next decision for your teammate, and with that, we still miss a lot of shots, but it's something we're still learning and something we're still trying to get better at every time we practice, every time we play."
Memphis: Center Marc Gasol scored 17 points in Wednesday's loss in New York while his fellow starters combined for just 23, on 7-of-24 shooting. He's the team's leading scorer (18.9) and rebounder (8.8) plus played through a knee issue. "I don't know exactly what happened. It just locked up," he told reporters. "Couldn't really extend it. I never had any knee issues. So it was a new feeling for me." While Gasol's fellow starters 'laid an egg,' the bench provided some positives in the loss. In particular, forward Chandler Parsons, who had missed three of the previous four games with knee and ankle injuries, had 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 22 minutes.
The pick: Memphis was 7-6 and had topped 100 points six times before deciding to shelve Conley (17.1 & 4.1 APG) on Nov. 14 in hopes of relieving the pain in his Achilles. The result has been the Grizzlies having gone 1-10 SU & 2-8-1 ATS since, being held to 98 or fewer points on all but two of the occasions. Toronto has faced only one team (Indiana, twice) with a winning record among its last six contests,and won't see another above-.500 club until meeting the Philadelphia 76ers on Dec. 21, which is eight games from now. The lesser competition has allowed the Raptors to focus on spreading the offensive wealth rather than relying on guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Seven players scored in double figures Wednesday and the club's 30 assists were one shy of their season best. Chalk up another 'victim' here. Make Toronto a 10* play.
|12-07-17||Wizards v. Suns +7.5||Top||109-99||Loss||-110||13 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: The Phoenix Suns opened the season 0-3 with two losses of 40 points or more. That prompted the firing of head coach Earl Watson, who was replaced by Jay Triano. The Suns have been more competitive since that horrific start (nowhere to go but up!), going 9-14 SU but also 12-10-1 ATS. The team just completed a 2-4 road trip but SG Devin Booker went down with a strained left adductor in Tuesday's 126-113 setback at Toronto. However, the Suns hope to have Booker available when they host Washington Wizards on Thursday. The 13-11 Wizards opened their five-game road trip with a 116-69 loss at Utah on Monday but quickly bounced back the next night in Portland, winning 106-92.
Washington: SG Bradley Beal posted a career-high 51 points in Tuesday's win, as with Washington operating without All-Star PGJohn Wall (knee), he's being asked to take on more responsibility. Beal, as well as the entire team, laid an egg in Utah but all was right in Portland, especially with Beal who was 21-of-37 from the floor in his career-best effort. "I was really upset with the way we played, especially with myself individually," Beal told reporters in reference to the Utah debacle. "I just came in (to Portland) with the mindset that I was going to be aggressive, not thinking about anything else but trying to get a win and playing my game." Beal leads with 23.3 PPG with Wall (he has missed six games and remains sidelined because of left knee inflammation) second on the Wizards in scoring at 20.3 PPG (leads in assists with 9.2 per game). The Wizards are 3-3 with Tim Frazier starting in Wall's place.
Phoenix: Booker (24.3-4.5-4.1) had to be helped off the court on Tuesday after scoring 19 points in 39 minutes and will undergo further testing to determine the severity of the injury. Booker had missed the first game of the road trip but was on fire over the rest of the trip, averaging 31.6 points on 50.5 percent shooting, including a 46-point outburst in a 115-101 win at Philadelphia on Monday. The Suns saw eight players score in double figures in the loss at Toronto and will ask even more of players like T.J. Warren (18.4 & 5.7) (9.2 & 3.5) and rookie Josh Jackson if Booker is unable to go.
The pick: John Wall played (scored 21 points) and Bradley Beal scored 40, points back on Nov. 1 in Washington, yet the Wizards were still outscored by the Suns, 122-116 (as an 11-pont underdog). Warren exploded for a career-high 40 points on 16-of-22 shooting while adding 10 rebounds in that one, as Phoenix overcame a 22-point deficit to secure the victory. Center Greg Monroe collected 11 points and 10 rebounds on Tuesday to mark his third double-double in nine games with the team and enters doing a nice job since the trade (10.8 & 7.4). Revenge for Washington? I'm not buying it, as the Wizards are the only team in the Southeast Division with a winning record. The home dog barks loudly in this one. Make Phoenix a 10* play.
|12-06-17||Nuggets v. Pelicans -4.5||Top||114-123||Win||100||23 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: New Orleans Pelicans squandered a 20-point halftime lead on Monday at home against the defending champs, eventually falling 125-115. Frustration seemed to boil over in the final minutes as a slew of technical fouls were handed out and DeMarcus Cousins was ejected (shocking!). The 12-12 Pelicans will try to re-group tonight, when the welcome the 13-10 Denver Nuggets to the Smoothie King Center. Denver opened its six-game trip with a 122-105 loss at Western Conference-worst Dallas on Monday, falling to 3-8 on the road, compared to the team's 10-2 home mark. Both teams are missing key performers, as Anthony Davis (25.2 & 11.0) is sidelined with a groin injury and Nikola Jokic (15.5 & 10.6) with an ankle injury.
Denver: The Mavs rank among the lowest-scoring teams in the league but shot 57 percent from the floor against Denver on Monday. "They get their 3s from dribble penetration," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told reporters of the Mavericks. "When you can't guard their guards and they live in the paint for scores and they live in the paint for kick-out 3s, they got everything tonight. You're not going to beat anybody when you're giving up that kind of productivity in the paint and behind the arc." Is Malone serious? If the Mavs are "tough to guard" for his team, where are the Nuggets headed? The Nuggets fell behind by 25 points in the first half and could not recover despite 22 points from Murray and 21 from Harris. Murray is averaging 14.4 PPG, joining fellow guards Barton (15.8), Harris (14.4) and Mudiay (10.0) in double digits. With Jokic sidelined for at least a few games and PF Millsap (15.7 & 6.2) also out until late-February with a wrist injury, Denver will need help from forwards Chandler and Faried, as well as center Plumlee. Not sure that will happen, though.
New Orleans: "I keep telling our guys, as bad as this loss is, what we keep proving is that we have the ability to play extended minutes with the world champs," Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry told reporters after the 125-115 loss. "We have to now find a way to not do it for 32 or 36 minutes, but for 48." New Orleans is operating without Davis, who had an MRI on his groin reveal no major damage and is now considered day-to-day with a left adductor strain. New Orleans is making up for the loss of production by asking more of its backcourt, and Jrue Holiday (34) and E'Twaun Moore (27) combined for 61 points on Monday. Holiday (16.3-4.4-5.5) is playing off the point with Rajon Rondo (6.6 & 7.3 APG) running the offense and has seen his scoring tick up to an average of 22.6 points in the last five games, with Rondo averaging nine assists in that span. Moore averages 12.6 PPG on the season, the only other player in double digits other than Cousins (25.3 & 12.2).
The pick: Talk about a revenge motive! Denver shot 62.9 percent from the floor in a 146-114 home win over New Orleans back on Nov. 17! It was the team's best shooting percentage since 2012, and the Nuggets made 18 of 35 attempts from long range. They also recorded a season-high 37 assists and their starting five combined for 101 points. Davis played only 21 minutes in the first game against Denver but still led the Pelicans with 17 points. He is listed as day-to-day for Wednesday but he said Monday he was still experiencing sharp pain in his left groin area when making lateral cuts. No reason to expect Davis to play here but let's remember the Nuggets are now 3-8 SU and 3-9 ATS on the road (are allowing 10.9 PPG) and as head coach Malone noted, had no answers for the pathetic Mavs' offense. Lay it and make the Pelicans a 10* play.
|12-04-17||Suns +10.5 v. 76ers||Top||115-101||Win||100||19 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The 76ers are finally starting to give some positive signs that "The Process" is beginning to come together. Philly welcomes the Phoenix Suns to ton sporting an overall 13-9 record. The 76ers are 5-1 in their last six games and 7-3 in their last 10, losing only to the Warriors, Cavaliers and Celtics. This just in...Those three teams are pretty good. As for the Suns, Phoenix finds itself 8-16 on the season. The Suns fell to 1-3 on their six-game road trip with a 116-111 loss at Boston on Saturday and have surrendered an average of 122 points in the three losses on the trip.
Phoenix: The Suns rank 30th (last) in the NBA in points allowed at 115.9 per game and after allowing the Celtics to shoot 52.5 percent from the floor on Saturday, rank 26th in defensive FG percentage at 47.1%. The Suns nearly erased a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter at Boston but in the end, it was just another loss. "We competed well, we've just got to not make mistakes and compete for more possessions than we did tonight," interim coach Jay Triano told reporters after the game. "It's just understanding the game and what's available and not making mistakes down the stretch. Our discipline has to be better." Shooting guard Devin Booker poured in 39 points on 16-of-29 shooting in Boston and is averaging 31 points on 55 percent shooting over the last three games. He leads the team at PPG 23.6 PPG, with small forward T.J. Warren adding 18.4 & 5.8 RPG.
Philadelphia: The 76ers are already "thinking playoffs." They rode 25 points and 10 rebounds from center Joel Embiid (23.1 & 11.3) to a 108-103 win over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday, pulling it out in the fourth quarter after squandering a lead in the third. "That's a good win for us," Embiid told reporters. "Getting those wins against what could be (a playoff team) is always good, learning the style of play." Rookie PG Ben Simmons scored just five points on Saturday (his first game scoring in single digits) but on the year is averaging 17.9-9.4-7.1. SG Redick (15.6), SF Covington (15.6) and PF Saric (11.5-6.4) are also in double digits.
The pick: Yes, the 76ers are 7-4 SU (8-3 ATS) at home but laying double digits? To say the least, the 76ers don’t have much of a track record as a double-digit favorite these last four-plus seasons. How about they are 0-0 when laying nine points or more. Take the points and make the Suns (6-3-1 ATS last 10 as a road dog) a 10* play.
|12-02-17||Pistons v. 76ers -5||Top||103-108||Push||0||19 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: The Philadelphia 76ers are 12-9 but have have been shut down this past week by two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, losing 113-91 at home to Cleveland on Monday and then 108-97 at Boston on Thursday. Philly now gets set to host the Pistons, who are no slouch themselves. Detroit has missed the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons but has every intent to change that dynamic here in the 2017-18 season, opening 14-7. That leaves them tied with Toronto, a half-game back of the Cavs, with all three teams chasing the 19-4 Celtics.
Detroit: The Pistons are coming off a 109-91 loss at Washington on Friday, as Andre Drummond's 15th double-double (14 points & 17 rebounds) was not nearly enough. The Pistons led by six at halftime but were outscored 35-15 in the third quarter, as their three-game winning streak came to an end. "We got killed on the glass," head coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters. "They played so much harder. ... We did nothing. We did nothing. I really don't have an explanation." Four of five starters average in double figures, led by Harris (18.9 & 5.3). Guards Bradley (16.6) and Jackson (15.6 & 5.8 APG) join Harris, as does center Drimmond (14.3 & 15.2). Five others add exclellent deoth, contributing between 6.2 and 9.6 PPG.
Phildelphia. The 76ers had won five of six before 'hitting a wall' against Cleveland and Boston. The Sixers rested center Joel Embiid on Thursday night in Boston, as it was their second game in as many nights and he has not yet been cleared to play in a back-to-back situations after undergoing surgery on his left knee in March. However, Embiid will play here and he's averaging 22.9 & 11.3. Ben Simmons (18.6-9.4-7.2) reminds some of Magic Johnson plus SG Redick (15.4), SF Covington (14.7 & 6.1) and PF Saric (11.2 & 6.4) are all playing well. T.J. McConnell (7.0 & 5.4 APG) missed the Boston game with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder but Bayless (9.7) is an able replacement at PG.
The pick: Tough back-to-back situation here for Detroit, as the team plays its second contest in a four-game road trip. Philadelphia claimed the first meeting between the teams with a 97-86 win in Detroit (Oct. 23), as Ben Simmons recorded his first career triple-double with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists and the 76ers limited the Pistons to 38.8 percent from the floor. Oh by the way, Embiid had 30 points in that first meeting in Detroit, as Drummond couldn't stop him. Nothing different expected here, Make Philly a HUGE 10* play.
|11-30-17||Cavs -7.5 v. Hawks||Top||121-114||Loss||-110||23 h 0 m||Show|
The set-up: Clearly, reports of Cleveland's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Despite LBJ's first-ever ejection Tuesday vs. the Heat, the Cavs' victory was the team's ninth in a row. As for the Hawks, the last thing they need to see tonight at home is a well-motivated James or a red-hot Cleveland squad after suffering the worst loss of an already down season with a 112-78 home setback to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday. "Our defense was just - they were shooting 64, 68 percent at the half," Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters. "They'd hit enough 3's to make you worry about that and they'd just kick it into drive. I feel like our defense, not just in the paint but everywhere, was just not good enough for an NBA game." The Hawks have made 10 straight playoff appearances (only the Spurs own a longer active streak) but welcome the Cavs to Phillips Arena just 4-16 on the season (only the 3-16 Bulls own a worse record)..
Cleveland: LBJ had 21 points (on 10-of-16 shooting) while adding 12 rebounds, six assists and five steals in 28 minutes against the Miami Heat on Tuesday but his ejection overshadowed a dominant performance from Kevin Love (18.7 & 10.0), who scored a season-high 38 points while going 10-of-16 from the floor and 14-of-17 from the free-throw line. The All-Star came up one rebound shy of his sixth double-double during the nine-game winning streak. The Cavs are now scoring 110.8 PPG (up to 3rd-best) but still have trouble on the opposite end of the court, allowing 108.5 PPG (25th).
Atlanta: The Hawks haven't played since that Saturday's 'embarrassment' vs. Toronto but will the extra practice time help much vs. the Cavs? PG Dennis Schroder (19.7 & 6.8 APG) scored a team-high 14 points in the loss to Toronto and has reached double figures in scoring in seven straight games after bottoming out with seven points on 2-of-16 shooting in a loss at Washington on Nov. 11. Schroder's been pretty much a lone bright spot for the Hawks this season, although five others are contributing between 11.0 and 12,7 PPG (none stand out, though!). The Hawks rank near the bottom in both points scored (102.2 ranks 23rd) and points allowed (108.2 ranks 24th), so it's easy to see why they are struggling.
The pick: It doesn't help Atlanta's chance here that one of the Cavaliers' most unexplainable losses during their disappointing 5-7 start to the current season came at home back on Nov. 5, when an injury-depleted Atlanta team that was riding an eight-game losing streak, won 117-115. Schroder matched a season high with 28 points and added nine assists in that Hawks' win but he'll need plenty of help here, if Atlanta is to "stay close." As noted above, Love is coming off a terrific outing and will now get a chance to wipe away the memory of his worst performance of the season, when he managed four points on 1-of-6 shooting in that home loss to the Hawks. My guess is that LBJ (28.2-8.3-8.3) will be focused off that ejection and I expect the Cavs to extend their winning streak to 10 in a row with plenty of room to spare. The Cavs are both 7-3 SU & ATS on the road this season, Make Cleveland an 8* play.
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