|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|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.
|11-28-17||Suns v. Bulls||Top||104-99||Win||100||10 h 60 m||Show|
The set-up: The "new look" Chicago Bulls are into a full-blown rebuilding process and after dropping five straight, as well as 10 of its last 11 games, stand at an NBA-worst 3-15. Chicago welcomes the 7-14 Phoenix Suns to the United Center on Tuesday, a team which has lost three in a row and 10 of their last 13 games, overall. This contest is a quick turnaround from a Nov. 19 game at the Talking Stick Arena, when Suns won 113-105.Phoenix: Star guard Devin Booker(22.5-4.2-4.2) suffered the injury during Friday's loss to the New Orleans Pelicans before sitting out Sunday's setback against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He hopes (big toe) hopes to return from a one-game absence but struggled with just 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting during that Nov. 19 home win over the Bulls .Booker's absence against the T-wolves led to increased playing time for rookie guard Mike James (11.4), who responded with a career-high 26 points in 30 minutes. "I think it's a little bit skewed because obviously Booker didn't play," James told reporters while downplaying his solid effort. "Most of the shots I took were more his shots." First-round pick Josh Jackson moved into the starting lineup with Booker out and he struggled to five points on 2-of-10 shooting to mark his eighth single-digit outing in 11 games. Jackson has so far been a disappointment, averaging 8.2 & 3.8. A bright spot (besides Booker) has been TJ Warren (18.6 & 5.6), who has scored in double digits in 12 straight games, reaching 20 points six times during that stretch. Chicago: The Bulls' Sunday loss emphasizes many of the problems the team has. Chicago held the Heat to seven first-period points but then allowed 38 in the second! "Nobody on our team wants to learn from losing," second-year forward Denzel Valentine (10.6 & 5.2) told reporters. "Everyone wants to learn by winning. But at the same time, all you can do is go out and compete." Jerian Grant (9.3 & 5.1 APG) lost his starting PG spot to Kris Dunn (10.6-4.7-3.9) but responded with outings of 21 points against the Golden State Warriors and a career-best 24 against the Heat. "I feel like when I'm out there with the second unit guys, I have that opportunity more," Grant told reporters about being able to look to score. "Coming off the bench I have to be aggressive and I feel like that helps our team. Being out there with that lineup, it's the punch I can give them." Dunn is averaging four points on 2-of-17 shooting in those same two games but coach Fred Hoiberg reiterated that he will remain the starter. Another example of a team with no sense of direction. The pick: Chicago currently owns the better first-round draft pick, as Lauri Markkanen (14.4 & 8.3) has looked 'light-years' better than Jackson (see above). In fact, Markkanen scored a career-best 26 points and collected 13 rebounds in the recent matchup with the Suns. Then again, the Bulls lost. Second verse, same as the first. Make the Suns a 10* play.
|11-27-17||Lakers +4.5 v. Clippers||Top||115-120||Loss||-105||24 h 11 m||Show|
The setup: The Los Angeles Clippers opened the season 0-4 but the team quickly unraveled. A nine-game losing streak from Nov. 4-20 left them at 5-11 but the team's 116-103 win in Atlanta (11/22) finally stopped the bleeding. A 97-95 win at Sacramento followed, so now the 7-11 Clippers are looking to make it three in a row when they take on their Staples Center co-tenants, the LA Lakers. Those Lakers missed out on their own chance at a three-game winning streak with a 113-102 loss at Sacramento on Wednesday and have been off, since. The Lakers enter this game with an 8-11 mark, which is not bad at all for a team which has won 27, 21, 17 and 26 games the last four seasons, respectively.
Lakers: Having some extra time off has given the Lakers time to work PF Larry Nance Jr. back into shape in practice after he missed 11 games with a fractured hand. “It was good to have him back out there,” Lakers coach Luke Walton told reporters. “I think he’ll be good to go by Monday. ... If he’s good to go and cleared and ready, I don’t see any reason to not put him back in the starting lineup." Nance's return could push rookie PF Kyle Kuzma back into a reserve role despite his strong play this month. The rookie from Utah is averaging 18.1 points and 7.5 rebounds in 11 games as a starter and 15 points and 4.8 boards in eight games as a reserve. Fellow rookie Lonzo Ball (you may have head of him and his family?) has recorded at least a double-double in each of the last three games and went 4-of-8 from the floor in Wednesday's loss at Sacramento, marking the second time in his brief career that he shot at least 50 percent from the field in a game. Ball is averaging 9.0-7.4-7.1 but as alluded to, makes just 31.5% on FG attempts, including 21.5% on threes. Kuzma's 16.8 PPG leads seven double digit scorers.
Clippers: Blake Griffin (23.4-7.7-5.0) is the team-leader and five others average in double digits, including center Jordan (10.1 & 13.9), who shoots 65.5% from the floor plus anchors the defense. Jordan's contributions are subtler than Griffin but are no less impactful to the win column. He capped off a 16-rebound effort on Saturday agiants the Kings by using his length to alter a shot in the final seconds by Sacramento's Buddy Hield. Backing up, those "other five averaging in double digits" is now down to four, after First Team All-NBA defender Patrick Beverley was lost to a season-ending knee surgery.
The pick: The Clippers have won 15 of the last 16 in the series but "The Times They Are A-Changin!" For the first time quite a few years, "the Lake Show" may just be the equal of "Lob City!" Take the points and make the Lakers an 8* play.
|11-24-17||Heat v. Wolves -4||Top||109-97||Loss||-105||20 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: The 11-7 Minnesota Timberwolves will welcome the 8-9 Miami Heat to the Target Center of Friday night, as all NBA teams were able to enjoy a Thanksgivings Day "off night." The Heat just knocked off the Celtics 104-98 Wednesday night, ending the NBA's longest winning streak at 16. However, Miami (at just 8-9), will have no time to rest on its laurels, as the Heat open a four-game road trip tonight in Minnesota. The Timberwolves won 124-118 win over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, after back-to-back losses. However, it was hardly smooth sailing, as they squandered a 26-point lead in the fourth quarter. "We have to work at it," Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters of fourth-quarter woes. "You have to be tough-minded."
Miami: Head coach Erik Spoelstra put his team through a pair of tough practices leading into the matchup with the Celtics, after getting blown out 120-95 at home by Indiana on Sunday. The strategy seemed to pay off. "I don't even care about the result," Spoelstra told reporters after Wednesday's 104-98 triumph. "Right now, it's all behavior and habits." PG Goran Dragic has led the team in scoring all season (18.8 & 4.6 APG) but entered the Boston game having totaled 14 points on 6-of-19 shooting in his two previous games, before breaking out for 27 points in the win over the Celtics. The 31-year-old did not attempt a free throw in the previous three games but got back to attacking the basket against Boston and went 9-of-10 from the line. SG Dion Waiters (15.9) wasn't far behind, as he scored 26 points on Wednesday, after going scoreless on 0-of-10 shooting in Sunday's loss. Center Whiteside has been bothered by a thumb issue and had a modest with eight points and 10 rebounds but continues to be a double-double machine, averaging 15.5 & 13.2 on the season.
Minnesota: The T-wolves had held six of eight games opponents under 100 points (won all six of those games) but let up some on the defensive end over the last three contests, dropping two in a row before pulling out Wednesday's 124-118 win. "My concern is what we're doing defensively," Thibodeau told reporters. "If we're going to go anywhere, we have to correct that." The Timberwolves make up for some of those defensive issues on the other end of the floor vs. Orlando, as Jimmy Butler matched a season high on Wednesday with 26 points, Three others, Taj Gibson (24), Jeff Teague (22) and Andrew Wiggins (20) all reached the 20-point plateau as well. All five starters are averaging in double digits for the T-wolves, led by center Towns (20.4 & 11.5). He's followed by Wiggins (18.8 & 4.1) plus newcomers Butler (16.9-5.5-4.2), Teague (14.0 & 7.5 APG) and Gibson (10.4 & 7.8). However, Thibodeau has always emphasized strong defensive play and Minnesota is falling woefully short of that goal, allowing 108.2 PPG (25th) on 48.6 percent shooting (30th).
The pick: The Heat are looking to turn the tables on a Minnesota team that beat them 125-122 in overtime on Oct. 30 at AmericanAirlines Arena but even with a Thanksgiving Day 'holiday' in between, I expect there to be a letdown off that win over Boston. The T-wolves were on a 7-2-1 ATS run before failing to cover three in a row but this seems like just the "wrong place at the wrong time" for Miami. Make Minnesota a 10* play.
|11-22-17||Clippers -3.5 v. Hawks||Top||116-103||Win||100||13 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: The LA Clippers were riding high at 4-0 SU & ATS, after Blake Griffin hit a game-winning three-pointer to edge Portland back on Oct. 26 . However, the "new look" Clippers have been in a free-fall ever since, going 1-11 SU. That includes bringing a nine-game losing streak (1-8 ATS) to Atlanta and this game with the Hawks, after Monday’s 107-85 defeat in New York. the Knicks. Not sure many are aware that the Hawks own the second-longest active postseason streak (second only to the Spurs) but there have not been many positives this season for Atlanta Hawks, who enter this game just 3-11 SU and 7-9 ATS. The 2018 postseason seems like nothing but a pipe dream at the moment.
LA Clippers: “Bottom line, we just can’t sustain anything,” Los Angeles head coach Doc Rivers told the media after Monday's loss. “Right now, we get it going a little bit and one thing happens and it just implodes.” The Clippers’ guard play was not strong Monday, as Austin Rivers, Lou Williams and Jawun Evans combined to shoot 5-for-25 from the floor. Griffin is averaging 22.7-7.8-4.7 and is joined by five other double digit scorers, including center Jordan at 10.1 & 13.7 (one of 12 NBA players currently averaging a double-double). However, LA is just about "average or below" in scoring 104.9 PPG (16th) and allowing 106.6 PPG (19th)..
Atlanta: Similar to LA, the Hawks have six players averaging in double digits, led by new starting PG Dennis Schroder (19.7 & 7.1 APG). However, the Hawks rank even lower than the Clippers in both scoring (102.8 PPG which is 22nd) and points allowed (107.8 ranks 24th). The Hawks have been competitive against some of the better teams in the NBA, including an 11-point loss at San Antonio on Monday. Rookie John Collins (11.6 & 7.4) grabbed attention in that one by scoring 21 points and collecting nine rebounds off the bench.
The pick: Atlanta’s last four games have featured a one-point loss, a franchise-record 46-point victory plus close calls against Boston and San Antonio.The Hawks are surely playing better than the Clipps but if LA can't win here, one wonders just how far this team will fall. I'm in on the Clippers and will make them a 10* play.
|11-22-17||Celtics -3.5 v. Heat||Top||98-104||Loss||-110||13 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: It seems as if no deficit is too large for the Celtics to overcome. Boston has rallied from double-digit deficits for victories in each of its last three contests to keep the team's now 16-game winning streak alive (4th-longest in franchise history). The Celtics trailed by 13 with less than eight minutes to go Monday before storming back for a 110-102 overtime victory at Dallas, as Kyrie Irving scored a season-high 47 points. 16-2 Boston can tie the third-longest streak (1959-60) in franchise history with a win here at AmericanAirlines Arena and hope for a similar effort to the one on Oct. 28 when the Celtics took care of the Heat 96-90 in Miami. The 7-9 Heat have dropped three of their last four after getting crushed 120-95 at home against Indiana on Sunday, a game in which they allowed 60 percent shooting from the floor.
Boston: Irving's been everything and more for Boston, averaging 22.5 & 5.3 APG plus taking over as team-leader. “He’s got every move imaginable, but on top of that he’s one of the best shooters in the league,” head coach Brad Stevens told the Boston Herald. “Everybody gets caught up in the moves and dribbling and everything he can do the ball, but his touch is beautiful with both hands.” Nearing the quarter-pole of the regular season, Irving is making his case as league MVP. Stevens knows a little something about "moves," as he's quickly risen to the top-tier of the NBA coaching ranks. Jaylen Brown is averaging 23.7 points over the last three games to push his season mark to 16.2 PPG, while making 10-of-20 from three-point range. He's showing just why he was drafted 3rd overall in 2016 by Boston.
Miami: The Heat's leading scorer is also the team's PG, Goran Dragic. He's averaging 18.3 & 4.7 APG on the season but just seven points over his past two games, while missing 13 of 19 shots from the floor. Meanwhile backcourt partner Dion Waiters (2nd-best scorer at 15.1 PPG) is coming off an 0-for-10 shooting performance in Sunday's game. To state the obvious, that's bad news when getting set to host Boston. Center Hassan Whiteside continues to put up big numbers (16.2 &13.5) and forward James Johnson is the fourth player averaging in double figures (12.3).
The pick: The Celtics have trailed by double digits in five of their 16 wins, making a habit of playing well "in the clutch.".In stark contrast, Miami has faded down the stretch. The Heat are the worst second-half team in the league so far this season. Miami's first-half FG percentage (51.1) is sixth-best in the league but the Heat's second-half shooting percentage (39.6) is last. Boston is 9-1 SU & ATS on the road, while the Heat are 2-6 SU and 0-6-2 ATS at home. Not a tough call. Make Boston an 8* play.
|11-20-17||Blazers -1.5 v. Grizzlies||Top||100-92||Win||100||12 h 22 m||Show|
The set-up: The Memphis Grizzlies earned a 98-97 win in Portland on Nov. 7 to reach 7-4 but have surrendered an average of 110.5 PPG in losing four in a row (0-4 ATS) to fall under .500 at 7-8. The Grizz will welcome the Portland Trail Blazers to Memphis Monday night in hopes of snapping their current slide. However, the Blazers are moving in the opposite direction of the Grizzlies, having won three of four to move to 9-7 on the season. Then again, the Blazers, who will play their next five games on the road, have lost three in a row away from home with their last road victory coming way back on Oct. 20 when they bested Indiana 114-96 in just their second game of the season.
Portland: The Blazers scored a season low in an 86-82 loss at Sacramento on Friday but returned the favor with a 102-90 triumph at home over the Kings the next night. “I liked our demeanor,” Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts told reporters after the win. “After being disappointed last night and struggling with the offense, to come back and the way we set the tone — I think our first five baskets were assisted — I thought that set a good tone for the rest of the night." The offense has been led all season by guards Lillard (25.6-5.4-6.4) and McCollum (22.5) plus 7-0 center Nurkic (14.6 & 7.2). That said, Portland's real improvement so far this season has come defensively, with the Blazers allowing just 97.5 PPG (2nd) on 43.1 percent shooting (3rd).
Memphis: The Grizzlies were solid defensively at home against Houston on Saturday, holding one of the league's top scoring offenses to 44.9 percent shooting (Grizzlies allow 101.3 PPG to rank 7th) but could not figure out a way to get anything done at the other end in a 105-83 loss. "We couldn’t get organized in the basic sets that we run, for whatever reason," Grizzlies coach David Fizdale told reporters. "I know a couple of the guys that are just getting back are running around with their heads cut off a little bit. We just couldn’t get organized." Memphis is searching for a leader on the court with PG Mike Conley (Achilles) out until at least next month. Center Mark Gasol leads in scoring (19.7) and rebounding )9.3) but without Conley's 17.1 PPG, only swingman Evans (17.7 & 5,4) is averaging in double digits, Mario Chalmers, who missed all of last season because of a ruptured Achilles tendon he sustained in March 2016 started at PG on Saturday and had only six points.The Grizzlies are averaging only 100.7 PPG, which ranks 25th.
The pick: Without Conley, Memphis too limited offensively and as noted above, after allowing108.5 PPG last season, the Blazers are allowing just 97.5 PPG so far this season, an 11.0 PPG improvement (that's a BIG deal!). Make Portland a 10* play.
|11-19-17||Pacers v. Heat -4.5||Top||120-95||Loss||-103||10 h 58 m||Show|
The set-up: The Indiana Pacers are just 8-8 and the Miami Heat only 7-8 as the two teams get set to meet this afternoon at American Airlines Arena in Miami. However, both are coming off impressive wins on Friday night. Indiana overcame a 22-point deficit in a 107-100 home win over the red-hot Detroit Pistons, while Miami built a 25-point lead at Washington before holding on for a 91-88 victory. The Heat welcome the Pacers to town, having won six straight home games against Indiana, including picking up their first win of the season at home against the Pacers back on Oct. 21.
Indiana: The Pacers outscored the Pistons 36-19 in the fourth quarter, making 6 of 7 three-pointers. SG Victor Oladipo,who leads Indiana in scoring at 23.1 PPG, posted 21 points (despite by going 6-for-19 from the floor) plus added a career-high 15 rebounds with four assists, one steal and one block in a stellar 39-minute, all-around effort. Lance Stephenson (6.6 & 4.40) scored all 13 of his points in the fourth quarter Friday and chipped in eight rebounds and two assists in 18 quality minutes. Behind Oladipo, the Pacers have five players chipping in between 13.0 and 13.6 PPG. Indiana averages 108.4 PPG (9th) but also allows 108.8 PPG, which ranks 25th.
Miami: The Heat looked bad down the stretch against the Wizards, nearly coughing up a 25-point lead in Friday's win. However, they held Washington's star PG John Wall to just eight points. "Our defense is tighter, and our penetrators are getting in the paint," said Heat center Hassan Whiteside when asked by Sun Sports for the key to the victory that snapped a two-game losing streak. "We are not settling for jump shots." Whiteside (16.3 & 14.1) was huge for Miami, posting his seventh double-double in just 10 games this season, going for 22 points (made 10 of 12 shots from the floor) with 16 rebounds and two blocks. Forward James Johnson (12.4 & 5.5) scored 20 points off the bench plus swingman Justise Winslow (6.8 & 5.3) had 10 points, seven rebounds and two steals in just 18 minutes. Miami's starting guards have led the way all season, with PG Dragic averaging 19.0-4.2-4.7 and SG Waiters adding 16.3 PPG. Miami has not scored well (100.6 PPG ranks 26th) but has defended well, allowing 102.0 PPG (8th).
The pick: Miami has won six straight meetings at home, including that Oct. 21 meeting this year. In that one, Miami was cruising with a 21-point lead with just 16 1/2 minutes to play, but the Pacers wouldn’t go away. Indiana closed to within just two points with 12 seconds left, before Miami won 122-118. It's true that the Heat are 0-5-2 ATS at home so far but they shot 51.7% in their last game against the Pacers and this time around, won't blow a big lead. Make Miami a 10* play.
|11-18-17||Bucks -8 v. Mavs||Top||79-111||Loss||-105||14 h 44 m||Show|
The set-up: Mark Cuban decided to bypass Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2013 draft as a means to protect salary cap space in an effort to go after then-free agent Dwight Howard. Dallas traded down and eventually drafted guard Shane Larkin. And so it goes. The 8-6 Milwaukee Bucks are sure glad they have Antetokounmpo, who has been the talk of the league in the early going of the 2017-18 season. Cuban and his NBA-worst Mavericks (2-14 SU & 4-12 ATS) will get a front-row view of the "Greek Freak" when the Bucks visit American Airlines Center in Dallas tonight.
Milwaukee: The Bucks arrive in Dallas on a season-best four-game winning streak. Antetokounmpo is averaging 30.6-10.0-4.6 on the season and has topped 20 points in 13 of 14 games this year. It's also worth mentioning that Milwaukee hasn't lost since PG Eric Bledsoe joined the team. He is averaging 13.3 PPG, despite shooting a 36.7 percent, including a woeful 3-of-18 from three-point range. A healthy Middleton is averaging 18.4 PPG and last year's ROY Brodgdon is averaging 14.8 & 4.0. Milwaukee is shooting well (48.2% ranks 3rd) but not scoring enough (103.9 PPG ranks 20th).
Dallas: The Mavs are a mess and going nowhere. Dallas suffered a disappointing 111-87 home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday as it built a 12-point halftime lead before being drubbed 68-32 in the second half. The Mavericks are an NBA-worst 1-8 at home and Friday's scoring output was their lowest of the campaign. The Mavs badly need a victory after losing four straight and 10 of their last 11 contests. However, are they already running out of time to turn the season around? Rookie PG Dennis Smith has shown flashes of the type of player he might become, averaging 15.2-4.2-4.6. However, the aging Dirk Nowitzki is averaging just 10.5 PPG and the Mavs are struggling to keep up offensively. Dallas is scoring 98.2 PPG (28th) on 42.0 percent shooting (29th).
The pick: Bledsoe will get his shooting touch straightened out but for know, the Bucks have said his energy has helped spark his teammates. The Mavericks have excelled against the Bucks in recent seasons by winning eight of the last nine meetings and the Bucks have dropped their last four games in Dallas (most recent victory occurring Feb. 26, 2013). However, that was then and this is now! Make Milwaukee a 10* play.
|11-17-17||Pelicans +4.5 v. Nuggets||Top||114-146||Loss||-103||22 h 37 m||Show|
The set-up: The 8-7 New Orleans Pelicans are coming off a 125-116 home loss to the Toronto Raptors and now head to the Pepsi Center in Denver to take on the 8-6 Nuggets, who couldn't 'buy a basket' in Monday’s 99-82 loss in Portland against the Trail Blazers. The Pelicans allowed the Raptors to shoot 59.2 percent from the floor plus Toronto went 16-of-34 from three-point range. As for the Nuggets, Denver scored 11 points fewer than their previous low this season Monday in Portland, while shooting just 35.7 percent from the floor.
New Orleans: “The rotations were bad, communication was pretty bad,” New Orleans leading scorer DeMarcus Cousins told reporters after the home loss to the Raptors. “We let guys that are known shooters get wide open shots. That’s on us. We were a bit limited.” however, there was some good news on Wednesday, as PG Rajon Rondo made his first start of the season Wednesday in his second appearance since returning from core muscle surgery in the preseason. He contributed four points and eight assists in 14 minutes. “I’m just taking my time and trying to do the right thing,” Rondo told the Times-Picayune. “I haven’t had any practices and these games are like practices. I’m just trying to make sure I manage it correctly. It’s a marathon not a sprint.” It's no surprise that the Pelicans' version of "the Twin Towers," Cousins (28.0 & 13.7) and Davis (25.6 & 11.4) are doing what they have been expected to do.
Denver: The Nuggets 'ugly' offensive effort Monday in Portland "came out of nowhere," as Denver entered that contest averaging 113 PPG in Its previous three contests. 6-10 center Nikola Jokic had averaged 22.7 PPG in that stretch and was named Western Conference Player of the Week. “We were in a very good offensive rhythm coming in here,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told reporters. “And they took us out of our rhythm right away.” Jokic (16.4 & 11.6) leads six players averaging in double figures in scoring. PF Paul Millsap (15.7 & 6.4) has picked up his production by scoring 17 per game over the last four and those two frontcourt guys are joined by guards Barton (14.9 & 5.4), Murray (13.2), Harris (12.4) and Mudiay (11.6).
The pick: The Denver Nuggets gained confidence by going 5-1 on their recent homestand but that positive mojo was dealt a blow with that humbling loss at Portland on Monday night. The Pelicans scored a 25-point upset in the Pepsi Center last season and the team comes into this game having gone 4-1 SU & 5-0 ATS in their last five road contests. Make New Orleans an 8* play.
|11-17-17||Thunder v. Spurs||Top||101-104||Loss||-105||19 h 7 m||Show|
The set: The Thunder's "new look" of adding Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to reigning MVP Russell Westbrook has not been a smooth transition. However, a favorable portion of the schedule (three home games against sub-.500 teams) has allowed OKC to get back to .500 at 7-7. However, "the degree of difficulty" is about to go up, starting with tonight's visit to the AT&T Center. The 9-6 San Antonio Spurs had won five of six before falling flat in a 98-86 loss at Minnesota on Wednesday.
Oklahoma City: The Thunder come in off wins over the Clippers, Mavs and Bulls. Carmelo Anthony (back) returned from a one-game layoff to notch his first double-double with Oklahoma City against the Bulls (18 & 11) but he struggled from the floor along with fellow stars Paul George and Russell Westbrook. The trio shot 13-for-38 against Chicago, which left them taking pride in a defensive effort that held Chicago to seven first-quarter points and a 34.7 percent mark from the floor for the game. The Thunder are still trying to find the best use of their Big 3. Is the combo of George (21.9 & 5.9) and Anthony (20.1 & 6.2) added to Westbrook (20.3-8.1-9.6) making OKC a better team? As one can see, Westbrook's numbers are down across the better and the team's three-game winning streak leaves them at just 7-7.
San Antonio: The Spurs will not be "the Spurs" until Kawhi Leonard gets back. Wednesday's loss at Minnesota represented the team's worst offensive effort of the season, 79 points on 41.8% shooting. Foul trouble limited Aldridge to 28 minutes in the loss to Minnesota, his second-lowest total of the season. The team's leading scorer at 22.0 PPG, was held to 15 points on 5-of-14 shooting. Gay (12.0), Green (10.6) and Gasol (10.5) are barely scoring in double digits for the Spurs.
The pick: The Spurs are having real trouble finding reliable offensive options, while waiting for Leonard and PG Tony Parker to make their season debuts. I'm not sure that changes here against the Thunder, who are playing well defensively (OKC ranks 2nd in both PPG allowed at 97.1 and defensive FG percentage at 43.1) while having their own problems figuring out the new dynamic of how best to utilize its "Big 3." The Thunder will visit a dangerous New Orleans team next, then return home to host the Warriors and the surprising Pistons, giving them a difficult four-game stretch. Starting off that stretch "on the right foot,' is important. That's the bet. Make OKC a 10* play.
|11-16-17||Warriors -7 v. Celtics||Top||88-92||Loss||-101||13 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The Celtics opened the season with back-to-back losses plus lost prized FA addition Gordon Hayward for the entire year in the team's first game (at Cleveland). However, Boston has ripped off 13 consecutive wins (11-1-1 ATS) to give them an NBA-best 13-2 record. It prompted Golden State head coach Steve Kerr to proclaim that the Celtics are "the team of the future in the East." The Celtics welcome the NBA's ""team of the present" tonight to TD Garden, as the Warriors come to town winners of seven in a row and the West's best record of 11-3. The Celtics own the best defense in the NBA by limiting opponents to an average of 94.5 PPG, while the Warriors are scoring an average of 119.6 PPG, to lead all NBA teams.
Golden State: The Warriors' "Core Four" of Curry (25.2-4.7-6.7), Durant (24.8-7.5-5.2), Thompson (20.6) and Green (10.9-7.5-6.6) stand "above the crowd," as does Golden State's depth. The backcourt depth features Young, Stephenson and McCaw (listed in order of scoring averages), while the wings and frontcourt consists of West, Casspi, Iquodala, McGee, Looney and Pachulia (again, arranged in order of scoring prowess). PG Stephen Curry sat out Monday's 110-100 win over the Orlando Magic with a thigh contusion but is probable to return when the Warriors kick off a four-game road trip on Thursday. Golden State also leads the NBA in FG percentage (51.9%) and assists (31.3 per game).
Boston: The Celtics owned the East's best record last season but knew they needed "change" to compete with the Cavs and eventually, with the Warriors. The rebuilt Boston Celtics lost Hayward (see above) but new PG Kyrie Irving (20.6 & 5.2 APG) has been terrific, as has rookie Jason Tatum (14.0 & 5.3). Boston gave up Avery Bradley to get Marcus Morris and over the last four games, he's averaged 15.3 PPG and grabbed 10 rebounds in his last game (Boston needs him to rebound, especially without Hayward). Veteran center Horford (15.3-8.8-4.5) has been superb plus plus second-year SF Brown (14.7 & 6.7) is now a starter and looking every bit as good as Boston had hoped he'd be when was the team's first pick of the 2016 draft.
The pick: The Celtics currently own the NBA's best record but Golden State owns a better point-differential, plus-11.9 to plus-8.1. That's because in Golden State's current seven-game winning streak, the Warriors have won by an average margin of 19.9 PPG! The visiting team has taken the last five in the series plus the Warriors have won their last four trips to Boston. Make Golden State a 10* play.
|11-15-17||Cavs -1.5 v. Hornets||Top||115-107||Win||100||13 h 22 m||Show|
The set-up: Are the Cavs finally rounding into form? We do know this. Cleveland enters tonight's game at Charlotte having won consecutive games for the first time since opening the season 2-0. Monday's win over the Knicks in MSG was a special one, as the Cavs overcame a 23-point deficit en route to a 104-101 victory. Still, the Cavs are a hard-to-believe 7-7 on the season and look for their first three-game winning streak of the season tonight against the 5-7 Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets 'limp' home after an 0-4 road trip that ended with a 90-87 setback at Boston on Friday (team's lowest point total of the season).
Cleveland: LBJ got into a war of words with Knicks center Enes Kanter during and after Monday's trip to Madison Square Garden but got the last laugh with the comeback win, scoring 23 points, grabbing nine rebounds and handing out 12 assists. Here's a shocker, James is logging a league-high 38.1 MPG while averaging 28.1-7.4-8.8. James got some help on Monday from SG Kyle Korver, who scored 21 points (19 in the fourth quarter while making five 3-pointers!). However, Korver is averaging a modest 10.9 PPG. Love (17.6 & 10.4) is said to be unhappy about his move to center but he's the only other regular contributor. Rose has played in just half of the team's 14 games and Green (10.5) is the only player also averaging in double digits. Defense has been a major issue for the Cavs, as they are allowing 112.5 PPG on 47.5% shooting (both rank 28th in the league!).
Charlotte: The Hornets are planning (hoping?) on guard Nicolas Batum (elbow) making his season debut on Wednesday after he spent the last three days practicing with the team. “If it’s my call, yes,” Batum told the Charlotte Observer after practice on Tuesday of playing against the Cavaliers. “If the coaches and the training staff are OK with it, it should be a go tomorrow." Batum averaged career highs of 15.1 points and 5.9 assists in 2016-17 while adding 6.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals. PG Walker is off an All Star season but comes off a road trip in which he shot 33.9 percent from the floor, including 5-of-25 from three-point range. His scoring is down this season (21.7) but Lamb's is up at 16.7, as he's gotten more opportunities with Batum sidelined. Then there is FA center Dwight Howard, averaging 14.4 & 13.2 but has he really helped the Hornets "get better" as a team.
The pick: I realize that the Cavs are just 4-9-1 ATS through their first 14 games but one has to admit, this team is way better than that. Meanwhile, the Hoinets don't look improved at all and Howard seems happy putting up solid (excellent?) numbers, while playing without any pressure to win (arguably, the story of his career). The Cavs seem ready to me to shake out of their doldrums, Make Cleveland a 10* play.
|11-13-17||Nuggets v. Blazers -1||Top||82-99||Win||100||24 h 57 m||Show|
The set-up: The Denver Nuggets have won three in a row (and seven of nine) to reach 8-5. The offense is clicking, as all five starters scored in double figures in Saturday's 125-107 home win over the Orlando Magic. Denver will make a brief one-game road trip to visit Northwest Division rival Portland on Monday with the Trail Blazers checking at 6-6,
Denver: The Nuggets' backcourt duo of Barton (15.1) and Murray (12.8) combined for 58 points against the Magic plus center Nikola Jokic (17.2 & 12.0) flirted with a triple-double, scoring 12 points with 17 rebounds and nine assists. Harris (12.4) and Mudiay (12.2) give Denver four guards averaging in double figures on the season plus PF Millsap (15.5 & 6.5) is a quality veteran sidekick up front for Jokic.
Portland: After a 101-97 home loss to injury-riddled Brooklyn on Friday night, Portland checks in just 2-4 in games decided by four points or fewer. "What makes it so frustrating is we could very easily be 10-2," PG Damian Lillard said after the Nets game. "It makes losses like this hurt even more, because you've already let some games slip that we should have won. We shouldn't be having our heads down. We've been in worse situations. But being here is our fault. We've had our chances." Lillard is averaging 25.2 PPG on the season but is mired in a bit of a shooting slump and failed to reach 20 points in either of the last two games. Lillard's left hand got banged up in the final minute against the Nets but he said, " I don't plan on missing any games. I think I'll be all right." His backcourt partner McCollum (22.9) give Portalnd one of teh league's highest-scoring duos plus as noted at the top, Nurkic has sure found a home in Portland (he's averaging 15.6 & 7.3 this season).
The pick: Sure, Denver's off back-to-backs wins (and covers) but note the team was just 3-8 ATS before those consecutive covers. Portland has also had its own ATS woes (just 2-6 at home) but the Blazers took three of the four meetings last season (now six of the last seven in the series). Also, don't downplay the effect Nurkic may have here. When the teams last met last March, Nurkic went for 33 points (made 12 of 15 shots from the floor & and 9 of 11 from the FT line) plus added 15 rebounds in a 122-113 victory over his former team. Make Portland a 10* play.
|11-11-17||Wolves -9.5 v. Suns||Top||110-118||Loss||-106||13 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: The Minnesota Timberwolves saw their five-game winning streak end Wednesday night at Oracle Arena when they fell 125-101 to the Warriors. Losing to and particularly at Golden State, is something that will happen to most teams but overall, the T-wolves have proven they are capable of making noise in the Western Conference. Minnesota's 7-3 start was its best 10-game start since going 9-1 in 2001-02 but an 18-4 third-quarter run proved to be its undoing in a 125-101 loss to the Warriors on Wednesday. “We got humbled … that’s the kind of level we want to get to, the way they’re playing over there,” Timberwolves forward Taj Gibson told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Minnesota: Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague were outscored by the Warriors' backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson 60-25 on Wednesday. "I just know what I can bring to the table in all aspects of the game. I know the reasons they wanted me here and a big part of it is scoring, closing out games, guarding, getting everyone involved. So I'll be a new player from here on out," Butler told the Star-Tribune. The Timberwolves had held the previous three opponents to under 100 points. "That's what a championship team looks like," head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "They play hard. They play together. They make plays. Their defense over the last five games has been back to what their defense is. That's why they've been able to win the way they've won. Their willingness to sacrifice and play for each other is what makes them great." Towns leads the Timberwolves in scoring and rebounding, averaging a double-double with 21.0 points and 11 rebounds per game. He is tied for seventh with 1.82 blocks per game. Wiggins is averaging 19.6 PPG, with the team's veteran guard duo of Butler (14.-5.0-4.5) and Teague (13.5 & 8.1 APG) comprising this team's "Core Four."
Phoenix: The Suns are led by guard Devin Booker, who averages 22.1 points a game but was held to nine points in the loss to Orlando on Friday. While Booker had his worst game of the season, first-round pick Josh Jackson gave Phoenix what it hopes becomes a regular occurrence. He made 9-of-18 from the floor for a season-high 18 points and tied another personal best with six rebounds while playing only 22 minutes. Jackson is averaging 10.1 & 3.4 on the season. Center Alex Len (making his second start of the season in place of Tyson Chandler, who is out with back spasms), managed to stay out of foul trouble against Orlando for one of the first times this season and finished with season highs in points (21) and minutes (40) while also corralling 13 rebounds. Mike James continued to be one of the Suns' few bright spots during their losing streak, posting his third straight game with at least 16 points He is averaging 14 points over his last seven outings despite a two-point effort on Nov. 3 and 12.7 PPG on the season.
The pick: Minnesota was not up to the task of matching up against the Warriors but is that really the issue? I think not. The T-wolves entered their Wednesday at Oracle on a five-game winning streak, while holding three of their previous four 'victims' under 100 points.The Suns dumped Earl Watson after an 0-3 start and initially played like an NBA team, going 4-1 and 5-0 ATS. However, they enter this contest having returned to the early form that got Earl Watson fired by going 0-5 SU & ATS. Make the T-wolves an 8* play.
|11-10-17||Pacers -3 v. Bulls||Top||105-87||Win||100||10 h 37 m||Show|
The set-up: The Chicago Bulls began the season with Bobby Portis punching Nikola Mirotic in the face, hospitalizing Mirotic and earning himself an eight-game suspension. Not much has gone right since for Chicago which will host the Indiana Pacers tonight. The Bulls own a 2-7 record and the Pacers come to town as losers of four in a row following a 5-3 start, giving them a 5-7 mark. Both teams have made major personnel changes but it may be noteworthy that Chicago has won 22 of the last 26 vs. Indiana at the
Indiana: The Pacers have not just lost four in a row, they've allowed 115.0 PPG in those setbacks to also go 0-4 ATS. "It sucks that we haven't won in a while, but it's part of the game and it's a part of the NBA," Indiana guard Victor Oladipo told reporters. "How teams respond separates the good teams from the great teams, and we've got to figure out what kind of team we want to be." Oladipo leads the Racers in scoring (22.8) and it's good news that center Myles Turner got back on the court last Friday (15.2 & 9.0 on the season). However, the offensive side of the ball hasn't caused Indinia trouble, it's been the team's defense. Indiana now ranks 25th in scoring D (110.2 PPG) and 28th defensive field-goal percentage (48.3%). The Pacers allowed the Detroit Pistons to shoot 51.8 percent from the floor and knock down 12-of-27 from beyond the arc in a 114-97 setback on Wednesday. "They made some plays, and once again, we didn't get the stops that we needed," Indiana head coach Nate McMillan told reporters. "It looked like we were a little fatigued tonight and just didn't have enough."
Chicago: Bobby Portis returned from his suspension at Toronto on Tuesday, scoring 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting while adding 13 rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench in a 119-114 loss to the Raptors. "Just tried to go out there and play the best I could and have fun," Portis told reporters. "It's been a long time since I played the game of basketball. I'm not going to stop being myself; situation happened. But at the end of the day, I have to be myself no matter who is around, who is my teammate, what team I'm on." Although one couldn't tell it by Tuesday's loss, the Bulls are actually one of the better defensive teams in the league, limiting opponents to 100.6 PPG (5th) on 44.3 percent shooting (8th). Arizona rookie Markkanen (15.8 & 8.2) is currently the team's top scorer, although guard Holiday (15.6) and center Robin Lopez (15.3 & 6.1) are right there with him.
The pick: Sure, series history says the Bulls in this one (especially, at this venue) but both teams look "nothing like" the teams of the recent past (or even further back!). The Pacers have seen a huge drop-off in their defensive effort during their four-game slide (see above) and following Wednesday night's loss in Detroit, held a closed-door team meeting which emphasized that players understood that something had to give after starting the season by winning five of their first eight games. "You can't have a negative mindset this early in the season, but we definitely have to get the ball rolling," Pacers center Myles Turner told reporters following Wednesday's loss, according to the Star. "Chicago is a must win for us." I'm "buying into" Turner's sentiment. Make Indiana a 10*
|11-09-17||Thunder -1 v. Nuggets||Top||94-102||Loss||-105||22 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: The Denver Nuggets have two more games to go on the team's current six-game homestand, including tonight's contest against OKC. "We set this goal to go 6-0," center Nikola Jokic said. "We're not going to do that (Nuggets are 3-1), but we have two games,left so we're going to try to do our best to achieve something." The now 6-5 Nuggets welcome the Thunder to Pepsi Center tonight and just might be catching OKC at the right time. Oklahoma City has struggled in trying to fit forwards Paul George and Carmelo Anthony around Westbrook, the reigning MVP. All three are averaging 20.1 points but inconsistency has been an issue, especially against Western Conference teams, as the Thunder are 0-5 against Wes opponents.
Oklahoma City: The Thunder are coming off a 94-86 loss to the lowly Sacramento Kings on Tuesday and afterward Westbrook vowed the Thunder would be better. "I take ownership of how we're playing, and I will be better," he said after the loss to the Kings. "We will be better, so I'm not worried." OKC insists that the team is just going through some growing pains as its superstars and supporting staff learn to play alongside each other. However, in the loss to the Kings, the team shot 33.7 percent from the floor with Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Russell Westbrook combining to go 15-of-54. "We have a whole year to figure it out," George told reporters. "We can't really rush into this. It's something that step-by-step, day-by-day, at this point game-by-game we have to slowly get on the same page. It sucks to drop games like this. We look back down the road in March and April, we'll be pretty sick about it, but this isn't when we want to play our best basketball."
Denver: Meanwhile, the Nuggets are starting to come together. They have won five of their last seven games and center Nikola Jokic broke out for a career-high 41 points in a 112-104 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday. after managing just eight points in a loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. Jokic is averaging 17.9 points on 53.5 percent shooting, while adding 11.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists. "The guy can do it all," Denver coach Michael Malone told reporters. "It was one of those nights for him, We needed it. ... He is ultra-skilled. Obviously, the way he's been shooting the ball from 3-point range this year has been magnificent. I'm going to stop saying he's a (heck) of a young player. I don't care how old he is. Nikola Jokic is one of the best players in the NBA." Joining Jokic are free agent PF Millsap (15.4 & 6.3) plus four guards (Barton, Harris, Mudiay and Murray) who are all scoring between 11.5 and 14.3 PPG.
The pick: The Thunder may be 0-5 vs. the West so far but they have won five straight at Pepsi Center, dating back to Feb. 9, 2015. It is also a homecoming for Anthony, who played his first 7 1/2 seasons in Denver before being traded to the New York Knicks. Sure, he's been back as a Knick, but now he's playing for a division rival that needs to make a statement. Make OKC a 10* play.
|11-08-17||Wolves +11 v. Warriors||Top||101-125||Loss||-108||22 h 4 m||Show|
Minnesota: The T-wolves believe their team is only scratching the surface. "This is still a work in progress," Teague told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "We're still trying to figure out each other. It can be a lot better. We all know that. We're starting to get into a groove here. But we have miles to go to be the team we want to be." Teague recorded 18 points and 12 assists in a 112-94 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday to continue his own groove with a fourth double-double in five games. Karl-Anthony Towns leads in scoring (21.8) and rebounding (10.9), while Wiggins checks in right behind him at 19.9 PPG (also 4.6 RPG). The two new 'key' additions are Butler and Teague. Butler checks in at 15.1-5.2-4.0 and Teague at 13.4 & a team-high 8.4 APG. Minnesota is averaging 109.4 PPG (7th) but allowing 109.8 PPG (25th).
Golden State: The Warriors wow their fans with their offensive exploits and that's the case again this season. Golden State is No. 1 in scoring (118.5 PPG), FG percentage (51.2%) and three-point shooting (40.9%). You may just have heard of Durant, Curry, Thompson and Green. The Warriors led the NBA in defensive FG percentage en route to the championship last season gut ranks sixth in the early going this season (44.0%) and more troubling, 22nd in scoring D (108.5 PPG).
The pick: The Warriors have righted their ATS 'ship,' covering four in a row after a 1-6 ATS start but the T-wolves are enjoying the franchise's first five-game winning streak since 2009. The Warriors have beaten the Timberwolves in 17 of the past 20 meetings. However, this year's team surely looks more than ready to end a streak which has seen them miss the playoffs for each of the last 13 seasons. The T-wolves may have lost three of four to the Warriors last season but covered three of the four, including winning outright once here in Oakland. Take the points and make Minnesota an 8* play.
|11-08-17||Lakers +9 v. Celtics||Top||96-107||Loss||-109||20 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics lost Gordan Hayward to a season-ending injury in Game 1 of the current season and then lost Game 2 to the Bucks. However, they then became the first team in NBA history to lose its first two games and then win its next seven. Boston didn't stop there though, as Monday Boston made in nine straight wins with 110-107 victory in Atlanta. Boston's puts its winning streak and the NBA's best overall record (9-2) on the line tonight, when the 5-5 LA Lakers invade TD Garden. At .500, the Lakers can't be too unhappy (coming off seasons of 27, 21, 17 and 26 wins) rookie PG Lonzo Ball is shooting 29.9 percent from the floor on the season, including 23.4 percent on threes.
LA Lakers: Ball will have to learn to shoot but he is averaging 6.9 assists and 6.4 rebounds in 33 minutes, leading the team in both categories. He handed out nine assists in Sunday's 107-102 win over Memphis but he went 1-of-8 from three-point range in that game. “He’s been a little down on himself a little bit with the season he’s having,” fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma told the LA Daily News of Ball. "Of course he wants to play a lot better. I just try to tell him to be more aggressive on the floor. ... Once he’s confident in his game he’s pretty hard to guard." Kuzma has had no problem scoring and shooting well, as he has taken over the rookie scoring load for the Lakers by averaging 13.4 PPG on the season, while shooting 56.2 percent from the floor.
Boston: Monday's win over Atlanta snapped a string of eight straight games of holding opponents under 100 points for the Celtics, who lead the NBA in scoring defense at 94.5 PPG. Boston could have drafted Ball with the No. 1 overall pick but instead traded down to the No. 3 spot and picked up forward Jayson Tatum, who is averaging 14.3 points on 50.0 percent shooting, including 52.9 percent from three-point range. The Celtics are getting contributions from everyone on the roster, but Kyrie Irving (22.3 & 5.7 APG) is the unquestioned team leader plus veteran center Al Horford had his fourth double-double of the campaign on Monday. He is averaging 14.6 PPG and 9.2 RPG, while shooting 47.4 percent from beyond the arc.
The pick: the TD Garden always presents a hostile environment for the Lakers but they have improved their defense, which ranked dead last a year ago but was 11th in efficiency into last weekend. LA allowed 111.5 PPG last season but it's down to 107.3 PPG so far this season, which ranks 20th. The Ball-led offense remains a work in progress as Luke Walton tinkers with lineup combos but while Ball averages just 8.8 PPG, seven other Lakers are averaging in double digits (newly acquired center Brook Lopez leads with 16.4 PPG). One can't argue with the Celtics' 9-2 SU & ATS record but the Lakers come into this game having covered four in a row and I expect them to 'hang around' the number here in Boston. Make the Lakers an 8* play.
|11-07-17||Grizzlies v. Blazers -3.5||Top||98-97||Loss||-105||15 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: The 6-4 Memphis Grizzlies visit Moda Center tonight for a matchup with the 6-4 Portland Trail Blazers. The Grizzlies beat the Los Angeles Clippers 113-104 Saturday but lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 107-102 Sunday to open a five-game road trip that continues Tuesday against the Blazers. Portland enters off two close home wins, 113-110 on Thursday against the Lakers and then 103-99 over the Thunder on Sunday.
Memphis: The Grizzlies have to be sick about losing to the Lakers. Memphis roared back from a 22-point deficit to close to within 103-102 inside the final minute before the Lakers closed out the win, 107-102. "We just waited too long to have a sense of urgency," said PG Mike Conley, who led the Grizzlies with 23 points. "We have to do better, especially on the second of back-to-back games. We didn't start the way we wanted to. You can't spot any team in this league that many points. We didn't have what it took early on." Conley (18.4 & 4.0 APG) notes that he has seen mixed results from a roster in transition. "I have been pleased with our effort. I think our team is learning," he said. "We still have a very long way to go, we have a lot of young guys who are learning the game. We are trying to do our best to bring everybody up to speed but we are going to have nights where we don't seem to have everything going for us." One newcomer who is thriving is veteran guard Tyreke Evans (17.1 PPG), who has posted three straight 20-point outings and is averaging 26 points on 59.2 percent shooting during the hot stretch. Veteran center Marc Gasol had 15 points and 10 rebounds against the Lakers for his fifth double-double of the season and checks in leading the team in scoring (19.9) and rebounding (9.3).
Portland: Guard Damian Lillard is on a scoring spree and the Portland star looks to top 30 points for the fifth straight game when the Trail Blazers host the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday. Lillard is averaging 34.3 points during his run, and tallied 36 points in Portland's 103-99 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday. Lillard is averaging 27.1-5.4-6.6 on the season, teaming with fellow guard McCollum (22.1 & 4.7) to give the Blazers one of the league's top backcourts. Portland is also receiving solid offensive play from center Jusuf Nurkic (16.0 & 7.8), who has played especially well over the past three games while averaging 24 points, eight rebounds and 3.3 assists and shooting 60.4 percent from the floor.
The pick: Conley is recovering from a recent quad strain and doesn't quite seem 100 percent. The Grizz allow just 98.1 PPG (3rd) on 42.2% shooting (1st) but have trouble scoring, averaging only 101.8 PPG (24th). However, shutting down Lillard and McCollum is quite a task plus Portland is allowing almost 10 fewer points per 100 possessions than it did last season. Make the Blazers a 10* play.
|11-06-17||Celtics -8.5 v. Hawks||Top||110-107||Loss||-110||11 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The Celtics may have lost Gordon Hayward for the season in their first game but it's nearly impossible to imagine the team getting off to a better start even if Hayward was playing. The Celtics pulled away from the Magic on Sunday in Orlando, posting a 104-88 victory to extend the team's winning streak to eight games. Speaking of an eight-game streak, the Hawks opened the season with a victory but then lost eight in a row, before ending their skid with Sunday's 117-115 over the Cavs in Cleveland (what to make of the Cavs, so far?)
The pick: Atlanta coach Budenholzer said "To get a win in Cleveland is not easy to do" but we may want to remind him that the Cavs are just 4-6 on the season, including 2-4 at home. The Hawks may be at home in this one but they are 0-3 SU at home so far, going 2-8 SU & 3-6-1 ATS on the season, overall. Meanwhile, Boston's owns the NBA's best overall record (8-2 SU & 9-1 ATS), including going 5-1 SU and 6-0 ATS on the road, Make Boston a 10* play.
|11-05-17||Thunder v. Blazers +2.5||Top||99-103||Win||100||15 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: The Thunder squandered an 18-point lead in a 101-94 Friday home loss to the Celtics, indicating that there is still some work to be done in blending their trio of superstars on both ends of the court. OKC will take a 4-4 record into Portland on Sunday night, where they'll meet the 5-4 Blazers. Portland ended a brief two-game skid on Thursday, but just barely! A late three-pointer from Damian Lillard allowed the Blazers to escape with a 113-110 home win over the Lakers.
Oklahoma City: Blending Russell Westbrook with newcomers Paul George and Carmelo Anthony was never expected to be seamless. That was sure the case Friday, as OKC seemingly had Boston on the ropes but squandered an 18-point lead. "It's good to struggle now, this is our first year together," Paul George told reporters. "This is a long run, we'll be fine. We're starting to shoot it well, we're starting to find some rhythm. We're starting to figure out how to attack and be aggressive. ... we'll be totally fine." Anthony told reporters after the contest, “We took the foot off the gas a little bit,” . “We didn’t put a full game together tonight." Anthony went 1-of-12 from the floor in the second half and finished with a season-low 10 points. As everyone knows, Westbrook averaged a triple-double for eth eyar last season but hsi line reads 19.5-9.4-11.8, so far through eight games.
Portland: “It’s good to get a close game win," Portland head coach Terry Stotts told reporters. “We need that, especially on the heels of not only last night but some of the other games. Dame’s shot was huge. He really carried us in the second half." The bckcourt duo of Lillard (26.1-5.4-5.9) and McCollum (22.1 & 4.9) is set but Portland has been searching for an inside scorer to compliment them since LaMarcus Aldridge left. Center Jusuf Nurkic is trying to prove he can be"the man" and scored 28 points on 12-of-20 shooting in Thursday's win and is averaging 15.0 points and 7.8 rebounds.
Portland: Not only is Westbrook averaging more than 12 PPG less this season but his percentages from the floor (.453 from .425) and the three-point line (.375 from .343), are also down. The Blazers got the best of the Thunder last season, taking three of the four and while Westbrook clearly has more help this season, it's yet to be determined how that will all play out. Make Portland a 10* play.
|11-05-17||Jazz v. Rockets -6.5||Top||110-137||Win||100||13 h 37 m||Show|
The set-up: Of the handful teams which attempted to upgrade their rosters in the off-season in an attempt to compete with the Warriors, the Houston Rockets are off to the best start. Houston's 119-104 victory at Atlanta on Friday gives them an NBA-best 6-1 record on the road and the team's overall 7-3 mark is tops in the Western Conference and behind only the 7-2 Boston Celtics, among all NBA teams. The Rockets will be home tonight though, when they welcome the 5-4 Utah Jazz to the Toyota Center. . The Jazz opened 5-0 at home but the team's hot start came to an end with a 109-100 loss to Toronto on Friday in Salt Lake City. The Jazz will visit the Rockets, who are just 1-2 at home, looking for their first road win of the young season (0-3).
Utah: The Jazz allowed 109 points to Toronto, the team's worst defensive scoring performance of the season. "Well, it wasn't the best defensive effort. That's got to be there for us," head coach Quin Snyder told reporters. "A lot of individual breakdowns where guys were getting beat put us in some compromising positions and they were able to score. We're not going to win if we don't play defense better than that." Utah comes into thsi contest allowing 96.0 PPG (2nd) and the team relies on its defense, as the Jazz are scoring a modest 98.1 PPG, to rank 27th.
Houston: The Rockets preceded their 15-point victory over the Hawks on Friday with an 18-point win over the Knicks on Wednesday. Houston made 19 three-pointers against the Knicks, then made 16 more vs. the Hawks. Houston jacked up 146 three-pointers over the last three games and is beginning to make a few more after some early accuracy issues. James Harden has averaged 29.7 points and 19.0 assists to lead the charge these last three games. Harden is averaging 26.8 PPG and 9.4 APG on the season, while the team's main off-season acquisition, Chris Paul, hasn't gotten back on the court since leaving with an injury in the team's season-opener. Center Clint Capela leads the NBA in FG percentage (69.0%), averaging 13.2 PPG and 10.9 RPG.
The pick: Utah has won and covered two of last three visits to Toyota Center. (had lost eight of nine prior to that) but remember, Gordon Hayward (27 PPG vs. Rockets) and G George Hill (22 PPG) left via free agency. After enduring a schedule that featured seven road games over a 10-game stretch, the Rockets will host the Jazz tonight, in the first of three successive home games and nine in 12 games at Houston, overall. The Jazz are 0-3 SU on the road, losing at Minnesota, the LA Clippers and Phoenix. It doesn't get any easier, here. Make Houston an 8* play.
|11-03-17||Celtics v. Thunder -5.5||Top||101-94||Loss||-115||15 h 59 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics lost their season-opener at Cleveland plus FA acquisition Gordon Hayward to a season-ending injury, as well. Boston then lost its second game to Milwaukee but the Celtics have since won and covered six in a row. Boston will play tonight in OKC (second-half of the ESPN doubleheader), going up against the "new-look" Thunder, who may be just 4-3 but own the NBA's top point-differential at plus-10.9 PPG (Celtics check in at No. 2, at plus-9.2 PPG).
Boston: Brad Stevens has well-established himself as one of the league's elite head coaches but he's adding to his resume in the early going of the current season. Boston, without Hayward, has been led by PG Irving (21.8 & 5.5 APG) and a strong performance from its starting frontcourt. Second-year forward Brown (16.2 & 5.9) and rookie forward Tatum (13.8 & 6.6) surround center Horford (14.0 & 9.1). Returning to Irving for a minute, he has scored at least 20 points in each of the six straight wins and he is ranked second in the league in steals (2.63 per game). Supplying solid support in the backcourt for Irving are Smart and Rozier (both are averaging 9.8 PPG), who are also combing to add 9.3 RPG. That said, defense has been the key, as Boston has held each of its six straight 'victims' to 94 points or fewer and enter this game allowing a league-low 93.8 PPG.
OKC: After averaging a triple-double for the season last year, Russell Westbrook won the MVP. However, OKC knew its team was nowhere near ready to compete with the Warriors. Two big trades brought Carmelo (NYK) and Paul George (Ind) to the Thunder. Interestingly, Westbrook (19.6-9.9-11.7) is just shy of averaging another triple-double but
The pick:The Celtics are not the only team playing excellent defense, as OKC ranks third in the NBA, allowing 95.7 PPG, which is more than 10 points fewer than last season. Offensively, the scoring distribution has played out seamlessly, at least so far. I noted earlier that OKC is just 4-3 to open the season but a closer look reveals that all four of the team's wins (AND covers) have come against Eastern Conference opponents. Boston my be 'the best in the East" for now but I'll make OKC a 10* play.
|11-02-17||Lakers +7 v. Blazers||Top||110-113||Win||100||14 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: The 3-4 LA Lakers will be up in Portland tonight to take on the 4-4 Blazers at Moda Center. The Lakers enter off a 20-point home win over the Pistons, who were coming off a shocking 115-107 win at Golden St. in their previous game. The Blazers lost 112-103 last night in Salt Lake City to the Jazz in OT but get right back on the court tonight, as they open a six-game homestand. Recent (and not so recent) history is on Portland's side, as the Blazers have won 12 straight meetings with the Lakers', whose last victory over Portland came back on March 3rd of 2014. The Blazers were 4-0 against the Lakers last season, winning by an average margin of 13.3 PPG.
LA Lakers: Lonzo Ball was one of seven Lakers to score in double figures against the Pistons and chipped in six rebounds, three assists and two blocks without a turnover in a stat line that did not show his true value. "Take away the Phoenix game, this is the best game he's played, I thought," Los Angeles coach Luke Walton told reporters of Ball, who scored 29 points against the Suns earlier in the season. "The way that his pace was, the way he pushed the ball all the time. He was in the other team's paint. He just set the tone, and I thought the whole team fed off the way he was playing." LA is well-balanced, as eight players are averaging between 10.4 and 14.7 PPG. Clarkson (14.7) leads in scoring and Ball checks in at 10.4, along with 7.3 RPG and 7.0 APG. However, he'll have to shoot better than the 33.3 percent he's currently making on shots from the floor, including 28.6 percent on threes.
Portland: The Blazers have lost two straight with Lillard (25.4-5.4-6.0) getting limited support during the team's two-game skid. He's scored 69 of the team's 186 points or more than 37 percent of its outcome. Only one other player reached double figures in Monday's 99-85 loss to Toronto (McCollum had 16) and just two, Jusuf Nurkic (19 points) and C.J. McCollum (16), scored in double digits in Wednesday's loss.
The pick: Sure, the Blazers have won 12 straight in the series but offense has been a problem for the Blazers to open the 2017-18 season, with Portland shooting 42.4 percent from the floor, which ranks 28th in the NBA. Portland shot only 39.8 percent from the floor against the Jazz, making 9 of 34 shots from three-point range, that's 26.5 percent. Portland opened 3-1 (3-0-1 ATS) but limps in having lost three of four and on an 0-4 ATS run. Take the points and make the Lakers a 10* play.
|11-01-17||Raptors +1.5 v. Nuggets||Top||111-129||Loss||-105||13 h 43 m||Show|
Toronto: DeMar DeRozan scored 25 points in the win at Portland, his fifth straight outing with at least 24 following an 11-point effort in the season opener. He's averaging 23.7 PPG on the season, while backcourt partner Kyle Lowry chips in 13.5-5.9-7.3, after he had a season-high 19 points to go along with 10 assists against the Blazers. Toronto is showing excellent depth early on, with 10 players averaging between 5.8 and 15.0 PPG behind DeRozan, led by PF Ibaka (15.0 & 5.0). Center Valanciunas was averaging 14.0 & 9.5 but has missed four straight games with an ankle injury. The Raptors are averaging 109.0 PPG (7th) but have shown an ability to play better defense in the early going as well, allowing 98.2 PPG (5th).
Denver: The Nuggets rallied from a 22-point halftime deficit to take a brief third-quarter lead on Sunday at MSG but in the end fell 116-110 to the Knicks, as Kristaps Porzingis scored a career-high 38 points. Center Jokic leads with 17.3 & 11.1, backed by five others in double digits. That group includes guards Harris (14.4), Barton (13.9), Murray (12.3) and Mudiay (11.6) plus PF Millsap (14.1 & 7.9).
The pick: Denver has played five of its first seven games on the road and now is home for awhile. Defense and turnovers have been a problem for the Nuggets, while the Raptors played tough at the Spurs and Warriors to open their six-game trip, before winning two in a row (have covered three straight). Toronto won two close games over Denver last season and this pointspread makes them a 10* play in this first meeting of this season.
|10-25-17||Spurs -3.5 v. Heat||Top||117-100||Win||100||12 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: The Spurs have opened 3-0, despite missing all-everything forward Kawhi Leonard, who remains out while dealing with right quadriceps tendinopathy. The Spurs have also made do without long-time PG Tony Parker (left quadriceps tendon surgery). San Antonio travels to South Beach Wednesday night to face the Miami Heat, who have opened 2-1. Miami center Hassan Whiteside is expected to miss his third straight game with a bone bruise on his left knee. Ironically, Whiteside went for 26 & 22 in Miami's season-opener at Orlando but the Heat lost. Without Whiteside, the team has won home games over the Pacers and Hawks.
San Antonio: LaMarcus Aldridge has stepped up with Leonard out, averaging 24.3 & 9.3. He is also helping out on the defensive end and provided the highlight of Monday's 101-97 win over the Raptors with a chase-down block of Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry as the Spurs held their third consecutive opponent under 100 points to start the season. Dejounte Murray surprisingly beat out Patty Mills in training camp for the right to replace Tony Parker as the team's starting PG and he's been up to the challenge, averaging 13.3-9.7-4.7. Danny Green 14.3) and Rudy Gay (12.3) also averaging in double digits.
Miami: Along with Whiteside, PG Dragic (quad bruise) and SG Waiters (ankle) are also hurting for Miami. Dragic plans to be available for Wednesday's game and if Waiters is unable to go, the Heat have plenty of other options at the shooting guard spot. Josh Richardson had a team-high 21 points in Miami's win over Atlanta and is averaging 14.3 PPG, while Wayne Ellington came off the bench and buried 6-of-8 from three-point range against the Hawks, after going 2-of-10 from beyond the arc in the first two games.
The pick: Both teams are dealing with injury issues but the absence of Whiteside is a bigger concern in this game. Jordan Mickey started the last two games in place of Whiteside and averaged five points and six rebounds in 14.5 minutes. That worked vs. the Pacers and Hawks but will not vs. the Spurs, who are holding opponents to just 91.0 PPG, despite playing without Leonard (arguably, the league's best defensive player). San Antonio enters this contest having won nine straight in the series, going back to Game 3 of the 2014 NBA Finals. Make the Spurs an 8* play.
|10-24-17||Nets v. Magic -4||Top||121-125||Push||0||15 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: The Brooklyn Nets are 2-1 to open the new season, despite allowing 121.7 PPG, which ranks 29th, ahead of only the Suns. The Nets are pushing the pace, driving and crashing the lane plus firing away from three-point range. The result has been a scoring average of 124.7 PPG, which is tops in the NBA. The Nets placed six players in double digits in Friday's 126-121 home win over the Magic and tonight will visit Amway Arena to take on the Magic, who have also opened a surprising 2-1.
Brooklyn: The Nets were just 20-62 last year and lost PG Jeremy Lin (for the season) in the team's opener of this new season. D'Angelo Russell has taken on the role of playmaker with Lin sidelined and he handed out a season-high 10 assists in Sunday's 116-104 win to boost his averages to 21 .0 PPG and 7.0 APG. Allen Crabbe had a team-high 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting on Sunday. However, Crabbe is still on a minute restriction due to a preseason ankle injury. Brooklyn is second in the NBA going into Monday's action in free-throw attempts (33.7) while shooting 37.6 percent from three-point range but one thing the Nets could do better is cutting down on fouls. Opponents are averaging 27.7 foul shots per game against the Nets after the Hawks took 36 free throws Sunday.
Orlando: The Magic are coming off one of the most impressive victories of this young season, a 114-93 triumph at Cleveland on Saturday. Center Nikola Vucevic scored a career-high 41 points on 17-of-22 shooting in the loss at Brooklyn on Friday, then followed by scoring 23 points on 11-of-16 from the floor at Cleveland. Vucevic is averaging 27.7 points and 10.7 rebounds on 68 percent shooting from the floor (34 of 50), including 50 percent from three-point range (7 of 14). His efforts on the interior opened up space on the perimeter and the Magic were able to knock down 17 three-pointers at Cleveland. "We’re starting to play offensively consistently the right way in terms of not settling and understanding that we want to attack early and the ball is really hopping," coach Frank Vogel told reporters. "We’re scoring the ball well and shooting the ball well as a result of the ball movement and the quality of our shots."
The pick: At 2-1, the Nets are above .500 for the first time since they were 4-3 on Nov. 12, 2014 and the Nets are now in a position to start 3-1 for the first time since the 2007-08 season. Is that asking too much? As for the Magic, who were just 29-53 last year, they are seeking their first 3-1 start since the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. "Again, it's too early to make any big judgments about this (team), but it's an early positive sign for us," Orlando coach Frank Vogel said. "With how we're playing offensively and moving the basketball, we're facilitating everything and everybody feels good about our chemistry. Everybody is playing with the basketball the right way, thinking extra pass and playing for each other. That's how chemistry is established." The home team has won each of the last five meetings in the series and revenge (from Friday) works here for the Magic. Make Orlando an 8* play.
|10-23-17||Kings v. Suns -1.5||Top||115-117||Win||100||26 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: It's one thing to open 0-3 and another to have lost all three games by an average margin of 30.7 PPG (two losses by 40-plus points) while allowing league-worsts of 128.7 PPG on 51.5 percent shooting (including 50.0 percent on threes). Head coach Earl Watson began his second full year on the job this season after being promoted from assistant coach to interim coach when Jeff Hornacek was fired on Feb. 1, 2016. Watson signed a three-year contract as head coach on April 19, 2016 but the team announced Sunday night that associate head coach Jay Triano is taking over for Watson as interim head coach. The Suns went 33-85 on his watch. Triano's first game will be against the Sacramento Kings on Monday night, who visit Phoenix after opening 1-2.
Sacramento: The Kings are finishing up a three-game, four-day road trip that has seen them win 93-88 at Dallas but then lose 96-79 at Denver on Saturday. Zach Randolph was the lone Sacramento starter to score in double figures and he finished with only 11 points as the team's starting-five combined to shoot 10-for-38 from the floor. Rookie De'Aaron Fox made a splash off the bench with 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go along with five rebounds in a team-high 29 minutes. Fox currently leads the etam in scoring (13.7 PPG) and assists (5.3 per), while adding 5.0 RPG. Forward Skal Labissiere chipped in 13 points but there were very few other contributions for a team the Suns may just be able to beat.
Phoenix: Guard Eric Bledsoe followed up a 28-point performance in a two-point loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday with a four-point, four-turnover effort against the Clippers on Sunday. Bledsoe summed up his frustration in a tweet before Sunday's announcement of the coaching change surfaced. "I Dont wanna be here," it read. The Suns are the second-youngest team in the league in terms of average age, with four players still 20 and another 19. Watson tinkered with the lineup this season, putting power forward Marquese Chriss on the bench and starting two small forwards, TJ Warren and rookie Josh Jackson. Among many other things, that hasn't worked. Triano spent parts of four seasons (2008-11) as head coach of the Toronto Raptors. He is in his second season with the Suns after spending four years as an assistant with the Portland Trail Blazers, one when Watson was a player there.
The pick: It would be impossible for the Suns to play any worse but as noted, the Kings may just be exactly "what the doctor ordered." The NBA's worst defensive team (Phoenix) will welcome a team averaging just 90.7 PPG (second-lowest scoring average in the NBA) and playing its third road game in four nights. Take the points and make the Suns a 10* play.
|10-22-17||Hawks +2 v. Nets||Top||104-116||Loss||-105||5 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: How many realize that behind the San Antonio Spurs, the second-longest streak of consecutive NBA playoff appearances belongs to the Atlanta Hawks. Yes, the Hawks have been to 10 staright postseason but that run will be tested in 2017-18. Atlanta got no favors from teh schedule-makers, as the Hawks must begin the seaon with five straight games on the road. The Hawks looked impressive in a 117-111 win at the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday but shot 37.9 percent in a 109-91 loss at Charlotte on Friday, squandering a 20-point first-half lead. The Hawks will be in Brooklyn tonight, to take on the 1-1 Nets. Brooklyn opened with a 140-131 loss at Indiana on Wednesday and then, playing its their first game since learning that PG Jeremy Lin will miss the rest of the regular season with a ruptured patella tendon on Friday, beat the Orlando Magic 126-121 in the team's home opener.
|10-20-17||Blazers -3.5 v. Pacers||Top||114-96||Win||100||11 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: The Portland Trail Blazers travel to Indianapolis tonight and will try to play "Can you Top This" in their meeting with the Pacers. The answer is likely no, as the Blazers are coming off a 124-76 win at the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. It was the second-largest margin of victory in franchise history and also, the largest margin of victory in any opener in NBA history! The Pacers opened their season as well on Wednesday and while their margin of victory was a more modest nine points, Indiana scored 140 points at home against the Brooklyn Nets, placing eight scorers in double figures!
Portland: The Blazers cruised to their win over the Suns despite playing without their second-best scorer (player?). Portland will welcome C.J. McCollum back from suspension when they visit the Indiana Pacers on Friday. Damian Lillard knocked down 4-of-6 from beyond the arc en route to a team-high 27 points, while reserve guard Pat Connaughton stepped up with a career-high 24 points (made it 4-of-7 three-point attempts). Portland made 14-of-24 from three-point range but was already looking ahead after the game. Probably don't read too much into (the win) because it's a long season," Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts told reporters. "Obviously we're pleased with it, but Indiana is a new day. You can't rest on it. It's a great way to start the season, particularly the manner in which we did it, but the next game is the next game." T
Indiana: The Pacers installed a faster-paced offense which will move ball more after trading away ball-stopping star Paul George. The results were positive on opening night, as three players scored 20 or more points and the team totaled 29 assists while shooting 52 percent from the floor. PG Darren Collison, one of three new starters, handed out 11 of those assists and scored 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Former Indiana Hoosier star Victor Oladipo led the way with 22 points and returning center Myles Turner added a double-double (21 & 11). "It was a great first night and hopefully Pacers fans get a chance to see what we're capable of and what type of basketball team we are," Oladipo told reporters. "Obviously, it wasn't perfect and there are some things we want to get better and improve at; but it's always great to get a win in the NBA."
The pick: Both Portland and Indiana 'beat up' on teams which will both be looking to gain the most ping pong balls possible in the upcoming draft (Suns and Nets, respectively), so neither has gotten too carried away with their big opening night performances. Bottom line here is that McCollum will be back in the starting lineup for this game and last season, he and Lillard combined for 57 PPG and shot 49% against Indiana. Meanwhile, the two Indiana players who led the way for the Pacers against Portland last year, Paul George and Jeff Teague, have both left for 'greener pastures' (OKC and Minny, respectively). Make Portland an 8* play.
|10-18-17||Rockets v. Kings +8||Top||105-100||Win||100||15 h 28 m||Show|
The set-up: Riddle me this. If I told you that the Warriors would shoot 53.8 percent from the floor (including 16 of 30 on threes), while making 19 of 21 FTs, would anyone have though that they'd lose their season-opener at home to the Rockets? Wait, before you answer, let me add that Chris Paul would go 2 of 9 in his Houston debut (scoring four points) and that Harden would make just 10 of 23 from the floor. Now, would anyone have taken Houston on the moneyline? OK, you all are likely well aware that the Warriors blew a 17-point lead last night and by out-scoring Golden State 34-20 in the 4th quarter, Houston upset the defending champs 122-121, when KD's apparent game-winner was disallowed, as the ball left his hand just AFTER the buzzer went off. The Rockets hope not to be still celebrating when they head to Sacramento tonight, to take on the Kings. The Kings were 32-50 last season, while missing the playoffs for the 11th straight season.
Houston. The Rockets featured a well-balanced attack last night, as six players scored in double digits, including two reserves with 20 or more points. Backup guard Eric Gordon had 24 points and backup forward P.J. Tucker, signed for his defensive toughness, added 20. "We got some dogs on this team, man," Houston star guard James Harden said during a post-game television interview. "We're versatile, probably the most versatile team since I've been in Houston. We've got a chance." Chris Paul did record 11 assists in his Houston debut but sat out the final 4:47 as he is battling knee soreness.
Sacramento: The Kings moved talented but problematic center DeMarcus Cousins at last yea's All Star break and I'm not sure many believe this year's team is ready to break the franchise's current playoff drought. Zach Randolph was brought in and he played under current Kings coach Dave Joerger for three seasons in Memphis. 40-year-old swingman Vince Carter, who also played in Memphis, is expected, along with Randolph, to provide some much-needed leadership to a club that too often lacked it during the Cousins' era. Veteran PG George Hill also was added but he may not be at full strength for the opener after recently suffering a groin injury. As for Randolph, he's questionable after oral surgery. First-round pick PG De'Aaron Fox will get increased time if Hill is hindered, while shooting guard Buddy Hield aims to follow up his solid showing of averaging 15.1 PPG in 25 his games after being the main acquisition in the deal that sent Cousins to New Orleans.
The pick: There is a "wide divide' between these two teams but with Houston coming off what had to be a very satisfying win over the Warriors last night in Oakland, the home dog is the way to go. Make Sacramento an 8* play.
|10-18-17||Bucks +3.5 v. Celtics||Top||108-100||Win||100||13 h 58 m||Show|
full analysis soon
|10-17-17||Celtics +3 v. Cavs||Top||99-102||Push||0||61 h 5 m||Show|
The set-up: The NBA schedule-makers surely have a sense of humor. Kyrie Irving played six seasons with Cleveland with the four-time All-Star guard helping Cleveland reach three NBA Finals, including winning the 2016 title. However, he reportedly tired of playing with LBJ and "requested" (basically forced) a trade this past off-season. Irving ended up in Boston for a package that included PG Isaiah Thomas and the highly under-appreciated Jae Crowder. Boston actually earned the No. 1 seed in the East last season over Cleveland (53 wins to 51) but the Celtics were no match for the Cavs in the conference finals, losing 4-1. Cleveland revamped its roster over the summer as well, adding veteran guards Dwyane Wade (James' BFF), Derrick Rose and Jose Calderon in addition to newcomers Thomas (out due to hip surgery) and Crowder. LBJ has been bothered by a sprained left ankle and his availability may not be determined until close to tip-off in the season opener, as Kyrie makes his much-anticipated "return to Cleveland" as a member of the Celtics.
Boston: Irving wasn't the only big off-season acquisition by the Celtics, as they lured All-Star small forward Gordon Hayward away from the Utah Jazz to reunite with Brad Stevens, his former college coach at Butler. All it took was a four-year, $128 million deal. The move to Boston allows Hayward to build off a career-best 2016-17 campaign in which he averaged 21.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Al Horford, second-year swingman Jaylen Brown and rookie forward Jayson Tatum are the other likely starters with Hayward and Irving.
Cleveland: LBJ missed four of Cleveland's five preseason games but he did participate in Monday's practice. "You know I never hide stuff from you guys, I really don't know," Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue told reporters. "I mean, just depends on how he feels after (Monday), but I really don't know." Thomas is not expected to make his Cleveland debut until around the All-Star break, so veterans like Rose, Wade and J.R. Smith will be counted on to help James and Kevin Love (who now is expected to start at center, with Thompson coming off the bench) on the scoring side.
The pick: There is plenty of drama brewing for tonight, as the Cavs are planning a video tribute to Irving, who made the game-winning 3-pointer in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals to hand the organization its first championship. That said, expect plenty of boos directed Irving's way. As for LBJ, he has never missed a season opener in his first 14 years in the league and of course wants to pay here but he has to realize this is just one game and all the Cavs care about is getting back to the Finals, to get another shot at the Warriors. Especially, considering most believe that this will be LBJ's last season in Cleveland. Something tells me that the Celtics will be better-prepared to win this game and note that if LBJ doesn't play, the numbers don't bode well for the Cavs. Cleveland is 4-23 over the past three seasons when James doesn't play, including losses in the last 11. Make Boston a 10* play.
|06-01-17||Cavs v. Warriors -7||Top||91-113||Win||100||130 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: The same two teams (Cavs & Warriors) meet in the NBA Finals for the third straight year, something that's never happened before. With Steve Kerr's health issues, the Warriors are led by Mike Brown, who formerly coached LBJ and the Cavs from 2005-2010. Brown (and of course, LBJ) led the Cavs to the Finals in 2009 (got swept by the Spurs), in just his second year with the team and then to 66 wins and 61 wins in his final two seasons. He was fired and coached the Lakers for two years before returning to Cleveland for the 2013-14 seas onbut LBJ was in Miami by then. The Cavs won just 33 games and Brown was fired again, Circumstances have Brown now facing off against his ex-team and head coach Tyronn Lue, making it the first time two black head coaches have faced each other in an NBA Finals since 1975 (Al Attles and KC Jones!).
Golden State: Curry's been the Warriors' best player this postseason, averaging 28.6-5.5-5.6. Durant has fought through some minor injury issues (he missed two games) to average 25.2 & 7.8, while Green has been a major force, averaging 13.9-7.8-7.2 and playing shut-down defense. Lagging behind this postseason has been the fourth member of this "team of All Stars," Klay Thompson, who after averaging 22.3 PPG (on 46.8% shooting) during the season, has averaged 14.4 PPG on 38.3% shooting. However, Thompson is an outstanding defender and his defense (along with Green's) could easily be a key to this series.
The pick: The Warriors haven't lived down the memory of blowing a 3-1 lead in last season's Finals and with the addition of Durant, are a better team this season than last. I noted at the top that these Finals feature the best of each conference but considering the West (in Golden St, SA & Hou) owned the three-best regular season records and Cleveland actually won fewer games than Boston in the East, one could argue that the Warriors are clearly the superior team (won 16 more games, 67-to-51) and deserve to be a solid favorite. There's no doubt that LBJ will be primed for the challenge but remember, Curry has a lot to prove as well, as does Durant. Curry under-performed when the Warriors won in 2015 and last year was downright bad in The Finals. As for Durant, if after joining the Warriors to form this "Super Team," what's his excuse if the Warriors don't win? I always try to avoid picking a series winner (my job is to pick the series game-by-game and here's a tid-bit that has me on Golden St. Like most, I feel the East has nowhere near the overall talent of the West and the last NINE times an Eastern Conference team has opened an NBA Finals on the road, it has gone 0-9 SU & ATS! Make the Warriors a 10* play.
|05-25-17||Cavs v. Celtics +11||Top||135-102||Loss||-115||13 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: It wasn't a cakewalk but the Cavs won Game 4 against the Celtics, 112-99. The Celtics actually led by 10 points at the half but Cleveland shot 71 percent in the second half to take a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals. Kyrie scored a playoff career-high 42 points, LBJ overcame four fouls in the first half to add 34 points and Love produced his fourth consecutive double-double with 17 & 17. The Celtics now need to win at home, where they lost the first two games of this series by an average of 28.5 points, to stay alive. "We're humble enough to know that we haven't played well at home, and we want to give our home crowd a better outing than we did the past two games," forward Jae Crowder told reporters. "We're right there where we want to be, we're locked in."
Cleveland: Irving tweaked an ankle in Game 4 but he didn't seem to be the least bit affected, scoring 33 of his points during an impressive 19-minute stretch. LBJ overcame early foul trouble to make 15-of-27 shots after suffering through a poor Game 3 in which he scored only 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting. As noted, Love's been brilliant, averaging 24.5 & 12.8 through four games. However, an area of concern for Cleveland has to be the fact that its bench has contributed just nine (Game 3) and seven (Game 4) points!
Boston: Game 3 hero Marcus Smart (27 points) returned to earth with a thud in Game 4, going 1 of 9 for eight points. Olynyk got the Game 4 start and had 15 points. He had 15 off the bench in Game 3, after scoring just two total points in the first two games! Crowder battled through a groin injury in Game 4 and produced 18 points and eight rebounds. He is averaging 15.5 points and 7.8 rebounds in the series. Thomas is done for the year and winning three straight is not a realistic hope for Boston.
The pick: However, the Celtics recovered from a 21-point deficit to win Game 3 in Cleveland and incredibly, had the Cavs in a 16-point hole in the second quarter of Game 4, a contest in which almost all thought the Cavs would dominate. Cleveland head coach is warning his team about looking ahead to the Warriors. "(The Celtics are), like I told you guys before, it's like we're preparing for a whole new team. Like, we didn't know what they were going to run. Isaiah (Thomas) goes down and they're running a totally different offense than we prepared for so it's been tough on us. And defensively, they're a lot better. They don't have a lot of weak links to go to, to go at." The Celtics pulled off the improbable comeback upset in Game 3 and are more than capable of at worst, taking the Cavs to the wire in this one. Take the points and make Boston a 10* play.
|05-21-17||Celtics +17 v. Cavs||Top||111-108||Win||100||13 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers have had their way with the Celtics in both games in Boston, winning 117-104 (wasn't as close as the final) and 130-86 (it was as bad as the score indicates). They now return home and look (expect?) to take a 3-0 series lead when they host the Celtics in Sunday's Eastern Conference finals' matchup. Things have gone from bad to worse for Boston since that Game 2 blowout, as PG Isaiah Thomas (hip) has been ruled out for the rest of the postseason.
|05-17-17||Cavs v. Celtics +5||Top||117-104||Loss||-110||13 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers have rolled to eight straight wins this postseason, averaging 114.5 PPG. After failing to cover their first two games against the Pacers, the Cavs are 5-0-1 or 6-0 ATS their last six. In fact, Cleveland has now won 11 straight playoff games since being down 3-1 against the Warriors in last year's Finals, going 8-2-1 or 9-2 ATS with some guy LeBron averaging 34.9-9.7-7.8. Boston was considered the weakest No. 1 seed in a long time (maybe ever, since the league went to a 16-team playoff format) and right away, lost its first two home games in the first round, against the 41-41 Bulls (No. 8 seed). However, Rondo's injury gave the Celtics 'life' and they won and covered the final four games of that first-round series. Against Washington, the home team won all seven games (6-1 ATS) and Boston now draws the defending champs but has the homecourt edge.
Cleveland: The Cavaliers haven't played since May 7 and hope to continue to ride the red-hot duo of forward LeBron James (34.4-9.0-7.1) and PG Kyrie Irving (23.8 & 5.8 APG) as they look to shake off the rust. Head coach Tyronn Lue says he hopes to get PF Kevin Love more involved in this series after he averaged just 13.8 points and 9.1 rebounds during the first two rounds. Love did averaged 23.7 points and 13 rebounds in three games against the Celtics this season (Cavs took three of the four). However, the Cavs may need more help from outside of their "Big Three," as Channing Frye is the fourth-best scorer at 8.8 PPG this postseason for Cleveland.
Boston: The Celtics just survived a tough seven-game series against the Wizards to reach the conference finals for the first time since 2012. That series just ended Monday and now it's the defending champs on one days' rest. Boston knows it will be a huge underdog in this series. "We gotta get ready for the defending champs, we know that," PG Isaiah Thomas said after Monday's game. "The good thing about it is we've got homecourt advantage, so we're going to be ready on Wednesday to try to take care of home court. We know it's going to be tough but at this point, anything can happen, we really believe that." Thomas has carried Boston through most of the playoffs in an inspiring manner, averaging 25.4 PPG and APG this postseason. He had 29 points, 12 assists and just two turnovers in the Game 7 win over the Wizards and has had four 30-point outings (including 52 in Game 2 vs. Washington). Kelly Olynyk established a playoff career-best with 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting in the Game 7 win over the Wizards but the unsung Horford is also having a very good postseason, averaging 16.1-7.5-5.8 while shooting 64.0 percent.
The pick: It's hard for most to ignore the Cavs going into Boston late this regular season (on April 5) and just 'toying' with the Celtics. LBJ had 36-10-6 in a 114-91 Cleveland win. However, let's not forget that the Warriors found themselves down 23 points in the third quarter of their Game 1 against the Spurs after a long rest and that game was in Oakland! I'm going to take the home dog and make Boston a 10* play.
|05-15-17||Wizards v. Celtics -4.5||Top||105-115||Win||100||33 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: Two of the four second round series ended in four-game sweeps (Cavs and Warriors) while the Spurs took out the Rockets in six games, but this Washington/Boston series will need all seven games to be decided. That should come as no surprise as the home team won all four matchups during the regular season and through six games of this playoff series, has come out on top each time. The first five games saw the home team also cover but then in Game 6, the Wizards eked out a 92-91 win over the Celtics. Boston squandered a five-point lead in the final minute of Game 6, saw John Wall nail a three-pointer with 3.5 seconds left on the clock to give Washington the lead and then got victimized by some fuzzy clock management in the final seconds of the contest. After Wall's three-pointer, Kelly Oubre Jr. used Washington's foul to give with 2.7 seconds remaining, according to the NBA's Last Two Minute report,but Boston only got 1.7 seconds left on its final chance as Isaiah Thomas heaved up a three-point attempt that missed the mark. On to Game 7.
Washington: Wall is averaging 26.3 points and 10.2 assists in the series and combines with Bradley Beal to form a backcourt that is not afraid to take the big shots. Beal scored a series-best 33 points in Friday's win but is still trying to find his shot from long range while shooting 26.3 percent from beyond the arc in the series. Washington's frontcourt continues to give uneven efforts. Gortat has rebounded well all series (11.7 per) but in the last three games, has scored a total of just 17 points. SF Otto Porter Jr. averaged 15.8 points on 60 percent shooting in the first five games of the series but went scoreless on 0-of-5 shooting in Game 6. PF Morris was a "no-show" in Games 1 and 5 (both Boston home wins) but in Washington's three home games (all wins), he's averaged 14.0 & 8.7. Sixth man Bogdanovich has shot erratically, scoring 32 points in Games 3 and 4 (on 11 of 19 shooting) but averaging just 5.0 PPG in the other four games on 6 of 20 shooting.
Boston: Isaiah Thomas is not complaining about Monday's situation. "To have Game 7 back in Boston in the Garden," Thomas told reporters after the game 6 loss. "If you had said that back in October, that there'd be a Game 7 in the second round, a lot of people probably wouldn't even believe that. So we're excited. I mean, it hurts right now because we just lost. We have nothing to hold our heads down about, we're going to take a few days to figure out our adjustments and win Game 7."Thomas had 33 points in Game 1 and then exploded for 53 points in Game 2. However, he is averaging just 19.3 points on 39 percent shooting in the four games since. Then again, Thomas is getting plenty of help the last two games from SG Avery Bradley, who followed up a playoff career-high 29 points in Game 5 with 27 in Game 6 and is 22-of-37 from the floor in that span. Center Al Horford was in line to be the "hero" in Game 6 (his 'bank' shot gave Boston a two-point lead with 10 seconds left) but Wall's three-point shot ruined that scenario. Still, Horford has been very good for Boston this postseason, averaging 16.2-7.6-5.8 while shooting 64.2% from the floor.
The pick: It's another Game 7 at the legendary Boston Garden (now the TD Garden) and the Celtics sure have history behind them (Celtics are 18-3 all-time at home in Game 7s). However, all those banners in the rafters won't help this team, which has no connection to the past. Washington's history doesn't bode well, as the Wizards will be trying to reach the conference finals for the first time since 1979,. Forget ancient history, just look at this season. The home team has won all 11 meetings between the two teams and over the first 10 (prior to Game 6), the home team had covered each time. Stick with the home team here and make Boston a 10* play.
|05-14-17||Spurs v. Warriors -10||Top||111-113||Loss||-110||31 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: The Spurs owned the second-best record West at 61-21 (and in the entire NBA, as well) and will meet the No. 1 seed Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals starting this afternoon in Oakland. The Warriors went 67-15 during the regular season and have won all eight playoff games, outscoring opponents on average, 115.3-to-98.8 PPG. After rolling over Portland and Utah in the first two rounds, the Warriors also have the advantage of being well-rested, with an entire week off between series. Conversely, the Spurs didn't have an easy time in either of their series, as they were tied at two-all against both the Grizzlies and the Rockets, before winning both Game 5s at home and then their respective Games 6's as well, at Memphis and Houston.
San Antonio: Kawhi Leonard is nursing a sprained left ankle that kept him out of the clinching Game 6 win over the Houston Rockets on Thursday but the good news for the Spurs is that Leonard will have had a full four days off before Sunday's opener. He is expected to play against Golden State today. Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge took a more prominent role in Leonard's absence in Game 6 at Houston. He produced his best performance of the postseason with 34 points and 12 rebounds, well above his average 16.8 points and 8.0 rebounds this postseason. PG Tony Parker (quadriceps tendon) is out for the rest of the playoffs and the Spurs will likely start Patty Mills, with rookie Murray also seeing increased "PT." Also, SG Jonathan Simmons averaged 13.2 points against the Rockets, after averaging only 3.6 in the first round against Memphis.
Golden State:Golden Curry (27.1) and Durant (23.3) have played very well so far, although the team's third "big scorer," Klay Thompson, has struggled. Thompson averaged 22.3 points during the regular season but has reached 20 points just twice in the first eight playoff games, averaging 16.3 PPG on 40.7% shooting. However, Draymond Green is picking up the scoring slack, averaging 14.9 PPG (on 51.2% from three-point range) plus adding 8.5 RPG and 9.1 APG while always playing great defense.
The pick: The Spurs took two of three from the Warriors during the regular season, with one of those wins being a 129-100 stunner on opening night at Golden State. Hard to believe taht the Warriors won't be well aware of that and with no Parker and a less than 100 percent Leonard, the Spurs don't figure to stay withing 'shouting distance' of the Warriors here in Game 1. Lay the points and make the Warriors a 10* play.
|05-12-17||Celtics +5 v. Wizards||Top||91-92||Win||100||12 h 13 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics are one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference finals but will that victory come in Washington? So far, the home team is 5-0 SU & ATS this series, after the teams did the exact same thing in their regular season series, with the home team posting a 4-0 SU & ATS mark. The only 'twist' to Boston's Game 5 win was that for once (in a home win), the Celtics didn't rely completely on Isaiah Thomas. With Washington's defensive focus squarely on the 5-9 All-Star PG, Boston's Avery Bradley recorded a playoff career high 29 points (25 in the 1st half, alone) plus frontcourt players Horford (19-6-7) and Crowder (18 & 8) also has excellent games. The Wizards shot only 38.5 percent as teeam and while Wall had 21 points, he had just four assists ending his NBA record streak of 11 consecutive playoff games with at least 20 points and seven assists!
Boston: Thomas showed his skills as a facilitator in Game 5, becoming a screen-setter and passer, which kept the Wizards off balance. It's likely Boston will need more of the same from Thomas in Game 6 but while the Celtics can't expect another 29-point game from Bradley, they will need strong play from him on both ends of the floor, offensively and defensively, Al Horford is shooting 69.4 percent from the floor, including 58.8 percent from three-point range in the series and it would be nice if he could keep that up.
Washington: The Wizards had all the momentum going into Game 5 after winning the previous two games by a total of 46 points but were flat as a pancake in Game 5. "It started with the focus," Wizards head coach Scott Brooks told reporters. "That was our No. 1 mistake. We didn’t have the focus that it would have taken to win in this building." Shooting guards Beal and Bojan Bogdanovic (off teh bench) combined to go 8-of-26 from the floor, including just 1-of-8 from beyond the arc. Washington used a 22-0 run in Game 3 and a 26-0 spurt in Game 4 to create separation in a pair of home wins but failed to get the defensive stops that led to those runs in Game 5. "All we can do is focus on Game 6 at home," Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal told reporters.
The pick: The question then becomes, will the Wizards be able to regain their composure and swagger? I took the Spurs (even without Kawhi) last night and watched Houston fail miserably in attempting to bounce back from its Game 5 loss. Other than Wall, the remainder of Washington's starters have been erratic throughout the entire series, As for the bench, we saw Kelly Oubre Jr. return from a one-game suspension following a Flagrant 2 foul in Game 3 to score 13 points off the bench but Washington's other reserves shot 3 of 16 from the floor in Game 5. I just have ZERO faith in Washington, especially laying points. Make Boston a 10* play.
|05-11-17||Spurs +7.5 v. Rockets||Top||114-75||Win||100||12 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: The Spurs took a 3-2 lead in this series by winning Game 5 in OT (110-107), with All-Star small forward Kawhi Leonard on the bench due to a left ankle injury. Manu Ginibili "turned back the clock" with his best game of the series, which included a line of 12-7-5 and then capped his performance with a block of Harden's possible game-tying three-point attempt at the OT buzzer. Harden had 33 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in Game 5 but it wasn't enough..He was just 4-of-15 from three-point range plus Gordon, inserted into the starting lineup for Game 5, shot 4 of 13 from the floor (11 points) and reserve guard Lou Williams score only six points on 3 of 10 shooting.
San Antonio: Leonard vows he'll be in the starting lineup tonight saying, "Yeah, I'm going to be able to play," when asked during Wednesday's off-day media availability. Patty Mills also figures to draw the start at PG for the second straight game, after scoring 20 points and knocking down five 3-pointers in Game 5. Then there is PF LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored 18 points and added 14 rebounds on Tuesday, recording his first double-double of the series.
Houston: Head coach Mike D'Antoni not only "went small" by starting Gordon, he also opted for just a seven-man rotation, with veteran center Nene (groin) done for the postseason. Ryan Anderson and Lou Williams being the only reserves to play in Game 5. Anderson had a strong game with 19 points but as noted already, Williams shot poorly. In Houston's three losses this series, Williams has gone 5 of 21 (23.8%) from the floor, scoring a total of just 10 points!
The pick: The results of D'Antoni's decision to go with a seven-man rotation were NOT good. Harden and Gordon each played 43 minutes, Beverley was out there for 41 minutes and Ariza for 40 minutes. As fatigue mounted, offensive execution waned. Down the stretch, the Rockets began standing around and settled for tough shots instead of challenging the Spurs' scrambling defense. "Probably got tired," D'Antoni said of the lack of pace and production. "We just couldn't quite push it. We had our opportunities with about three minutes to go in the game to knock a couple 3s down I thought were good shots. We just didn't make the big play at that moment." You think! I've noted often that this year's San Antonio team does not have the depth of past editions and now Parker is out plus Leonard may be too, or playing at less anna 100 percent. However, the Spurs still have Popovich plus a champion's mentality entering a game of this magnitude. In contrast, Houston's D'Antoni is no Popovich (who is?) plus are the Rockets really ready for prime time? The Spurs are 3-1 at Houston in 2016-17, going 2-0 in the regular season while splitting the two games in this series thus far. Take the points and make the Spurs a 10* play.
|05-10-17||Wizards v. Celtics -4||Top||101-123||Win||100||11 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: The Warriors just finished off the Jazz (Monday) in a four-game sweep, a series in which the visiting team covered all games. That's something you rarely see. The Boston (No. 1 seed) and Washington (No. 4 seed) series continues tonight with what's so far, been a more traditional series, as home court has held. The Celtics won Games 1 and 2 at home to open things up, covering both games, although Boston needed OT (plus 53 points from Thomas) to do so. The series shifted to Washington for Games 3 and 4 and in a YUGE understatement, the momentum has shifted. The Wizards won Games 3 and 4 by a combined 46 points and used a 22-0 in the first quarter of Game 3 and a 26-0 run in the third quarter of Sunday's game to go from being into an 0-2 'hole' to blowing out the Celtics for a second straight game, sending the series back to the TD Garden tied at two-all.
Washington: "We played inspired basketball for each other," Wizards coach Scott Brooks, who called the 26-0 run in Game 4 his team's best stretch of the season, told reporters. "Defensively we were in the right position. ... We didn't make silly mistakes that we made early in the game, and it pays off." The Wizards go where PG John Wall takes them, as he's averaging 27.8 points, 12.3 assists and 2.8 steals in the series. However, SG Bradley Beal played his best game of the series on Sunday with 29 points. Forwards Porter (18 & 8) and Morris (16 & 10) also played well, as did Bogdanovich off the bench for the second straight game (had 13 points in Game 4, after getting 19 in Game 3).
Boston: PG Isaiah Thomas scored 33 points in Game 1 and then 53 in Boston's OT win in Game 2. However, points were much harder to come by for him in Washington, where he averaged just 16.0 points in the two losses. SG Bradley is hurting with a hip pointer and scored only five points on Sunday, plus is shooting just 34.0 percent for the series. Key frontcourt players Horford and Crowder have been hit-and-miss, something head coach Brad Stevens knows all too well. "We played pretty good in stretches but then two stretches killed us on this trip to D.C.," Stevens said after Game 4. "One in the first quarter (in Game 3), one in the third quarter (in Game 4). We have to play better throughout the whole game (in Game 5).
The pick: The Wizards were in both of the games played in Boston but could never "finish the job." After two dominating home wins, will the Wizards "get it right" in Boston? Thomas suggested after Game 4 that he wasn't getting the benefit of foul calls while going without a free-throw attempt in the loss. "The refs were allowing them to hold and grab and do all those things," Thomas told reporters. "I think, especially in the third quarter, I might have hit the ground five or six straight times, and I'm not the one that likes hitting the ground. ... I can't be allowed to be held and grabbed every pin-down, every screen." Something tells me that Thomas will not only play MUCH better in Game 5 but that he'll also be getting some of the calls he failed to get in Washington. This series has not just been home court-dominated in the playoffs but the home team won all four games played during the regular season as well, with Boston winning and covering the two regular season games in the TD Garden against the Wizards. Make Boston a 10* play.
|05-09-17||Rockets +5.5 v. Spurs||Top||107-110||Win||100||12 h 52 m||Show|
The set-up: While first the Cavs and now the Warriors have made short work (four-game sweeps) of their respective second round series, the other two series are both tied at two-all. Both the second-seeded Spurs and third seeded Rockets in the West and the top-seeded Celtics and fourth-seeded Wizards have turned their series into a best-of-3 situation. While the Bos/Was series has seen the home team go 4-0 SU & ATS, this SA/Hou series has seen each team win a game on the others home court with each home team also owning a blowout home victory.
Houston: The Rockets drained 19 three-pointers in their Game 4 victory, turning a close game into a 125-104 rout by scoring 68 second-half points! "This is a big stage they did it on," Houston head coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters. "We have a lot of work left, but there's no reason why we can't go down to San Antonio and repeat the performance." The Rockets did just that in Game 1, making 22 three-points (on a record 50 attempts!) in a 126-99 road win. However, Houston suffered a huge blow in Game 4, as backup center Nene suffered a torn left groin and will miss the rest of the playoffs. Nene and starter Clint Capela were giving Houston solid production in the middle and the Rockets will be forced to use power forwards Montrezl Harrell and Ryan Anderson at center. The good news for Houston is that after averaging just 16.5 PPG over the first two games of this series, MVP-candidate James Harden has averaged 35.5 points over the last two contests.
San Antonio: The Spurs must now "turn the page" after missing (in a big way) an opportunity to come back to San Antonio up 3-1. The point guard situation is a huge issue (problem?), after the season-ending quadriceps injury to Tony Parker in Game 2. Rookie Dejounte Murray started the past two games and averaged five points and 1.3 assists while backup Patty Mills averaged 12.5 points and 3.5 assists but made just 8-of-21 FG attempts. Star SF Kawhi Leonard scored just 16 points in Game 4 after averaging 27 over the first three games plus PF LaMarcus Aldridge is enduring a mostly quiet series (and postseason), save for his 26-point outburst in Game 3 (on 12 of 20 shooting). Pau Gasol, a two-time NBA champions while with the Lakers, has also been a non-factor, averaging just eight points in the series with just one double-digit effort in four games.
The pick: The Rockets looked lost in Game 2 on the road and Game 3 at home, but played a complete game on Sunday. Harden scored 28 points and handed out 12 assists in the win but maybe even more importantly, the Houston bench stepped up, getting 22 points from guards Eric Gordon and 13 from Lou Williams, after the entire reserve unit scored just 10 points in its Game 3 loss. Bottom line in this series just may be that Houston is the better team. However, since moving to the AT&T Center in 2002, the Spurs are 81-28 (.743) in home playoff games, giving them the most such wins by any team in the league during that time span. That said, the Spurs have not been a great home team this season, going 35-11 SU (including the postseason) but just 23-23 ATS. Meanwhile, the Rockets are 27-18 ATS on the road. Take the points and make Houston a 10* play.
|05-07-17||Celtics +5 v. Wizards||Top||102-121||Loss||-115||10 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: The Washington/Boston series is the highest-scoring second round series (games have averaged 229 points) and it's also the lone series in which the home team has won and covered each game, after the Wizards emphatically announced they are still in the series with a blowout win in Game 3. However, the Wizards need to keep the intensity without the technicals. Washington rolled to a 116-89 win in a Game 3 but the contest featured eight technical fouls, three ejections and one flagrant foul that came when Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. reacted to a hard screen by Boston's Kelly Olynyk by running and shoving him to the ground. Oubre is suspended for Game 4. The Celtics overcame big early deficits to win each of the first two games of the series but never recovered after a 22-0 run led to Washington taking a 39-17 lead after the first quarter of Game 3.Boston: "I think that it’s a lot less about talking about it and just doing it," Boston head coach Brad Stevens told reporters of the need for better starts. "That’s the bottom line: We have to play better out of the gate than we’ve played. And that’s not just (Game 3); that’s all three games of this series and a few of the games during the regular season." PG Isaiah Thomas had 53 points in Game 2 but was limited to 13 points in 29 minutes in Game 3 and did not start the second half while staying in the locker room undergoing dental work. Boston's entire team shot poorly in Game 3, making just 35.1 percent from the floor, including going only 10 of 32 on threes. Washington: John Wall reminded all that there is another PG in this series beside Thomas, scoring 24 points and handing out eight assists. However, it was a team effort by Washington in Game 3, as all five starers scored in double digits (Gortat had a double-double with 13 & 16) plus Bogdanovic finally made some 'noise' with 19 points off the bench, including shooting 4 of 7 on threes.
The pick: The Wizards finally made their strong start hold up in Game 3 (led 39-17 after the 1st quarter) and clearly turned up the physicality. However, as noted, Washington needs to find a balance. Also, Bradley Beal needs to find his shooting touch, as he's shooting only 27.4 percent from three-point range in the postseason, including just 2-of-13 over the last two games of this series. Brooks made the needed adjustments in Game 3 and it's now Stevens' turn. Stevens has done a great job coaching this team, as the Game 3 loss ended a 6-0 ST & ATS run for Boston. I expect the road team to break through for the first time in this series and I'll make Boston an 8* play.
|05-07-17||Cavs v. Raptors +7.5||Top||109-102||Win||100||8 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers needed six games to beat the Toronto Raptors in last year's Eastern Conference finals, although the four wins came by an average margin of 28.5 PPG. The two teams are meeting a round earlier this season and after sweeping the Pacers in the first round, the Cavs now own a 3-0 series lead over the Raptors in this series. Cleveland won Game 1 by "just" 11 points but note that the Cavs led by 22 points entering the fourth quarter in that contest. Cleveland then won Game 2 by the score of 125-103 and then Game 3 by 115-94. Cleveland received some much-needed rest after sweeping the Indiana Pacers in the opening round and will receive another break if it can close out the Raptors on Sunday. Toronto was outscored 36-17 in the fourth quarter of Game 3 when it needed a supreme 12 minutes to make it a series and will likely be without starting point guard Kyle Lowry (ankle) for the second consecutive contest. "I'm probably doubtful, honestly," Lowry told reporters on Saturday. "I don't think I'll be able to play. ... It's not looking great, but I'm not giving up on it."
Cleveland: "For myself, I just focus on that game," Cavaliers forward LeBron James said after Game 3. I don't really think about the sweep, I don't think of anything but how can I as leader of the ballclub put our guys in a position to be successful." The Raptors haven't come close to stopping LBJ, who is averaging 36.3 points and shooting 60.4 percent from the floor in the series. He has been superb overall in seven games this postseason with averages of 34.3 points, nine rebounds, 7.3 assists and 2.4 steals.
Toronto: SG DeMar DeRozan produced a career playoff-best 37 points in Game 3, after he had scored just five points on 2-of-11 shooting in Game 2. It looks like Lowry will be out again, so DeRozan will need another huge effort. Cory Joseph started for Lowry in Game 3 and was awful, scoring only four points (on 2-of-12 shooting) with six assists in 33 minutes. He'll have to do better and so will every other Raptor getting "PT" in Game 4.
The pick: Maybe I'm just "spitting into the wind" but the Raptors were 2-for-18 on 3-point shots on Friday, missing their first 12 of the game. That's far from typical. "I thought we did an excellent job of moving the basketball, finding the right person," Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. "But again, it's something we've done, knocking down 3s all year and, for whatever reason, it's escaping us right now." Casey added, " ... At one point, we were one of the better offensive teams in the league, depending on the 3s, knocking down the 3, and now we have to transfer it from regular-season basketball to playoff basketball." Make Toronto an 8* play.
|05-06-17||Warriors -5 v. Jazz||Top||102-91||Win||100||31 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: The Warriors haven't really been tested yet by Utah in taking the first two games of this series but in winning by 12 and 11 points, Golden State is 0-2 ATS. The Jazz fell behind by six points after the first quarter in Game 1 and the fell behind by 18 points after the first period in Game 2. Utah has yet to lose complete touch in any of the first two games but the Jazz haven't really threatened yet, either.
Golden State: The Warriors' hot start in Game 2 was led by Draymond Green, who knocked down four of his five 3-pointers in the first quarter and finished with 21 points before leaving after a scary fall in the fourth quarter. However, he seemed unconcerned about the injury following the contest. "I knew my knee was just locking up a little bit," Green told reporters. "I had it before. A little tweak. It wasn't like this huge sigh of relief because I kind of knew exactly what it was from the jump. But it's always good to know you're OK."
Utah: The Jazz know they need to get off to a better start at home. "I do think we have to start the game better," Utah head coach Quin Snyder told reporters. "Hopefully we can do that at home. But we also want to try and be ahead at the end. If you don't start well, you're climbing an uphill battle. I think that means being more aggressive on offense. If you're not, they really capitalize going the other way." Gordon Hayward scored a game-high 33 points in Game 2 after slumping to 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting in Game 1 but PG George Hill sat out Game 2 with a toe injury and remains day-to-day. Joe Johnson was a star against the Clippers (15.7 PPG) but he's scored just a total of just 19 points in two games against the Warriors, shooting 7 of 18 from the floor (38.9%). Also, Favors made big contributions off the bench in support of and in relief of Gobert against LA, but has been a non-factor against the Warriors.
The pick: The Warriors made comments prior to the series about wanting to face the Clippers instead of the Jazz in the second round due to the more varied nightlife options in Los Angeles. That could mean that the lack of nightlife on the road will keep the Warriors focused on Game 3! The Warriors have played very efficiently offense, handing out 32 assists on 40 FGs in Game 1 and 33 assists on 42 FGs in Game 2. They have shot a combined 49.1 percent from the floor through two games and defensively, have forced 14.5 turnovers per game while averaging 22 points per game off of turnovers. The Warriors are too good for the Jazz. Make Golden State a 10* play.
|05-05-17||Cavs v. Raptors +3.5||Top||115-94||Loss||-115||11 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers needed six games to beat the Toronto Raptors in last year's Eastern Conference finals, although the four wins came by an average margin of 28.5 PPG. The two teams are meeting a round earlier this season and after sweeping the Pacers in the first round, the Cavs have again opened their series with the Raptors by easily winning Games 1 and 2 of this series at home. Game 1's margin was 'just" 11 points, although let's note that the Cavs led by 22 points entering the fourth quarter in that contest. Cleveland led by 18 heading into the fourth quarter of Game 2 and extended the lead to win by 22. The Cavaliers are 6-0 in this year's postseason and have averaged 1115.3 PPG. Toronto had its hands full with Milwaukee (won in six games) and now hope its deja vu against the Cavs. Cleveland steamrolled Toronto in the first two games of last season's playoffs as well, before the Raptors thrived in their home environment and won the next two contests at Air Canada Centre.
|05-04-17||Celtics +5.5 v. Wizards||Top||89-116||Loss||-109||12 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: It's been the "Isaiah Thomas Show" in the first two games of this second round series between the top-seed Celtics and fourth-seeded Wizards. Washington opened Game 1 on a 16-0 run but lost by 12 and then scored 42 points in the first quarter of Game 2 (led by 13), only to lose (and fail to cover) in OT, 129-119. Thomas has persevered through personal tragedy to score 33 points in Game 1 and then 53 points in Game 2 (one shy of Hondo's franchise record for a single playoff game), with 29 of his points coming in the fourth quarter and OT. Washington PG John Wall collected 40 points and 13 assists for the Wizards in Game 2, after scoring 20 points with 16 assists in Game 1, but he's been overshadowed by Thomas. "It was a heck of a basketball game," Washington head coach Scott Brooks told reporters. "Two teams played their hearts out. Two great players played well. I thought both teams competed, played their hearts out, nothing to be ashamed of. We lost both games. Now we got to go home and take care of Game 3."
Boston: Sure, Thomas has been the definitive star but center Al Horford had 21-9-10 in Game 1 and then 15 & 12 in Game 2. SF Crowder has averaged 19.0 & 6.5 in the first two games and Thomas' backcourt partner Bradley, has averaged 16.0 PPG, although he has shot just 13-of-36 from the floor in the series. Who knows what might have been if Rondo hadn't gotten hurt after Chicago took a 2-0 lead? However, we do know that Boston has now won six in a row, averaging 112.2 PPG.
Washington: John Wall darted, dashed and dished from all over the court in Tuesday's Game 2 but nothing was enough to conquer Boston's Thomas. It sure didn't help that after scoring 27 points and shooting 4-of-7 on threes in in Game 1, Bradley Beal went 1-of-9 from three-point range in Game 2 while scoring only 14 points. Washington led 110-104 with 2:43 remaining in regulation but couldn't close out the Celtics. "It was tough. We had opportunities to win this game," Wall said. "Last 2/3 minutes, (we) had the opportunities to make shots, but we missed some good looks. They came down and made some tough shots. They made shots that we missed."
The pick: Will playing on familiar turf help Washington's defenders better deal with the 5-foot-9 Thomas? Washington did win both home regular-season games against Boston but I'm not stepping in front of this Boston 'train,' led by Thomas 'the conductor.' Boston head coach Brad Stevens was just 2-10 in this playoff career after the Celtics lost the first two games against Chicago at home. However, he has since led Boston to six consecutive wins and covers. Can you say SEVEN in a row? Make the Celtics an 8* play.
|05-03-17||Raptors +8 v. Cavs||Top||103-125||Loss||-115||11 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers played very poor team defense in going 10-14 from March 1 through the end of the regular season but the team's answer to that come the playoffs has been...Outscore its opponents. The Cavs have averaged 113.4 PPG in winning their first five playoff games, scoring a low of 106 and high of 119. Second-seeded Cleveland made it a four-game sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the opening round and built a 12-point lead after one quarter against the Raptors, then took a 22-point lead into the 4th quarter in cruising past the Raptors 116-105 on Monday. Cleveland knocked off the Raptors in last season's Eastern Conference finals when its four victories were by an average of 28.5 points and Toronto players know they need to prevent a landslide. "We've just got to play defense and not let them go up and down and do what they do, play defense for 48 minutes," Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry told reporters after Game 1. "We got to find ways to limit their spurts."
Toronto: The Raptors could tinker with the lineup by going back to guard Norman Powell instead of center Jonas Valanciunas, which was how they won the last three games of their first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks. However, Powell may have had 12 points in Game 1 off the bench, but shot just 3 of 11. Or they could swap P.J. Tucker with DeMarre Carroll. Tucker had 13 points and 11 boards off the bench Monday. DeRozan and Lowry were fairly quiet (combined 39 points) but the bottom line is, the team must shoot better than 43.8% from the floor, including only 10 of 26 on threes.
Cleveland: LBJ had 35 points and 10 rebounds in the opener and needs just 25 points to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (5,762 points) for second place on the all-time postseason scoring list. He also has 88 career 30-point outings in the postseason, matching Kobe Bryant for second place on the all-time list. The records just keep falling. PG Kyrie Irving had 24 points and a career playoff-best 10 assists in Game 1 plus center Tristan Thompson collected 14 rebounds to raise his playoff average to 11.6 and he has reached double digits in all five of Cleveland's playoff games.
The pick: Will the Cleveland 'express' just keep rolling? Losing Game 1 of a playoff series is hardly new for Toronto, as the Raptors now own a 1-12 record all time in those contests. History doesn't exactly bode well here either, as they are 1-5 in Game 2s on the road in postseason play. However, maybe Toronto can gain some measure of hope in noting that In their five playoff losses to Cleveland dating back to last year's conference finals, Game 1 on Monday was the closest. If the Raptors want any chance in this series, a win tonight is almost a must. Take the points and make Toronto a 10*.
|05-02-17||Wizards v. Celtics -5.5||Top||119-129||Win||100||11 h 10 m||Show|
The set-up: The Washington Wizards jumped out to a 16-0 lead in Game 1 but by game's end, the Celtics had their fifth straight playoff win (and cover!) since losing the first two games (at home!) of their first round series against the Bulls. Washington was outscored 71-42 in the second and third quarters, as Boston went on to a 123-111 victory. Thomas led the way with 33 points plus Crowder (24 & 6) and Horford 21-9-10) each had their best games of the 2017 postseason. Washington shot 50 percent as a team but made 10 three-pointers, compared to Boston's 19.
Washington: Power forward Markieff Morris went down in the first half of Game 1 with an ankle injury and while he insisted after the contest that he would play Game, others are skeptical after he was seen noticeably limping and reportedly struggled to put on his shoe over the swollen left ankle. Wall had 20 points and 16 assists but wasn't dominate. SG Beal scored 27 points on Sunday and is now averaging 29.3 in the last four games. However, Washington knows it has to defend the three better. "Their 3-point shooting is a problem," head coach Scott Brooks said of the Boston Celtics, who tied a franchise record with 19 treys in Game 1. Bradley Beal added; "We gave up 19 threes, on the road. ... It's just a matter of us defending, man."
Boston: Isaiah Thomas flew home to Tacoma, Wa., on Saturday for his sister's funeral and flew back across the country in time for the game, during which he delivered 33 points. "I mean, it's tough but it's the playoffs," Thomas told reporters. There's no excuses. I decided to play and I just tried to give it all I got for my team, and we came out with the win." Brad Stevens depends on Thomas but had to be even more thrilled with the play of both Crowder and Horford (see above).
The pick: The Celtics may not yet be ready to challenge the Cavs but for now, Boston seems to be establishing itself as at least, the East's second-best team and by a significant margin. Boston owns five straight wins and covers this postseason, winning by a margin of nearly 14 PPG (108.4-to-94.6). Make Boston an 8* play.
|05-01-17||Rockets +6 v. Spurs||Top||126-99||Win||100||13 h 59 m||Show|
analysis by 12 pm et
|04-30-17||Jazz v. Clippers -3.5||Top||104-91||Loss||-105||18 h 39 m||Show|
The set-up: The Jazz and Clippers each finished the regular season 51-31, so it only seems fitting that the teams will play a Game 7 (only first round series to go the distance) to decide which team will advance to meet the Golden State Warriors. The Clippers will get to play Game 7 at home, due to having won the season series between the two teams. It's been a back-and-forth series plus one that's been influenced by injuries. First it was Utah center Rudy Gobert going down in the first minute of Game 1 and then LA's Blake Griffin was injured in Game 3. Gobert returned in Game 4 but Griffin is out for the remainder of LA's postseason. Gobert twisted his left ankle late in Friday's Game 6 (LA won to force Sunday's contest) but X-rays ruled out a serious injury, so he will be available for Game 7.
Utah: Utah SF Gordon Hayward has four 20-point outings in the series and is averaging 27.4 PPG, not including his Game 4 stint, which was limited to nine minutes due to food poisoning. Gobert is averaging 13.7 points and 11 rebounds since returning in Game 4.. Reserves Joe Johnson and Rodney Hood were having superb series until Game 6, when the Jazz squandered a great opportunity to close out the Clippers. Johnson had nine points on 3-of-9 shooting and Rodney Hood had four points on 2-of-10 shooting.
LA Clippers: PG Chris Paul registered 29 points and eight assists in Friday's 98-93 do-or-die victory at Utah to even the series. "He is as competitive as a human being as I've ever been around," Clippers head coach Doc Rivers told reporters. "When you put that with the talent and the will, that's why he has performances like this in big games." This is a common refrain when people talk about Paul but is it an accident that he's never been on a team that has won a second round playoff series? No Griffin is not good news but center DeAndre Jordan has averaged 14 points and 13.8 rebounds in the series, while recording a double-double in each contest.
The pick: The Clippers (as well as Paul) have had a checkered playoff resume but the Jazz haven't won a playoff series since 2010. However, bottom line is this. Home teams are 101-25 (.802) all-time in Game 7s. Dating back to to 1990, home teams are 52-14 SU and 39-25-2 ATS (60.9%) in Game 7s. Make the Clippers a 10* play.
|04-28-17||Clippers +6 v. Jazz||Top||98-93||Win||100||14 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: The Los Angeles Clippers scored only 58 points through three quarters in Game 5 and a 34-point final period was not enough for them to win on their home floor, as the Jazz pulled out a 96-92 win. The Jazz now own a 3-2 series heading back to Salt Lake City for Game 6 and will have a chance to win the franchise's first playoff series since downing the Denver Nuggets in a first-round series back in 2010. "It's no secret our back's against the wall, down 3-2," PG Chris Paul told reporters after Game 5. The Clippers have to win tonight and then back at Staples Center in Game 7, or it will be yet another underachieving postseason for that "other team from LA."
LA Clippers: Regarding his team being down 3-2, Chris Paul added after Game 5, "Fortunately we've got a lot of guys in the locker room who had to do this a couple of years ago. We've got to do what we've got to do." However, the loss of power forward Blake Griffin (toe) is a huge loss and it's been magnified with Marreese Speights starting in his place in Games 4 and 5. Speights made just 2 of 8 shots for five points in Game 4, then missed his only three shots in Game 5, scoring just one point. Clippers guard Jamal Crawford exploded for 25 points in Game 4 but he then disappeared in Game 5, going 2 of 8 for four points. J.J. Redick finally got untracked with 27 points in Game 5 but over the first four games, he was only 10 of 29 from the floor (34.5%) while averaging 7.8 PPG.
Utah: Gordon Hayward scored a career-high 40 points in Game 3 (a Utah loss) but due to food poisoning, was a non-entity in Game 4 (played only nine minutes) before being sent home at halftime. However, he was back on his game in Tuesday's victory as he contributed 27 points and eight rebounds. The return of center Rudy Gobert has also been a huge plus for the Jazz, as Utah's defense has turned up a notch since his return, with Gobert averaging 13.0 & 12.0 in Utah's Game 4 and 5 wins. Then there is veteran Joe Johnson, who averaged 9.2 points in the regular season but has increased that to 18.2 while leading a young squad. "These guys have never been in this situation. We have to go home with a business mindset and not be overconfident but confident enough." Let's also not forget backup SG Rodney Hood, who is averaging 17 points over the past two games (both Jazz wins), after averaging 8.0 PPG over the first three contests.
The pick: Chris Paul has never advanced past the second round of the playoffs, in a carer that many believe is HOF worthy. Now it's seems highly unlikely that either the Clippers or Jazz will have much of a chance against the Warriors in the second round but the last thing Paul needs on his pathetic postseason resume is another first round loss. "This team is not going to quit, I can tell you that," Clippers head coach Doc Rivers told reporters after the Game 5 loss. "You could see it in the locker room." All the pressure is on the Jazz in this one and Utah not only has to win but win by a margin to "collect the cash" in this one. Expect Chris Paul to come up big. Take the points and make the Clippers a 10* play.
|04-27-17||Spurs -4 v. Grizzlies||Top||103-96||Win||100||34 h 5 m||Show|
San Antonio: How things have changed for the Spurs. Manu Ginobili is a four-time NBA champion and averaged 14.7 points in 198 career playoff games prior to this postseason. However, he had gone scoreless on a combined 0-of-15 shooting in the first four games of the series, before breaking out for 10 points on 4-of-6 in Game 5. Lucky for the Spurs, they have Kawhi Leonard, who some think is the league MVP, not Westbrook or Harden. Leonard is averaging 31.6 PPG on 57.6 percent shooting in the series, including 54.2 percent from three-point range. He's basically carrying the Spurs, who are not the same supremely talented and deep group of past editions.
Memphis: PG Mike Conley has been a dominant force on the offensive end the last four games, averaging of 27.3 points on 53.5 percent shooting. Big men Marc Gasol (19.6 & 6.8) and Zach Randolph (13.2 & 7.6) have also been good but the drop off is dramatic after that, as the 40-year-old Vince Carter is the team's fourth-leading scorer at just 8.6 PPG.
The pick: The home team is undefeated in nine overall meetings this season between these two teams but the Spurs have a championship pedigree, while the Grizzlies have nothing but playoff mediocrity to draw from. If the Spurs lose here, it's back to San Antonio for a Game 7 on Saturday and assuming they win, they'd have to host the well-rested Rockets in Game 1 of the next series on Monday. That's not something "Pop" will want for his overachieving team. Make the Spurs a 10* play.
|04-26-17||Bulls v. Celtics -8||Top||97-108||Win||100||13 h 12 m||Show|
It's not often we see the No. 1 seed in a conference lose the first two games of a series at home, especially when that No. 1 seed is matched against a No. 8 seed. However, the Bulls surprised the Celtics 106-0102 in Game 1 and then stunned them with a 111-97 victory in Game 2. However, Celtics have turned the tables on the Bulls by winning Games 3 and 4 in Chicago. The Celtics' back-to-back wins in Chicago came after Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo was sidelined with a fractured thumb, Boston PG Isaiah Thomas, whose playoff experience has been dominated by the grief of losing his sister in a car accident prior to the series, had his best game of the series in Game 4. However, Chicago head coach Fred Hoiberg claims that Thomas carries the ball repeatedly. The teams meet tonight in Boston, as the Celtics try to become the first home team to win a game this series.
Chicago: Rondo has shed his cast and could potentially return for a Game 6 or Game 7. The Bulls need him, as after shooting 46.7 percent and averaging 25 assists in two wins at Boston, Chicago shot just 40.1 percent with 16.5 assists in the two games without Rondo at home. While the team waits on a possible Rondo return, Isaiah Canaan will be thrust into the starting lineup for Game 5 after emerging to score 13 points in 34 minutes of Sunday's loss. Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams have failed miserably in trying to replace Rondo in Games 3 and 4. Jimmy Butler remains Chicago's star, averaging 24.8-7.3-5.0 in the series.
Boston: There can be little doubt that Rondo's injury gave Boston 'life,' but don't discount Brad Stevens' coaching. He made the decision "to go small" after Game 2, including the insertion of Gerald Green into the starting lineup. Green scored 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting to go along with seven rebounds in Game 4 while regular starter Amir Johnson did not see a single minute of action, after playing only six minutes in Game 3.
The pick: Rondo was originally ruled out for Wednesday but USA Today reported Tuesday night that he might attempt to play in Game 5. As I noted in taking the Celtics in Game 4, Boston may be a VERY weak No. 1 seed but Chicago is one weak team, especially with no Rondo. Before Game 3, Stevens owned a 2-10 playoff record, the worst in NBA history for any coach with at least 10 decisions. Now, the picture is brighter and his team delivers a third straight win is this series, with room to spare!. Make Boston an 8* play
|04-25-17||Jazz +3 v. Clippers||Top||96-92||Win||100||35 h 44 m||Show|
The set-up: The Jazz and Clippers were each 51-31 during the regular season but LA earned the home court edge in this first round series due to a tiebreaker. After four games, the series is tied at two-all, with each team winning once on its opponents' home court. However, the series has been overshadowed by key injuries to both Utah center Rudy Gobert and LA power forward Blake Griffin. Gobert went down in the first minute of Game 1 but returned in Game 4 to score 15 points and grab 13 rebounds. Griffin was lost in Game 3, when the Clippers won in Utah but he's now out for the rest of the playoffs. Utah: Gobert's return was huge boost for the Jazz but the team's best player, SF Gordon Hayward, was limited to just nine minutes in Utah's Game 4 win, due to food poisoning. He took IV fluids prior to the game but to no avail. Hayward scored a career-high 40 points in Game 3 and is expected to give it a go tonight at Staples Center. Swingman Joe Johnson came up again big in the Game 4 win, scoring 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting. He also nailed the game-winner in Game 1 at the buzzer and heads into tonight's game averaging 19.3 PPG in the series.
LA Clippers: Will the Clippers' luck ever change? Griffin's absence inside during LA's fourth-quarter collapse in Game 4 was noticeable and magnified by Marreese Speights' poor effort (five points on 2-of-8 shooting). Los Angeles will likely be relying on the backcourt play of Paul (27 points in Game 4), Jamal Crawford (25 points) and J.J. Redick for the remainder of the series. However, while Crawford made 5-of-7 three-pointers on Sunday, he had missed all 11 he attempted during the first three games. As for Redick, he's averaged only 7.8 PPG in thed series (down from averaging 15.0 PPG during the regular season!), making only 34.5% from the floor, including 26.7% on threes. The pick: I believe the Clippers are headed for another playoff disappointment. Why wait until the second round to get blown out by the Warriors? Take the points and make the Jazz a 10* play.
|04-24-17||Wizards +2.5 v. Hawks||Top||101-111||Loss||-107||13 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: The Hawks did not play particularly well at home during the regular season but came up with a huge home effort in Game 3, beating the Wizards 116-98. Atlanta couldn't control Wall in Games 1 and 2 (the PG had 32 points in each contest) and while the Hawks did shut him down in Game 3 either (Wall had 29), Atlanta did do a much better against the remainder of Washington's team. Also, the Hawks did a much better job of matching Washington's physicality here at home, led by Millsap's 29 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. PG Dennis Schroder continued his fine play as well, with 27 points and nine assists (he's averaging 25 points and eight assists after three games).
Washington: Wall was 10 of 12 from the floor and 8 of 10 from the FT line in Game 3 but his teammates shot a combined 27 of 77 (35.1%). Washington SG Bradley Beal appeared to break out of his own slump with a big fourth quarter in Game 2 but fell off again in Game 3 while totaling 12 points on 6-of-20 shooting, including 0-of-6 from three-point range. Markieff Morris accused Millsap of being soft after the Hawks forward complained about the physical nature of the first game but Morris may want to shut up and just play better. He's totaled just 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting in the last two games.
Atlanta: Millsap and Schroder have been Atlanta's key players but center Dwight Howard has failed to score in double figures in any of the first three games, averaging a woeful 6.0 PG, He is averaging RPG but one wonders if Atlanta can win this series with Howard providing no offense. Prince has averaged 14.0 PPG on 62.1% shooting but Atlanta's only other double digit scorer in this series is Hardaway (11.3), and he's shooting 29.4% from the floor, including under 20 percent on threes.
The pick: Regarding the Morris/Millsap yapping, "It definitely got personal now," Millsap said. "I don't care. So what? Take this loss and go back to the hotel and be ready for the next game." As noted, the Hawks have been a mediocre home team all season and with Gortat outplaying Howard in the middle, the Washington center is averaging 10.0 & 9.7, I'm on the side of the Wizards to take control of this series by winning Game 4. Make Washington a 10* play.
|04-23-17||Celtics -2.5 v. Bulls||Top||104-95||Win||100||31 h 57 m||Show|
The set-up: The 41-41 Bulls were able to sneak into the playoff field as the East's No. 8 seed, getting the nod over the 41-41 Heat by virtue of a tiebreaker. The Bulls then went into the tD Garden and won Game 1 106-102 over the top-seeded Celtics (53-29 on the season), before rolling over the Celtics in Game 2, by a score of 111-97. However, with Chicago PG Rajon Rondo ( in the 1st two games) out with a broken thumb in Game 3, the Celtics coasted to a 104-87 victory on Friday night. The series continues in Chicago on Sunday with Rondo out indefinitely with a fractured right thumb,
Boston: Four of Boston's five starters scored in double digits in Game 3 with Boston connecting on 17 three-pointers, after making just 18 of 59 (30.5%) in the first two games. PG Thomas scored 16 points in Game 3, nearly 13 below his season average, but handed out nine assists. However, others around him became more involved offensively, namely fellow guard Avery Bradley (15 points, 4-of-6 from three-point range), who had shot 10 of 28 (35.7%) in the first two games. Bradley also had seven rebounds, seven assists and spent much of the game shutting down Butler and Wade on the defensive end. Backup PG Terry Rozier, a non-factor in the games in Boston, emerged in Game 3 to provide 11 points in 23 minutes off the bench.
Chicago: Swingman Jimmy Butler averaged 26 points in the two wins at Boston but was held to 14 points on 7-of-21 shooting in Friday's loss. The Bulls shot just 39.3% as a team, including 6 of 21 on threes. Rondo's backups, Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams, combined for eight points, three assists and seven turnovers. Head coach Fred Hoiberg may just want to run the offense more through Butler and Dwyane Wade. Center Robin Lopez has been a real surprise for Chicago, averaging 14.7 points on 70.4 percent shooting, while adding 8.3 RPG (he has 16 offensive rebounds in the series!)
The pick: Falling behind 3-1 may be a hill too high to climb for Boston, so Game 4 could be considered a "must win." The Celtics have been a decent road team this season (24-18 SU and 24-16-2 ATS including Game 3 of this series) and the bottom line is, Chicago is every bit a .500 team. Yes, Boston may be the weakest No. 1 seed in a long time (ever?) but as we saw in Game 3, they are a better team than the Bulls. Make Boston an 8* play.
|04-22-17||Spurs -3.5 v. Grizzlies||Top||108-110||Loss||-110||13 h 13 m||Show|
The set-up: The Memphis Grizzlies were beaten badly in San Antonio, getting held to 82 points in each loss. Head coach David Fizdale's postgame rant about the officiating cost him some money but it may have also given the Grizzlies a spark. The Grizzlies led by a modest four points at the half but outscored the Spurs 31-17 in the third quarter and won 105-94. PG Conley had 24 points and Gasol and Randolph (now starting) each had 21. The Spurs shot 47.2 percent for the game but played uninspired basketball. San Antonio: Here's how Manu Ginobili told it. "Pop got upset with the guys starting the quarter, sat them, and the whole momentum changed," he told reporters. "In playoff games, especially on the road, a two-minute mental "something" can become a 10-point deficit. That's what happened. We were in good shape at the half. Not playing well, not shooting great, down four on the road, and it was a good situation. It was OK for us. We had that moment there in which the whole game changed." In the end, none of San Antonio's starters ended up playing more than 30 minutes in the loss. Memphis: The Grizzlies shot 50.6 percent from the floor and made 9 of 22 three-pointers last time out. Fizdale made just one lineup change for Game 3, inserting veteran forward Zach Randolph into the starting lineup to add a stronger interior presence. Randolph responded by scoring 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting and grabbing eight rebounds. "It felt good out there to start and get a rhythm and get in a rhythm out there faster," Randolph told reporters. "It felt good out there." Fizdale complained about the officiating but he also knew this. "The Spurs were punking us. Let’s be real about it," Fizdale told reporters. "Those first, probably out of the first eight quarters, they just bullied us for like five and a half of those and you’re not going to beat the Spurs letting them dictate everything. We had to match it. Otherwise we were going to get pummeled and I was just really proud of how the way we stepped up and took the challenge."
The pick: Memphis should be confident for Game 4, as the Grizzlies did win both home games over the Spurs in the regular season by 15 and eight points. However, Thursday's win snapped a a 10-game postseason losing streak for Memphis! The Spurs surely don't want this series going back to San Antonio tied at two-all. Make San Antonio a 10* play.
|04-21-17||Clippers v. Jazz +1.5||Top||111-106||Loss||-105||31 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: The Clippers and Jazz each finished the regular season at 51-31 and after two games of their first round playoff series, they are tied at one game apiece. However, the edge resides with the Jazz, who won Game 1 at Staples Center to steal away the home court advantage. However, before losing 114-108 in Salt Lake City on March 13, the Clippers had won nine in a row at Utah. The Jazz remain without center Rudy Gobert, who is still recovering from hyperextending his knee on the first possession of the series opener. It could take a while before he is game-ready again.
LA Clippers: Losing Game 1 at home with the Jazz playing without Gobert just added to the Clippers' playoff lore of disappointment followed by disappointment. "We had a couple of days being pretty pissed off," PF Blake Griffin told reporters after scoring 24 points in the Game 2 win. "Our spirit [tonight] was great." Griffin helped fuel the interior dominance that led to a 60-38 scoring advantage in the paint and a 47-39 edge on the glass as the Clippers exploited the absence of Gobert. Center DeAndre Jordan had his share of issues with Gobert and the Jazz during the regular season but took control of the shorthanded Jazz in Game 2, recording 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting and 15 rebounds. PG Chris Paul figures to be successful regardless of who is on the court and he is averaging 23 points, 10.5 assists and three steals while shooting 55.9 percent from the floor in the series.
Utah: The Jazz fell behind early in Game 1 and were outscored 29-18 in the first quarter in Tuesday's loss, a trend they need to reverse at home. "The first quarter is what really got us, and they hit us a little bit, set us back in Game 1, as well," forward Gordon Hayward told reporters following a 20-point effort. "We definitely have to be better in the first quarter, but besides the first quarter we played them pretty even." Veteran swingman Joe Johnson, who hit the game-winner in Game 1 while scoring a team-high 21 points, added 13 points off the bench and forward Derrick Favors also finished with 13 points and seven rebounds while starting in place of Gobert.
The pick: The Clippers' three main stars all had strong performances in Game 2 (see above). However, through two games, shooting guards J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford have combined to go 12-for-37 from the floor (32.4%), including 1-for-14 from three-point range. The Jazz were able to win in LA without Gobert, so it's no stretch for them to win here at home without him, where they were 29-12 SU on the season. Make Utah a 10* play.