Friday’s NBA Tip Sheet
By Tony Mejia
Cleveland at Charlotte: The Cavs have had Kyrie Irving out all year, only just got guard Mo Williams back from a leg injury and now are watching Matthew Dellavedova deal with a sore left calf that kept him out of Wednesday’s loss to Toronto. The Hornets should benefit as Kemba Walker will have advantages here, but they haven’t beaten the Cavs since April of 2014. Last season’s three meetings all went Cleveland’s way, with the last one ending 129-90. Charlotte has won three of the last four at home against the Cavs.
Miami at New York: Center Hassan Whiteside has blocked at least two shots in every game he’s played in this season, including the five he swatted in Monday’s 95-78 win over these Knicks. He’ll try to keep his act going at Madison Square Garden, where New York will be playing for the first time since Nov. 17 as it has been on a four-game road trip. Kristaps Porzingis blocked six shots in Wednesday’s loss in Orlando, but shot just 3-for-13 from the field, so he’ll be looking to bounce back against a Heat team he torched for 20 points and 14 rebounds in Miami. The Heat has beaten the Knicks seven consecutive times, with their last loss coming in January of 2014. Of the seven wins, the margin of victory in six of the games has been by double-digits.
Philadelphia at Houston: After falling frustratingly short of their first victory of the season in Wednesday’s 84-80 loss to Boston, the 76ers will look to break through as they continue a six-game road trip of which this is the fifth leg. Philly is an astounding 0-16, but has actually covered in each of the last three games and will look to take advantage of a Rockets squad that has lost three in a row. Shooter Nik Stauskas remains out with a knee injury, as does spark plug Tony Wroten, who has yet to play this season but is nearing a return. The 76ers haven’t won in Houston since 2012 and have dropped the last three meetings between these teams.
Atlanta at Memphis: After a slow start that saw them open 7-7, the Grizzlies have won consecutive games and look poised for a breakthrough. They’re 5-2 at FedEx Forum and have covered the spread in five of the last six games, so this may be a strong spot for them if they can get Zach Randolph back from a nagging knee injury that forced him to sit out Wednesday’s 102-93 victory over the Rockets. Since Brandan Wright is also still out with a knee injury, the Grizzlies are painfully thin up front. Atlanta has been banged up too. Kent Bazemore has been out of the lineup with an ankle injury that may keep him out here, while Jeff Teague just got back in the mix after dealing with an ankle ailment of his own. Center Tiago Splitter is questionable due to a hip injury. The Hawks have lost their last two trips into Memphis after winning three straight from 2010-12.
Golden State at Phoenix: The first 16 games have certainly been sweet, but the greedy undefeated Warriors want more as they visit a Suns team that’s tied with the Clippers (7-8) for second place in the Pacific Division. The Suns have only beaten Golden State in three of their last 14 meetings, but did take a game off them last year, ironically winning their first meeting last November. Eric Bledsoe also should play despite struggling with a knee injury. Make sure to monitor Tyson Chandler’s availability here since he’s dealing with an illness that may keep him out. The Suns are a dramatically different team when he’s in there plugging the paint and providing veteran leadership.
New Orleans at L.A. Clippers: All-Star forward Anthony Davis has returned for wins in each of the Pelicans’ last three games, a home upset of San Antonio and a pair of win over the Suns. Davis has averaged 26 points and 18 rebounds in the wins and shot 11-for-14 last time out. It’s safe to say he looks over the hip and shoulder injuries that sabotaged the early portion of the season. Very little has gone smoothly for the Clippers either, which is why they’re sitting below .500 nearly a full month into the season. That said they’re still the healthier squad in this matchup, as Doc Rivers has everyone at his disposal. Tyreke Evans is close to making his season debut after struggling with a knee injury, but he won’t play in this one. Quincy Pondexter (knee) and Norris Cole (ankle) also remain out. The Pelicans have gotten unexpected excellence out of point guard Ish Smith, who has really aided the cause as Jrue Holiday deals with minute restrictions. Smith has averaged 17 points and 9.5 assists over the last five games.