Friday’s NBA Tip Sheet
By Tony Mejia
Brooklyn at New York, ESPN, 7:05 p.m. ET: New York’s finest basketball teams, which although accurate, is still a term used loosely, square off for the first time this season. The nationally-televised contest gives the Knicks an opportunity to get back to .500 after their recent four-game losing streak undid some of the strong work they did prior to Thanksgiving. Rookie Kristaps Porzingis continued his unexpectedly strong start with 17 points and 10 rebounds in a 99-87 win over Philadelphia, their first win on a four-game homestand that ends tonight.
Carmelo Anthony shot 5-for-16 from the field and scored 12 points in his return after missing Sunday’s game due to illness, so he enters this one mired in a 9-for-29 shooting slump. The Nets visit Manhattan in the midst of their first winning streak of the season, having defeated Detroit and Phoenix in Brooklyn to improve to 5-13 (10-7 ATS). The Nets have covered in 10 of their last 11 games, but are just 1-10 SU away from home, tied for the second-worst road mark in the NBA. We’ll see if not having to hop on a plane for a road game has a positive effect. Center Brook Lopez has been the catalyst for the Nets success but squares off against twin brother Robin Lopez, who has defended him more often than anyone. The under is 12-3-1 in New York’s last 16 games and has prevailed in Brooklyn’s last four games.
Phoenix at Washington, 7:05 p.m.: After being unable to defeat Kobe Bryant on his farewell tour the way the 76ers managed to, the disappointing Wizards turn their attention to handling the visiting Suns. Head coach Randy Wittman has the 7-9 Wizards in last place in the Southeast Division one-fifth through a season where they were supposed to contend for first, so the buzzards are circling and he may not last much longer if things don’t pick up. PG John Wall has slumped lately, closing out November with three clunkers were he shot a combined 16-for-54, but he’s opened this month shoooting nearly 60 percent from the field while averaging 34.5 points and 10.5 assists. He’ll deal with Eric Bledsoe, one of the more athletic guards in the league, so Wall will have his work cut out for him. The Suns are in the midst of a grueling stretch where they’re playing nine road games in 11 contests over 17 days. They’re 2-4 thus far, pulling off an upset in Toronto on Nov. 29, but coming off consecutive losses to the Nets and Pistons. They’ve been without Tyson Chandler (hamstring) and didn’t have Markieff Morris (knee) for the reunion game with his brother Marcus in Detroit, a 127-122 OT loss. The over is 9-4 in the last 13 Phoenix games. The under has prevailed in five of Washington’s last seven. Wizards center Marcin Gortat will miss at least two games as he’s returned to his native Poland due to a family emergency.
Milwaukee at Detroit, 7:35 p.m.: The Bucks are stuck in a major rut. Although head coach Jason Kidd shook up the lineup by benching Michael Carter-Williams in favor of Jerryd Bayless, Bayless wound up getting a DNP as Tyler Ennis started in Wednesday’s 95-70 loss at San Antonio. Clearly, Kidd is searching for answers after an awfully slow start that has his team bringing up the rear in the Central Division (7-12 SU, 8-11 ATS). Milwaukee comes off a season-low scoring output and has seen the over come in three consecutive times, all in games that failed to reach 170. Detroit comes off its highest-scoring game of the season in that aforementioned win over Phoenix and opened its current homestand with a 116-105 win over Houston. The Pistons will look to go 3-0 on the homestand here before Bryant comes through for his final Palace stop on Sunday. The Pistons are 6-2 SU and ATS in Auburn Hills, beating the Jazz, Bulls, Cavs and Heat before their latest conquests. Reggie Jackson has averaged 32.5 points and 12 assists on the homestand, shooting over 60 percent from the field and over 50 from 3-point range. He was held to a season-low 7 points in a 109-88 loss in Milwaukee on Nov. 23, the only time these teams have met this season.
L.A. Lakers at Atlanta, 8:05 p.m.: Bryant’s final visit to Atlanta will pack them in at Philips Arena, where the Hawks have gone 7-4 SU (5-6 ATS). They’ve alternated wins and losses over their last nine games, so if the pattern holds, they’re in line to win this one. Bryant comes off scoring a season-high 31 points in Wednesday’s win over Washington and has really taken to this showman role as he visits different East coast cities and receives adulation for the final time. He’s been able to get the Lakers off to strong starts in each of the last two games. L.A. is 2-9 on the road as opposed to 1-6 at Staples Center. The Lakers have the worst record in the Western Conference. They’ve only beaten one team with a winning record like the Hawks carry into this one.
Houston at Dallas, 8:35 p.m.: The rival Rockets, the team Mavericks fans love to boo more than any other, make their first of two visits this season. They’ve already met in Houston, where the Mavs stormed into town on Nov. 14 and won 110-98 despite playing their fourth game in five nights, on the second night of a second straight back-to-back. Kevin McHale was fired as Houston head coach a few days later. John Blair Bickerstaff has taken over and enters this one 4-4 in an interim role. He won’t have Dwight Howard on the floor, opting to rest up with another game scheduled for Saturday at home in Sacramento. James Harden has averaged 33.8 points, eight rebounds and seven assists over the last five games, three of them Rockets wins. Dallas opened December with a 115-112 win at Portland and are in the midst of a stretch where it is playing seven of nine on the road. The Mavs are 5-2 at home. Former Rocket Chandler Parsons didn’t play in the win in Portland and doesn’t play back-to-backs yet as his work gradually increases following offseason knee surgery. He’s had three double-digit scoring nights in his 13 games thus far.
Cleveland at New Orleans, ESPN, 9:35 p.m.: LeBron James and Anthony Davis have only taken the floor against one another five times as pros. James leads 3-2, though one of Davis’ wins came in a game where he played only seven minutes, leaving after complaining of chest pains. Davis has always been on the inferior team, but seems to have a strong chance at evening the individual series if he’s able to shake off a shoulder injury and suit up. Tyreke Evans returned from a six-month absence following a knee injury and finished with 20 points and 10 assists in a loss to the Grizzlies on Tuesday, so the Pelicans are as healthy as they’ve been all season. They’ve been one of the NBA’s biggest disappointments, opening 4-15 (6-13 ATS). Cleveland is still without its preferred starting backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert, but sport the Eastern Conference’s top record (13-5 SU, 7-11 ATS). The Cavs had won five of six before fallin at home to the Wizards on Tuesday. They’re just 5-3 on the road. The Cavs’ last three games have all gone under the posted total, while three of the last for involving the Pelicans have done the same.