Friday’s NBA Tip Sheet
By Tony Mejia
Raptors (-1.5, 202) at Wizards – 7:05 ET
Washington is getting healthier, but still doesn’t have shooting guard Bradley Beal back and likely won’t until next week. Nene returned and looked spry, while Gary Neal and Alan Anderson have also made it back from nagging ailments. The Wizards have dropped two straight and continue to bring up the rear in the Southeast Division, but head coach Randy Wittman remains employed despite his team’s underachieving.
Washington is 8-10 at the Verizon Center and faces a Raptors squad that won in D.C. on Nov. 28 (84-82) and also held serve at home on Dec. 30 (94-91). An 11-9 mark away from Toronto makes it one of only four Eastern Conference teams (Cleveland, Atlanta, Boston) that own a winning record in road games.
The Raptors will be playing the middle game of a five-game road trip that has seen them start 1-1, losing in Cleveland while winning in Brooklyn on Wednesday. Kyle Lowry has shot just 35.5 percent against Washington thus far this season, averaging 19.0 points and just 4.5 assists in the two games. John Wall is shooting just 29 percent in the two losses to the Raps, averaging 18.5 points and eight assists. Toronto SF DeMarre Carroll is out after having his knee scoped earlier this week.
Pacers (-2, 206) at Pelicans – 8:05 ET
Even though no one is running away with the No. 8 seed in the West, the slumping Pelicans are running out of time to even place themselves in that fight, currently running 14th among the 15 teams in the conference. VI expert Kevin Rogers points out Indiana has played well of late in the favorite role by covering four of their last five when laying points, including wins over the Magic and Wolves.
“The Pacers had lost seven of their previous eight road games prior to Wednesday’s victory at Orlando,” said Rogers. “The Pelicans fell flat against a Mavericks’ squad that sat four starters in Wednesday’s home loss. New Orleans has split six games as a home underdog, but the Pelicans have pulled off upsets at Smoothie King Center against Cleveland and San Antonio.”
New Orleans is off to California for three games after this one, so it’s important they get this one. Anthony Davis is averaging 28.5 points and 13 rebounds this month.
Cavaliers (-10, 195.5) at Timberwolves – 8:05 ET, ESPN
As Mike Krzyzewski texts in that ESPN commercial, Kyrie Irving, the x-factor, is back. Although the Cavs lost to Golden State on Christmas Day, they’re 6-1 in games he’s participated in since his return from injury. He scored a season-high 32 points on 14-for-22 shooting at Washington on Wednesday and opened the week with 25 points and eight assists against the Raptors. This will be the second of Cleveland’s stops on a six-game road trip that continues in Philadelphia on Sunday but intensifies next week with a run through the Texas triangle.
“The Cavaliers are on fire right now by winning five straight, but have posted a 0-3-1 ATS mark in its last four as a road favorite,” said Rogers. “The Wolves have been a horrible team to back at the Target Center, going 5-14 SU and 3-15-1 ATS at home. Minnesota has been limited to 88 points or less in each of its last four home defeats, while getting blown out in their last two home ‘dog opportunities against Indiana and San Antonio.”
Minnesota hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record since Nov. 25 and has dropped consecutive games to Cleveland, last winning at home on Nov. 13, 2013.
Knicks at Spurs (-14, 194.5) – 8:35 ET
New York has a chance to get back to .500 for the first time since Dec. 19, having won three straight and looking to match a season-long winning streak with a road upset of San Antonio. As far-fetched as it sounds, the Knicks have actually won in two of their last three visits to the AT&T Center, where the Spurs currently haven’t lost this season, opening 21-0. San Antonio’s last regular-season loss came against Cleveland on March 12 of last year. In all, they’ve won 30 straight and 36 of 37.
Tony Parker sat due to a nagging hip injury, but will probably play. LaMarcus Aldridge will be out there after his first day off since before Thanksgiving, so this will be a fresh Spurs team that New York will be trying to upset. The Knicks fell at home 94-84 against the Spurs on Nov. 2 as Carmelo Anthony was held to 4-for-17 shooting. Rookie Kristaps Porzingis scored 13 points, grabbed 14 boards and dunked on Aldridge, so there will be no sleeping on the young Latvian’s ability. The Knicks are a respectable 9-11 on the road straight up, but are an excellent 13-7 ATS in opposing arenas.
Warriors (-9.5, 214) at Trail Blazers – 10:05 ET
The beat goes on for the league’s best team, which saw Stephen Curry make it through a full practice on Thursday and plans for him to be available for this visit to Portland. At 33-2, you can understand why the Warriors would be close to a double-digit favorite against a sub-.500 team, but keep in mind that they have lost two of their last four road games. VI’s Rogers takes a closer look at the matchup.
“The Warriors swept the three-game season series in 2014-15, as these two teams meet up for the first time this season,” said Rogers. “The Blazers look for their first win on this current five-game homestand, having lost to the Grizzlies and Clippers by double-digits each. Golden State has taken care of business as a road favorite, by posting an 11-4-1 ATS mark when Curry is in the lineup.”
Portland will have a rested C.J. McCollum since he took Wednesday night’s loss to the Clippers off due to a clerical error on the lineup card. With Damian Lillard also back in the lineup after a lengthy absence, the Blazers will have guards with fresh legs to try and take down the Warriors. Al-Farouq Aminu’s length and versatility should provide a challenge for Draymond Green, who had his streak of three consecutive triple-doubles snapped in Tuesday’s loss to the Lakers. Over the last four, Green has posted averages of 15.2 points 13.8 rebounds and 11.2 assists.
Thunder (-13.5, 208.5) at Lakers – 10:35 ET, ESPN
After being honored by UCLA on Thursday night, Russell Westbrook will look to continue shining in front of the locals as he leads OKC back into Staples. The Thunder have already beaten the Lakers twice this season, sweeping two games by a combined margin of 75 points. They’ve won the last six games against the Lakers, winning four by double-digits. Since the 2012-13 season, L.A. has beaten the Thunder only twice in 13 contests. The Lakers will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back after last night’s loss in Sacramento. L.A. is 1-7 SU on the second night of a back-to-back.
Kobe Bryant played 30 minutes and scored 28 points on 10-for-18 shooting in his return from a three-game absence due to a shoulder injury. He’s expected to play after crossing the 33,000-point threshold last night. The ‘over’ has connected in five of the last six Thunder games.