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NBA • Friday Service Plays • 2/19/16

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    NBA Odds: Friday, February 19, 2016 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
    by Alan Matthews

    Terrible news out of Miami this week in that All-Star forward Chris Bosh is apparently dealing with blood clot issues again, the same thing that not only cut last season short but put his life in a bit of jeopardy. It wasn’t supposed to be a recurring problem but Bosh is back on blood thinners and his season likely is over — there’s also a chance his career might be. You can’t play NBA basketball on blood-thinners. Well, maybe you could but if you take a big fall or elbow to the face or something, you could be in major trouble. Bosh is in the second year of a guaranteed, five-year, $118 million contract. If Bosh did have to retire, although we certainly aren’t there yet, he gets fully paid. The Heat would not be able to receive salary-cap relief for his loss until a full year after he retires. This obviously changes Miami’s direction for not just this season (i.e. just cut salary now because no deep playoff run is possible without Bosh) but potentially going forward. Last year, Miami went 15-15 after Bosh was lost for the season.

    It’s the busiest night of the regular season thus far Friday with every team in action other than Cleveland and the L.A. Clippers. Keep in mind the trade deadline was Thursday at 3 p.m. ET so any early game odds could change dramatically depending on any deals. Might be tough for guys traded Thursday to get to their new teams and clear a physical by Friday as well.

    Mavericks at Magic (+1, 199.5)

    Orlando should debut new additions Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova, acquired from Detroit on Tuesday. This is the first meeting of the season between these teams. Orlando has lost seven straight regular season meetings with the Mavericks.

    Key trends:
    The Mavericks are 1-4 against the spread in their past five games. Orlando is 6-1 ATS in its past seven. The Mavs are 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The “over/under” is 7-2 in the past nine.

    Early lean:
    Magic and over.

    Pistons at Wizards (pick’em, 212.5)

    Washington hosted Utah on Thursday. This should be the debut of Detroit’s Tobias Harris, whom the Pistons acquired via trade from Orlando on Tuesday. Like that move for the Pistons as Harris is a good young player on a reasonable contract. Detroit also got Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton from Houston on Thursday; not clear if they will play Friday. The Wizards won first meeting in Detroit 97-95 on Nov. 21. Marcus Morris missed the winning 3-pointer in the final seconds.

    Key trends:
    The Pistons are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 3-1-1 in the past five.

    Early lean:
    Pistons and under.

    Knicks at Nets (+2, 198.5)

    These teams have split two meetings, each winning at home. Brooklyn snapped a 10-game home losing streak with a 110-104 victory in the last meeting on Jan. 13. The Nets have now defeated New York in three straight home games for the first time since winning seven straight from 2001-04.

    Key trends:
    The Knicks are 0-6 ATS in their past six. The over is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings.

    Early lean:
    Knicks and over.

    Heat at Hawks (-8.5, 198)

    Any thought of the Heat making a big trade to make a title push this season likely went out the window with the Bosh situation. If you are wondering, the Heat lose their first-round pick in 2016 if outside the Top 10. It goes to Philly via Cleveland from the LeBron James deal. Atlanta was rumored in several potential deals ahead of Thursday’s deadline. The Heat lead the season series 2-1, winning the past two.

    Key trends:
    The Heat are 1-4 ATS in the past five in Atlanta. The under is 5-2 in the past seven meetings there.

    Early lean:
    Hawks if all the main guys stay.

    Raptors at Bulls (TBA)

    Chicago was in Cleveland on Thursday. The Bulls were in discussions in potential deals for both Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson on Thursday, with a Gibson deal perhaps percolating with these Raptors. So that could make Friday’s game interesting. Toronto is 0-2 vs. Chicago this season and has dropped seven straight in the series. Three of those are in the Windy City.

    Key trends:
    The Raptors are 0-7 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 5-0 in the past five.

    Early lean:
    TBA assuming because Bulls are so banged up. Raptors will roll here regardless.

    Timberwolves at Grizzlies (-5, 199.5)

    Chris Andersen could make his Memphis debut after being acquired from Miami on Tuesday. The Grizzlies and Timberwolves have split two meetings thus far, both in the Twin Cities. Memphis has won two straight at home in the series.

    Key trends:
    The Wolves are 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 4-1 in the past five.

    Early lean:
    Grizzlies and over.

    76ers at Pelicans (-9.5, 209.5)

    New Orleans was expected to make at least one deal ahead of the trade deadline, likely sending out forward Ryan Anderson. This is the first meeting this season between the teams. They split last year, each winning at home by double digits. Pelicans star Anthony Davis missed the loss.

    Key trends:
    The favorite is 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 11-3-1 in the Pelicans’ past 15 games overall.

    Early lean:
    Pelicans and under.

    Pacers at Thunder (-9, 217.5)

    First of an ESPN doubleheader and should have live betting. Watch the individual matchup here between the Pacers’ Paul George and Thunder’s Kevin Durant. It’s the first meeting of the season between the teams. Indiana has dropped five straight at OKC.

    Key trends:
    The home team is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The over is 13-3 in OKC’s past 16 vs. teams with a winning record.

    Early lean:
    Thunder and over.

    Hornets at Bucks (pick’em, 203.5)

    Courtney Lee, acquired from Memphis on Tuesday, will not debut Friday for Charlotte. Lee hardly will replace the loss of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the season. He suffered a torn labrum in his surgically repaired right shoulder Feb. 10 and was re-evaluated after the All-Star break. But center Al Jefferson is expected to return from his long injury absence on Friday. His minutes will be limited. The Hornets and Bucks have split two meetings, both in Charlotte. The Hornets have won three straight at Milwaukee.

    Key trends:
    The road team is 7-0 ATS in the past seven road games. The under is 7-3 in the previous 10 meetings.

    Early lean:
    Bucks and under.

    Rockets at Suns (+7.5, 215.5)

    Will Dwight Howard still be a Rocket for this game? Probably. The Suns are likely to start their fire sale ahead of Thursday’s deadline. Houston won the first meeting with Phoenix 111-105 in the desert on Feb. 4. The Rockets have won six of the past seven overall and Houston has scored in triple digits in all of them.

    Key trends:
    The Rockets are 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 5-1 in the past six in Phoenix.

    Early lean:
    Rockets and over.

    Warriors at Trail Blazers (+9, 219)

    Now Golden State really starts its push toward that record of 72 regular-season wins. The Warriors bring an NBA-high 11-game winning streak into this one. Golden State won in Portland 128-108 on Jan. 8 in the only meeting thus far. The Warriors have won four straight in the series and three in a row in Portland.

    Key trends:
    The Warriors are 4-0 ATS in the past four in Portland. The over is 5-1 in the past six meetings overall.

    Early lean:
    Warriors and over.

    Nuggets at Kings (-7, 218)

    DeMarcus Cousins should still be a King for this game but maybe not a few other Sacramento players, especially Ben McLemore. He had missed the final three games before the break with a wrist injury but is fine. It’s the first meeting of the season between the Kings and Coach George Karl’s former team. They split last year.

    Key trends:
    The Nuggets are 7-1 ATS in the past eight at Sacramento. The over is 4-0 in the past four meetings.

    Early lean:
    Nuggets and over.

    Celtics at Jazz (pick’em, 196.5)

    This is the second ESPN game. Utah was in Washington on Thursday so that’s a tough travel back for another game 24 hours later. Both the C’s and Jazz were active in trade talks. Utah was expected to trade guard Trey Burke at a minimum. It’s the first meeting this season. The Celtics won two low-scoring games last year. Boston will be without Kelly Olynyk for this game due to a shoulder injury.

    Key trends:
    The Celtics have covered six of the past nine meetings. The under is 7-3-1 in Utah’s past 11 at home.

    Early lean:
    Celtics and under.

    Spurs at Lakers (+13, 204.5)

    San Antonio was at the Clippers on Thursday. The Lakers weren’t expected to make any deals as they don’t have much anyone wants. The Spurs are 3-0 against the Lakers this season, with only one of them close. San Antonio has won four straight at the Lakers.

    Key trends:
    The road team has covered five of the past eight meetings. The over is 4-1 in the past five.

    Early lean:
    Lakers and over.


    Preview: Dallas At Orlando

    When: 7:00 PM ET, Friday, February 19, 2016
    Where: Amway Center, Orlando, Florida

    The Orlando Magic cleared future cap space with two bold moves during the All-Star break and will put their next mix on display when the Dallas Mavericks visit on Friday. The Magic, who stand 3 1/2 games out of a playoff spot with 30 contests left, traded fourth-leading scorer Tobias Harris to Detroit and brought in guard Brandon Jennings along with forward Ersan Ilyasova.

    Orlando also traded forward Channing Frye’s bloated contract to Cleveland as it begins the final stretch with three of four at home. “We have to make sure we’re prepared to play every game and understand that it’s ‘go time,’” Magic center Nikola Vucevic, who averages team highs of 17 points and 8.9 rebounds, told the Orlando Sentinel. “There’s no room for errors anymore now.” Dallas was quiet at the trade deadline despite losing four of five games before the break. The Mavericks are still in sixth place in the Western Conference with a two-game bulge on Houston (ninth) and will attempt to extend their winning streak against the Magic to eight.

    TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Southwest (Dallas), FSN Florida (Orlando)

    ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (29-26): Leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki has struggled from long range (2-for-12) in the last two games, but averages a solid 17.6 points and 6.6 rebounds overall. Chandler Parsons posted 50 points and drained 18-for-31 shots the last two games while Deron Williams has scored 45 and handed out 16 assists in the same span, but top rebounder Zaza Pachulia (10.7 boards) averaged just five points in the last three. The Mavericks will need more from Wesley Matthews (12.1), who is shooting 38.4 percent from the field.

    ABOUT THE MAGIC (23-29): Orlando’s Scott Skiles coached Ilyasova and Jennings when he was at Milwaukee and that should help the duo adapt to his system quickly. Ilyasova is averaging 11.3 points and Jennings (6.8) has struggled, but scored 16 – equaling his career average – and made four 3-pointers in his final game with Detroit on Feb. 10. With Harris and Frye gone, Aaron Gordon should gain even more time up front while third-leading scorer Evan Fournier (14 points) and rookie Mario Hezonja (13, last two) will get minutes at small forward.


    1. Orlando also acquired G-F Jared Cunningham from Cleveland, but he is expected to be waived.

    2. The Mavericks went into Thursday’s games averaging the second-least turnovers per game (12.3).

    3. Magic F-C Jason Smith (back spasms), who missed the last game before the break, is questionable.

    PREDICTION: Magic 102, Mavericks 96


    Preview: Detroit At Washington

    When: 7:00 PM ET, Friday, February 19, 2016
    Where: Verizon Center, Washington, District of Columbia

    The Detroit Pistons believe they have a team that can make the playoffs and do a little damage this spring and are adjusting the roster accordingly. New small forward Tobias Harris could be in uniform when the Pistons return from the All-Star break on Friday and visit the Washington Wizards.

    Detroit made the first big move prior to Thursday’s trade deadline when it scooped up Harris from the Orlando Magic in exchange for forward Ersan Ilyasova and reserve point guard Brandon Jennings. “Tobias adds good versatility as a ball handler and scorer who can play both forward positions,” Pistons general manager Jeff Bower told reporters. “He also has good experience for a young player and will fit well with the young core we have assembled on our roster.” The Wizards got into the action just before the deadline and acquired forward Markieff Morris from the Phoenix Suns. The disgruntled big man was not with the team in time to enjoy a 103-89 victory over the Utah Jazz on Thursday.

    TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Detroit, CSN Mid-Atlantic (Washington)

    ABOUT THE PISTONS (27-27): Detroit went into the All-Star break with losses in three straight and six of eight to drop back to .500 and fall into ninth place in the East but evened out the roster a bit with the Harris deal. Jennings, who had been making his way back from an Achilles injury, was deemed expendable due to Reggie Jackson’s emergence as the floor leader while Ilyasova and fellow starting forward Marcus Morris occupied similar roles. Harris will slot into Ilyasova’s vacated starting forward spot but is versatile enough to play the small forward spot and guard opposing small forwards while stretching the floor with his shooting ability.

    ABOUT THE WIZARDS (24-28): Morris has been available for months after demanding a trade in the offseason and further alienating himself from the Suns by throwing a towel at then-coach Jeff Hornacek – and earning a two-game suspension – and shoving guard Archie Goodwin during a game just before the break. Washington sent forwards Kris Humphries, DeJuan Blair and a protected first-round pick to the Suns to complete the deal. The Wizards dropped four of six heading into the All-Star break but looked sharp against the Jazz as Marcin Gortat (22 points, 10 rebounds) and John Wall (17 points, 11 assists) each recorded a double-double.


    1. Detroit also acquired F Donatas Motiejunas and G Marcus Thornton from the Houston Rockets in exchange for a top-eight protected first-round draft pick and veteran C Joel Anthony.

    2. Morris averaged 20.6 points and 7.6 rebounds in his final five games with Phoenix.

    3. Washington has taken the last two meetings, including a 97-95 win at Detroit on Nov. 21.

    PREDICTION: Pistons 115, Wizards 111


    Preview: New York At Brooklyn

    When: 7:30 PM ET, Friday, February 19, 2016
    Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York

    The New York Knicks have been disappointing enough that even star forward Carmelo Anthony had his name floated around in trade discussions in advance of Thursday’s deadline. Anthony remained in a Knicks uniform and will try to give the Knicks a kick start toward the stretch run when they return from the All-Star break to visit the crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets on Friday.

    Anthony has a full no-trade clause in his contract but wild rumors had him going elsewhere in the off week surrounding the All-Star Game, in which he started for the Eastern Conference and contributed 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting to go along with six rebounds in 23 minutes. “One (championship) in New York is better than multiple somewhere else, so that was the reason I wanted to come to New York,” Anthony said Saturday in an interview on Sirius XM radio. “That’s the reason why I’m in New York, so it just bothers me when I started hearing all these trade rumors and trade talks.” The Nets would have liked to be more active at the deadline as well but lack the assets other teams covet. Brooklyn did manage to make one significant move on Thursday by hiring San Antonio Spurs front office executive Sean Marks as general manager.

    TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, MSG (New York), YES (Brooklyn)

    ABOUT THE KNICKS (23-32): New York stumbled into the break with losses in six straight and 10 of 11 to fall five games below the No. 8 spot in the East. The Knicks fired coach Derek Fisher before the break and promoted veteran assistant Kurt Rambis to the top spot, and he will get a 27-game audition to prove he deserves the job going forward. “We’ve got to start winning some ballgames,’’ Rambis told reporters before the team split up for the All-Star break. “Looking back on when I was a player and always as a coach, you’ve got a goal of making the playoffs. That’s not only for the benefit of the players and what they can learn and how they grow when they get to that level of competition, but also for the franchise.”

    ABOUT THE NETS (14-40): Brooklyn let go of coach Lionel Hollins and reassigned general manager Billy King last month, and the upheaval in the front office continued into this week with owner Mikhail Prokhorov conducting interviews for the open GM slot. The Nets settled on Marks, a former player who spent the last five years in the San Antonio front office. “I am very excited to be named the general manager of the Brooklyn Nets, and to become a member of the vibrant and dynamic organization that represents Brooklyn,” Marks said in a statement. “I would like to thank Nets’ ownership for giving me this opportunity, and I look forward to the challenge of creating a unified culture and building a winning team.”


    1. Nets G Markel Brown averaged 14.7 points and went 8-of-12 from 3-point range in the last three games.

    2. Knicks rookie F Kristaps Porzingis scored 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting in the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star weekend.

    3. Brooklyn has taken five of the last six meetings, including a 110-104 home win on Jan. 13.

    PREDICTION: Knicks 106, Nets 95


    Preview: Miami At Atlanta

    When: 8:00 PM ET, Friday, February 19, 2016
    Where: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia

    Six victories in their final nine games before the All-Star break vaulted the Miami Heat into fifth place in the Eastern Conference, but they will be without leading scorer Chris Bosh for Friday’s contest at the Atlanta Hawks – and potentially much longer. One season after missing 30 games with blood clots in his lung, Bosh reportedly is back on blood thinners due to a clot in his left leg, which caused the forward to pull out of Sunday’s All-Star game with what was described as a calf injury.

    “He’s not here right now. He’s not going to be with us in Atlanta,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters after practice Wednesday regarding Bosh, who averages 19.1 points and 7.4 rebounds. Despite the uncertainty surrounding Bosh the Heat did not make a major move at Thursday’s trade deadline, dealing role players Jarnell Stokes and Brian Roberts to shed salary. Atlanta sits one game ahead of Miami in the East standings and was the subject of fierce trade rumors as the team has struggled to find the pace that resulted in 60 wins last season, but only managed to part ways with reserves Shelvin Mack and Justin Holiday while acquiring guard Kirk Hinrich from Chicago. Hinrich played 72 games for Atlanta from 2010-12, averaging 7.3 points per contest.

    TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Miami), FSN Southeast (Atlanta)

    ABOUT THE HEAT (29-24): Only one team in the NBA (Philadelphia) is averaging less than the Heat’s 96 points per game, but Miami is second in the league in points allowed per contest (96.3). Center Hassan Whiteside leads the NBA in blocked shots (3.89) while ranking second in field-goal percentage (61.7 percent) and fifth in rebounding (11), but he will miss Friday’s game while serving a one-game suspension for a flagrant-2 foul Feb. 9 against San Antonio. Guard Dwyane Wade is averaging 21.1 points per game in his past 10 contests.

    ABOUT THE HAWKS (31-24): Atlanta has shown signs of getting its offense on track, topping 100 points in five of its past six games after falling short of that mark in five of its previous six contests. All-Star forward Paul Millsap has been the most consistent performer, averaging 17.7 points and 8.6 rebounds, but is shooting 44.3 percent in five February games after hitting 51.7 percent of his shots in January. Guard Jeff Teague is averaging 17.6 points and five assists while shooting 45 percent from 3-point range in his past five contests – both he and center Al Horford were the subject of much speculation leading up to the trade deadline.


    1. The Hawks announced C Tiago Splitter will undergo season-ending surgery on his right hip; Splitter averaged 5.6 points and 3.5 rebounds in 36 games.

    2. The Heat have won two of the first three meetings with Atlanta this season after losing all four games last season, beating the Hawks 100-88 on Dec. 14 in Atlanta and 105-87 on Jan. 31 in Miami.

    3. Miami is 13-0 when holding opponents to less than 90 points this season.

    PREDICTION: Hawks 105, Heat 97


    Preview: Toronto At Chicago

    When: 8:00 PM ET, Friday, February 19, 2016
    Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois

    The Toronto Raptors have lost seven straight games against Chicago and seek to halt the skid when they visit the Bulls on Friday. Toronto, which has the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, hasn’t defeated Chicago since recording an 85-79 road victory Dec. 31, 2013.

    The Bulls fell 106-95 to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday for their fifth straight loss and seventh in eight games. “We’ve just got to stay together through the good, the bad and the ugly – and it’s the ugly right now,” Chicago point guard Derrick Rose said afterward. “I’m going to keep controlling what I can control. We’re trying to fight to be in the playoffs.” The Raptors won 14 of their last 16 games prior to the All-Star break and being one of the best teams in the league is new ground for the franchise. “I think this time around we haven’t let our success, winning games, any of that, get to our heads,” All-Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan told reporters. “We still feel like we have a long way to go. This time around it feels like we haven’t done anything.”

    TV: 8 p.m. ET, TSN (Toronto), CSN Chicago

    ABOUT THE RAPTORS (35-17): Toronto didn’t make a move prior to Thursday’s trading deadline, which sends a signal that the organization feels it can compete with the Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers should the teams square off in a playoff series. “That’s a strong statement to our players: We believe in them, this is what we’re going into battle with,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters after Thursday’s practice. “Our charge is to every day get better, whether it’s passing, footwork, whatever it is, something small. Get better.” Small forward DeMarre Carroll is nearing a return from early January knee surgery and the Raptors view him as the extra contributor they are currently lacking.

    ABOUT THE BULLS (27-26): All-Star center Pau Gasol was shopped prior to Thursday’s trading deadline but Chicago didn’t find a match and Gasol will finish the season with the Bulls. Gasol is a free agent after the season and he reiterated after Thursday’s game that he is open to re-signing with the club. “I was surprised there was so much noise about it,” Gasol told reporters. “The positive is hearing that a lot of teams are interested in my services. The negative is the uncertainty and waiting for your team to pull the trigger. If they didn’t trade me, the assumption is they would like to keep me. I assume that’s their mindset.”


    1. The Bulls won both meetings this season, including a 115-113 victory in Toronto on Jan. 3 when now-injured SG Jimmy Butler (knee) scored 40 of his 42 points in the second half.

    2. Toronto has won 23 consecutive games when holding opponents to fewer than 100 points, the second-best streak in franchise history.

    3. Chicago traded backup PG Kirk Hinrich to the Atlanta Hawks for G Justin Holiday and a second-round pick.

    PREDICTION: Raptors 106, Bulls 103


    Preview: Minnesota At Memphis

    When: 8:00 PM ET, Friday, February 19, 2016
    Where: FedExForum, Memphis, Tennessee

    Due to one significant injury and two big trades, the Memphis Grizzlies’ roster has been altered dramatically in the past 10 days. That new-look squad emerges from the All-Star break and begins a favorable stretch of the schedule when it hosts Minnesota on Friday.

    Memphis lost star center Marc Gasol to a broken foot prior to the break and then traded away shooting guard Courtney Lee and key reserve Jeff Green prior to Thursday’s deadline. Forwards Chris Andersen and P.J. Hairston, as well as swingman Lance Stephenson, joined the Grizzlies, who begin the stretch run in fifth place in the Western Conference. While the roster jells, Memphis can look forward to seven sub-.500 opponents in the next nine games, including two meetings apiece against Phoenix and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Timberwolves, who stood pat at the deadline, won three of four before the break but are getting close to clinching their 11th consecutive losing season.

    TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN North (Minnesota), FSN Southeast (Memphis)

    ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (17-37): Minnesota was involved in many rumors before the deadline, most surrounding veteran shooting guard Kevin Martin and point guard Ricky Rubio. Instead, the squad will try to build on victories before the break against a trio of quality opponents – Toronto, Chicago and the Los Angeles Clippers – and feel-good wins by Zach LaVine (dunk contest) and Karl-Anthony Towns (skill competition) at All-Star Weekend. LaVine started alongside Rubio in the backcourt in the win over the Raptors as part of a young, athletic lineup that coach Sam Mitchell will likely feature down the stretch.

    ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES (31-22): JaMychal Green received the first start in place of Gasol in a 109-90 win over Brooklyn on Feb. 10 and responded with a career high-tying 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting. The second-year pro is averaging 8.7 points while shooting 55.6 percent in three starts this season and has totaled 16 points and 11 rebounds in 36 minutes against Minnesota. Lee and Jeff Green ranked third and fourth, respectively, in 3-point attempts for the Grizzlies, who may look to Stephenson – a 42.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc since the beginning of November – contribute a bit from the perimeter.


    1. Minnesota is averaging 110.8 points in five games this month.

    2. Towns has recorded nine consecutive double-doubles.

    3. Grizzlies PG Mike Conley has 77 assists against 14 turnovers in 11 games since returning from an Achilles injury.

    PREDICTION: Grizzlies 101, Timberwolves 99


    Preview: Philadelphia At New Orleans

    When: 8:00 PM ET, Friday, February 19, 2016
    Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, Louisiana

    The New Orleans Pelicans have a hill to climb to get back into the Western Conference playoff picture. They look to take the first step when they emerge from the All-Star break and host lowly Philadelphia on Friday.

    A 7-2 surge to end January had New Orleans entertaining thoughts of a second straight postseason berth, but it limped into the break with five losses in seven games to begin February. The Pelicans let the trade deadline come and go without a major move, instead acquiring little-used forward Jarnell Stokes for a draft pick in a swap with Miami. Ryan Anderson, the top bench scorer in the NBA, was rumored to be on the block but will remain a Pelican as he looks to bounce back from a shooting slump that saw him go 5-of-22 from the floor in the final two games before the intermission. The 76ers dropped six of seven contests prior to the break and are 3-24 on the road.

    TV: 8 p.m. ET, CSN Philadelphia, FSN New Orleans

    ABOUT THE 76ERS (8-45): Nerlens Noel practiced this week after missing a 114-110 loss to Sacramento on Feb. 10 due to a knee ailment, and he told reporters he is ready to go. Fellow big man Jahlil Okafor averaged 20.7 points, 12 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in his last three games and forward Robert Covington scored a career-high 29 points against the Kings. Philadelphia’s only action before the deadline was the acquisition of veteran center Joel Anthony and a second-round pick in a minor trade with Houston.

    ABOUT THE PELICANS (20-33): Superstar Anthony Davis, who scored 24 points on 12-of-13 shooting in just 15 minutes of the All-Star Game, was hitting his stride in advance of the break. Since missing a meeting with Sacramento on Jan. 28, Davis averaged 25.4 points in eight games while shooting 50 percent or better in six of the contests. He had 32 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and three steals with no turnovers in the previous meeting with the Sixers, a 99-74 win on Jan. 26, 2015.


    1. Philadelphia PG Ish Smith has 36 assists and just eight turnovers during a five-game stretch.

    2. Pelicans PG Jrue Holiday is averaging 23.7 points, eight assists and 3.3 steals over his last three games.

    3. New Orleans has won four straight home games against Eastern Conference opponents.

    PREDICTION: Pelicans 104, 76ers 93


    Preview: Indiana At Oklahoma City

    When: 8:00 PM ET, Friday, February 19, 2016
    Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

    The Oklahoma City Thunder have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA and look to keep the wins coming when they resume play after the All-Star break with Friday’s home contest against the Indiana Pacers. Oklahoma City is one of three teams to reach 40 wins and has won 16 of its past 19 games.

    Point guard Russell Westbrook won his second consecutive All-Star Game MVP award on Sunday but said he is much more concerned with regular-season contests. “I couldn’t wait to get back to practice and back to the regular season,” Westbrook told reporters. “All-Star Weekend was fun, but that’s not a goal. The goal is to win a championship, so we get back here, get back to the drawing board and get ourselves ready.” Indiana has sputtered too often during the first two-thirds of the season and stands in sixth place in the Eastern Conference – just 1 1/2 games ahead of ninth-place Detroit. “This is our season right here,” All-Star forward Paul George told reporters. “We’re in a position right now to make the playoffs. We want to move up. From this point on it’s about (building momentum), gaining some confidence, winning some games, stringing a good run together.”

    TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, FSN Indiana, FSN Oklahoma

    ABOUT THE PACERS (28-25): George poured in 41 points in the All-Star Game – one shy of the record set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962 – as he was provided the opportunity to show he is fully recovered from the gruesome broken right leg he suffered 18 months ago. “I had a hard-fought summer, hard-fought rehab year,” George told reporters. “It was just a very upward climb. It took every day and, really, every moment of rehab to get through it. There were a lot of days where I felt like I was down and out but just stayed with it.” George hasn’t missed a game this season and is averaging a career-best 23.1 points, 10th-best in the NBA.

    ABOUT THE THUNDER (40-14): All-Star small forward Kevin Durant has scored 20 or more points in 39 straight games and is optimistic about where the squad is headed. “We never would be satisfied around this time of year,” Durant told reporters. “We’re not worried about where our ceiling is. We’re just going to keep working every day and wherever it’s at, at the end of the season, we’ve got to be satisfied with it.” Oklahoma City added backcourt depth prior to the trading deadline by acquiring shooting guard Randy Foye from the Denver Nuggets for point guard D.J. Augustin, forward Steve Novak and two second-round picks.


    1. The Thunder have won five straight home games against the Pacers, with Indiana’s lone victory in Oklahoma City occurring on April 5, 2009.

    2. Indiana swingman C.J. Miles is 4-of-18 shooting over the past two games.

    3. Oklahoma City is down two assistant coaches as Maurice Cheeks underwent hip surgery on Wednesday and Monty Williams remains on leave after his wife Ingrid was killed in a car accident last week.

    PREDICTION: Thunder 112, Pacers 105


    Preview: Charlotte At Milwaukee

    When: 8:00 PM ET, Friday, February 19, 2016
    Where: BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    The Charlotte Hornets surged into the All-Star break with three straight wins to jump into the top eight in the Eastern Conference but got some bad news this week. Small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will miss Friday’s visit to the Milwaukee Bucks and the rest of the season due to a torn labrum in his surgically repaired right shoulder.

    Kidd-Gilchrist played only seven games this season due to a previous shoulder surgery but seemed to have stabilized the team in that span, especially at the defensive end. Charlotte made a move to bolster the lineup with Kidd-Gilchrist out and completed a three-team trade to bring in veteran guard Courtney Lee from the Memphis Grizzlies. The Bucks won their final two outings heading into the break on the heels of a five-game slide and still believe they have time to make a playoff push over their last 28 games. Guard Khris Middleton’s name has not come up much in trade rumors, and he is making himself a part of the team’s future by leading the club in scoring (17.9).

    TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Southeast (Charlotte), FSN Wisconsin (Milwaukee)

    ABOUT THE HORNETS (27-26): Kidd-Gilchrist’s loss is a big blow to Charlotte, though the team appears on the verge of getting center Al Jefferson (knee surgery) back as soon as Friday. The acquisition of Lee will likely move Nicolas Batum over from shooting guard to small forward – the position he occupied with the Portland Trail Blazers before being acquired by Charlotte over the summer. “He brings a lot of experience,” Hornets general manager Rich Cho told reporters of Lee. “He’s a veteran and a true professional who brings shooting and defense. He’s a guy we’re really excited about.”

    ABOUT THE BUCKS (22-32): Milwaukee’s underwhelming first half led to a lot of wild trade speculation leading up to Thursday afternoon’s deadline, but in the end center Greg Monroe and forward Jabari Parker – the two biggest names being bandied about – remained with the team. Monroe came off the bench in the Bucks’ last two games but still averaged 31.5 minutes in the back-to-back wins. He was joined in the reserve corps by point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who is on his second stint as a reserve while coach Jason Kidd tries to find the right mix.


    1. Gs P.J. Hairston and Brian Roberts, along with a pair of second-round draft picks, were sent away by the Hornets in the deal to acquire Lee.

    2. Bucks G O.J. Mayo totaled two points in the last two games while starting in place of Carter-Williams.

    3. The teams split a pair of meetings in Charlotte previously this season, with Milwaukee taking the most recent matchup 105-92 on Jan. 16.

    PREDICTION: Hornets 96, Bucks 92


    Preview: Houston At Phoenix

    When: 9:30 PM ET, Friday, February 19, 2016
    Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, Arizona

    The Houston Rockets have been underachievers through the first two-thirds of the NBA season and aim to begin a turnaround when they visit the Phoenix Suns on Friday. Houston has looked nothing like the squad that reached the Western Conference finals last season, but All-Star guard James Harden is one of several players saying the season can be saved with a strong finishing kick.

    The Rockets limped into the All-Star break with three straight losses by an average of 14.3 points and interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff referred to the team as “broken.” That prompted a series of meetings, including one only open to players, as the organization tries to pinpoint what has been the issue. “It’s not over – we still have 27 games left, so that’s what we’re focusing on and we’re working on, to do better than what we did in the first half,” small forward Trevor Ariza told reporters. “I still like our chances to get to where we need to get to. Anything can happen.” Phoenix has lost nine consecutive games and 15 of its last 16 and shook things up at Thursday’s trading deadline by dealing disgruntled power forward Markieff Morris to the Washington Wizards for forward Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair and a future first-round draft pick.

    TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, ROOT (Houston), FSN Arizona (Phoenix)

    ABOUT THE ROCKETS (27-28): Center Dwight Howard was reportedly available to interested suitors but nothing materialized, and he will be with Houston for at least the rest of this season. Howard hasn’t always meshed well with Harden despite last season’s deep postseason run and he says he is just focusing on finishing strong this season. “I’m going to stay positive and continue to push that message of positivity around the team,” Howard told reporters. “There’s no need to be negative, no need to think about anything that happened in the first half of the season. That’s over with. We have to clear our minds of that and come back in the second half of the season and be great.”

    ABOUT THE SUNS (14-40): The play of shooting guard Devin Booker has been one of the few bright spots and the rookie has scored in double digits in 12 of the past 13 games. The season-ending knee injury suffered by Eric Bledsoe fast-forwarded his timetable and he has been up to the task, and former Suns star Steve Nash took time to talk to Booker during the All-Star festivities in Toronto. “Steve told me to just keep working,” Booker told reporters. “To keep my head on straight, just keep working and always get better through the process.”


    1. The Rockets have won six of the past seven meetings, including a 111-105 victory on Feb. 4.

    2. Houston dealt SG Marcus Thornton and PF Donatas Motiejunas to Detroit for a first-round pick as part of a three-team deal in which Pistons C Joel Anthony ended up with the Philadelphia 76ers.

    3. Morris averaged 19.3 points over his final six games with the team but had an in-game incident in which he shoved G Archie Goodwin during Phoenix’s final contest before the All-Star break.

    PREDICTION: Rockets 110, Suns 105

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