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NBA • Friday Service Plays • 4/1/16

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    NBA Odds: Friday, April 1, 2016 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
    by Alan Matthews

    So Friday is the first day of the final month of the NBA’s regular season. And looking at the standings, it’s been largely a chalk season thus far. The top four teams in the East are Cleveland, Toronto, Atlanta and Miami. All expected. The only newcomer to the top four from last year’s final standings is the Heat; they have taken the place of the ultra-disappointing Chicago Bulls. In the West, you have a top four of Golden State, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and the L.A. Clippers. Completely expected there. Thus the only drama remaining in the final couple of weeks would be the final two spots at the bottom of each conference. Those winners will then be ousted easily the first round of the playoffs.

    76ers at Hornets (-15, 208)

    Second of a home-and-home between these two. Charlotte won in Philadelphia 100-85 on Tuesday to lead 3-0 in the season series. Nicolas Batum had 19 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists for his second triple-double of the season. Jeremy Lin got the night off with a sore back. It was the Hornets’ 13th win in March, a team record for any month. The 76ers lost for the 23rd time in 24 games and played without Nerlens Noel, Jerami Grant and Richaun Holmes.

    Key trends:
    The favorite is 7-3 against the spread in the past 10 meetings. The “over/under” has gone under in Charlotte’s past four at home overall.

    Early lean:
    I’ve said it before that it’s tough to sweep these home-and-home series. I don’t see Philly winning here but take the points.

    Mavericks at Pistons (-5, 207)

    Dallas beat the visiting Knicks 91-89 on Wednesday. J.J. Barea had 26 points, including the go-ahead layup with 49.9 seconds remaining. Deron Williams sat out again for Dallas, which means more minutes for Barea. Dirk Nowitzki was just 5-for-23 but did move into 30th place in the league’s all-time rebounding list. Detroit beat Oklahoma City 88-82 on Tuesday. Marcus Morris had 24 points. This is the finale of Detroit’s franchise-record nine-game homestand. The Pistons are 6-2 on it. Detroit beat Dallas 102-96 on March 9. But the Mavericks have won four straight and six of the last seven matchups in Motown.

    Key trends:
    The Mavericks are 5-2 ATS in their past seven in Detroit. The over is 7-3 in the Pistons’ past 10 home games.

    Early lean:
    Pistons and over.

    Nets at Knicks (TBA)

    Brooklyn was in Cleveland on Thursday and resting Brook Lopez and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. So I would imagine they play here? New York lost a third in a row Wednesday, 91-89 in Dallas. Star rookie Kristaps Porzingis missed the game with a shoulder injury and was to have an MRI on Thursday. So you surely aren’t seeing him here and there’s a pretty good chance Porzingis will be shut down. Knicks starting point guard Jose Calderon left with a quad injury, so he’s probably out a while. New York won the first meeting at home vs. Brooklyn in December but lost both at the Nets.

    Key trends:
    The home team is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The over has hit in all four.

    Early lean:
    Wait on all these guys.

    Cavaliers at Hawks (TBA)

    First of an ESPN doubleheader and will feature live betting at sportsbooks. Cleveland hosted Brooklyn on Thursday, so you might be on sit-down alert here for a key Cavs player or two. I’d frankly be surprised if at least one starter doesn’t sit. Kyrie Irving and/or J.R. Smith were potentially to sit Thursday as both were ill. This is Cleveland’s first trip to Atlanta since Game 2 of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals. The Hawks’ four-game winning streak ended in a 105-97 defeat in Toronto on Wednesday. Atlanta turned the ball over 18 times, leading to 25 Raptors points. These teams have played just once this season, a 109-97 Cavs home win back on Nov. 21.

    Key trends:
    The Cavs are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 9-3 in the previous 12.

    Early lean:
    I like Atlanta SU here because I know the Cavs will sit someone and Hawks likely won’t.

    Raptors at Grizzlies (+4.5, 198.5)

    Every current franchise in the NBA had won at least 50 games in a season once other than Toronto. The Raptors finally joined that group with a 105-97 home win over Atlanta on Wednesday. DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points, Jonas Valanciunas added 19 points and nine rebounds and Kyle Lowry 17 points, 11 assists and six rebounds. Starting forward Luis Scola missed the game with a sore right knee. Memphis dropped a fourth in a row Wednesday, 109-105 at home to Denver. Zach Randolph was questionable but did play and had 26 points. Toronto beat Memphis 98-85 on Feb. 21. The Grizzlies shot just 3-for-20 from 3-point range.

    Key trends:
    Memphis is 7-0 ATS in its past seven Friday games. The under is 14-2 in Toronto’s past 16 vs. teams with a winning record.

    Early lean:
    Raptors and under.

    Magic at Bucks (TBA)

    Orlando was in Indiana on Thursday and expecting Nik Vucevic to return. He may not play the second of a back-to-back, however. Milwaukee ended a five-game losing streak with a 105-94 victory over Phoenix on Wednesday. Khris Middleton scored nine of his 26 points in the final 7:31. The Bucks had 27 points off Suns turnovers. Milwaukee guard Greivis Vasquez returned after missing 56 games with an ankle injury. He played 12 minutes. Fellow guard Jerryd Bayless suffered a mild hyperextension of his right knee in the first half and did not return. These teams have split two meetings, each winning at home. The Magic have lost six of the last seven at the Bradley Center.

    Key trends:
    The Magic are 12-5 ATS in the past 17 meetings. The under is 5-1 in Milwaukee’s past six at home.

    Early lean:
    Like Bucks SU here regardless of Bayless.

    Timberwolves at Jazz (TBA)

    Minnesota lost 99-79 at home to the Clippers on Wednesday. “That was the worst game we’ve played all year,” coach Sam Mitchell said after. Zach LaVine, who really had been playing well, was scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting. Andrew Wiggins left the game midway through the third quarter after taking a shot to the face. He likely could have returned but there was no need with the game a rout. Utah really should have and deserved to beat Golden State on Wednesday but lost 103-96 in overtime. The Jazz led most of the fourth quarter — but missed 10 of 14 free throws in the quarter — before the Warriors tied it late. Shelvin Mack had a potential winner blocked in the final 10 seconds of regulation and Gordon Hayward missed a potential winner in that sequence too. Derrick Favors left the game in the third quarter with right knee soreness and did not return. He’s questionable here. Utah leads the season series 2-1 and the Wolves haven’t topped 94 points in any of those games. The visiting team has won seven of the last 10 games.

    Key trends:
    The Wolves are 5-1 ATS in their past six in Utah. The under is 8-2 in the Jazz’s past 10 overall.

    Early lean:
    Think Jazz will be totally flat after that near-miss vs. Warriors. Take whatever points are given.

    Heat at Kings (+7.5, 214)

    Miami somehow lost 102-100 in overtime at the bickering Lakers on Wednesday. Dwyane Wade had 26 points and 10 rebounds, Luol Deng 22 points and 11 boards and Hassan Whiteside 18 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks. Goran Dragic returned from missing a game with an illness and had 11 points and nine assists. The Heat missed 11 of their 26 free throws. Sacramento beat Washington 120-111 on Wednesday. DeMarcus Cousins had 29 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and four blocks but got a stupid technical with just a few seconds left in the game. That was his 16th of the season, meaning an automatic suspension for this game. Miami has won 13 of the past 14 meetings vs. the Kings and took a 116-109 home decision on Nov. 19.

    Key trends:
    The Kings are 4-0 ATS in their past four games. The over is 6-1 in Miami’s past seven road games.

    Early lean:
    Heat and under.

    Celtics at Warriors (-11.5, 226.5)

    Second ESPN game and will feature live betting. Shame Boston is playing the second of a back-to-back as it was in Portland on Thursday. C’s are good enough to potentially pull the upset here if at full rest. Golden State rallied for a 103-96 OT win in Utah on Wednesday. Klay Thompson hit the late tying 3-pointer in regulation and Steph Curry had six straight OT points. Now it’s a formality that the Warriors break the Bulls’ record of 72 regular-season wins as they only need go 5-2 in the final seven to do it. Golden State was pushed to the limit on Dec. 11 in Boston, winning 124-119 in double overtime. That game was terrific, I remember it well. The Warriors have won five straight vs. the Celtics, tying a franchise record set when the team was in Philly.

    Key trends:
    The Warriors are 2-5 ATS in their past seven overall. The under is 6-1 in their past seven overall.

    Early lean:
    Celtics and over.

    Wizards at Suns (+6, 214.5)

    Washington’s playoff hopes took a huge hit with a 120-111 loss in Sacramento on Wednesday, but the Wizards were clearly deflated entering that game after playing well in Golden State the night before. John Wall was just 4-for-16 from the field vs. the Kings. Phoenix lost a fourth in a row Wednesday, 105-94 in Milwaukee. Brandon Knight had 17 points in his first trip to Milwaukee since being traded by the Bucks to the Suns in February 2015. Mirza Teletovic missed the game with a stomach illness. Washington beat Phoenix 109-106 on Dec. 4. The Wizards also have won two of the last three in Phoenix.

    Key trends:
    The Suns are 3-8 ATS in their past 11 vs. the East. The under is 5-0-1 in the past six meetings between these two.

    Early lean:
    Wizards and over.


    Preview: Philadelphia At Charlotte

    When: 7:00 PM ET, Friday, April 1, 2016
    Where: Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, North Carolina

    The Charlotte Hornets are still trying to push for a better position in the Eastern Conference and will try to take another step forward when they host the Philadelphia 76ers in the back end of a home-and-home set on Friday. Charlotte eased its way to a 100-85 win in Philadelphia on Tuesday and has won four of its last five.

    The Hornets had Wednesday and Thursday off to watch the other three teams they are battling in the middle of the East postseason scrum – Atlanta, Miami and Boston – fight it out and enters play on Thursday one game behind the Hawks and tied with the Celtics and Heat. Charlotte got a triple-double from Nicolas Batum (19 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists) in Tuesday’s win, which marked its’ franchise-record 13th victory of the month. The 76ers seem to be a long way from setting franchise wins records, but new team chairman Jerry Colangelo paints a rosier picture. “We have a bright, bright future,” Colangelo said in a video posted to the team’s website. “We’re watching young players develop. We’re anticipating a lot of good things to happen in the very near future. If the stars are aligned and you have a little bit of luck, we could turn this thing around much faster, much quicker than people seem to believe it’s going to take.”

    TV: 7 p.m. ET, CSN Philadelphia, FSN Southeast (Charlotte)

    ABOUT THE 76ERS (9-66): Philadelphia has yet to reach double figures in wins and is riding a 10-game losing streak but believes it has all the pieces in place from the front office down to the coaching staff, and wins are sure to follow. “I believe this is a situation that is a lot closer than people think,” Colangelo said in the video, which was posted prior to Tuesday’s loss. “If you treat people well, you give people room and the ability to make decisions, and you create a team effort – and it starts at the top, and it permeates throughout an organization – I think that’s really the way you build a franchise.” The 76ers are missing two of their building blocks in big men Jahlil Okafor (knee) and Nerlens Noel (knee) as they attempt to evaluate the product on the court.

    ABOUT THE HORNETS (43-31): Charlotte built up a 65-45 advantage on the boards in Tuesday’s meeting and is getting solid production from the center tandem of Cody Zeller and Al Jefferson. Zeller (18 points, 11 rebounds on Tuesday) moved into the starting lineup when Jefferson went down earlier in the season and held the spot upon his return while Jefferson (seven points, nine boards) settled into fewer minutes off the bench designed to keep him on the court and healthy throughout the playoffs. The Hornets are hoping the two can help them through a finishing stretch that features five of the final seven regular-season games on the road.


    1. Hornets G Jeremy Lin (back) sat out Tuesday and is day-to-day.

    2. Philadelphia Fs Richaun Holmes (Achilles) and Jerami Grant (knee) are not expected to play on Friday.

    3. Charlotte G Courtney Lee is shooting 55.6 percent from the field in the last five games, including 8-of-15 from 3-point range.

    PREDICTION: Hornets 112, 76ers 92


    Preview: Dallas At Detroit

    When: 7:30 PM ET, Friday, April 1, 2016
    Where: The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, Michigan

    Two teams fighting for position at the bottom of their respective conference’s playoff brackets square off when the Dallas Mavericks visit the Detroit Pistons on Friday. The Pistons are looking more and more like a team that has earned its spot and will go for their seventh win in eight games against the Mavericks.

    Detroit jumped into seventh place in the East with an 88-82 home win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday and goes into play on Thursday 2 1/2 games ahead of ninth-place Chicago. “I don’t know if we’re going to have to win six out of seven, five out of seven,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters. “I think you’ll have to win probably four or five. You’re going to need 44 or 45 wins when the last five years in the East, you needed 38 wins. That’s just the way it is this year. So we’re going to have to beat good teams and we’re going to have to beat one or two good teams on the road.” The Mavericks have dropped 10 of their last 14 games and needed to mount a late comeback to overcome the lowly New York Knicks on Wednesday. The 91-89 triumph, coupled with Utah’s overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors, left Dallas, Houston and Utah tied at 37-38 from the Nos. 7-9 slots in the West heading into play on Thursday.

    TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FSN Southwest (Dallas), FSN Detroit

    ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (37-38): Dallas may be putting a run together with back-to-back wins over Denver and New York after dropping 10 of 12. Both wins featured strong defensive performances and big games offensively from reserve guard J.J. Barea, who hit the go-ahead basket in the final minute on Wednesday and averaged 22 points and nine assists in the two wins. “I feel in a great rhythm,” Barea told reporters. “My legs feel great. I feel quick, that I can get (to the basket) any time in the pick-and-roll.”

    ABOUT THE PISTONS (40-35): Detroit has seven games left in the regular season and embarks on a three-game road trip following Friday’s contest. The Pistons held the Thunder to 37.8 percent shooting and forced 19 turnovers in the win to overcome some of their own shooting woes and are well aware of what they have to do to lock down a playoff spot. “To go into seventh place is huge,” Detroit forward Marcus Morris told reporters. “Got Dallas coming in on Friday, then we got a big back-to-back on Saturday versus Chicago. Those are two big games, maybe two of the biggest games all year.”


    1. Pistons G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is 6-of-29 from the field in the last two games, including 2-of-12 from 3-point range.

    2. Mavericks F Dirk Nowitzki is 15-of-55 from the floor in the last three games.

    3. Nowitzki had 25 points and 10 rebounds at home on March 9 but Dallas still dropped a 103-96 decision to Detroit.

    PREDICTION: Pistons 110, Mavericks 95


    Preview: Brooklyn At New York

    When: 7:30 PM ET, Friday, April 1, 2016
    Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York

    The New York Knicks have their usual set of issues – both on and off the court – as they commence their final multi-game homestand of the season Friday night against the Brooklyn Nets. In the wake of a perceived tiff between coach Kurt Rambis and guard Arron Afflalo, star rookie Kristaps Porzingis missed Wednesday’s loss in Dallas with a strained shoulder and point guard Jose Calderon left the contest with a quad injury.

    Carmelo Anthony did his best to fill the void with 31 points but he missed two potential go-ahead shots and had a turnover in the final minute. The Nets matched the Knicks’ current three-game losing streak with a 107-87 loss at Cleveland on Thursday, their eighth consecutive defeat on the road. Brook Lopez and rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson both were given the night off for Brooklyn, which has been outscored by an average of 21.7 points in the first three games of their current four-game road trip. The Nets have claimed the last two meetings with their crosstown rivals – both at home – and are 6-1 versus the Knicks over the last two seasons.

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

    ABOUT THE NETS (21-54): Center Henry Sims started for Lopez and was held without a field goal in 19 minutes while fellow starter Wayne Ellington went 0-of-8 against Cleveland. On the flip side was the continued solid play of point guard Shane Larkin, who hit his only two 3-point tries and finished with 13 points and eight assists. Larkin has scored in double digits in six of his last nine games after doing so six times between mid-December and mid-March.

    ABOUT THE KNICKS (30-46): Derrick Williams was given a rare start in place of Porzingis on Wednesday and responded with 15 points and eight rebounds. He was part of a starting unit that combined to shoot 55.8 percent from the floor, but the bench finished at 32.4 percent and Afflalo continued to struggle. The starter-turned-reserve was 1-of-7 from the floor in 31 minutes and has scored in single digits in three straight games for just the second time this season.


    1. Anthony is averaging 25 points while hitting 58.3 percent of his 3-point tries against Brooklyn this season.

    2. Lopez had 33 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in the previous meeting.

    3. This marks Brooklyn’s fourth game in five days, its only such stretch of the season.

    PREDICTION: Knicks 98, Nets 92


    Preview: Cleveland At Atlanta

    When: 8:00 PM ET, Friday, April 1, 2016
    Where: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia

    The Cleveland Cavaliers look to move closer to clinching the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference when they visit the Atlanta Hawks on Friday. Cleveland is just 6-4 in its last 10 games but Thursday’s 107-87 victory over the Brooklyn Nets increased its lead to 2 1/2 games over the second-place Toronto Raptors.

    Forward LeBron James scored 24 points in Thursday’s victory to raise his career point total to 26,689 and move into 12th-place on the all-time scoring list, passing former Hawks’ star Dominique Wilkins. James needs just 22 points to pass 11th-place Oscar Robertson (26,710) but he is more concerned with padding the lead over Toronto. “I would love to have the No. 1 seed,” James told reporters. “I understand some of the players might need some rest over the last couple games, but we worked so hard all season to be No. 1. I’m never a guy (who wants) to finish second.” Third-place Atlanta suffered a 105-97 road loss to Toronto on Wednesday for only its third setback in the past 15 games, and the defeat ended any realistic chance of chasing down the second-place Raptors.

    TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, FSN Ohio (Cleveland), FSN Southeast (Atlanta)

    ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (53-22): Point guard Kyrie Irving, who had just 10 points against the Nets, missed the mid-day shootaround due to what the team said was an illness. Irving said he isn’t distracted by the situation involving R&B singer Kehlani, who reportedly attempted suicide earlier this week when rumors flew that she cheated on Irving during their short dating relationship. “It hasn’t been difficult. I’ve been through a ton of adversity in my life,” Irving said after Thursday’s game. “There’s nothing anything or anyone can say that I can’t get through. I’ve been through enough already in my short 24 years that most people can say for their whole entire lives.”

    ABOUT THE HAWKS (45-31): Atlanta had averaged 109.6 points during the previous nine games before falling three points short of the century mark against Toronto. “We’ve just got to be better defensively and offensively,” point guard Jeff Teague told reporters. “We just missed some open shots. We just weren’t in good of a groove, but they did a good job making it tough on us.” Teague with 18 points was the only starter to reach double digits against the Raptors as All-Star frontcourt players Al Horford and Paul Millsap had just seven points apiece.


    1. The Cavaliers have lost in each of their last five visits to Atlanta.

    2. Cleveland SG J.R. Smith has scored in single digits in three of the past four games and is just 7-of-26 from 3-point range during the stretch.

    3. Atlanta backup SG Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 15 points and made four 3-pointers against Toronto after being 2-of-16 shooting — including missing all seven 3-point attempts — during the previous two games.

    PREDICTION: Hawks 103, Cavaliers 99


    Preview: Toronto At Memphis

    When: 8:00 PM ET, Friday, April 1, 2016
    Where: FedExForum, Memphis, Tennessee

    The collective struggles of the four teams behind them in the standings have allowed the Memphis Grizzlies to hang on to the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference despite a four-game slide. The Grizzlies will count the healthy bodies on their roster and try to mix in a win when they host the Toronto Raptors on Friday.

    Memphis got power forward Zach Randolph (ankle) back from a two-game absence on Wednesday but still couldn’t find its way around Denver in a 109-105 home loss. The Grizzlies are still without point guard Mike Conley (Achilles) and will not have star center Marc Gasol (foot) the rest of the way, leaving Randolph and the remaining healthy players seven games left to hold off the Portland Trail Blazers for No. 5 in the West. The Raptors are holding down the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference and reached 50 wins for the first time in franchise history with a triumph over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. The victory was the second in five games for Toronto, which is hoping that its brief funk is over in time for a road back-to-back at Memphis and San Antonio.

    TV: 8 p.m. ET, Sportsnet One (Toronto), FSN Southeast (Memphis)

    ABOUT THE RAPTORS (50-24): Toronto was the only NBA franchise without a 50-win season before running off Atlanta 105-97 on Wednesday behind 26 points from DeMar DeRozan. “For our organization, for the program we’re growing, I think it’s a good step for us,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters. “I told the team, ‘we’re not done yet, but it’s an accomplishment they can’t take away from you.’ We have to continue to grow and get better in different areas to fry the bigger fish.” Toronto enters play on Thursday two games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top spot in the East with eight games remaining.

    ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES (41-34): Randolph scored 26 points in 34 minutes in his return but Memphis struggled to enforce its tempo and defensive will on the Nuggets in Wednesday’s loss. “We want to be going into the playoffs playing our style of basketball,” Grizzlies guard Tony Allen told reporters. “Everybody on the same page, offensively and defensively. With these seven games left, we’ve got time to do that. Like I said, we come in each game looking forward to winning them. Right now it’s just staying together, staying confident, and paying attention to detail for 48 minutes.” Allen is averaging 6.7 points in the last three games after putting up 23.3 in the previous three.


    1. Grizzlies F JaMychal Green earned his fifth double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds off the bench on Wednesday.

    2. Raptors G Kyle Lowry (elbow) is 15-of-65 from the field in the last four games.

    3. Randolph (18 points) was the only starter to score in double figures in Memphis’ 98-85 loss at Toronto on Feb. 21.

    PREDICTION: Raptors 102, Grizzlies 98


    Preview: Orlando At Milwaukee

    When: 8:00 PM ET, Friday, April 1, 2016
    Where: BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    The Milwaukee Bucks have been a major disappointment after making the playoffs in 2014-15, but most of their troubles have occurred on the road. The Bucks, who snapped a five-game losing streak last time out, look to improve on a respectable 22-15 mark at home when they host the suddenly-hot Orlando Magic on Friday in a battle of teams eliminated from the playoff chase.

    Leading scorer Khris Middleton posted 26 points and seven boards in the 105-94 triumph against Phoenix on Wednesday after Milwaukee was held under 100 in six of the previous seven contests. Leading scorer Nikola Vucevic returned to the lineup after missing 13 games with a groin injury to record 24 points as the Magic beat Indiana 114-94 for their third straight victory Thursday. Orlando, which is just 12-26 on the road, averaged 121.3 points over the last three outings overall and has split a pair with the Bucks this season. “There’s always an ebb and flow to the season and sometimes we look really good for a few games and then we don’t,” Magic coach Scott Skiles told reporters. “The point you want to get to is that you’re the same (team) every day.”

    TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Florida (Orlando), FSN Wisconsin (Milwaukee)

    ABOUT THE MAGIC (32-43): Vucevic came off the bench in his first game back Thursday, draining 12-of-15 from the field and grabbing six rebounds in 25 minutes, while Dewayne Dedmon remained in the starting unit at center. Evan Fournier, who scored 25 against Indiana, told reporters that defense was the difference as the Magic forced 19 turnovers and held the Pacers to 41.9 percent from the floor. Point guard Elfrid Payton has been on top of his game the last five outings, averaging 14 points, 8.8 assists and 6.4 rebounds.

    ABOUT THE BUCKS (31-44): Middleton rebounded from a three-game stretch in which he averaged just 10.7 points – 7.5 below his average – last time out and Jabari Parker is scoring 18.3 per contest over the last three outings. Coach Jason Kidd recently announced 6-11 Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is averaging 16.5 points and shooting 50.4 percent from the field, will initiate the offense next season. “We’re going to go forward with (Antetokounmpo) handling the ball,” Kidd told reporters. “You can call him point guard, point forward, point center.”


    1. Milwaukee G Greivis Vasquez returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing four months with an ankle injury, posting three rebounds and three assists.

    2. Orlando PF Andrew Nicholson is averaging 17 points on 26-of-43 from the field over the past four contests.

    3. Bucks G Jerryd Bayless is averaging 14.5 points against Orlando in two games this season, but is questionable with a hyperextended right knee.

    PREDICTION: Bucks 102, Magic 98


    Preview: Minnesota At Utah

    When: 9:00 PM ET, Friday, April 1, 2016
    Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah

    The Utah Jazz are locked in a three-team battle for the final two Western Conference playoff spots and look to bounce back from a tough loss when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday. Utah fell in overtime to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday and is battling the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks for the postseason berths.

    The Jazz held an eight-point lead midway through the fourth quarter before allowing the Warriors to rally to force overtime and they ended up with a bitter 103-96 defeat. “We’re pretty frustrated right now, but we’ve got seven more games,” shooting guard Rodney Hood told reporters. “If we would have won, it was one win. This is one loss. We’ve got seven more that we need to come ready to play. The biggest thing we can’t do is feel deflated and (have) it carry over to the next game against Minnesota.” The Timberwolves were routed 99-79 by the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday when they shot a woeful 34.5 percent from the field. Shooting guard Andrew Wiggins had nearly as many turnovers (six) as points (seven) before exiting the game with a lacerated chin.

    TV: 9 p.m. ET, FSN North (Minnesota), ROOT (Utah)

    ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (25-50): Interim coach Sam Mitchell was irate after the loss to the Clippers as he felt his young squad played its “worst game” of the season. “Like I told them, I wish (the media) would stop asking me questions about how good they can be,” Mitchell told reporters. “We have 25 wins. They still have to learn how to play basketball. They still got to grow up. They still got to understand, they played a team that’s a real playoff team. You saw what happened. We’re not ready yet. So I wish they would stop reading the newspapers, stop talking to their friends because we’re not good enough to just show up and play.” Second-year guard Zach LaVine was one of the culprits as he was scoreless and missed all six of his field-goal attempts.

    ABOUT THE JAZZ (37-38): Utah has won eight of its last 11 games but was unable to close out the contest when the Warriors cranked their collective games up a notch down the stretch. The Jazz lost power forward Derrick Favors (knee) during the third quarter – he had 15 points in 19 minutes – and it isn’t yet known if he will be available against the Timberwolves. Small forward Gordon Hayward had 21 points against Golden State but was just 7-of-20 shooting and is only 19-of-50 from the field over the past four games.


    1. The Jazz are 2-1 against the Timberwolves this season and have won six of the past eight meetings.

    2. Minnesota rookie C Karl-Anthony Towns has recorded 10 straight double-doubles and has scored 24 or more points five times during the stretch.

    3. Utah C Rudy Gobert had 18 rebounds against Golden State and is averaging 16 over the past three games.

    PREDICTION: Jazz 101, Timberwolves 96


    Preview: Miami At Sacramento

    When: 10:00 PM ET, Friday, April 1, 2016
    Where: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, California

    The Miami Heat are locked in a four-team battle for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and attempt to bounce back from a demoralizing defeat when they visit the Sacramento Kings on Friday. Miami suffered a 102-100 overtime loss to the lowly Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday in the opener of a three-game road trip that concludes in Portland on Saturday.

    The Heat are in a cluster for the third spot with Atlanta, Boston and Charlotte and coach Erik Spoelstra felt the correct team won Wednesday’s contest. “You typically get what you deserve in the league, and we did not deserve this game,” Spoelstra told reporters. “There were some things we did well, but if you saw any kind of effort, or focus, they were beating us in those departments and we paid the price for it.” Sacramento has reached 30 victories for the first time since the 2007-08 campaign after knocking off the Washington Wizards 120-111 on Wednesday. All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins had 29 points against Washington but drew his 16th technical foul in the final seconds to land a one-game suspension.

    TV: 10 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Miami), CSN California (Sacramento)

    ABOUT THE HEAT (43-31): Shooting guard Dwayne Wade (26 points, 10 rebounds), small forward Luol Deng (22 points, 11 rebounds) and center Hassan Whiteside (18 points, 17 rebounds, seven blocked shots) all had superb performances against the Lakers but the supporting cast didn’t come through. Point guard Goran Dragic (5-of-14) and backup shooting guard Josh Richardson (0-of-8) were the biggest culprits as Miami lost a game it was counting on winning. It is looking more likely that All-Star power forward Chris Bosh (blood clot) won’t return during the regular season and probably won’t be medically cleared for the postseason either.

    ABOUT THE KINGS (30-45): Reaching the 30-win mark isn’t cause for celebration for most NBA teams but it is for Sacramento due to the franchise’s recent lackluster history. “I’m encouraged because of the way we’re playing,” backup guard Darren Collision told reporters. “But I’m discouraged because I wish, you know, it’s unfortunate we couldn’t play like this all season long.” Point guard Rajon Rondo had 15 points and 11 assists against Washington for his fourth straight outing of 11 or more assists.


    1. The Heat have won the past three meetings, including a 116-109 home win over the Kings on Nov. 19.

    2. Miami SG Joe Johnson is 11-of-36 shooting – and 1-of-15 from 3-point range – over the past five contests.

    3. Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac received a multi-year contract extension before Wednesday’s victory.

    PREDICTION: Heat 102, Kings 100


    ‘Game of the Day’

    Boston Celtics at Golden State Warriors (-12, 222)

    The Golden State Warriors are five wins away from the NBA’s single-season victory mark and look to capture their 69th win when they host the Boston Celtics on Friday. Golden State, which has won six straight games, needs to go 5-2 over the final seven games to surpass the 72-victory record set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.

    The Warriors have won 13 of their last 14 games and set a franchise record Wednesday with their 68th victory by outlasting Utah 103-96 in overtime. “(The record) is something we want to do; we’ve spoken on this,” forward Draymond Green told reporters. “It is no secret. It will be a cool thing to do, but we have to worry about getting better each and every night. I think if we worry about that, the wins will take care of themselves.” Boston suffered a 116-109 road loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday to fall into sixth place in the Eastern Conference but the Celtics are just 1 1/2 games behind the third-place Atlanta Hawks. Boston All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas scored 20 or more points in all 14 games in March and averaged 25.9 points for the month.

    TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, CSN New England (Boston), CSN Bay Area (Golden State)

    The Warriors opened as 12-point home favorites over the Celtics, where they are 36-0 SU (19-17 ATS). The total opened at 223 and was immediately bet down a point and a half to 222. It has since been bet back up to 222. Check out the complete line history here.


    Celtics – No injuries to report.

    Warriors – SF K. Looney (out Friday, hip), C F. Ezeli (out Friday, knee), SF A. Iguodala (out Friday, ankle).

    Celtics (-6.1) – Warriors (-15) + home court (-3) = Warriors -12

    “The Warriors continue to be No. 2 in the West ATS (41-32-3), but have now failed to cover five of their last seven games. Four of those ATS defeats came as double digit favorites.” – Power Sports.

    ABOUT THE CELTICS (43-32, 39-35-1 ATS, 36-39 O/U):
    Small forward Jae Crowder returned from an eight-game absence because of an ankle injury and had 13 points and 10 rebounds in the loss to Portland. Boston coach Brad Stevens said that Crowder wouldn’t be on a minutes’ restriction but there is a chance he could be held out against the Warriors if the training staff decides it is too much of a risk for him to immediately play both ends of a back-to-back. “I’m hopeful that, knock on wood, we can get healthy and be healthy the rest of the way through and build off of some of the good things that we’ve done,” Stevens told reporters. “And hopefully get back to playing a little bit like we were playing, really, before the All-Star break.”

    ABOUT THE WARRIORS (68-7, 41-32-2 ATS, 41-33-1 O/U):
    Golden State looks to extends its NBA-record home winning streak to 55 games and the contest with the Celtics is the opener of a four-game homestand that includes games against the Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs. The Warriors also have a road game at San Antonio for their next-to-last game of the season but coach Steve Kerr sees every game as being important at this point. “We always compete; that is the great thing about this team,” Kerr said after his team rallied to force overtime en route to the win over the Jazz. “That is why we have this record and our guys compete every night. I love our competitive spirit. No matter what our record ends up, it almost doesn’t matter. It is just an incredible display of competition and fight night after night.”


    * Celtics are 1-7 ATS in their last eight road games.
    * Warriors are 1-4 ATS in their last five versus Eastern Conference opponents.
    * Over is 4-1 in Celtics last five games playing on zero days rest.
    * Under is 6-1 in Warriors last seven games overall.

    Bettors are giving the Celtics a slight edge with the a number apparently many feel is too high. Fifty-four percent of wagers are on Boston, while 69 percent are on the over.


    1. The Warriors have won the past five meetings but were taken to double overtime in Boston on Dec. 11 before departing with a 124-119 victory.

    2. Celtics backup PG Marcus Smart shot just 30.9 percent from the field in March.

    3. Golden State PG Stephen Curry made five or more 3-point baskets nine times in March.

    PREDICTION: Warriors 129, Celtics 116


    Preview: Washington At Phoenix

    When: 10:30 PM ET, Friday, April 1, 2016
    Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, Arizona

    Time is ticking away for the Washington Wizards, who seem to be playing their way out of contention for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards will try to keep their rapidly diminishing chances alive when they visit the Phoenix Suns in the fourth of a five-game road trip on Friday.

    Washington enters play on Thursday 3 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference – with the Chicago Bulls in between – and has not helped itself with losses in four of the last five games. Two of those setbacks came against teams well out of the race, including a 120-111 loss at Sacramento on Wednesday in which the Wizards committed 20 turnovers and allowed Sacramento to shoot 56 percent from the floor. “To me, it felt like we gave up,” Washington guard Bradley Beal told reporters. “We have a great opportunity to still make the playoffs, but we’re just not hungry enough.” The Suns are returning home after dropping two straight on the road and have lost four in a row overall.

    TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, CSN Mid-Atlantic (Washington), FSN Arizona (Phoenix)

    ABOUT THE WIZARDS (36-39): Washington head coach Randy Wittman ripped his team for a lack of discipline on both ends of the floor after Wednesday’s loss but Beal thought it was much simpler. “Everybody’s a (grown) man,” Beal told reporters. “Either you want to play or you don’t. It’s plain and simple. Either you want to win or you don’t. If you don’t want to win, then you need to sit down.” John Wall picked up his 10th double-double in 11 games with 14 points and 13 assists in the loss but was just 4-of-16 from the floor and committed five turnovers.

    ABOUT THE SUNS (20-55): Phoenix looked like it might be putting together a decent closing run with wins in three of five games before the current slide and was plagued by 22 turnovers in Wednesday’s 105-94 loss at Milwaukee. “The coaches are doing a great job of putting a great game plan out there for us,” Suns point guard Ronnie Price told the Arizona Republic. “When we execute what we go over, we have extreme success. But once we get away from that and starting doing our own thing, we get ourselves in trouble.” The starting guard tandem of Brandon Knight and Devin Booker combined for 12 of those turnovers to go along with their collective 35 points.


    1.Washington SF Otto Porter Jr. is averaging 14.6 points in the last 11 games to raise his season average to 11.8.

    2. Suns F Mirza Teletovic (illness) sat out Wednesday and is day-to-day.

    3. Beal collected 34 points, eight rebounds and five assists in a 109-106 home win over Phoenix on Dec. 4.

    PREDICTION: Wizards 122, Suns 111


    Hot teams
    — Charlotte won six of its last eight games (5-3-1 last 9HF).
    — Dallas won last two games, allowing 88.5 ppg (5-1 last 6AU). Pistons won six of their last seven games (17-6-1 last 24HF).
    — Cavaliers won six of their last nine games (4-1AU). Hawks won eight of last ten games (4-1 last 5HF).
    — Toronto won six of its last nine games (3-5 last 8AF).
    — Orlando won last three games by 22-34-20 (2-5 last 7AU).
    — Minnesota won three of its last five games (4-1 last 5AU). Utah won seven of its last ten games (7-4 last 11HF).
    — Miami won four of its last six games (6-2 last 8AF). Sacramento won three of last four games, but Cousins is out here (4-9HU).
    — Golden State won its last six games (6-8 last 14HF). Celtics won four of their last six games (2-9 last 11AU).

    Cold teams
    — 76ers lost their last ten games, but covered last three on road.
    — Nets lost six of their last eight games (1-4 last 5AU). Knicks also lost six of their last eight games (5-3 last 8HF).
    — Memphis lost eight of its last ten games (6-2 last 8HU).
    — Bucks lost five of their last six games (7-2 last 9HF).
    — Washington lost four of last five games (5-4AF). Suns lost their last four games (3-6 last 9HU).

    Series records
    — 76ers lost seven of last eight games with Charlotte.
    — Nets won six of last seven games with the Knicks.
    — Pistons won last two games with Dallas, after losing previous six.
    — Cavaliers won their last five games with Atlanta.
    — Raptors lost four of last five games with Memphis.
    — Bucks won five of last eight games with Orlando.
    — Utah won six of its last eight games with Minnesota.
    — Heat won nine of last ten games with Sacramento.
    — Warriors won last five games with boston, but Celtics are 4-1-1 vs the spread in last six series games.
    — Suns won three of last four games with Washington.

    — Last five Philly games stayed under the total.
    — Six of last eight Brooklyn-New York games went over.
    — Six of last nine Dallas-Detroit games went over the total.
    — Last three Cleveland games stayed under the total.
    — Last four Toronto games went over the total.
    — Six of last eight Milwaukee games stayed under total.
    — Eight of last ten Utah games stayed under the total.
    — Five of last seven Sacramento games stayed under total.
    — Four of last five Boston games stayed under the total.
    — Seven of last nine Phoenix games stayed under the total.

    — Nets are 2-5 in last seven games if they played night before.
    — Cavaliers are 2-5 in last seven games if they played night before.
    — Magic lost four of last five on road if they played night before.
    — Boston is 10-7 vs spread if it played the night before.


    StatFox Super Situations™ – FoxSheets

    Play Over – All teams where the total is greater than or equal to 210 averaging 53 or more rebounds/game on the season, in April games
    78-38 since 1997. ( 67.2% | 36.2 units )

    Play Against – Home underdogs of +145 to +350 vs. the money line (SACRAMENTO) poor defensive team – shooting pct defense of >=46% on the season, averaging 53 or more rebounds/game on the season
    129-32 since 1997. ( 80.1% | 56.2 units )
    9-4 this year. ( 69.2% | 0.3 units )

    Play Against – Road underdogs vs. the 1rst half line (PHILADELPHIA) after going under the total by 24 or more points total in their last three games, terrible team, winning 25% or less of their games on the season
    74-36 over the last 5 seasons. ( 67.3% | 34.4 units )
    11-6 this year. ( 64.7% | 4.4 units )



    2* (515) Heat -7.5

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