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Saturday, December 14, 2019

76ERS VS PELICANS

Venue: Wells Fargo Center | Start: 11:00am AEDT

An ice-cold team will meet a red-hot counterpart when the New Orleans Pelicans visit the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night. New Orleans has lost 10 games in a row to plummet toward the bottom of the Western Conference standings. The Pelicans sit at 6-19 now after staying in the mix at 6-9 through the first 15 games of the season. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has won four in a row and eight of nine after its latest triumph, a 115-109 win over the Boston Celtics on Thursday night. The 76ers made the quick trip home from Boston to Philadelphia after the game, but players still could show some sluggishness in the second half of a back-to-back set. Joel Embiid has been a difference maker for the 76ers all season, and that remained true one night ago as he racked up 38 points and 13 rebounds in 36 minutes against Boston. Teammate Ben Simmons provided support on both ends of the court despite a quiet evening with seven points on 2-for-6 shooting. He also grabbed eight rebounds and dished six assists. The Pelicans are led by the backcourt duo of Brandon Ingram (24.9 points per game) and Jrue Holiday (19.3), and veteran sharpshooter J.J. Redick has connected on 44.8 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Win: Philadelphia 76ers
Line: Philadelphia 76ers -8.5
Total Points: Under 223.5

MAGIC VS ROCKETS

Venue: Amway Center | Start: 11:00am AEDT

The Houston Rockets appear to have broken out of a brief funk by winning five of their past seven games. Houston has a chance to build upon that recent success when it visits the Orlando Magic on Friday night. James Harden hopes to stay hot after a mammoth performance on Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He scored 55 points on 20-for-34 shooting, including 10 of 18 beyond the arc, and he added eight assists, three rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals for good measure. Harden is averaging a whopping 38.7 points per game this season — the best mark of his career — and Orlando faces an enormous challenge to try to slow him down. The Magic have lost back-to-back games during a brutal stretch of the schedule that included matchups against the Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks and Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers. Orlando is led in scoring by perimeter player Evan Fournier, who is averaging 19.9 points on 48 percent shooting this season. Nikola Vucevic provides a strong presence in the paint with averages of 17.1 points and 11.6 rebounds, but it remains to be seen whether he can do anything to stop Harden and talented Rockets teammate Russell Westbrook on the perimeter.

Win: Houston Rockets
Line: Houston Rockets -6.5
Total Points: Under 220.5

HAWKS VS PACERS

Venue: State Farm Arena | Start: 11:30am AEDT

Trae Young tied a career high with 49 points the last time the Atlanta Hawks played the Indiana Pacers. It might take a new career high for the Hawks to defeat the visiting Pacers on Friday night in Atlanta. The Hawks pushed Indiana into overtime before finally succumbing, 105-104, the night after Thanksgiving. Pacers coach Nate McMillan said his team suffered from “too much turkey,” but it was nearly too much Young, who made 16 of 28 field goals. The Pacers (16-9) could be prime for a letdown after a 122-117 victory over Boston on Wednesday. It was a huge conference win for a team that had been scuffling of late. Malcolm Brogdon scored 29 points for Indiana, which survived a 44-point outing from Boston’s Kemba Walker. The difference in the game came at the free throw line, where Indiana outscored the Celtics by 13. The Hawks enter with a 6-19 record, losers of two straight and eight of their past 10. They’re coming off a 34-point mauling at the hands of the Chicago Bulls after pushing the Miami Heat in an overtime loss the night before. The Hawks trailed the Bulls by 14 at halftime and it went downhill from there; Atlanta scored just 15 points in the fourth quarter in the 136-102 loss.

Win: Indiana Pacers
Line: Atlanta +6.5
Total Points: Under 224.5

TIMBERWOLVES VS CLIPPERS

Venue: Target Center | Start: 1:30pm AEDT

The Minnesota Timberwolves hope to celebrate an anniversary of sorts when they seek to end a six-game losing streak Friday night against the visiting Los Angeles Clippers. It’s been exactly a one month since the Timberwolves’ last home win — 129-114 over San Antonio.
Since then, they’ve lost six in a row at home and 10 of 13 overall, including their last six. The last four losses have all been by double digits, including three straight after moving Jeff Teague to the bench. The veteran has responded well — he had 32 points in Wednesday’s 127-116 home loss to Utah — but the Timberwolves haven’t been able to overcome a defense that’s allowed 121 or more points in five straight. The Clippers just might be in a gift-giving mood, one game after Kawhi Leonard received his championship ring before a 20-point win at Toronto. With a sixth game in nine days looming Saturday in Chicago on the second night of a back-to-back, no doubt the visitors, winners of three straight, are weighing their options on stars Leonard and Paul George. Leonard sat out the second night of an earlier back-to-back on the trip, while George carried the club that night with 36 points in a win at Indiana.

Win: LA Clippers
Line: LA Clippers -5.5
Total Points: Under 229.5

HEAT VS LAKERS

Venue: American Airlines Arena | Start: 11:00am AEDT

The Los Angeles Lakers are tied for the best record in the NBA at 22-3. Now, the Lakers will go for win No. 23 when they visit the Miami Heat on Friday night. Los Angeles has won five in a row and 15 of its past 16 games as it heads to South Florida, where LeBron James spent four seasons and won two NBA championships in 2012 and 2013. James has three rings in total, including one with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, and the Lakers look like a legitimate title contender to help him chase No. 4 this season. Anthony Davis has provided every bit the support that Los Angeles hoped for when it acquired him from the New Orleans Pelicans. He is averaging 27.2 points and 9.2 rebounds in 24 starts on the season, and he is listed as probable against the Heat despite a right shoulder injury. Miami has won three straight games, the last two of which came in overtime. The Heat also have wins in six of their last seven contests. Miami is led in scoring by Jimmy Butler, who is averaging 20.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists in his first season with the franchise.

Win: LA Lakers
Line: LA Lakers -5.5
Total Points: Under 213.5

GRIZZLIES VS BUCKS

Venue: FedExForum | Start: 12:00pm AEDT

The Milwaukee Bucks seek their 17th consecutive victory Friday night in Memphis, and they might have to do it without Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Grizzlies seek their third straight win and they will definitely have to do it without rookie star point guard Ja Morant. Antetokounmpo sat out Wednesday’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans with a sore quad and he is officially questionable, though the Bucks likely have enough firepower to dispose of the Grizzlies without their all-world player. Ersan Ilyasova started for Giannis and racked up 18 points and nine rebounds, while Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe combined for 53 points against the Pelicans. However, the Grizzlies are feeling good about themselves, riding their first two-game winning streak in a month after defeating the Suns in Phoenix, 115-108, on Wednesday night. Dillon Brooks scored a game-high 27 and the Grizzlies held the Suns to 26.5 percent shooting from the 3-point line and crushed them on the boards by 14. The Bucks, however, are No. 1 in the NBA in rebounding, pulling down 51.6 per game. Morant scored 13 points in 33 minutes against the Suns but will not play against the Bucks due to back spasms that have plagued him of late.

Win: Milwaukee Bucks
Line: Milwaukee Bucks -11.5
Total Points: Under 229.5

BULLS VS HORNETS

Venue: United Center | Start: 12:00pm AEDT

The Chicago Bulls have battled inconsistency throughout the season, but they will try to amend that with another strong performance Friday night when they host the Charlotte Hornets. The Bulls are coming off a 136-102 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday that marked the team’s highest single-game point total since 2008. It also represented the most lopsided victory of the season for Chicago, which has only nine wins from which to choose. Zach LaVine is looking to maintain a hot hand after draining all seven of his 3-point attempts in his last outing. Charlotte has won two games in a row and could match a season high for its longest winning streak with a victory against the Bulls. The teams already have met twice this season, with the Hornets holding on for a one-point win in their first matchup in October and the Bulls emerging with a one-point victory in November. Both of those games took place on the Hornets’ home court. LaVine leads the Bulls with 22.7 points per game, and Devonte’ Graham is averaging 20.0 points per game to lead the Hornets. Graham scored a career-high 40 points in his most recent game.

Win: Chicago Bulls
Line: Chicago Bulls -6.5
Total Points: Over 214.5

KINGS VS KNICKS

Venue: Golden 1 Center | Start: 2:00pm AEDT

Two teams coming off thrilling wins go head-to-head Friday night when the New York Knicks visit the Sacramento Kings. The visiting Kings used 15 3-pointers to blow out New York 113-92 in early November, but much has changed since then. Sacramento benefitted that night from 24 points from star point guard De’Aaron Fox, who now is out of action with a sprained ankle. Meanwhile, the Knicks were coached on that occasion by David Fizdale, who has since been dismissed. Interim replacement Mike Miller notched a hard-earned first win in three tries Wednesday at Golden State, a game that appeared to be in hand before a late Warriors rally that produced overtime. That just gave Marcus Morris Sr., Julius Randle and RJ Barrett more time to pad double-double efforts, with Mitchell Robinson missing by one point and one rebound, as the balanced Knicks ended a 10-game losing streak. The Kings’ simultaneous finish 90 miles north against Oklahoma City was even more dramatic, with Bogdan Bogdanovic erasing a two-point deficit with a game-winning 3-pointer. The heart-stopping Kings have won three in a row by a total of six points, the last two victories coming on their last shot. Nemanja Bjelica provided the heroics in the previous win at Houston.

Win: Sacramento Kings
Line: New York Knicks +8.5
Total Points: Over 209.5

JAZZ VS WARRIORS

Venue: Vivint Smart Home Arena | Start: 1:00pm AEDT

The Golden State Warriors are getting healthier while the Utah Jazz figure to be without a key player when the clubs meet for a third time this season Friday night in Salt Lake City. After suiting up as few as eight healthy players for games last month, the Warriors occupied every seat on their bench in their 124-122 home overtime loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday. In fact, Golden State, still without backcourt stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, was so flush in available talent, the club demoted first-round pick Jordan Poole to the G-League. Golden State has lost two in a row, but has been competitive with the Jazz this season, losing by a total of 18 points in the first two meetings. Utah used superior 3-point shooting, outscoring Golden State by a total of 90-66, to prevail in those games, but Friday likely will have to try again without standout point guard Mike Conley, who has missed four straight with a hamstring injury. Conley burned the Warriors for 22 and 27 points in the earlier matchups. The Jazz have gone just 2-2 in his absence, including 1-2 in a homestand prior to Wednesday’s 127-116 triumph at Minnesota.

Win: Utah Jazz
Line: Golden State Warriors +13.5
Total Points: Under 211.5