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Sunday, December 29, 2019

NUGGETS VS GRIZZLIES

Venue: Pepsi Center | Start: 9:00am AEDT

The Denver Nuggets are coming off another bad loss, which snapped their bid for their first 10-game winning streak in seven years. Denver will try to get things back on track when it hosts the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night. The Nuggets lost to the New Orleans on Christmas Day for the second time this season, at home no less, which snapped their seven-game winning streak. The Pelicans have just nine wins on the season and two of them have come against the Nuggets. Now the Nuggets host the Grizzlies, another team with a sub-.500 record and a foe against whom they have a win already this season. The Nuggets defeated the Grizzlies his by 17 points Nov. 17 in Memphis. Jamal Murray went for a season-high 39 points in that contest, won in the second quarter when Denver outscored the Grizzlies 44-17. But the Nuggets have a blind spot against the Pelicans, to whom they lost 112-100 on Wednesday. Brandom Ingram torched the Nuggets for 31 points on 11-for-18 shooting. The loss was just Denver’s fourth at home this season. Memphis (12-20) is coming off a win at Oklahoma City, 110-97, on Thursday. Jonas Valanciunas scored 21 points and Jaren Jackson Jr. added 20.

Win: Denver Nuggets
Line: Memphis Grizzlies +8.5
Total Points: Under 216.5

PELICANS VS PACERS

Venue: Smoothie King Center | Start: 11:00am AEDT

The New Orleans Pelicans are in an unusual situation going into Saturday night’s home game against the Indiana Pacers. The Pelicans have won two games in a row, so they could post a three-game winning streak for just the second time this season. The only three-game win string so far came in mid-November. New Orleans won three of four games on a recent road trip, that concluded with victories at Portland and at Denver. Brandon Ingram has been a solid offensive threat, leading the Pelicans in scoring in four of the past five games. That included his 31-point outing at Denver. Now the Pelicans see if they can keep this going with a pair of weekend home games. This will be the first meeting of the season between Indiana and New Orleans. The Pacers had won six of seven games going into Friday night’s game at Miami. The Pacers have a balanced offense, though forward T.J. Warren has led the way frequently lately.

Win: Indiana Pacers
Line: New Orleans Pelicans +1.5
Total Points: Over 210.5

CELTICS VS RAPTORS

Venue: TD Garden | Start: 11:00am AEDT

The Boston Celtics will try to make it two victories in a four-day game span against the Toronto Raptors when they meet Saturday night in Boston. The Celtics have played a game in between the Christmas meeting, topping the Cleveland Cavaliers 129-117 on Friday night. In that game, Jaylen Brown matched his career-high point total with 34 points, while Jayson Tatum racked up 30 points. Toronto has been off since the home setback to Boston. Toronto’s injury situation might be catching up with the Raptors. They’ve gone 2-2 without center Marc Gasol, guard Norman Powell and forward Pascal Siakam, the team’s scoring leader, in the lineup. Among the glaring problems that the Raptors must deal with is that the offense isn’t flowing as smoothly as it had and the personnel changes have made that difficult. The Celtics have had Gordon Hayward back this week after he missed three straight games with a sore left foot. Boston overcame a shaky shooting performance from Tatum in the game in Toronto, so winning a game when he ends up 5-for-18 from the field is a positive sign. The Christmas game was odd because it’s the only time in the last 13 get-togethers between the teams that the road team won.

Win: Boston Celtics
Line: Toronto Raptors +5.5
Total Points: Over 216.5

HEAT VS 76ERS

Venue: American Airlines Arena | Start: 12:00pm AEDT

The Miami Heat will look to extend the best home record in the NBA when they host the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night. The Heat, 14-1 at home, are coming off an exhilarating one-point victory over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night. Goran Dragic scored with 6.8 seconds remaining to cap a wild finish for the Heat, who fended off a 10-foot shot by Aaron Holiday as time expired to secure the victory. Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 20 points, thanks to a 14-for-15 effort from the free throw line. He added nine rebounds and six assists, leading the Heat to their fourth consecutive win. The Sixers were working their own three-game winning streak after blowing out the Milwaukee Bucks on Christmas Night. However, the Sixers followed that up with a disappointing one-point loss to the Orlando Magic on Friday night, the first game of a four-game road trip. While Joel Embiid scored a team-high 31 points on 11-for-21 shooting against the Bucks, he followed that with 24 points on 8 of 21 shooting against the Magic. Embiid turned the ball over four times against the Magic after just one turnover against Milwaukee. The Heat and Sixers are tied 1-1 in their season series.

Win: Miami Heat
Line: Miami Heat -1.5
Total Points: Under 213.5

WIZARDS VS KNICKS

Venue: Capital One Arena | Start: 12:00pm AEDT

The New York Knicks have another crack against the Washington Wizards in a week’s span, this one coming on the road Saturday night. Since Monday’s meeting, the Knicks might have learned a few things based on Thursday’s 94-82 victory against the Brooklyn Nets, an outcome that snapped a three-game losing streak. The Knicks defense was credited with keeping the Nets to 27 percent shooting from the field, the lowest mark in the NBA this season. The Wizards have been dealing with an injury list, though the addition of Bradley Beal to that list Thursday was particularly troubling. Beal exited the game in the second half with soreness in his lower right leg. Part of the reason he didn’t return to action was because the Wizards faced a large deficit, but that’s still a concerning development. Beal’s departure negated some of the positive impact from the return of Jordan McRae, who missed the 10 previous games. The Wizards will look for another strong game from guard Gary Payton II, who came up big in Monday’s 121-115 victory at New York. Beal had 30 points in the New York game. That resulted in Washington’s only victory in a five-game span. This will be the first home game for the Wizards following a four-game stretch on the road.

Win: Washington Wizards
Line: New York Knicks -1.5
Total Points: Under 210.5

TIMBERWOLVES VS CAVALIERS

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

Finally done with a losing streak that reached 11 games, the Minnesota Timberwolves will work on earning consecutive victories when they play host to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday. The end of the losing skid did not come easy as the Wolves had to go two overtimes to defeat the Sacramento Kings 105-104 on Thursday. It was the Wolves’ first victory in December. Andrew Wiggins was just the third-best scorer for Minnesota with 18 points as Robert Covington had 19 and Gorgui Dieng had 21. Karl-Anthony Towns missed his fifth consecutive game with a left knee sprain. The big man is improving but is listed as questionable for Saturday. The Cavaliers will enter off a 129-117 road defeat to the Boston Celtics on Friday. Kevin Love matched his season high with 30 points and added seven rebounds for Cleveland in advance of his return to Minnesota where he played his first six NBA season and was a three-time All-Star. Dante Exum had nine points in his Cavaliers debut. Friday’s defeat ended the Cavaliers’ season-best three-game winning streak. All three of those victories came at home. Cleveland is just 3-12 on the road this season. The teams will meet again at Cleveland on Jan. 5.

Win: Minnesota Timberwolves
Line: Cleveland Cavaliers +6.5
Total Points: Over 205.5

ROCKETS VS NETS

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

Both the Brooklyn Nets and Houston Rockets are coming off embarrassing losses, but only the Rockets can blame theirs on a grueling road trip. The Rockets host the Nets on Saturday night in their second and final game of the season. The 21-10 Rockets suffered an inexplicable loss to the lowly Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day despite a significant advantage in talent level. The Rockets were held to 37 percent shooting, the main culprit being Russell Westbrook’s 11-for-32 shooting, including 0-for-8 from the 3-point line. The loss came on the final stop of a four-game road trip, during which the Rockets went 3-0 prior to losing to Golden State. The Nets are coming off a lackluster 94-82 loss to their crosstown rival, the New York Knicks, on Thursday night. The Nets shot just 26.9 percent from the floor, the worst shooting effort in the NBA this season. Spencer Dinwiddie led the Nets with 25 points but shot just 5-for-15 from the floor. The Nets got the better of the Rockets, 123-116, on Nov. 1 in Brooklyn. The Nets got 47 from Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert, neither of whom will play Saturday. The Rockets will get Eric Gordon back Sunday.

Win: Houston Rockets
Line: Brooklyn Nets +9.5
Total Points: Over 233.5

BULLS VS HAWKS

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

The Atlanta Hawks will be without star guard Trae Young when they visit the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night. Young rolled his ankle Friday night against the Milwaukee Bucks and needed assistance to get to the locker room. He said he would not make the trip to Chicago because of the injured ankle, but he started receiving treatment on the injury almost immediately and hopes that it will not cause him to miss too much time. The absence of Young is another tough blow for Atlanta, which has lost nine games in a row and will be playing on short rest. The Bulls have won two of their past three games and should be the fresher team after enjoying a four-day break between games. Zach LaVine leads Chicago with 23.6 points per game and has topped 30 points three times in his past five games. The status of the Bulls’ second-leading scorer, forward Lauri Markkanen, is not certain after he missed practice Friday because of an illness. This is the third and final meeting of the regular season between the teams. Chicago has won each of the first two contests — a 113-93 victory Nov. 6 and a 136-102 victory Dec. 11.

Win: Chicago Bulls
Line: Chicago Bulls -7.5
Total Points: Under 225.5

WARRIORS VS MAVERICKS

Venue: Chase Center | Start: 12:30pm AEDT

The Dallas Mavericks coasted to a whopping 48-point win over the Golden State Warriors in the teams’ first meeting Nov. 20. Now comes the rematch, with the Mavericks looking for another big win when they visit San Francisco on Saturday night. It will be the first regular-season game in the Warriors’ new facility for Luka Doncic, who is back from an ankle injury that cost him four games from Dec. 16-22. Doncic returned on Thursday night against the San Antonio Spurs and finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, just shy of a triple-double. He did post a triple-double in the rout over the Warriors, finishing with a team-high 35 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in 25-plus minutes. Five other Mavericks players scored in double figures that night. Golden State figures to be in better shape this time around as it is riding a four-game win streak. The Warriors have knocked off the New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns to boost their season win total to nine. D’Angelo Russell will look to stay hot for Golden State after dropping 31 points in Friday’s win over Phoenix.

Win: Dallas Mavericks
Line: Golden State Warriors +11.5
Total Points: Under 219.5

SPURS VS PISTONS

Venue: AT&T Center | Start: 12:30pm AEDT

The San Antonio Spurs have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the NBA with 30-point wins and 30-point losses, one of the latter coming against the Detroit Pistons earlier this season. The Spurs will try to avenge that Dec. 1 loss against the Pistons on Saturday night at home. The Spurs lost 132-98 in Detroit that dropped them to seven games under .500. The Spurs allowed the Pistons to shoot 59.1 percent from the floor, including 15-for-31 from the 3-point line. Christian Wood torched the Spurs for 28 points on 11-for-14 shooting. The Spurs are 5-4 since that first meeting but are coming off a four-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday. Luka Doncic scored 24 points in his return from injury for the Mavs, who made 7 of 9 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. The Pistons snapped a five-game skid with a 30-point victory over the Washington Wizards on Thursday night. Wood scored a team-high 22 points for the Pistons, who made 12 more 3-pointers than the Wizards. Detroit shot 53.5 percent from the floor. Andre Drummond (left thigh contusion) is probable against the Spurs but Markieff Morris and his 10.8 points per game (foot sprain) has been ruled out.

Win: San Antonio Spurs
Line: Detroit Pistons +4.5
Total Points: Under 222.5

BUCKS VS MAGIC

Venue: Fiserv Forum | Start: 12:30pm AEDT

Both teams will be playing on back-to-back nights when the Orlando Magic go on the road to face the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night. The Magic were off since Monday until Friday night’s 98-97 victory against Philadelphia, giving the club a two-game winning streak. So now Orlando will try to pull off an upset for the second night in a row against another team that has been stellar for much of the season. The Magic have won more than two consecutive games only once this season (a four-game win streak), so putting together a three-game streak would be a significant boost. The Bucks had to go to Atlanta for Friday night’s 112-86 victory in a game without last season’s league Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokunmpo. It was an ideal assignment to get well after the Christmas loss in Philadelphia. Antetokunmpo had a ragged outing against the 76ers, then missed the Atlanta game because of a sore back. Milwaukee often has enough firepower anyway, and that showed with Khris Middleton racking up 23 points to go with season-high points from Ersan Ilyasova, who had 18 points and 17 rebounds. The Bucks blew out Orlando 123-91 on Nov. 1 on the road and then won 110-101 in a rematch Dec. 9 at home. Evan Fournier was Orlando’s leading scorer in both previous games with the Bucks.

Win: Milwaukee Bucks
Line: Orlando Magic +12.5
Total Points: Under 219.5

KINGS VS SUNS

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

The Phoenix Suns will not have long to dwell on a nine-point loss to the Golden State Warriors. That is probably a good thing. Phoenix will look to bounce back into the win column when it visits the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night. It will not be easy for the Suns, who have lost eight straight games to plummet nine games below .500 on the season. One glimmer of hope is the continued excellent play of guard Devin Booker, who is coming off a 34-point performance against Golden state. The Kings also are sliding with five losses in a row, including a 105-104 defeat in double overtime against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night. Four of the Kings’ five losses during their skid have come by single digits. Buddy Hield leads Sacramento with 20.2 points per game despite shooting only 41.1 percent from the field. He has connected on 35.5 percent of his 3-pointers and is averaging 10.3 attempts per game from beyond the arc. This will mark the third meeting of the season between the Suns and Kings. Phoenix won the season opener 124-95 on Oct. 23, and the Kings came back with a 120-116 win Nov. 19. The home team has won each matchup.

Win: Sacramento Kings
Line: Phoenix Suns +1.5
Total Points: Over 209.5

TRAIL BLAZERS VS LAKERS

Venue: Moda Center | Start: 2:00pm AEDT

The Los Angeles Lakers not only are on a four-game losing streak heading into a road game Saturday against the Portland Trail Blazers, they could be without LeBron James because of a groin contusion. James, who has scored 25.7 points per game with an NBA-leading 10.6 assists, will travel with the team but is officially listed as questionable. The Lakers are coming off a 111-106 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers on Christmas Day, falling to 0-2 against their in-town rival. Kyle Kuzma scored a season-high 25 for the Lakers on Wednesday two games after returning from an ankle injury. Anthony Davis scored 24 points against the Clippers, while James had 23. The Lakers have not won since topping the Atlanta Hawks on Dec. 15. The Trail Blazers nearly pulled off a rally from a 23-point third-quarter deficit at Utah Thursday, getting as close as a point before falling 121-115. Damian Lillard scored 34 points and went 7 of 13 from 3-point range, one game after missing all 10 of his 3-point attempts in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Portland has lost consecutive games after a four-game winning streak. Hassan Whiteside had just six rebounds for the Trail Blazers on Thursday, ending a 15-game streak with double digits in boards.

Win: LA Lakers
Line: Toronto Raptors +6.5
Total Points: Under 216.5

CLIPPERS VS JAZZ

Venue: Staples Center | Start: 2:30pm AEDT

The Los Angeles Clippers might have won their showdown game on Christmas Day, but they will enter a home matchup with the Utah Jazz on Saturday having not won consecutive games in more than two weeks. The Clippers have been trading victories and defeats for the past seven games, including unexpected defeats to the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder in that stretch. But 35 points from Kawhi Leonard and another 17 from Paul George got the Clippers past the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. The Clippers have played just two of their last 11 games on their home court, although they did play in their own building on Christmas, just as the visitor to the Lakers. The Jazz are coming off a 121-115 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in a game they led by 23 at one point in the third quarter. Portland rallied to within one point before the Jazz put the game away late behind 35 points from Donovan Mitchell, including 28 of those in the second half. Jordan Clarkson had nine points in his Jazz debut. Utah enters with six victories in its past seven games. The Clippers and Jazz split a pair of meetings early in the season.

Win: LA Clippers
Line: Utah Jazz +8.5
Total Points: Under 220.5