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Sunday, January 12, 2020

ROCKETS VS TIMBERWOLVES

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

The Minnesota Timberwolves probably need to activate some firepower in their offense before Saturday night’s game road game against the Houston Rockets, who just happen to be coming off their worst scoring performance of the season. It’s unlikely the Rockets will be in another rut for a second consecutive game. The Rockets were dealt a 113-92 loss Thursday night at Oklahoma City. Rockets guard Russell Westbrook returned to face his former team and came through with 34 points, even though the rest of his teammates weren’t as productive. Rockets guard James Harden is averaging an NBA-best 37.9 points per game, scoring at least 35 points in the three games prior to the trip to Oklahoma City, but had just 17 against the Thunder. It will be only the second home game for Houston across the first 14 days of January. The Timberwolves have won three of their last four games, including two of three since Andrew Wiggins returned from an extended bout with the flu. Minnesota won 116-102 against Portland on Thursday night. Each of the Timberwolves’ three January victories have come by at least 14 points. The Rockets won 125-105 at Minnesota in November, when Harden tallied 47 points.

Win: Houston Rockets
Line: Minnesota Timberwolves -10.5
Total Points: Over 231.5

CELTICS VS PELICANS

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

The New Orleans Pelicans are still waiting for the debut of Zion Williamson, but they seem to be doing fine without him on the court. They visit the Boston Celtics on Saturday night after winning seven of their last nine games. The most-recent success came Friday night with a 123-111 road victory against the New York Knicks. The Pelicans have scored at least 123 points in three games in a row, sparked by Brandon Ingram’s offense. He has posted 35, 29 and 28 points respectively, leading New Orleans in scoring in each of those. It’s the third time since mid-December that Ingram has been the team’s leading scorer in three consecutive games. His only four-game stretch as the team’s top scorer came in the first four games of the season. The Celtics lost Thursday to Philadelphia, unable to take advantage of the absence of center Joel Embiid. But perhaps worse than that was an injured left thumb suffered by guard Kemba Walker in that game. Boston was off Friday, but that means Walker is bound to be a game-time decision for the Pelicans’ game. Boston has its first three-game losing streak of the season. The Celtics will play for the third time in four nights. This will be the first meeting of the season between the teams with a rematch later this month in New Orleans.

Win: Boston Celtics
Line: Boston Celtics -11.5
Total Points: Under 223.5

PISTONS VS BULLS

Venue: Little Caesars Arena | Start: 11:00am AEDT

The Detroit Pistons have been involved in four consecutive close games, splitting those going into Saturday night’s home game against the Chicago Bulls. Derrick Rose was Detroit’s leading scorer for three straight games until Andre Drummond’s 28 points and 23 rebounds in Thursday night’s home loss to Cleveland. Drummond has averaged 19.8 rebounds across the past four games (and at 16.2 rebounds per game for the season). His contributions have been huge in the absence of Blake Griffin, who had knee surgery. Rose is bound to be fired up for a game against his former team. He had a team-high 18 points in a Nov. 20 loss to Chicago. The Bulls then topped the Pistons 119-107 last month. Chicago will be playing on back-to-back nights, trying to snap a six-game skid. The Bulls have won only once since the Dec. 21 triumph against Detroit. On Friday night, Chicago dropped a 116-105 decision to the visiting Indiana Pacers despite 43 points from Zach LaVine. He made 14 shots from the field in the game compared to 12 baskets by the other four Chicago starters combined. LaVine was 8-for-13 on 3-pointers with the rest of the team going 10-for-28.

Win: Detroit Pistons
Line: Chicago Bulls +3.5
Total Points: Under 217.5

THUNDER VS LAKERS

Venue: Chesapeake Energy Arena | Start: 12:00pm AEDT

Two nights after holding down the powerful Houston Rockets offense, the Oklahoma City Thunder will face a Los Angeles Lakers team on Saturday that will be on the second night of a back-to-back. The Thunder earned a 113-92 home victory over the Rockets on Thursday, holding NBA leading-scorer James Harden to 17 points, while former OKC fan-favorite Russell Westbrook scored 34 points in his return. Chris Paul, who went from the Rockets to the Thunder in the Westbrook deal, scored 18 points, while Danilo Gallinari had 23 points and 11 rebounds. The Thunder has found a flow with six victories in their last eight games and 11 in their last 13 contests. Now comes a home meeting with a Lakers team that could be without Anthony Davis. L.A’s leading scorer and rebounder missed Friday’s game with a bruise near his tailbone. LeBron James stepped up with 35 points against the Mavericks. The Lakers won consecutive games in November against the Thunder. They had a 112-107 victory at home on Nov. 19 and went to Oklahoma City for a 130-127 victory on Nov. 22. Davis was the Lakers’ leading scorer in both victories. The Thunder’s Dennis Schroder scored a season-best 31 in the first meeting, matching it a month later against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Win: LA Lakers
Line: LA Lakers +7.5
Total Points: Under 231.5

MAVERICKS VS 76ERS

Venue: American Airlines Center | Start: 12:30pm AEDT

Even without Joel Embiid, the Philadelphia 76ers will not be short on confidence ahead of a matchup at Dallas against the Mavericks. With Embiid out for as many as two weeks because of a surgical procedure to a finger on his left hand, the Sixers still earned a 109-98 victory over the Boston Celtics on Thursday. Josh Richardson scored 29 points and Ben Simmons 19 points with nine rebounds, even moving from point guard to center for a stretch. Also helping the Sixers’ confidence is a two-game winning streak that followed a four-game losing run immediately after a Christmas Day victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. The Mavericks will conclude a season-long six-game homestand coming off consecutive defeats to the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets, who entered as the top two teams in the Western Conference. Luka Docic had 25 points Friday, but the Mavericks were never close in a 129-114 defeat to the Lakers, who were without leading scorer and rebounder Anthony Davis. Since a run of 10 victories in 11 games ended Dec. 8, the Mavericks have gone 7-9. They were without Doncic for four games in that stretch because of a sprained ankle and have been without Kristaps Porzingis for the past the past six games with a sore knee.

Win: Dallas Mavericks
Line: Philadelphia 76ers +2.5
Total Points: Under 223.5

NUGGETS VS CAVALIERS

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

After one last burst of energy to make sure their road trip came to a successful close, the Denver Nuggets return home Saturday for a meeting with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Nuggets won a road duel with the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday when Nikola Jokic scored 26 of his 33 points in the second half to get the best of Luka Doncic, who scored 27 points. Jokic had 21 points in the third quarter alone while also hitting the winning basket with 7.9 seconds remaining. The Nuggets have allowed just 10 offensive rebounds over their past two games. Denver went 3-2 on a five-game trip that started Dec. 31. The Nuggets are now 12-3 going back to Dec. 12 and return home where they have gone 15-4 on the season. The Cavaliers will enter off a 115-112 overtime victory over the Detroit Pistons that ended a five-game losing streak. The victory came on the same day head coach John Beilein apologized to his team after using the word “thugs” in reference to the squad’s play. Tristan Thompson scored 35 points, while Kevin Love hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 37.9 seconds remaining in the extra period. Cleveland was without Kevin Porter Jr. (knee), Dante Exum (illness) and Larry Nance Jr. (knee).

Win: Denver Nuggets
Line: Cleveland Cavaliers +12.5
Total Points: Under 217.5

TRAIL BLAZERS VS BUCKS

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

Consecutive games against the same team didn’t work for the Milwaukee Bucks this week and now they will try games on consecutive nights when they play on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. At least this time the Bucks will be playing different teams after they defeated the Sacramento Kings 127-106 on Friday. In recent consecutive games against the San Antonio Spurs, Milwaukee lost the second one Monday on the road. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored just 13 points on nine shots from the field in Friday’s victory. Khris Middleton scored 27 while Eric Bledsoe had 24. Saturday is the Bucks’ final game in a six-game stretch against Western Conference teams, going 4-1 in the run so far. The Bucks have won seven of their last eight and are 16-4 on the road. The Trail Blazers will enter off 116-102 defeat at Minnesota on Thursday and have now dropped seven of their last nine games. Carmelo Anthony scored eight points against the Timberwolves after scoring 28 two days earlier against the Toronto Raptors. Damian Lillard had 20 points while Hassan Whiteside had 14 rebounds at Minnesota. Portland is returning home after going 2-3 on a five-game trip.

Win: Milwaukee Bucks
Line: Milwaukee Bucks -4.5
Total Points: Under 230.5