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NBA Tips – Saturday, February 22, 2020
WIZARDS VS CAVALIERS
Venue: Capital One Arena | Start: 11:00am AEDT
After some All-Star break turmoil, the Cleveland Cavaliers return to the court Friday for a road game against the Washington Wizards with new head coach J.B. Bickerstaff at the helm. John Beilein resigned as coach referencing the toll that losing had taken on him. At 14-40, the Cavaliers have the second-worst record in the NBA. They not only have a new coach, they now have big man Andre Drummond, who played in two games after he was acquired in a trade with the Detroit Pistons. Drummond scored 14 points and grabbed 15 rebounds as the Cavs went into the break with a 127-105 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. The Wizards return to play just outside of playoff eligibility in the Eastern Conference despite a 20-33 record. The time away did disrupt some positive momentum as the Wizards won their last two games before the break and have won five of their last seven. One of those two defeats, though, was against the lowly Golden State Warriors. The last time they were on the court Feb. 12, the Wizards earned a 114-96 victory over the New York Knicks when Bradley Beal scored 30 points. Beal has 12 consecutive games of at least 25 points and has averaged 34.7 over that stretch.
Win: Washington Wizards
Line: Cleveland Cavaliers +6.5
Total Points: OVer 236.5
MAGIC VS MAVERICKS
Venue: Amway Center | Start: 11:00am AEDT
The Orlando Magic had a two-game winning streak interrupted by the NBA All-Star break but now there’s a chance to extend the run to three, something that hasn’t happened since early December. Friday night’s home game will come against the Dallas Mavericks. Aaron Gordon has led the Magic in scoring in the past two games. Dallas has this game followed by Saturday night’s visit to Atlanta. Dallas is 4-3 this month. Luka Doncic is the Mavericks’ leading scorer with 28.9 points per game and he returned for a game prior to the break following a seven-game absence with an ankle injury. Kristaps Porzingis found a groove for the Mavericks prior to the break, helping fill some of the void when Doncic was sidelined. Dallas could have Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the lineup for the first time after signing with the team prior to the break. He exited Charlotte via a buyout. The Mavericks won 107-106 in a Nov. 6 meeting, with Doncic scoring 27 points. Gordon’s 23 points led the Magic in what would be the final defeat of a four-game losing streak. This will be the fourth straight home game for Orlando, which doesn’t play again until Monday at Brooklyn.
Win: Dallas Mavericks
Line: Dallas Mavericks -4.5
Total Points: Under 220.5
KNICKS VS PACERS
Venue: Madison Square Garden | Start: 11:30am AEDT
A couple of teams that have endured rough patches will try to get on track when the Indiana Pacers travel to face the New York Kincks on Friday in the first game for each following the All-Star break. The Pacers went into the layoff on an uptick by snapping a six-game losing streak by winning against the Milwaukee Bucks behind T.J. Warren’s 35 points. But the Pacers often rely on Domantas Sabonis, who had 25 points in the most-recent meeting with the Knicks. New York beat the Pacers by 92-85 on Feb. 1, with former Knick Marcus Morris Sr. racking up 28 points. Indiana owns their own 104-103 victory over the Knicks on Dec. 7. Knicks rookie RJ Barrett took part in the NBA Rising Stars game. The Knicks lost 114-96 to Washington before the break, falling to 10-35 when surrendering 100 or more points. Julius Randle had 21 points for the Knicks in that game. The Knicks hope to have more options after Moe Harkless played in the final game before the break after arriving in a trade from the Los Angeles Clippers. After this home game with Indiana, the Knicks hit the road for their next three games. The Pacers don’t have consecutive days off again until March 11-13.
Win: Indiana Pacers
Line: New York Knicks +6.5
Total Points: Under 213.5
RAPTORS VS SUNS
Venue: Scotiabank Arena | Start: 11:30am AEDT
The Toronto Raptors and Phoenix Suns go head-to-head in the first of two meetings over the next 12 days when they meet north of the border on Friday night. Both teams were last seen before the All-Star break doing something that hasn’t happened often recently. The Raptors were beaten 101-91 at Brooklyn last Wednesday, ending a 15-game winning streak. That run included 11 games against teams under .500, and they’ll see another in the Suns, who had lost six of seven before slipping past the Golden State Warriors 112-106 last Wednesday. Both teams have the standings on their mind as the second half begins. The Suns hope to capitalize on improved health — they get Deandre Ayton (ankle), Dario Saric (ankle) and Aron Baynes (hip) all back for this one — as they attempt to erase a 6 1/2-game deficit in their Western Conference playoff chase. The Raptors, meanwhile, remain without Marc Gasol (hamstring) as they try to hold off the Boston Celtics atop the Atlantic Division. The Raptors have won four straight against the Suns over the past two seasons, but little has come easy, with just a 7.5-point average margin of victory. The clubs meet in a rematch on March 3 in Phoenix.
Win: Toronto Raptors
Line: Phoenix Suns +8.5
Total Points: Over 229.5
THUNDER VS NUGGETS
Venue: Chesapeake Energy Arena | Start: 12:00pm AEDT
A pair of playoff contenders in the Western Conference will meet Friday when the Denver Nuggets play host to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Nuggets went into the break as the second-place team in the conference, losing a narrow overtime battle against the top team, the Los Angeles Lakers, before the All-Star break arrived. Denver won six of their last eight games before getting some downtime and both defeats were in overtime. Back from an ankle injury, Jamal Murray went on a scoring burst for Denver with 29.0 points per game in the five contests after his return. He has scored 18.9 points per game this season. All-Star Nikola Jokic has averaged 20.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game. The Thunder was on a 9-1 run before going 1-2 just before the break, but they did close with a 123-118 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. After a 1-4 start to the season with a revamped roster, the Thunder is in sync now behind All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who has scored 17.4 points per game with 6.7 assists. Former Clippers Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari are scoring 19.5 and 19.3 points respectively. After rumors Gallinari could be traded to the Miami Heat, the soon-to-be free agent will close out the season with the Thunder.
Win: Oklahoma City Thunder
Line: Denver Nuggets +1.5
Total Points: Under 216.5
TIMBERWOLVES VS CELTICS
Venue: Target Center | Start: 12:00pm AEDT
Two teams whose last win came over the Los Angeles Clippers square off Friday night with little else in common when the Minnesota Timberwolves play host to the Boston Celtics. Minnesota’s shocker over the Clippers stands as the only win in its last 16 games. And now the Timberwolves are further demoralized by the prospect of having to go indefinitely without star center Karl-Anthony Towns, who is out with a sprained left wrist. Boston, meanwhile, is expecting Jaylen Brown back from a strained calf, which would mean all hands on deck for the start of a four-game trip. The Celtics have won eight of nine, including their win over the Clippers in the last game before the break. Boston has won six straight over three seasons against Minnesota, but hasn’t seen the Timberwolves this year, meaning the Celtics will be getting a first look at recent imports D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez and James Johnson all playing together. Beasley has been on a nice run since joining Minnesota from Denver, averaging 22.0 points and 6.7 rebounds in three games. Boston’s Jayson Tatum has been even better in his last 11 games, going for 26.7 points and 7.2 rebounds.
Win: Boston Celtics
Line: Minnesota Timberwolves +8.5
Total Points: Under 226.5
JAZZ VS SPURS
Venue: Vivint Smart Home Arena | Start: 1:00pm AEDT
The Utah Jazz return from the All-Star break in search of a fifth consecutive victory when the San Antonio Spurs visit on Friday night. The Jazz is 20-5 in home games, most recently defeating the Miami Heat 116-101 in the final game prior to the break. This will be the second of six consecutive home games for the Jazz. Despite the home success, Utah is just 2-2 in its last four outings at Salt Lake City. Utah guard Donovan Mitchell averages 24.3 points per game, although he scored 31 against San Antonio on Jan. 29. In four of Utah’s last six losses overall, defense has been an issue with the Jazz giving up at least 124 points in each of those setbacks. San Antonio won last month’s meeting with Utah 127-120 behind DeMar DeRozan’s 39 points. DeRozan sat out the last game before the All-Star break because of back spasms but is expected to bring his team-leading 23.0 points per game to the court Friday. LaMarcus Aldridge tallied 25 points and 14 rebounds when the Spurs went into the break with a 114-106 road victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder in an outcome that snapped a five-game losing streak. Utah’s Rudy Gobert notched his 100th blocked shot of the season in the Miami game, giving him at least 100 rejections in six consecutive seasons.
Win: Utah Jazz
Line: Utah Jazz -7.5
Total Points: Under 223.5
LAKERS VS GRIZZLIES
Venue: Staples Center | Start: 2:30pm AEDT
The Los Angeles Lakers get a scheduling advantage when they seek a third consecutive win against the visiting Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night. While the Lakers got an additional day off for the All-Star break, the Grizzlies endured a hard-fought 129-125 loss in Sacramento on Thursday. It was just the fifth defeat for Memphis in its last 20 games, with the Grizzlies able to spread court time among nine players, who each had between 18 and 33 minutes on the front end of the back-to-back. The Grizzlies didn’t put up much of a fight in their earlier trip to L.A., falling 120-91 in October. The rematch in Memphis a month later was much more competitive, with LeBron James coming through down the stretch to secure a 109-108 Lakers victory. James and co-star Anthony Davis are coming off a victorious effort in the All-Star Game, with Davis dropping in the game-winning free throw. The duo combined for 52 points in the win at Memphis in November. Memphis rookie Ja Morant countered with 26, but he wasn’t on his game Thursday in Sacramento. He finished with 19 points and had a game-high five turnovers. The Grizzlies had 19 total turnovers in the contest. The Lakers entered the break with three consecutive victories.
Win: LA Lakers
Line: LA Lakers -10.5
Total Points: Over 233.5
TRAIL BLAZERS VS PELICANS
Venue: Moda Center | Start: 2:30pm AEDT
Suddenly a must-see team with the arrival of Zion Williamson, the New Orleans Pelicans will take their act on the road following the All-Star break with a matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. Williamson’s NBA debut after knee surgery didn’t happen until Jan. 22 but he put on a show from there with 22.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game over 10 contests he saw action, as the Pelicans won five of them. Finding team chemistry with their new scoring threat is the Pelicans’ focus now. Point guard Lonzo Ball has averaged 8.4 assists since Williamson’s arrival, above his 6.7 mark on the season. New Orleans did win six of nine games before the break arrived. Portland used a January scoring burst from Damian Lillard to get on track, winning four consecutive games and six of eight at one point, but once all those points cooled, the Trail Blazers went 1-3 just before the break. Lillard left a Feb. 12 defeat at Memphis with a right groin strain and will not play Friday. He is expected to be out until the end of the month. Two games before the break, the Pelicans rolled to a 138-117 home victory over the Trail Blazers with Williamson scoring 31 points for New Orleans, while Lillard had 20.
Win: New Orleans Pelicans
Line: New Orleans Pelicans -5.5
Total Points: Under 238.5