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NBA Tips – Saturday, March 7, 2020

WIZARDS VS HAWKS

Venue: Capital One Arena | Start: 11:00am AEDT

The Washington Wizards will be back at home for Friday night’s game against the Atlanta Hawks trying to shake off a rough road trip when they went 1-3 in a Western swing. The Wizards are coming off Wednesday night’s 125-102 loss at Portland. Washington guard Bradley Beal is the second-leading scorer in the NBA this season. He racked up 29 points in the Portland game and Davis Bertans added 20 points. In Washington’s last five losses overall, the Wizards have surrendered at least 125 points in all of them and that’s among the reasons they rank at or near the bottom in several of the league’s defensive categories. The Hawks are one of the teams that has torched the Wizards this winger, with a 152-133 victory in a late-January matchup in Atlanta. That was one of consecutive games when Washington surrendered more than 150 points. The Hawks were trying to build their first three-game winning streak of the season but they lost Monday night’s home game to Memphis. Even high-scoring Trae Young was off the mark that night with only 19 points. Atlanta has missed forward Cam Reddish, who sat out Monday with a back issue. This is the first game of a three-game homestand for Washington. That Hawks haven’t played since Monday, but they’ll be busy with a game Saturday at Memphis in a rematch from Monday’s home loss.

Win: Washington Wizards
Line: Washington Wizards -5.5
Total Points: Under 240.5

NETS VS SPURS

Venue: Barclays Center | Start: 11:30am AEDT

The San Antonio Spurs developed a feel-good story for assistant coach Tim Duncan, who directed the team to a comeback victory in coach Gregg Popovich’s absence Tuesday night at Charlotte. Popovich had a personal business matter to address and missed the game but all indications have been that he’ll be back for the next Spurs game, which comes Friday night at Brooklyn. The 104-103 outcome in Charlotte gave the Spurs just their second victory in their last five games. The stop in Brooklyn is the second assignment on a three-game road swing for the Spurs, who could have center LaMarcus Aldridge back after missing four games with an ankle injury. The Nets, who still remain barely in position for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, had no such positive developments in their 118-79 loss Wednesday night to the visiting Memphis Grizzlies. The Nets had scored at least 100 points in every game since Jan. 26 before the offensive meltdown. Taurean Prince’s 15 points were the top scoring mark for the Nets against Memphis. The Nets played without Garrett Temple, who had an ankle injury. Now losers of five of their last six games, the Nets will be anxious to try to make amends when the Spurs arrive. San Antonio defeated the Nets 118-105 on Dec. 19 at home behind 27 points from Patty Mills.

Win: Brooklyn Nets
Line: San Antonio Spurs +3.5
Total Points: Over 225.5

KNICKS VS THUNDER

Venue: Madison Square Garden | Start: 11:30am AEDT

The Oklahoma City Thunder needed to get the offense cranked up again this week and there were signs of that. The next heat check on that comes with Friday night’s road game against the New York Knicks. The Thunder edged the host Detroit Pistons 114-10 on Wednesday night, boosted by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s 27 points to snap the team’s two-game skid. By game’s end, the Thunder had a 61-percent shooting rate from the field. Gilgeous-Alexander moved back into the team scoring lead at 19.3 points per game, ahead of Danilo Gallinari (19.2). The Knicks are coming off a 112-104 setback to the visiting Utah Jazz. Julius Randle had 32 points for the Knicks, boosting his scoring average to a team-best 19.4 points per game. The Knicks have been dealing with various inconsistencies. For instance, rookie forward R.J. Barrett scored 27 points Monday to equal his season high and then had 14 points in the next game. Barrett averages 14.1 points per game. The Knicks have been without reserve center Mitchell Robinson (hamstring) and guard Dennis Smith Jr. (concussion protocol). The Knicks had a six-game losing streak before winning their previous two games prior to Wednesday. They’ll be playing the fourth game of a five-game homestand.

Win: Oklahoma City Thunder
Line: New York Knicks +6.5
Total Points: Under 217.5

TIMBERWOLVES VS MAGIC

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

D’Angelo Russell gets a rare opportunity for a Western Conference player when he leads the Minnesota Timberwolves up against the visiting Orlando Magic on Friday night. A product of Montverde Academy just 25 miles west of the Magic Kingdom, Russell had 26 points and 12 assists for the Golden State Warriors against the Magic in January. He was subsequently traded to the Timberwolves, who visited Orlando for a 136-125 loss last month, one in which Russell put up 28 points. When he takes a third crack at the Eastern Conference club on Friday, he will be seeking to contribute to another rarity — a three-game Timberwolves winning streak. They had one to open the season, but haven’t done better than two in a row since, including beating New Orleans and Chicago in their last two games. Russell averaged 21.0 points in those wins, and got plenty of help from fellow newcomer Malik Beasley, who went for 26.0 points per night. The playoff-hopeful Magic, meanwhile, are in desperate need of a win, especially considering they’ve already opened a four-game trip with a loss at Miami (their third straight), and still have visits to Houston and Memphis ahead. Facing the Timberwolves without injured Karl-Anthony Towns — as will be the case again in the rematch — Nikola Vucevic recorded a 27-point, 10-rebound double-double in the February win.

Win: Orlando Magic
Line: Minnesota Timberwolves +2.5
Total Points: Over 234.5

BULLS VS PACERS

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

Malcolm Brogdon’s status is uncertain as the Indiana Pacers visit the Chicago Bulls on Friday night. Brogdon left the Pacers’ most recent game against the Milwaukee Bucks after 11 minutes because of a sore left hip, and he told reporters afterward that he “felt something pull” while trying to defend a shot from Bucks guard Khris Middleton. If Brogdon cannot go, that leaves a big void on offense for Indiana. He has been a consistent contributor all season with 16.3 points to go along with 7.1 assists and 4.7 rebounds in 48 games. Another Pacers player whose status is questionable is Victor Oladipo, who has sat out the last two games because of swelling and soreness in his surgically repaired knee. Pacers coach Nate McMillan downplayed the issue but did not confirm whether Oladipo would suit up against the Bulls. Chicago is looking for a better effort after a 115-108 loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night. Bulls coach Jim Boylen blasted his players after the loss, saying they lacked toughness in the game. Part of the problem is that several players are coming back from injuries and have yet to find their rhythm. That list includes Otto Porter, Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen, all of whom have returned as of late.

Win: Indiana Pacers
Line: Indiana Pacers -3.5
Total Points: Under 211.5

PELICANS VS HEAT

Venue: Smoothie King Center | Start: 12:00pm AEDT

The red-hot Miami Heat have won four straight games, and they will look to increase that winning streak when they visit the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night. Miami wrapped up a 4-1 homestand with a 116-113 win over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night, and while the game might not have been a masterpiece, it was good enough to improve the Heat’s record to 40-22. Duncan Robinson hopes to keep his hot hand after scoring a team-high 27 points on 9-for-12 shooting against the Magic. Goran Dragic added 25 points and nine assists off the bench, while Kelly Olynyk chipped in 16 off the bench. Miami survived despite a cool night from Jimmy Butler, who finished with 12 points, and it stands to reason that Butler will look for a breakout against the Pelicans. New Orleans enters the game on a three-game losing streak, including a 127-123 overtime loss on the road against the Dallas Mavericks in its most recent game Wednesday night. The Pelicans got 27 points from Brandon Ingram and 25 points from Lonzo Ball in the game, but it was not enough. Rookie sensation Zion Williamson is coming off a 21-point, six-rebound performance against Dallas and will look to continue his quick development against the Heat.

Win: New Orleans Pelicans
Line: Miami Heat +1.5
Total Points: Under 232.5

CELTICS VS JAZZ

Venue: TD Garden | Start: 12:00pm AEDT

The Utah Jazz will go for their fourth win in a row when they visit the Boston Celtics on Friday night. Utah is coming off a 112-104 win on the road against the New York Knicks on Wednesday night, which followed a 126-113 road win over the Cleveland Cavaliers and a 129-119 win over the Washington Wizards a week ago. Utah is 39-22 and is tied with the Houston Rockets for fourth place in the Western Conference standings. One of the top four playoff spots could be critical as the Jazz look to secure home-court advantage in the first round. Utah boasts a 21-9 record at home, compared with an 18-13 mark on the road. Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic led the Jazz in their most recent game with 23 points apiece, and Rudy Gobert notched a double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Boston comes to town with two overtime losses in its past three games, but the Celtics remain one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference at 42-19. That includes a 19-12 record on the road. Boston is led by Jayson Tatum, who dropped 32 points in the Celtics’ 112-106 win over the Cavaliers in their most recent game Wednesday night.

Win: Boston Celtics
Line: Utah Jazz +1.5
Total Points: Under 221.5

MAVERICKS VS GRIZZLIES

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

The Dallas Mavericks have followed two of their last three wins with a loss. They have to hope their latest triumph — Wednesday over New Orleans — doesn’t help produce another defeat when they host the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night. The Mavericks managed to survive the Pelicans 127-123 in overtime, but having to exhaust Kristaps Porzingis for 45 minutes could have a carry-over effect for guy whose playing time has been treated with kid gloves all season. And then there’s Luka Doncic, who not only reinjured his sprained left thumb in the win, but woke up Thursday morning feeling ill after putting in 41 minutes and couldn’t attend practice. The high-scoring Mavericks have scored 116 or more points in eight of their last 12 games, but the attack — with or without their stars — figures to be tested by a Grizzlies defense that’s been dominant during a three-game winning streak. By holding the Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta and Brooklyn all under 90 points, Memphis became the first team this season to accomplish the defensive three-peat. And that’s only half the story. The Grizzlies have been equally impressive at the other end of the court, totaling 44 3-pointers in the wins, helping them average 116.7 points, which has produced a 31.7-point average margin of victory. Dallas’ offense dominated the clubs’ first meeting in a 138-122 win at Memphis, before the Grizzlies’ defense improved in a 121-107 triumph at Dallas last month.

Win: Dallas Mavericks
Line: Memphis Grizzlies +7.5
Total Points: Under 226.5

SUNS VS TRAIL BLAZERS

Venue: Talking Stick Resort Arena | Start: 1:00pm AEDT

The Portland Trail Blazers still have time to make a run at one of the top eight spots in the Western Conference standings, but they will need to post wins against struggling teams in order to strengthen their chances. Portland will meet one such team Friday night when it visits the Phoenix Suns, who have lost four straight games and sit at 24-38 on the season. The Trail Blazers have won back-to-back games after losing the previous three in a row. In Portland’s most recent game, a 125-104 blowout win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night, Carmelo Anthony scored a team-high 25 points while making 8 of 13 shots from the field. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were not far behind with 22 points apiece, and both players will look to lead a backcourt attack against Phoenix. The Suns are coming off a 123-114 loss against the Toronto Raptors, which marked the fourth time in the past five games that they have given up at least 110 points. Devin Booker led Phoenix with 22 points and 10 assists, while Deandre Ayton (13 points, 14 boards) and Ricky Rubio (16 points, 10 assists) also finished with double-doubles. A hot offensive attack might be the only way for the Suns to get past the Trail Blazers, given Phoenix’s issues on the defensive end.

Win: Portland Trail Blazers
Line: Phoenix Suns +3.5
Total Points: Under 231.5

LAKERS VS BUCKS

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

The best in the East and best in the West go head-to-head for the final time in the regular season Friday night when the Milwaukee Bucks visit the Los Angeles Lakers. The Bucks have won seven of eight, losing only at Miami on Monday night, while the Lakers have taken nine of 10, falling only at Memphis last Saturday. The Bucks used superior 3-point shooting and superior depth to turn back the Lakers 111-104 in Milwaukee in December in a game in which LeBron James (21 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists) basically played Giannis Antetokounmpo (34 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists) on even terms. What wasn’t even was Milwaukee’s 48-36 advantage in 3-pointers, as well as the host’s 34-4 dominance in bench points. The rematch comes amid a rough patch in each team’s schedule. Having faced Miami and Indiana in their last two games, the Bucks now must endure a four-day, three-game Western swing that ends at altitude in Denver on Monday. Meanwhile, the Lakers probably could used a breather after playing Philadelphia and Milwaukee in succession, but won’t get one with the rival Clippers on deck on Sunday.

Win: LA Lakers
Line: Milwaukee Bucks +1.5
Total Points: Under 228.5