Something new tonight: The Cavaliers on TNT! They have potential East Finals matchup against Boston, while Denver-Golden State looks like a dog tonight – but look closer at that one for a possible trap.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics, 8 p.m.
The line: Cavaliers -2 (no total yet)
How they enter: Boston has played well since returning from the All-Star Break in winning four of five (2-3 ATS) – which includes victories at the Lakers and Blazers. The C’s beat the sliding Knicks by four on Tuesday night in Nate Robinson’s debut with Boston (he had four points). Cleveland had lost three straight coming out of the break but then righted its ship by beating the Hornets by 10 on Tuesday. Antawn Jamison made his first start as a Cavalier in that one; he had been coming off the bench.
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Scouting report: The reason many books didn’t post a line (or total) until midday Thursday was because of the status of Celtics star Paul Pierce. He has a sprained right thumb and sat out Tuesday’s win against the Knicks, and it’s almost certain he sits out tonight as well as Pierce didn’t practice Wednesday. Pierce was stellar on opening night of the NBA season when the Celtics beat the Cavs, 95-89, with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Pierce’s replacement in the starting lineup would be Marquis Daniels, as he started against the Knicks and had 14 points. But Daniels also missed practice Wednesday with an illness and is questionable tonight. Thus, Tony Allen might get the start. Because of such a possible short bench, Boston might have to use seldom-used rookie Marcus Landry to cover LeBron James at times (yikes). If the Cavs can just get to 100 points, they are money: 31-2 overall. Cleveland is relatively healthy, with Mo Williams back in the starting lineup. But he’s just 9-for-33 from the field since returning four games ago. Former Celtic Leon Powe could see his first action of the year for Cleveland tonight after sitting out all season injured. Including tonight’s game, Boston and Cleveland will meet three more times this season.
Key trends: The Cavs have lost five straight in Boston. And they are just 1-6 ATS in their past seven games overall.
No team in the NBA has a worse ATS home record than Boston (6-18-1).
The home team has won 16 of the past 17 meetings in this series.
The pick: With Pierce out, it’s hard to bet against the Cavs and also overlook that horrid Boston home ATS record. Take Cleveland.
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Denver Nuggets at Golden State Warriors, 10:30 p.m.
The line: Nuggets -5.5 (226.5)
How they enter: Denver has won two of three since the break, including beating East powers Boston and Cleveland. The one loss was at Washington less than 24 hours after winning a thrilling overtime game in Cleveland, so you could almost see that one coming. Denver should be well-rested, not having played since beating the C’s on Sunday. The Warriors have lost three of five since the break, including a 110-102 home loss to the Sixers on Tuesday.
Scouting report: Really this one shouldn’t be very close, although this will be the first game that Denver plays without coach George Karl since his cancer diagnosis. Adrian Dantley is the interim coach while Karl gets treatment. Thus, this could be a bit of a trap for Denver, which is just 12-10 against teams with below-.500 records (by comparison, 6-0 against the Lakers, Cavs, Celtics and Magic) and just 6-10 in its past 16 road games. The Nuggets are 3-0 (1-2 ATS) against the Warriors this year, and every game has been a shootout, with the totals at 242, 245 and 241. Golden State’s Stephen Curry continues to make a push for Rookie of the Year, as he is averaging 20.1 points per game, 7.1 assists per game and 5.1 rebounds per game this month. Still, the Warriors are just 3-7 (5-5 ATS) in that stretch. And it appears that Golden State center Andris Biedrins has found his way into coach Don Nelson’s doghouse. In 10 February games, Biedrins is averaging 3.9 points and he played only nine minutes Tuesday night and none in the second half. If there’s one reason to watch this game, it’s to watch Biedrins possibly get to the free throw line, where he is shooting 13 percent.
Key trends: The over is 4-0 in the last four meetings.
The Warriors are 14-6 ATS in their last 20 against the Western Conference.
Denver is 4-11 ATS as a road favorite.
The pick: This is the first game of a back-to-back for Denver, which also could be glancing ahead at Sunday’s big game with the Lakers. So add that to Karl’s absence and a few signs point to a struggle. But 5.5 points is too few to take Golden State. So go with Denver (which has covered 10 of its past 11 with at least three days’ rest) and the ‘over’.