For the second week in a row, the ABC Saturday night showcase game was ruined by a team resting its star players. This time it was Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue sitting LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love at the Clippers (who predictably won easily). Irving supposedly was dealing with a minor injury and Love just returned from a long absence due to a knee problem, but LeBron was fine. Cavs GM David Griffin got a call from the league office shortly after the team announced its decision Saturday. On the telecast, ABC's Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy called the decision "an absolute joke" and "a prosecutable offense." They are also former head coaches, and I'm sure rested a guy or two who could have played back in their day.
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This whole stars resting thing is simply embarrassing, but what is the solution? The team has to do what's best for itself and isn't beholden to TV. Then again, the only reason everyone is making so much money is because of television. Perhaps if a player sits out, he has to sit a minimum of three games or something? Like a mini-disabled list stint? Then that punishes the fans in the other cities. Keep in mind that guys like Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan never sat out games when healthy. Perhaps the NBA needs to avoid scheduling back-to-back games altogether (Cavs were at Lakers on Sunday), but then the season would drag into July - which I frankly think would be a good thing. That's a dead month on the sports calendar otherwise. The league is starting the season a week earlier next year in an effort to improve scheduling, but that's not enough.
Bulls at Raptors ( -6.5, 203)
Chicago ended a two-game losing run with a 95-86 victory over visiting Utah on Saturday. I mentioned that was one of my favorite "under" plays of the season, and it easily stayed below the total of 192. Bobby Portis had a career-high 22 points and rookie Denzel Valentine his first double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. With Dwyane Wade out and having traded Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, those two are playing a lot more. Toronto won a second straight Sunday, 116-91 over Indiana. DeMar DeRozan scored 22 points before resting the entire fourth quarter. It was the first meeting between the teams since Game 7 of last year's first-round playoff series, which was won by Toronto.Chicago is 2-0 vs. Toronto this season and has taken the past 11 in the series overall.
Key trends: The Bulls are 11-0 against the spread in the past 11 meetings. The "over/under" is 8-1 in the past nine.
Early lean: Raptors and over.
Pistons at Nets (+5, 217.5)
Detroit ended a three-game losing streak Sunday with a 112-95 victory over Phoenix. Kentavoius Caldwell-Pope had 23 points and Andre Drummond 18 points and 18 rebounds against the short-handed Suns. Brooklyn lost a second in a row Sunday, 111-104 to Dallas. Brook Lope z had 27 points, but Jeremy Lin left with a sprained right ankle. The Nets are competitive when Lin is healthy; he just rarely is. Brooklyn beat Detroit 109-101 back on Nov. 2 in the first meeting. The Pistons have dropped four of their past six in Brooklyn.
Key trends: The Pistons are 0-5 ATS in their past five in Brooklyn. The over is 4-1-1 in the Nets' past six at home.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
Suns at Heat (TBA)
Phoenix lost a fourth straight Sunday, 112-95 in Detroit. Tyler Ulis had 17 points and 11 assists. The Suns have been playing without veterans Eric Bledsoe (out for season), Brandon Knight and Tyson Chandler and then were without Devin Booker (right ankle) and Dragan Bender (also right ankle) vs. the Pistons. Sunday's starting five was the youngest in franchise history. Miami was upset by visiting Portland on Sunday, 115-104 as the Heat couldn't stop Damian Lillard. James Johnson scored 24 points for Miami, which lost for just the second time in its last 17 home games.The Heat fell to 7-17 this season when Dion Waiters isn't in the lineup. Waiters is out with a sprained ankle. The Suns won the first meeting vs. the Heat 99-90 in Phoenix, snapping a 12-game losing streak in the series.
Key trends: The favorite is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The over is 6-1 in the Heat's past seven at home.
Early lean: Wait on all those Suns, although you should be betting the over in all their games with that terrible defense.
Grizzlies at Pelicans (-3, 205.5)
Memphis won its fourth consecutive Saturday, 104-96 over San Antonio. The Grizz shot only 42 percent but were 13-for-30 from long range. Mike Conley had 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Vince Carter played in his 1,336th regular-season game, passing Gary Payton for 14th on the career list. New Orleans won for the fourth time in five games Sunday, 123-109 over Minnesota. Anthony Davis had 28 points and 12 rebounds, and DeMarcus Cousins 15 points and 11 rebounds after missing a game due to injury. Last meeting between Memphis and New Orleans, with the Grizzlies leading 2-1. They've all been close.
Key trends: The underdog is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 5-2 in those.
Early lean: Grizzlies and over.
Warriors at Mavericks (+5.5, 211)
Golden State took a three-game winning streak into Oklahoma City on Monday. Thus who knows if Steve Kerr plays all his guys here. Dallas completed a four-game trip at 2-2 with a 111-104 victory in Brooklyn on Sunday. Dirk Nowitzki had 23 points and nine rebounds. J.J. Barea had 20, including nine straight to break open a two-point game late. Golden State has won five straight and 12 of the past 13 vs. Dallas.
Key trends: The Warriors are 5-1 ATS in the past six in Dallas. The over is 4-1 in the previous five meetings.
Early lean: Warriors and under.
Spurs at Timberwolves (+5, 205.5)
San Antonio snapped a two-game skid with a 118-102 home win over Sacramento on Sunday. Pau Gasol scored 22 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 18. The Spurs finished with 31 assists on 43 field goals and committed only eight turnovers. Manu Ginobili got the night off. Minnesota's slim playoff chances have likely vanished with a three-game losing streak. It was 123-109 in New Orleans on Sunday. Karl-Anthony Towns had 33 points. San Antonio has won 10 in a row vs. the Wolves.
Key trends: The Spurs are 5-0 ATS in their past five at Minnesota. The over is 7-3 in the past 10 meetings.
Early lean: Spurs and under.
Bucks at Trail Blazers (-5, 216)
Milwaukee's two-game winning streak was snapped Saturday at Golden State, 117-92. The Bucks, playing the second half of a back-to-back, lost for the second time in 10 games. Rookie Malcolm Brogdon had 18 points. Portland won its third straight to close a five-game trip on Sunday, 115-104 in Miami. Damian Lillard had a season-high 49 points. It was the most anyone has scored on 21 field-goal attempts or less this year. All four of Lillard's 40-point efforts this season have come on the road.The Bucks defeated the Trail Blazers, 115-107, in Milwaukee on Dec. 7, but Portland has taken the past three at home in the series.
Key trends: The home team is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The under is 4-1 in the previous five.
Early lean: Blazers and under.
Clippers at Lakers (+10, 219)
The Clippers hosted the Knicks on Monday night. The Lakers lost a fifth straight game Sunday, 125-120 to Cleveland. L.A. led by 11 in the fourth quarter. D'Angelo Russell scored a career-high 40 points. He also had just one turnover in 41 minutes. All five Lakers starters scored in double figures for the first time since Christmas. Nick Young sat out with a stomach issue. The L.A. teams have split two meetings this season. The Clippers have taken 12 of the past 13 overall.
Key trends: The Clippers are 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 8-1 in the previous nine.
Early lean: Lakers and under.
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