I don't want to call it a changing of the guard on Friday night in New Orleans, but it might be something in that ballpark when the Cavaliers visit the Pelicans. Golden State's Steph Curry most likely is going to win a second straight MVP award this season. Cleveland's LeBron James has won four of them but at his age might be done. He was the preseason betting favorite, however. Right behind him was New Orleans' Anthony Davis. The "Brow" is going to win at least one MVP in his career, probably more, and I liked his chances this season. Not going to happen, however, because the Pelicans got off to such a slow start with so many injuries. But Davis is soon to replace James as the NBA's most dominant all-around player, with all due respect to Curry, who is unmatched as a shooter.
Nets at Knicks (-3.5, 194)
This the first of an ESPN doubleheader and should have live betting at sportsbooks. Brooklyn is on its first two-game winning streak of the season, beating the visiting Suns 94-91 on Tuesday for its fourth straight home win; after this quick trip across town, the Nets start a six-game homestand. New York ended a four-game slide with a 99-87 win over the 76ers on Wednesday. New York rookie Kristaps Porzingis had another double-double (nine this season) with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Carmelo Anthony returned from missing a game with an illness but had only 12 points. Brooklyn swept the season series last year 3-0. It was the first time the Knicks were swept by the Nets in a season series since the 2006-07 season (4-0).
Key trends: The Nets are 10-1 against the spread in their past 11 games. The Knicks are 6-1 ATS in their past seven following an ATS win. The "over/under" has gone under in 13 of the past 16 meetings at the Knicks.
Early lean: Knicks and under.
Suns at Wizards (-3, 208.5)
Phoenix lost a second straight Wednesday in Detroit, 127-122 in overtime as the Suns blew a 16-point fourth-quarter lead in the second of a back-to-back. The Suns played without Tyson Chandler (hamstring) and Markieff Morris (bruised knee). Morris is more likely to return for this one. A night after playing great in an upset in Cleveland, the Wizards laid an egg at home vs. the Lakers on Wednesday, losing 108-104. John Wall's 34 points and 11 assists went to waste. Wiz center Nene (calf) missed his third consecutive game but reserve guard Gary Neal (groin) returned after missing two. The Suns won both meetings last season to capture their first two-game sweep in the series since 2010-11. The Suns have won three straight vs. Washington overall.
Key trends: The Suns are 1-6 ATS in their past seven. The over is 8-1 in Washington's past nine at home vs. teams with a losing road record. The under is 5-0 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Wizards and over.
Bucks at Pistons (-6, 192)
Milwaukee was blown out in San Antonio on Wednesday, 95-70. The Bucks set season lows for points and field-goal percentage (33.8) in falling to 2-8 on the road. Usual starting guard Jerryd Bayless didn't play a minute due to coach's decision. Tyler Ennis started for him. Detroit rallied from a16-ponit hole for a 127-122 OT home win over Phoenix on Wednesday behind 34 points and 16 assists from Reggie Jackson. He's the first Piston with a 30-15 game sine Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas in 1988. Milwaukee won its fourth straight in the series against Detroit with a 109-88 home victory on Nov. 23. Greg Monroe, in his first game against his former club, had 20 points and 13 rebounds. He was one of seven Bucks to score in double figures. Andre Drummond had 15 points and 15 rebounds for Detroit.
Key trends: The Bucks are 7-0 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 4-1 in the previous five in Detroit.
Early lean: Bucks and under.
Lakers at Hawks (-11.5, 203.5)
Los Angeles won in Washington on Wednesday and Kobe Bryant played his best game of the season with 31 points and had the Wizards crowd cheering for him at the end. Julius Randle had 15 points and a career-best 19 rebounds for the Lakers, who ended a seven-game losing streak. Lakers guard Nick Young didn't play after mouthing off following Tuesday's loss to the 76ers. Atlanta lost 96-86 at home to Toronto on Wednesday, blowing a 17-point lead. The Hawks had won 35 straight at home when leading entering the fourth quarter. Might surprise you to know the Lakers actually split with the Hawks last season and won in Atlanta, 114-109. But that was in mid-November before the Hawks took off and won 60 games.
Key trends: The Lakers are 1-10 ATS in their past 11 following an ATS win. Atlanta is 4-0 ATS in its past four after a loss. The under is 10-4 in L.A.'s past 14.
Early lean: Lakers cover and under.
Rockets at Mavericks (-6.5, 209.5)
Houston beat New Orleans 108-101 on Wednesday. Ty Lawson, who had been barely playing since being benched, had 12 points and six assists. The Rockets rallied from a 14-point hole. Dallas won 115-112 in overtime at Portland on Tuesday. Deron Williams had a season-high 30 points. The Mavs were down seven with 1:40 left. Dallas won in Houston 110-98 on Nov. 14 despite playing without Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons and Wesley Matthews. Raymond Felton led Dallas with 23 points. James Harden was only 5-for-21 for Houston, which didn't have Dwight Howard. The Mavs have won two of the past three meetings after losing three in a row prior to that.
Key trends: The home team is 12-5 ATS in the past 17 meetings. The over is 5-2 in Houston's past seven after a win.
Early lean: Rockets and over.
Cavaliers at Pelicans (+6, 204.5)
Second of the ESPN doubleheader and should thus have live betting. Cleveland is likely to play pretty angry after being dominated at home on Tuesday in a 12-point loss to Washington as the Cavs didn't have any answers for the Wizards' small-ball lineup. LeBron had nine turnovers in the game. New Orleans lost its fourth straight in blowing a 14-point lead in Houston on Wednesday. Davis had 29 points and 13 rebounds. The Pelicans committed 23 turnovers that led to 27 points for Houston. These teams split two very high-scoring games last year, each winning at home. Davis was pretty quiet, averaging 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds. LeBron averaged a team-high 36.5 points on .634 shooting from the floor, 8.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists.
Key trends: Cleveland is 0-6 ATS in its past six road games vs. teams with a losing home record. The Pelicans are 3-12 ATS in their past 15 after a loss. The over is 5-1 in the previous six meetings.
Early lean: Pelicans and over.
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