With tongue firmly planted in cheek, the most important game of New Year's Day in the NBA probably is Philadelphia at the Los Angeles Lakers. Toilet Bowl 2! They are clearly the two worst teams in the NBA, but the winner of this one, especially if it's the Sixers, could hold a crucial tiebreaker for the most ping-pong balls in the 2016 draft lottery. Also be aware that Philly owns the Lakers' 2016 first-rounder if it's outside the Top 3. That's looking unlikely unless L.A. slips two spots in the lottery. The big prize this summer will be LSU freshman Ben Simmons. Only five games Friday, which is usually one of the busiest days of the week. That's obviously because of the holiday as most people are going to stay home and recover from the night before. And with college football stealing the spotlight, there are no national TV games available.
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Magic at Wizards (-2.5, 205)
Orlando beat visiting Brooklyn 100-93 for its second win in a row Wednesday, rallying from a 10-point second-half hole. Nik Vucevic continued his recent fine play with 20 points (seventh straight game with at least that many) and nine rebounds. Magic starting point guard Elfrid Payton was questionable with a sprained ankle and lasted only five minutes. Washington lost a second straight Wednesday, 94-91 in Toronto -- the Wizards have been held to 91 points in both losses. They missed three late 3-pointers to tie. Bradley Beal missed a 10th straight game and there's no reason to expect him here. Orlando has lost 10 straight to Washington, including two this year. The teams opened the season against one another and John Wall won it on a floater with 12.7 seconds left for an 88-87 victory in Florida. On Nov. 14 in D.C., the Wizards won 108-99. Orlando is a much better team now, however.
Key trends: The home team has covered four straight meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in four of the past five.
Early lean: Magic and over.
Mavericks at Heat (-3.5, 198)
Dallas won a fourth straight on Wednesday in stomping the Steph Curry-less Warriors 114-91. Mavs backup point guard J.J. Barea had 23 points in starting for the injured Deron Williams. Barea has made 17 of his past 23 3-pointers. Miami dropped its second in a row Tuesday, 99-90 in OT at Memphis. That dropped the Heat to 9-2 vs. the West this year. First meeting of the season between these teams. They split last year, each winning on the road. The Mavericks snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Heat in the regular season with a 93-72 win at Miami on Jan. 30, 2015.
Key trends: The Mavs are 1-7 ATS in their past eight following a double-digit win. The under is 10-3-1 in Miami's past 14 vs. the West. The over is 8-2 in the past 10 meetings.
Early lean: Heat and under.
Hornets at Raptors (-6.5, 198.5)
Charlotte lost 122-117 at home to the Clippers on Wednesday. And the news got worse as the Hornets had just gotten back Al Jefferson from injury/suspension but now he's hurt again (knee) and will miss six weeks. Thus don't expect him back until after the All-Star break. He is averaging 12.5 points and 6.1 rebounds in 19 games this season. Toronto beat the Wizards by three on Wednesday. DeMar DeRozan had 34 points, including 15-for-15 from the free-throw line. Jonas Valanciunas was back in the starting lineup after recently returning from a long injury absence and had eight points and nine rebounds. Charlotte won the first meeting 109-99 in overtime at home on Dec. 17. Jeremy Lin had 35 points and Kemba Walker 27. DeRozan scored 31 points and Kyle Lowry added 20 for the Raptors. Toronto rallied from a 16-point deficit late in the third to force OT. The Hornets were 1-1 in Toronto last year.
Key trends: The underdog is 7-2 ATS in the past nine meetings. The over is 5-2 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Raptors and over.
Knicks at Bulls (-6.5, 198.5)
New York ended a four-game slide with a 108-96 win over Detroit on Tuesday. Robin Lopez outplayed Andre Drummond with 11 points, seven rebounds and a season-high six blocks. The Knicks are 11-2 when they score at least 100 points this year. Chicago scratched Derrick Rose with hamstring tendinitis about an hour before Wednesday's game vs. Indiana but the Bulls won 102-100 in OT on a Jimmy Butler tip-in. Aaron Brooks got heavy minutes with Rose out and had 29 points. New York won the first meeting between these two at home, 107-91 on Dec. 19. The Bulls were totally gassed then as it was the night after going four overtimes in a loss to Detroit. Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 27. Rookie forward Bobby Portis had the best night of his brief career with 20 points and 11 rebounds for Chicago. Pau Gasol didn't bother making the trip. The Bulls have won eight straight at home in the series.
Key trends: The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven. The over is 5-0-1 in the previous six.
Early lean: This is one of those games where Bulls always seem to play down to their opponent after a big win. Take the Knicks whether Rose plays or not.
76ers at Lakers (-4.5, 201)
Philly has a chance here for its first consecutive victories of the season as it won in Sacramento 110-105 on Wednesday. New addition Ish Smith had 18 points. The team is 2-1 since his trade from New Orleans. Ish Smith! Jerami Grant finished with 16 points, a career-best 11 rebounds and five blocked shots. The Lakers also pulled a surprise Wednesday, winning 112-104 in Boston. Kobe Bryant had 15 points and 11 rebounds in his final Beantown game. It was his 173rd career double-double. Philly got its first win of the year and ended a 28-game losing streak that was the longest in major U.S. pro sports with a 103-91 home win over the Lakers on Dec. 1 in Kobe's final game in his hometown. Bryant had 20 points but was just 7-for-26 shooting. Robert Covington led the 76ers with 23.
Key trends: The Lakers are 1-10 ATS in their past 11 after a win. The under is 6-2 in their past eight at home.
Early lean: 76ers and under.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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