On the eve of the season, the sportsbooks offered a prop on the first NBA coach to be fired, and Sacramento's George Karl wasn't even a thought then because he had just been hired at the 2014-15 All-Star break. Yet last week when Bovada provided an update on the prop, Karl was +280 favorite. And things have only gotten worse since. Very plugged-in NBA reporter Sam Amick of USA Today is reporting Karl could be fired very soon. Karl and superstar DeMarcus Cousins still aren't getting along; Cousins reportedly directed a profanity-laced outburst at Karl following Monday's loss. Karl wanted to suspend his star two games but was overruled by GM Vlade Divac. And the craziest part of all this is that Divac apparently asked players in a private meeting Tuesday if he should fire Karl. What GM asks his players that? What a mess that franchise is.
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Timberwolves at Pacers (-6.5, 204)
Minnesota hosted Golden State on Thursday night and was expecting to get back guards Ricky Rubio and Andrew Wiggins off one-game injury absences. Kevin Garnett was to play Thursday thus likely won't here. Indiana won a second straight Wednesday, 102-91 in Boston. Paul George had 26 points and 10 rebounds. But the Pacers lost rookie big man Myles Turner to a fractured hand. He has been a very solid contributor thus far. Minnesota and Indiana split last year. The Wolves didn't win much on the road in 2014-15 but did at Indianapolis, 110-101. It was only Minnesota's fifth road win in this series (25 games).
Key trends: The Wolves are 5-0 against the spread in their past five on the road. Indiana is 6-0 ATS in its past six overall. The "over/under" has gone under in six of Indiana's past seven.
Early lean: Pacers and under.
Jazz at Magic (TBA)
Utah was in Miami on Thursday, and star center Rudy Gobert was questionable for that. Orlando beat the Lakers 101-99 on Wednesday as Nikola Vucevic returned from a three-game injury absence and hit an 18-foot jumper at the buzzer. He came off the bench for the first time in his Magic career. However, Orlando's best overall player, guard Victor Oladipo, left in the first quarter with a concussion, so don't expect him here. Orlando and Utah split last year. Derrick Favors dominated for the Jazz in those two, averaging 22.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks. The Jazz had won seven straight in the series before a Magic win in Salt Lake City on Dec. 5, 2014. Orlando has lost four in a row at home vs. Utah.
Key trends: Utah has covered nine of its past 11 in the second of a back-to-back. Orlando is 4-1 ATS in its past five vs. the West. The under is 5-1 in the Magic's past six at home.
Early lean: Wait on Gobert and Oladipo, but this should be a defensive battle regardless.
Hawks at Celtics (+1.5, 207.5)
Atlanta beat the depleted Pelicans 106-98 on Wednesday behind 26 points from Al Horford and 19 points and 16 rebounds from Paul Millsap. Boston lost 102-91 at home to Indiana on Wednesday. The C's hit just 4-for-24 from long range. Point guard Marcus Smart returned after missing the previous three games with a sprained left big toe, but fellow starting guard Avery Bradley didn't play after leaving Tuesday's win at Milwaukee with a bruised lower left leg. Atlanta won two of three in the series last year.
Key trends: The Celtics are 1-4 ATS in their past five after a loss. The under is 5-2 in the past seven meetings.
Early lean: Hawks and under.
Cavaliers at Knicks (+5.5, 203.5)
This should have live betting at sportsbooks with it televised by NBA TV. Cleveland brings a seven-game winning streak into this, rallying from a nine-point fourth-quarter hole on Tuesday against Utah as LeBron James had a season-high 31 points, including 17 in the fourth. The fourth win of this streak was at home against the Knicks on Nov. 4, 96-86. The Knicks led by 15 in the first quarter but were outscored 58-40 in the second half. LeBron had 23, and that was the game he ripped those sleeved jerseys when he was struggling. James is now 12-12 in his career head-to-head against the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony. New York is off a last-second loss in Charlotte on Wednesday as a Kristaps Porzingis winning 3-pointer was ruled too late to count. Arron Afflalo did make his season debut for New York, started and and had 12 points in 28 minutes.
Key trends: The road team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 4-0 in the past four.
Early lean: Cavaliers and over.
Pelicans at Raptors (TBA)
Not clear if we will see New Orleans superstar Anthony Davis in this one after he sat out Wednesday's 106-98 loss in Atlanta with a right hip contusion suffered Tuesday. He's day-to-day. New Orleans guard Jrue Holiday sat that out as well just because it was the second of a back-to-back but should play vs. Toronto. The Raptors ended a three-game skid with a 119-103 win at the 76ers on Wednesday. DeMarre Carroll sat out a third straight game with a heel injury. Toronto was swept by New Orleans last year.
Key trends: The Pelicans are 3-8 ATS in their past 11 on the road. Toronto has covered five straight vs. the West. The under is 5-1 in the Raptors' past six vs. the West.
Early lean: Wait on Davis.
Hornets at Bulls (-7, 196.5)
Charlotte beat the Knicks 95-93 on Wednesday for its second straight win. Cody Zeller scored on a layup off an inbounds play with 0.6 seconds left. Nicolas Batum led the Hornets with a season-high 24 points as the Hornets reached .500 for the first time this season. Chicago has been off since a 111-88 win in Philadelphia on Monday. Coach Fred Hoiberg was expected to put Joakim Noah in the starting lineup for Nikola Mirotic in that one, but Noah sat out with sore knees. He's likely to play here but not clear if as a starter. Chicago was destroyed 130-105 in Charlotte on Nov. 3.
Key trends: Charlotte is 5-2 ATS in the past seven in Chicago. The under has hit in five of the past seven meetings there.
Early lean: Bulls and under.
Trail Blazers at Grizzlies (TBA)
Portland lost 113-101 to San Antonio on Wednesday in LaMarcus Aldridge's return to the Pacific Northwest. It was the Blazers' third straight loss, and they also lost starting forward Meyers Leonard to a dislocated left shoulder. He was to be re-evaluated on Thursday but obviously is going to miss quite a bit of time. Blazers guard Damian Lillard lost part of his fingernail in the game, but that shouldn't be an issue. Memphis dropped a fourth straight Wednesday, 100-84 against the Warriors. New Grizzlies point guard Mario Chalmers, acquired from the Heat, wasn't available yet but should debut here. Forward Brandan Wright sat with a knee injury and is day-to-day. Memphis' first loss of this skid was 115-96 in Portland on Nov. 5.
Key trends: Portland has failed to cover its past six in Memphis. The under is 8-2 in Memphis' past 10 after a double-digit loss.
Early lean: Grizzlies will win.
76ers at Thunder (-11, 207)
Philly now is the only team without a win -- no shock there. The Sixers are off a 119-103 home loss to Toronto on Wednesday. It was the team's 18th straight loss dating to last season. One of Philly's only two good players, Nerlens Noel, missed second straight game with sore wrists. He's questionable for OKC (not that it will matter). OKC won in Washington 125-101 on Tuesday but lost Kevin Durant for at least a week with a hamstring strain. Presumably the Thunder will move Dion Waiters into the starting lineup, but expect huge games from Russell Westbrook for the next 4-5 games while Durant sits.
Key trends: The 76ers have covered seven of their past 10 on the road. The over is 8-1 in OKC's past nine following a win of more than 10 points. The under is 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Thunder and over.
Lakers at Mavericks (TBA)
Los Angeles concludes a five-game road trip here and has dropped the past three. There has been some criticism that coach Byron Scott isn't playing No. 2 overall pick D'Angelo Russell in the fourth quarters of games. Doesn't make much sense to me since the Lakers aren't winning regardless and Russell is the future. Kobe Bryant has missed the past two games with a back injury; might the team hold him out until returning home? Scott said he had a "pretty good feeling" that Bryant will play Friday. Dallas played its best game of the year Wednesday in beating the visiting Clippers 118-108. Dirk Nowitzki had a season-high 31. The Mavs clearly wanted that game to stick it to DeAndre Jordan. Dallas' Chandler Parsons sat that out as it was the second of a back-to-back but should play here. The Mavs won at the Lakers 103-93 on Nov. 1. Dallas jumped ahead 15-0.
Key trends: The favorite is 7-2 ATS in the past nine meetings. The under is 8-3 in the previous 11.
Early lean: Mavs will win easily whether Kobe plays or not.
Rockets at Nuggets (TBA)
Just when I thought Houston had solved its early issues, the Rockets lost by eight at home to winless Brooklyn on Wednesday. The Rockets were clobbered on the boards, allowing Brooklyn 20 offensive rebounds that led to 33 second-chance points. Denver beat Milwaukee on Wednesday 103-102, but the Nuggets have ruled out forward Wilson Chandler for the season. He would have been decent trade bait. Be aware that Houston center Dwight Howard is either sitting this game out or Saturday's at home against Dallas. I would think he would play in the home game and take it easy on the road in the altitude. Houston and Denver opened the season against one another, and the Nuggets pulled a road surprise, 105-85. Howard was suspended for that game.
Key trends: Houston is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 4-1 in the past five in the series in Denver.
Early lean: Wait on Howard.
Nets at Kings (-5, 204.5)
This also is on NBA TV and should have live betting. It's also the two worst-run franchises in the league right now. Brooklyn got its first win of the season in surprising fashion on Wednesday, 106-98 in Houston. Brook Lopez was slightly iffy with a foot injury but played and had 14 points and 12 rebounds. Meanwhile, Karl might not be coaching this game if the Kings hadn't beaten the Pistons 101-92 in Wednesday night to end a six-game losing streak and improve to 2-7. Cousins certainly looked motivated with 33 points and nine rebounds in outplaying Detroit star Andre Drummond. Rajon Rondo played all 48 minutes and had a triple-double.
Key trends: The Nets are 0-6 ATS in their past six playing on one day of rest. The Kings have covered five of their past 19 following a win. The under is 5-0 in Brooklyn's past five on the road.
Early lean: Kings and over.
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