San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich is an ornery cuss, and it's embarrassing how badly he treats reporters during those nationally televised games where Pop is mandated by the league to at least say one word to those reporters considering how much the TV networks pay the NBA. And usually all Pop does say is one word. Anyways, the guy is a Hall of Fame coach, without question. And I see his point in a way when talking about the 3-point shot: "I don't think it's basketball. I think it's kind of like a circus sort of thing. Why don't we have a 5-point shot? A 7-point shot? You know, where does it stop, that sort of thing." Michael Jordan's Bulls didn't shoot a lot of 3-pointers and didn't shoot them very well when they did. I do think perhaps it's time to move the arc back a bit because so many teams, the Warriors primarily, are relying so much on that shot. But that's not likely to happen soon. The NBA of today is a drive-and-dish to an open 3-point shooter league.
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Clippers at Nets (+5.5, 205.5)
Los Angeles had its three-game winning streak end with an 83-80 loss in Chicago on Thursday. Blake Griffin was ejected in the third quarter for a Flagrant 2 foul, but he shouldn't be looking at a suspension. He was on the way to a potentially monster game. The Clippers shot a season-low 34.1 percent from the field. Brooklyn won a second in a row Thursday, 100-91 over the 76ers. There was an Andrea Bargnani sighting in that one as he scored a season-high 23 for Brooklyn. The Nets won for the sixth time in their last seven home games.
Key trends: The Clippers are 1-6 against the spread in the past seven meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in eight of the Nets' past 11 vs. the West.
Early lean: Nets and under.
Celtics at Hornets (-1, 200)
This looks like a huge letdown game for Boston no matter what happens for the Celtics at home on Friday night against Golden State. Charlotte was in Memphis on Friday night looking to extend a three-game winning streak. These teams split four games last year, each going 1-1 at home. Boston won the final two games.
Key trends: The over is 4-1 in the past five meetings. Charlotte is 1-4 ATS in its past five in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: Hornets and under.
Pacers at Pistons (-1, 200)
Indiana hosted Miami on Friday looking to end a three-game slide. Detroit was in Philadelphia aiming to end a two-game skid. These teams met in Detroit on Nov. 3, and the Pacers won 94-82. Indiana had an absurd 43-2 advantage in bench points led by Rodney Stuckey's 23 points. Indiana was down eight in the first quarter and scored 22 straight to take control. Andre Drummond had 25 points and a career-high 29 rebounds for the Pistons.
Key trends: The underdog is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 7-2 in the previous nine.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
Spurs at Hawks (+3.5, 194.5)
This is your only national TV game, on NBA TV. San Antonio hosted the Lakers on Friday. Normally Popovich doesn't rest his guys at home, so I wouldn't be surprised if a Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and/or Kawhi Leonard get the night off here. Atlanta lost in Oklahoma City 107-94 on Thursday. The Hawks were clobbered on the boards and shot only 37 percent in the second half. Atlanta lost 108-88 in San Antonio on Nov. 28. Leonard had 22 for the Spurs. It was San Antonio's 18th consecutive home win against Atlanta and 10th straight overall against the Hawks.
Key trends: The Spurs have covered nine straight in the second of a back-to-back. The road team is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 5-0 in Atlanta's past five.
Early lean: Hawks and under.
Pelicans at Bulls (-7.5, 205)
New Orleans hosted Washington on Friday. Thus you are on back-to-back alert here for Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. Chicago ended a three-game losing streak with an 83-80 win over the Clippers on Thursday. Pau Gasol had 24 points, including a career-high three 3-pointers. Derrick Rose shed his protective facemask in the second half; he had been playing with it all season. The Bulls set season lows for points allowed, points given up in the paint (18) and fouls (12). Expect a big game here for the Pelicans' Anthony Davis in a return to his hometown.
Key trends: New Orleans has covered five straight in Chicago. The under is 8-1 in Chicago's past nine vs. the West.
Early lean: Pelicans and over as Bulls usually play down to competition.
Lakers at Rockets (-11.5, 209.5)
Los Angeles almost surely was going to lose a fifth straight game on Friday night in San Antonio. There's a pretty decent chance that Kobe Bryant thus sits this game out. Houston won 109-103 in Washington on Wednesday. James Harden had 42 points, nine rebounds and seven assists a night after scoring only 10. Starting small forward Trevor Ariza sat out with a bruised lower back but could be good to go Saturday. If not, Corey Brewer starts again. Houston has won five of its past six against the Lakers but lost the most recent home game last season.
Key trends: The Lakers are 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 4-0 in Houston's past four Saturday games.
Early lean: Rockets and over.
Wizards at Mavericks (-6.5, 210)
Washington was in New Orleans on Friday to start a four-game road trip. Dallas lost at home to Atlanta 98-95 on Wednesday to end a two-game winning streak. The Mavericks shot a season-worst 36 percent from the field. There were 20 lead changes in the game. J.J. Barea played 10 minutes after missing Dallas' previous six games with a sprained ankle. The Mavs won in Washington 116-104 last Sunday. Wesley Matthews scored a season-high 36 points with 10 3-pointers. Dallas was without Chandler Parsons. John Wall led the Wizards with 28 points.
Key trends: Dallas has covered six straight in the series. The under is 5-0 in the Mavs' past five at home.
Early lean: Mavericks and over.
Warriors at Bucks (TBA)
Can Golden State complete the longest unbeaten road trip in NBA history? The Warriors were in Boston on Friday, and this concludes the seven-game trip. I am pretty confident in saying that if the Celtics end the Warriors' 27-game winning streak then Golden State interim coach Luke Walton is going to rest a few guys here. Klay Thompson was a game-time call for Friday and if he plays and the Warriors lose, I know he's sitting here at a minimum. Milwaukee was in Toronto on Friday. The Warriors have won the past four against the Bucks.
Key trends: The Bucks are 6-0 ATS in their past six in the second of a back-to-back. The under is 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Bet big on the Bucks if Warriors lose Friday.
Knicks at Trail Blazers (-4, 199)
New York lost a fourth straight on Thursday at Sacramento, 99-97. The Knicks haven't hit triple digits in the skid, and Carmelo Anthony is complaining about the offense already. Go away, Melo! He had a good game vs. the Kings with 23 points and 14 rebounds but missed the potential winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. Portland was in Phoenix on Friday. Portland swept the Knicks last year for the third consecutive season. The Knicks have been held under 100 points in the past five in the series.
Key trends: The Knicks are 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 7-3 in their past 10 vs. the West.
Early lean: Knicks and under.
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