The Cleveland Cavaliers will be holding their breath on Friday as center Timofey Mozgov, who is probably the most important defensive player on the team as an excellent rim protector, is undergoing an MRI on his shoulder. He hurt his right shoulder Thursday in the first half and didn't return after playing only 11 minutes. Mozgov is still rounding himself into shape from offseason knee surgery. He came into Thursday's game averaging 8.5 points on 51.6 percent shooting and 5.0 rebounds. Tristan Thompson started the second half in his place. If Mozgov misses significant time, the Cavs would have to dust off Anderson Varejao, who barely plays these days.
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Kings at Magic (TBA)
Sacramento has started a five-game road trip with back-to-back losses. Star center DeMarcus Cousins was suspended mid-day Thursday before the Kings' game against the Heat for delivering a forearm to the head of Atlanta's Al Horford on Wednesday. I didn't even mention it in this space because it really didn't look like much. But Cousins has a history of on-court issues so that likely played a role in his one-game ban. Predictably, the Kings lost 116-109 to the Heat. They are 0-5 this season without Cousins and 6-33 over the past three seasons when he's out. He will be back Friday, but second-leading scorer Rudy Gay might not be as left the Heat game with a shoulder injury (why TBA). Orlando beat the Timberwolves in overtime on Wednesday for its third win in four games. Victor Oladipo returned after missing two games with a concussion but really struggled in the first half and barely played in the second. Coach Scott Skiles also benched a struggling Nik Vucevic for all the second half. Orlando won both meetings with Minnesota last season, including 119-114 at home when it shot a whopping .565 from the field.
Key trends: The Magic are 7-2 against the spread in their past nine after a win. The "over/under" is 5-1 in the Kings' past six road games. The over is 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Magic win whether Gay plays or not.
Bucks at Pacers (-4, 195.5)
Milwaukee lost 115-100 in Cleveland on Thursday despite the surprise return of Jabari Parker, who wasn't expected to play and didn't even join the team for its loss in Washington on Tuesday. Parker had 14 points. O.J. Mayo also made his season debut off a strained right hamstring. What was most unusual about that game? It was on TNT and it was the Bucks' first regular-season appearance on the network in 13 years. That's crazy. Indiana won easily 112-85 in Philly on Wednesday without guards George Hill and Rodney Stuckey. Hill missed his second straight game while Stuckey sat out his fourth in a row. Hill was close to playing so I'd expect at least him here. First meeting of the season between the Central Division rivals. They split last year, all four close and each team going 1-1 at home. The Pacers have won seven of the past eight in Indianapolis in the series.
Key trends: The Bucks are 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 5-2 in those seven.
Early lean: Bucks and over.
Hawks at Cavaliers (TBA)
Cleveland ended a two-game losing streak with that 15-point win over the Bucks on Thursday. LeBron James scored 27 points, and Kevin Love added 22 points and 15 rebounds. As I mentioned above, the Cavs lost Mozgov in that game and point guard Mo Williams didn't play at all with a sore right leg. He's questionable for this game. If he sits, Matthew Dellavedova would start and might have to play a ton with Kyrie Irving still sidelined. Atlanta ended a three-game skid with a 103-97 win over the visiting Kings on Wednesday. Paul Millsap scored 23 points and had 16 rebounds. The Hawks again played without starters Jeff Teague and Kent Bazemore, both dealing with sprained ankles. Teague looks close to returning but not Bazemore. Cleveland won the first meeting last year 127-94 but then dropped the next three by at least eight points. Of course then the Cavaliers swept Atlanta in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Key trends: The underdog is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 5-0 in the past five in Cleveland.
Early lean: Cavs win easily regardless of who plays among the injured listed above.
Wizards at Pistons (TBA)
Detroit was in Minnesota on Friday. Washington won a second straight on Tuesday, 115-86 over Milwaukee. John Wall had 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds as the Wiz had their first double-digit win of the year. Washington guard Bradley Beal missed his third straight game with a sore left shoulder. He practiced in full Friday so it's looking good for him in this one. Garrett Temple has started the past two for Beal. The Wizards were 2-1 against Detroit last year. Wall averaged 19.7 points and 9.7 assists. The Pistons have won four their past five at home in the series.
Key trends: The underdog is 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 9-3 in Detroit's past 12 in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: If Beal plays, take the Wiz.
76ers at Heat (-14.5, 193.5)
Philly was in Charlotte on Friday looking to avoid a 0-13 start. Miami beat the visiting Kings 116-109 on Thursday, catching a break in not having to face Cousins. Dwyane Wade broke out of a mini-slump with 24 points on a season-high 23 shots. Through nine games, Wade is shooting a career-low 42.6 percent and the 17.1 points he's averaging are the fewest since his rookie year. The Heat improved to 4-1 on a season-long seven-game homestand. Last season, Miami won the season-series 3-1 and has won 19 of the last 22 overall against Philadelphia
Key trends: The road team is 5-0-1 ATS in the past six. Philly has covered four of its past six in Miami.
Early lean: Too many points to give. Go under.
Knicks at Rockets (-7, 205)
Houston was in Memphis on Friday and New York in Oklahoma City. It's not clear if Houston center Dwight Howard will play both ends of a back-to-back. The Rockets have won 11 straight in this series, the longest winning streak by either franchise against the other. During the streak, the Rockets are outscoring Knicks 108.0 ppg to 96.7 ppg. Houston has won 10 straight at home against the Knicks dating to 2004.
Key trends: The Knicks are 2-5 ATS in their past seven in the second of a back-to-back. The Rockets are 0-5 ATS in their past five at home. The under is 6-1 in the past seven meetings in Houston.
Early lean: Like Knicks to cover, especially if no Howard. Go over.
Grizzlies at Spurs (-7.5, 192)
Memphis hosted Houston on Friday, while San Antonio was in New Orleans without Manu Ginobili due to hip tightness. He might return here, but knowing the Spurs they would rather play it safe. These teams split four games last year. In the first meeting, San Antonio snapped a Memphis 22-game regular-season home-winning streak with a 107-101 victory at FedExForum.
Key trends: The Spurs are 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings at home. The over is 9-3 in the past 12 overall.
Early lean: Spurs and over.
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