I know the Lakers' Kobe Bryant is one of the most competitive, proud players not just in the NBA currently but in league history. He's just like Michael Jordan in that regard. Thus, Kobe would never quit in the middle of his last season, but perhaps he should have during the Thanksgiving league-wide day off. Kobe is the worst player in the NBA right now, and it's not close. Sure, he's averaging a team-best 15.2 points per game, but he's last in overall field-goal percentage (.311) and 3-point percentage (.195) while being the NBA's highest-paid player. Yet he's still playing a bit more than 30 minutes a game. Fans come to see Bryant, but he needs to come off the bench or cut those minutes in half and cede playing time to guys who actually have a future in this league.
Raptors at Wizards (pick'em, 207)
Washington was in Boston on Friday. Toronto brings a three-game winning streak into this one, last beating visiting Cleveland 103-99 on Wednesday behind 27 points from Kyle Lowry. Over the last 10 games Lowry ranks first among Eastern Conference guards in averaging 21.6 points per game. Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have recorded six games this season where both players scored at least 20 points, including vs. the Cavs. First meeting of the season between the teams with perhaps the East's best backcourts. Toronto has won seven of the last eight regular-season meetings with Washington, including a 120-116 overtime victory Jan. 31 at Verizon Center. They met in the first round of last year's playoffs and, proving regular-season matchups mean little, the Wizards swept. Only one game was particularly close.
Key trends: The Raptors are 0-5 against the spread in their past five meetings. The "over/under" is 8-2-1 in Washington's past 11 overall.
Early lean: Wizards and over.
Nets at Cavaliers (-11, 203)
Cleveland was on Charlotte on Friday, likely again without Mo Williams and Timofey Mozgov. Brooklyn lost 110-99 in Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Brook Lopez scored 26 points for the Nets, who had their three-game winning streak in Oklahoma City snapped. The Nets dominated the Thunder 64-44 in the paint (marking a season-high for the Nets in point in the paint) but were killed on the perimeter. Cleveland won three of four over Brooklyn last year but lost the last meeting 106-98 on the road. The Nets have dropped four straight in Cleveland.
Key trends: The home team is 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 6-0 in Cleveland's past six at home.
Early lean: Normally I'd take double-digit points against a team in the second of a back-to-back, but Cavs are crushing people at home. Take them and over.
Nuggets at Mavericks (-9, 209.5)
This one nationally televised on NBA TV. Denver is off a likely loss Friday at home to San Antonio with Kenneth Faried out again for the Nugs. Dallas lost to the Spurs 88-83 in San Antonio on Wednesday, the Mavs' third straight defeat. Chandler Parson sat that one out for Dallas as it was the second of a back-to-back but will be back in there Saturday. Reserve guard J.J. Barea did not return after spraining his right ankle in the fourth quarter, and he's going to miss some time. This is the first meeting of 2015-16 between Denver and Dallas. The Mavs took the final two of the three-game series last year. The Mavericks have won two straight and 26 of the last 36 regular-season matchups in Dallas
Key trends: The home team has covered four of the past five meetings. The over is 4-1 in those five.
Early lean: Mavericks and over.
Hawks at Spurs (-7, 196)
Second of a back-to-back for both as Atlanta was in Memphis on Friday -- Hawks got Kent Bazemore back -- and San Antonio in Denver. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich rested Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili on Friday, so both should play here. In July, the Spurs traded center Tiago Splitter to Atlanta to open up cap room to help sign LaMarcus Aldridge. Atlanta sent the draft rights to Georgios Printezis (who??) and a future second-round pick to San Antonio. Splitter wasn't likely to play Friday and thus probably won't face his former teammates. And of course Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer was a long-time Spurs assistant. San Antonio was 2-0 vs. Atlanta last year. The Spurs have won nine straight overall in the series and a whopping 17 in a row at home.
Key trends: The Spurs have covered seven straight in the second of a back-to-back. The under is 4-1 in Atlanta's past five in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: Spurs and under.
Pelicans at Jazz (-6.5, 197.5)
New Orleans off a Friday game at the Clippers. Utah won 102-91 at the Clippers on Wednesday to end a 13-game losing streak in that series. It was only the second time this season that the Jazz had triple-digit points. Gordon Hayward led the way with 33 points. Guard Trey Burke left near the end of the first quarter with back spasms and didn't return. With a few days off, he should be OK for this one. First meeting between Pelicans and Jazz. New Orleans won two of three last season, including the lone game in Utah. Hayward averaged 26.7 points.
Key trends: New Orleans has covered just once in the past eight meetings. The under is 5-0 in Utah's past five vs. the West.
Early lean: Jazz and under.
Lakers at Trail Blazers (-8.5, 203)
L.A. was embarrassed in Golden State on Tuesday, 111-77. So much for putting up a fight to stop the Warriors from starting a record 16-0. Kobe tied the worst shooting game of his career in a game where he had at least one basket by going 1-for-14 for four points. He became the first player in the NBA this year with four points or fewer while taking at least 14 shots. Portland had a two-game winning streak end in a 93-88 home loss to Chicago on Tuesday. The Blazers won at the Lakers 107-93 last Sunday behind 30 points from Damian Lillard. They have now won five straight in the series -- past four by double-digits -- for the first time since winning eight in a row from 1993-95.
Key trends: The favorite is 4-0 ATS in the past four. The under is 5-0 in the past five.
Early lean: Blazers and under.
Kings at Warriors (TBA)
Sacramento hosted Minnesota on Friday and Golden State was in Phoenix. Potential trap game here for the Warriors? In my Friday Opening Line Report story, I mentioned I thought the Suns could win that game. Kings have no shot whatsoever here if DeMarcus Cousins doesn't play, and he was questionable for Friday. Golden State has won nine straight over Sacramento, the team's longest winning streak against the Kings since the Philadelphia Warriors won 13 straight from 1959-60. Golden State won all four meetings last season by an average of 22.0 points. You may remember Klay Thompson had an NBA-record 37 points in one quarter of a Jan. 23 win.
Key trends: The Kings are 1-6 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 8-3 in the past 11.
Early lean: Wait on Cousins and what Warriors do Friday.
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