I don't recommend backing the Phoenix Suns much the rest of the season. In Tuesday's Opening Line Report, I touched on the fact that Coach Jeff Hornacek is in trouble after he was forced to fire two assistants. At least then, Hornacek was expecting his best player, guard Eric Bledsoe, back after six weeks due to a torn meniscus. But apparently during surgery on Tuesday something changed, because now Bledsoe won't be back this year. Bledsoe was the Suns' leading scorer and playmaker, averaging career highs for points (20.4), assists (6.1) and steals (2.0). That loss does three things in my mind: assures the Suns will miss the playoffs again (which means Hornacek isn't back next year); makes Phoenix likely to be a seller ahead of the February trade deadline; and turns Brandon Knight into a great player for your fantasy basketball team because he's now the main guy and should score a ton. Who knows if Bledsoe will ever be the same, too, as he has now torn the meniscus in both knees. With Thursday obviously a huge NCAA football day, no TNT NBA games.
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Bucks at Pacers (-8, 200.5)
Milwaukee lost a third in a row Tuesday, 131-123 in Oklahoma City. Khris Middleton had a career-high 36 points for the Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 27 points and 10 rebounds. But clearly this team misses Coach Jason Kidd, who is out following hip surgery. The Bucks are now 0-4 on Tuesdays. The only day other day of the week they've failed to win is Thursday. Indiana was in Chicago on Wednesday. The Pacers beat the visiting Bucks 123-86 on Nov. 21. Middleton had eight in that one. Indiana starting point guard George Hill missed the game. Indiana has won eight of its past nine at home in this series.
Key trends: The road team is 5-2 against the spread in the past seven meetings. The "over/under" is 6-2 in the previous eight.
Early lean: Bucks and over.
Timberwolves at Pistons (-7, 202)
Minnesota hosted Utah on Wednesday looking to avoid a five-game losing streak. Because this is a second of a back-to-back, don't expect to see Kevin Garnett here. Detroit lost a third straight Tuesday, 108-96 at the Knicks. Andre Drummond had an off game with 13 points and nine rebounds. Sometimes he gets that many rebounds in a quarter. Brandon Jennings made his first appearance of the season for the Pistons with seven points and four assists in 16 minutes off the bench. Detroit won in Minnesota 96-86 on Nov. 20. Drummond had 21 points and 11 rebounds. It wasn't a pretty game.
Key trends: Minnesota is 5-0 ATS in its past five in Detroit. The over has hit in nine of the Pistons' past 12 at home vs. teams with a losing road record.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
Warriors at Rockets (TBA)
Interesting news out of Golden State in that MVP favorite Stephen Curry might miss two games, Wednesday's in Dallas and this one, because of a lower left leg injury suffered in Monday's win. Coach Luke Walton said there was a chance he wouldn't play in one or both games. I highly doubt he plays either. Really no point this early. Might not see Andrew Bogut here in the second of a back-to-back. In addition, backup guard Leandro Barbosa didn't play Wednesday because of a sprained left shoulder. Houston dipped back under .500 thanks to Tuesday's 121-115 home loss to Atlanta. Dwight Howard led Houston with 30 points and 16 rebounds, while James Harden had 26 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Forward Terrence Jones was out with an illness. The Warriors went to Houston and won 112-92 on Oct. 30. Curry had 25 points and Harden just 16.
Key trends: The Warriors are 8-3 ATS in the past 11 meetings. The under is 5-1 in the past six.
Early lean: Houston will win if Curry sits.
Clippers at Pelicans (+1.5, 207.5)
Los Angeles was in Charlotte on Wednesday. New Orleans lost 104-89 in Orlando on Monday. Eric Gordon had just three points as the Pelicans dropped to 0-15 when scoring fewer than 100 points. Anthony Davis left the game briefly in the third quarter but returned and should be fine. New Orleans lost at the Clippers 111-90 on Nov. 27. Davis left that one late in the third quarter with an injury and didn't return. The Pelicans didn't have Tyreke Evans then and the Clippers did have Blake Griffin, who is now out two weeks at least.
Key trends: The home team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 6-1 in New Orleans' past seven at home.
Early lean: Pelicans (as long as Davis is fine) and over.
Suns at Thunder (-15, 211.5)
For what it's worth, Bledsoe went out for knee surgery when the Suns were 19-11 in the 2012-13 season. Phoenix went 17-16 before he returned to action, but only four other players remain from that team. Phoenix took a five-game skid into Wednesday's nearly sure loss in San Antonio. Oklahoma beat the Bucks 131-123 on Tuesday. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined for 53 points. OKC was 37-for-40 from the free throw line. The Thunder beat the visiting Suns 124-103 on Nov. 8. Durant had 32 points and 11 rebounds and Westbrook 21 points, 13 assists and six boards. Bledsoe had 28 points and 11 assists. OKC has won nine straight at home in the series.
Key trends: The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 9-1 in the past 10 in OKC.
Early lean: Suns (I know what I said above, but 15 is a lot) and over.
Trail Blazers at Jazz (TBA)
Portland hosted Denver on Wednesday potentially again without All-Star point guard Damian Lillard due to a foot injury. Utah was in Minnesota on Wednesday potentially again without starting forward Derrick Favors. Portland picked up a road victory in its first meeting with Utah this season, 108-92 on Nov. 4. Lillard scored a season-high 35 points. Portland has won four of its past five in Salt Lake City after going just 3-15 in Utah dating back to 2004-05.
Key trends: The road team is 7-1 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 5-1 in the past six.
Early lean: Wait on Lillard and to a lesser extent Favors. Do think Jazz win if all is equal.
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