A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that the next NBA head coach likely to be fired was Memphis' Dave Joerger. He made a lineup change that seems to have spurred the team a bit, so Joerger might be safe for now. The new leader in the clubhouse is Phoenix's Jeff Hornacek. His team embarrassingly lost at home to the 76ers on Saturday and now the club's best player, guard Eric Bledsoe, is out indefinitely with a torn meniscus in his left knee. Instead of firing Hornacek after that loss, the Suns' front office essentially forced some coaching changes on Hornacek's staff. Fired were assistants Mike Longabardi and Jerry Sichting and in their place are ex-NBA player Earl Watson and former D-League coach Nate Bjorkgen. Obviously no head coach likes being force fed assistants. This probably won't end well in the desert. The Suns are one of those NBA teams caught in the middle. Not good enough to make the playoffs but not bad enough to get that one superstar in the draft.
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Pistons at Knicks (+1, 198.5)
Detroit lost a second in a row Saturday, 99-93 at home to Boston. Pistons center Andre Drummond had 22 points and 22 rebounds for his fifth 20-20 game of the season. There has been only one other one 20-20 game in the NBA this season. New York lost a fourth straight Sunday, 100-91 at Boston. So use that as a point of comparison if you want. Carmelo Anthony was an ugly 11-for-26 from the field for 29 points. The Pistons won the season series in 2014-15, 3-1. It was the first time the Knicks lost the season series against Detroit since 2006-07.
Key trends: The favorite is 17-5 against the spread in the past 22 meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in seven of the past 10 meetings.
Early lean: Pistons and under.
Hawks at Rockets (-2.5, 210.5)
Atlanta was in Indiana on Monday on a six-game winning streak. Houston fell into a total trap on Saturday a night after upsetting San Antonio. The Rockets were beaten 110-108 in New Orleans. They had 41 first-quarter points but only 17 in the fourth. James Harden had 25 points but was 1-for-5 shooting with a turnover during the final 7:58. Dwight Howard had seven points in 31 minutes. The Hawks swept the Rockets last year and have won three straight overall in the series. They haven't won four straight against Houston since 1989-90.
Key trends: The Rockets are 6-0 ATS in their past six at home. Houston is 11-4 ATS in the past 15 meetings. The under is 6-1 in the Rockets' past seven overall.
Early lean: Rockets and under.
Heat at Grizzlies (TBA)
Miami hosted Brooklyn on Monday with Hassan Whiteside a game-time call (thus the TBA here). Memphis beat the Lakers 112-96 on Sunday. Matt Barnes had five points in 22 minutes. I bring him up because Barnes has been suspended the next two games due to a fight with Knicks coach Derek Fisher this offseason. Fisher is dating Barnes' ex-wife apparently. The two had been good friends as teammates with the Lakers. These two teams made so far the biggest trade in the NBA this season, which isn't saying much, as the Heat dumped Mario Chalmers' salary on Memphis on Nov. 10. Chalmers has been pretty solid for the Grizz, while Miami really got nothing back in return other than tax relief. Chalmers faced his former team Dec. 13 in Miami, and the Heat won 100-97. Dwyane Wade's jumper with 21.9 seconds left gave Miami its only lead of the second half and the Heat ended the game on an 11-0 run. Memphis led by as many as 16. Chalmers had 12 points.
Key trends: The favorite is 4-0-1 ATS in the past five. The under is 6-1 in the past seven in Memphis.
Early lean: Grizzlies will win this one, easily if no Whiteside.
Bucks at Thunder (-14, 205)
This is the lone national TV game of the night, on NBA TV, and thus should have live betting at sportsbooks. Milwaukee was in Dallas on Monday. Oklahoma City bounced back from a Christmas loss to Chicago with a 122-112 win over Denver on Sunday. The Thunder rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit. Russell Westbrook had 30 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds. Kevin Durant had 26 points and 10 assists. OKC shot a season-best 57.8 percent. Durant and Westbrook were the first teammates to each have at least 25 points and 10 assists in a regulation game since Utah's John Stockton (31 points, 11 assists) and Karl Malone (27 points, 10 assists) on Feb. 2, 1996. The Bucks and Thunder split last year, each winning at home.
Key trends: The Bucks are 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 4-1 in the past five.
Early lean: Thunder and over.
Cavaliers at Nuggets (+7, 197)
Cleveland was in Phoenix on Monday and on a two-game skid. End of quite a challenging three-game stretch for Denver as it lost 101-86 in San Antonio on Saturday and then 122-112 on Sunday in Oklahoma City. Kenneth Faried had 25 points and 11 points for the Nuggets, who have lost five of their last six games. The Nuggets again played without Danilo Gallinari and Emmanuel Mudiay, and neither will go here. These teams split last year, each winning on the road.
Key trends: The Cavs have covered four straight in Denver. The under has hit in five of the past seven meetings overall.
Early lean: It's not clear if Kyrie Irving will play the second of a back-to-back -- he is not expected to. I wouldn't be shocked if LeBron James sat this one out, either. So wait on those guys.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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