Look, I don't care about Phil Jackson's love life, but I do think it has some on-court relevance now that Jackson and Lakers executive/co-owner Jeanie Buss have called off their engagement. They were engaged for four years and dated overall for 17. Jeanie wanted to bring back Jackson as the team's coach early in the 2012 season after Mike Brown was fired, and Jackson thought it was a done deal that he was coming back. But GM Mitch Kupchak called Jackson around midnight the night before a potential announcement to tell him the Lakers had chosen to hire Mike D'Antoni instead. Obviously that was a huge mistake. When Jackson was hired as president of the Knicks in 2014, he and Buss had to sign documents with the NBA that ensured there would be no conflicts of interest between the two franchises. Everyone always thought Jeanie would bring Jackson back again once she took controlling interest in the team from her brother. But now I would imagine Jackson really is in it for the long haul with the Knicks. I'm not sure whether that's a good thing yet or not as the verdict is still out on Jackson an executive, but those Lakers rumors can die now. I guess even as rich as you might be, those long-distance relationships really don't work.
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Bulls at Pacers (-3.5, 204.5)
An interesting 4 p.m. ET tipoff. Chicago won a second straight Wednesday, 101-99 over Brooklyn but didn't cover as I predicted because the Bulls play to their opponents' level. Jimmy Butler led the way with 40 points, the last two at the buzzer for the win. Dwyane Wade had to leave in the fourth quarter with migraines, so monitor his status here. Indiana dropped a fourth in a row Wednesday, 111-105 in Washington. Paul George scored 34 points and Jeff Teague added 19 points and 11 assists for the Pacers, but they were destroyed on the boards. Guard Monta Ellis was back after missing five games. Already the final meeting of the season between division rivals. Chicago leads 2-1, winning both at home.
Key trends: The Bulls are 1-6 against the spread in their past seven at Indiana. The "over/under" has gone under in all of those seven.
Early lean: Pacers and under.
Nets at Wizards (-10, 220.5)
Brooklyn fell to 1-15 on the road with Wednesday's 101-99 buzzer-beating loss in Chicago. The Nets led by seven with just over two minutes left. Brook Lopez had 33 points in the loss. Jeremy Lin sat with a strained left hamstring, and you won't see him for weeks. Washington won a second consecutive Wednesday, 111-105 over Indiana. John Wall had 36 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. The Wiz are playing much better the past few weeks and are just a game from reaching .500. Washington won the first meeting 118-113 in Brooklyn on Dec. 5 and has taken four in a row in the series overall.
Key trends: The Nets are 1-6 ATS in the past seven in D.C. The over is 4-0 in the previous four meetings.
Early lean: Wizards and over.
Heat at Celtics (TBA)
Miami was in Charlotte on Thursday with starting point guard Goran Dragic questionable after missing the team's previous game. He is on the trip. Boston could be in major letdown mode here as it was in Cleveland on Thursday. Boston has played in Miami twice this season and won those by 10 and 8 points. Overall, the Celtics have won five straight in the series.
Key trends: The favorite is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The under is 4-0 in the previous four in Boston.
Early lean: Wait to see what Celtics do Thursday.
Knicks at Pelicans (TBA)
The Unicorn (Kristaps Porzingis). vs. the Brow (Anthony Davis). Good stuff. New York dropped a second straight Wednesday, 102-98 in overtime at Atlanta. Carmelo Anthony was ejected in the second quarter after an altercation with Thabo Sefolosha. Melo could be suspended. Derrick Rose led the Knicks with 26 points but coughed it up with six seconds left in OT and the chance to hit the winning shot. Courtney Lee sat out with a sore wrist. New Orleans is on a three-game winning streak following a 102-98 home win over the Clippers on Wednesday even though Coach Alvin Gentry was ejected in the second quarter. New York and New Orleans split last year, each winning at home. Davis played in one of the games and Porzingis averaged 13.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in the two.
Key trends: The home team is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The under is 5-0 in the Pelicans' past five vs. the East.
Early lean: Wait on a potential Melo suspension
Clippers at Rockets (TBA)
Los Angeles lost a fourth straight Wednesday, 102-98 in New Orleans despite Chris Paul returning from a three-game absence. He had 21 points. But J.J. Redick sat a second straight with a hamstring injury. Houston won a second in a row Tuesday, 123-107 in Dallas. James Harden had 34 points and 11 assists. Guard Patrick Beverley sat out with a left quadriceps contusion but it's nothing major. Somehow the first meeting of the season between L.A. and Houston. They split four last year, the Clippers winning the final two. Harden averaged 29.3 points.
Key trends: The Clippers are 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 9-2 in the previous 11.
Early lean: TBA most likely not just because of Redick but with Clips playing again Saturday. Will Paul go in both?
Bucks at Timberwolves (-2, 210)
NBA TV game. Milwaukee won in Detroit on Wednesday, 119-94. Jabari Parker scored 31 points and Giannis Antetokuompo had 23 points and eight assists. The Bucks are one of the NBA's worst 3-point shooting teams but were 11-for-22. Minnesota lost 105-103 in Denver on Wednesday. Wilson Chandler blocked a potential tying Andrew Wiggins layup in the final seconds. Karl-Anthony Towns had 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for the first but certainly not last triple-double of his career. It was the 10th loss for the Wolves this year in a game they led by at least 10. First meeting of the season between these clubs. Milwaukee has won the past four in the series.
Key trends: The Bucks have covered five straight in the series. The under is 6-0 in the past six meetings in Minnesota.
Early lean: Wolves and under.
Pistons at Hawks (-4, 203)
Detroit lost for the sixth time in seven games Wednesday, 119-94 at home to Milwaukee. Tobias Harris had 23 points and 12 rebounds off the bench for the Pistons. He has thrived since being moved to the bench, but the team hasn't benefitted much. Atlanta won 102-98 in overtime vs. the Knicks on Wednesday. Dennis Schroder scored 27 points, and Dwight Howard added 16 points and 22 rebounds. Paul Millsap played through a black eye. Detroit won in Atlanta 121-85 on Dec. 2 but has still dropped lost 12 of the last 15 games on the road in the series.
Key trends: The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 5-1 in the previous six.
Early lean: Hawks and over.
Trail Blazers at Spurs (TBA)
Portland ended its six-game losing streak with a 102-89 home win over Sacramento on Wednesday. I wouldn't have guessed that result with Damian Lillard sitting out a second straight due to a sprained left ankle. Mason Plumlee finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds. San Antonio won its third in a row Wednesday, 119-98 over Phoenix. Kawhi Leonard sat out with a stomach bug. San Antonio won 110-90 in Portland on Dec. 23 and has taken four consecutive in the series.
Key trends: The favorite is 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 6-2 in those.
Early lean: Wait on Leonard and Lillard.
76ers at Nuggets (-12, 212.5)
Philadelphia was in Utah on Thursday. The 76ers still aren't playing Rookie of the Year favorite Joel Embiid in both ends of a back-to-back and decided to rest him in Salt Lake City. Maybe they figured they had a better chance of winning with him in Denver, and they are probably right. Denver won a second straight Wednesday, 105-103 over Minnesota. Wilson Chandler had a key block in the final seconds and had 17 points. Nikola Jokic was two rebounds shy of a triple-double, finishing with 16 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. Denver has won the past three meetings vs. Philly following a 106-98 road win Dec. 5. Embiid finished with 16 points.
Key trends: Philly has covered seven straight in Denver. The over is 6-2-1 in the Nuggets' past nine.
Early lean: 76ers and over.
Mavericks at Warriors (-17, 213)
Dallas was at the Lakers on Thursday night looking to end a two-game skid. I'm not sure that veterans like Dirk Nowitzki and Andrew Bogut, who have been banged up this season, will play both ends of the back-to-back. Golden State avoided its first back-to-back regular-season losses since the 2014-15 season by beating Toronto 121-111 on Wednesday. Kevin Durant had 22 points, matched his season best with 17 rebounds and added seven assists and five blocks. Stephen Curry had 28 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. The Warriors shot 56.8 percent. Golden State has have won four straight and 11 of the last 12 regular-season meetings with the Mavericks. Dallas has lost the past eight in Oakland.
Key trends: The Mavs are 1-5 ATS in their past six in Oakland. The over is 4-0 in the past four meetings.
Early lean: Mavericks (I'll just about always take 15 points or more on any team) and over.
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