You have to love the dysfunctional Knicks. Team president Phil Jackson is a devotee of the triangle offense that helped him win 11 titles as a head coach with the Bulls and Lakers. Yet he goes out and hires a coach this offseason in Jeff Hornacek who has no ties to that offense in his playing or coaching career. Already Jackson has expressed his displeasure with the few times the team runs the triangle, which is usually only after dead balls. Hornacek has said that Jackson told him he'd have the freedom to tweak the offense how he saw fit. And also this week, assistant coach Kurt Rambis, another triangle guy who was in the running for the head coaching opening after finishing up last season in that role after the Knicks fired Derek Fisher, was unofficially promoted to "defensive coordinator." Five years ago (pre-Jackson) the Knicks hired a defensive coach to assist Mike D'Antoni, and that was Mike Woodson. And within a season, Woodson was the head coach. This isn't going to end well in Gotham, and I believe more and more each day that Jackson will return to the Lakers in some front-office role next year to be with his girlfriend Jeanie Buss. Jackson does have an out in his contract.
Pacers at 76ers (+5, 212.5)
These teams played Wednesday night in the first of a home-and-home, and the 76ers were without excellent rookie Joel Embiid simply for rest. Indiana kept the 76ers winless with a 122-115 overtime victory. Paul George had 28 points, seven in the OT. The 76ers led by as many as six points with less than two minutes remaining in regulation. Jahlil Okafor had a chance to win it with three seconds left by missed a baseline jumper. Robert Covington led Philly with 23 points; he had totaled 32 all season entering the game. Meanwhile, Indiana has won three straight in Philadelphia.
Key trends: The Pacers are 5-1 against the spread in the past six meetings. The "over/under" is 8-2 in Philly's past 10 vs. the East.
Early lean: 76ers and over.
Cavaliers at Wizards (TBA)
Cleveland was the last of the unbeatens to fall on Tuesday, 110-106 at home to Atlanta. The Big 3 of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love combined for 76 points but obviously got little help. The Cavs shot a whopping 42 3-pointers and made only 11. Washington ended a two-game losing streak with a 118-93 home blowout of Boston on Wednesday. Otto Porter blew up with a career-high 34 points to go with 14 rebounds. It was 34-8 after one quarter! The news wasn't all good, however. Oft-injured Bradley Beal left with right hamstring tightness, so I'm sure he's out a while. These teams split four meetings last year, each going 1-1 at home.
Key trends: The underdog is 4-1 ATS in the past five. The over is 5-1 in the previous six in D.C.
Early lean: TBA for Beal and to a lesser extent John Wall, who tweaked a knee but it's not thought to be serious.
Raptors at Hornets (TBA)
Toronto bounced back from a surprising home loss to the Kings with a 112-102 win in Oklahoma City on Wednesday. DeMar DeRozan had 37 points. Kyle Lowry added 19 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds. Center Jonas Valanciunas missed his second straight game with a left knee contusion. Charlotte won a fourth in a row Wednesday, 104-98 over Utah. Kemba Walker led with 21. Top reserves Jeremy Lamb and Roy Hibbert remain out. Toronto won two of three vs. Charlotte last season, with the Hornets winning their lone home game.
Key trends: The home team is 9-4 ATS in the past 13 meetings. The over is 7-2 in the previous nine in Charlotte.
Early lean: TBA for Valanciunas. Like the Hornets and under regardless.
Jazz at Magic (TBA)
Utah's two-game winning streak ended in a 104-98 loss in Charlotte on Wednesday. The Jazz led most of the way. Gordon Hayward had 29 in a losing effort, but the Utah bench was dominated by the Hornets' reserves. Orlando lost a second in a row Wednesday, 123-107 at home to Minnesota, which had lost eight straight at the Magic. Orlando swept Utah last season in two low-scoring games. The Jazz averaged 92.5 points in the two.
Key trends: The road team is 7-1 ATS in the past eight. The under is 5-2 in Orlando's past seven overall.
Early lean: Suppose this TBA is for George Hill, who has missed the past two for Utah. Not sure he's worth that. I like the Jazz and under no matter.
Knicks at Celtics (TBA)
New York beat the visiting Nets 110-96 on Wednesday, rallying from a 14-point deficit. Carmelo Anthony had 22 points and Kristaps Porzingis 21. Boston lost its third straight Wednesday, 118-93 in Washington and didn't even bother to show up down 26 points after one quarter. The Celtics' eight points were their fewest in the first quarter since scoring seven against the Milwaukee Bucks in 1974. Jae Crowder missed a third game in a row and Al Horford a fourth, but Horford seems close to returning from his concussion. Boston won three of four last year vs. the Knicks and has taken the past three at home.
Key trends: The Knicks are 6-0 ATS in their past six on Friday. The under is 4-1 in the previous five meetings.
Early lean: Wait on Horford.
Clippers at Thunder (+2.5, 202)
NBA TV game. Los Angeles won its fourth straight Wednesday, 111-80 over Portland -- all four of those wins are by double digits. Blake Griffin had 22 points and 13 rebounds, and Chris Paul added 19 points. The Clippers were up 32 in the first half. No starters played in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City lost 112-102 at home to Toronto on Wednesday. Russell Westbrook had 36 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, but was just 9-for-26 from the field and had eight turnovers. Los Angeles will be looking to avenge its only loss, which was 85-83 at home vs. the Thunder on Nov. 2. Westbrook had 35 points, including a key jumper with 18.7 seconds left. The Clips hit just one shot in a 5 1/2-minute span late in the fourth quarter.
Key trends: The road team is 11-5 ATS in the past 16 meetings. The over is 4-0 in the previous four in OKC.
Early lean: Clippers and over.
Pistons at Spurs (-10.5, 196)
Detroit lost a second consecutive game Wednesday, 107-100 in Phoenix, blowing an 11-point lead. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the Pistons with a season-high 27 points, but the Detroit bench combined for just 21 points. San Antonio lost yet again at home Wednesday, 101-99 to Houston. Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points for the Spurs but missed his final two shots, either of which could have tied the game. It's the Spurs' first three-game home losing streak since December 2014. Tony Parker missed a third game in a row with a sore knee but is close to returning. San Antonio swept Detroit last year.
Key trends: The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 9-2 in the Spurs' past 11 after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game.
Early lean: Spurs and under.
Kings at Trail Blazers (-6, 210)
Second of a back-to-back for Sacramento as it looked to win a third game in a row Thursday at home vs. the Lakers. Portland's three-game winning streak ended in a 111-80 loss at the Clippers on Wednesday. The Blazers were down 29 at the half. Damian Lillard was held to a season-low eight points. Ditto C.J. McCollum. Portland has won six consecutive games over the Kings and also taken six straight home contests in the series. McCollum averaged 24.8 points in the four-game sweep last year.
Key trends: The Kings are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 7-0 in the Blazers' past seven at home.
Early lean: Blazers and over.
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