This is my last NBA picks story for 2016, so what are the lasting memories of the NBA calendar year? Certainly "the Block" has to be No. 1: LeBron James' stunning block of an Andre Iguodala layup late in the fourth quarter in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. A fish may have saved Pittsburgh, as the movie goes, but that block saved Cleveland and helped bring the franchise its first NBA title. That play will live forever alongside Michael Jordan's final shot as a Bull and a few others. The past year also will be remembered for the Warriors' record-setting regular season and Steph Curry's ridiculous range. There was the breakup of the Thunder, with Kevin Durant nearly beating the Warriors in the West Finals and then deciding to join them in free agency. But that's OK, it gave us the triple-double monster that is Russell Westbrook. How about the Bucks putting the 6-foot-11 Greek Freak at point guard full time? Revolutionary. Or Kobe Bryant's ridiculous but amazing 60-point final game. The way Tim Duncan retired with grace, just like he did everything else. Shoot, we might even remember 2016 as the year the "Process" finally started to bear fruit in Philadelphia with the emergence of rookie Joel Embiid as perhaps the league's next superstar.
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Grizzlies at Kings (TBA)
A 5 p.m. ET start. Memphis ended a two-game skid with authority Thursday, destroying Oklahoma City 114-80. Marc Gasol had 25 points and someone named Troy Daniels (OK I know who he is but making a point) had 22 points -- all in the fourth quarter in garbage time. That tied a franchise record for points in any quarter. Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley missed a second game with a toe injury but almost played so likely will here. Sacramento's four-game winning streak ended in a 102-89 loss in Portland on Wednesday. Rudy Gay had just returned from injury but was out Wednesday with hip strain. Sacramento snapped a 12-game losing streak at the Grizzlies on Dec. 16 with a 96-92 victory in Coach Dave Joerger’s first game back in Memphis. In his best game of the season, Kosta Koufos scored 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds against his former team.
Key trends: The Grizzlies are 4-1 against the spread in the past five meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in six of the past seven.
Early lean: Wait on Conley and Gay.
Bucks at Bulls (-3, 201.5)
NBA TV game. Milwaukee was in Minnesota on Friday night and Chicago in Indiana, although the Bulls had the minor advantage of an afternoon start to get back earlier than normal. Keep in mind the Bulls could rest Dwyane Wade in one end of the back-to-back, although it likely would be on the road. The Bucks and Bulls played a home-and-home in mid-December and Milwaukee won both easily. Giannis Antetokounmpo, i.e. the Greek Freak, averaged 26.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 3.5 steals in the two.
Key trends: The Bucks are 2-7 ATS in their past nine in Chicago. The under is 4-0 in the past four meeting.
Early lean: Bulls and under.
Cavaliers at Hornets (TBA)
Cleveland beat visiting Boston 124-118 on Thursday but almost blew an 18-point fourth-quarter lead. Kyrie Irving led with 32 points but left with a hamstring injury. Irving said it was just cramps so if that's the case he should be fine to play here. Kevin Love added 30 points and 15 rebounds. LeBron (721) moved past Bingo Smith (720) for the third-most games in franchise history. Charlotte won a second in a row Thursday, 91-82 over Miami. Nic Batum had 16 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. Marco Belinelli missed third straight game (ankle). Cleveland has won both meetings this year vs. the Hornets, both at home and each by at least seven. Overall, the Cavs have taken four straight vs. Charlotte.
Key trends: The home team is 4-0-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 4-1 in those.
Early lean: Wait on Kyrie.
Knicks at Rockets (-9, 222.5)
New York was in New Orleans on Friday with Courtney Lee questionable. Houston hosted the Clippers on Friday with guard Patrick Beverley expected to return from a one-game absence. I'm sure the Rockets' Mike D'Antoni, the early NBA Coach of the Year favorite, would love to sweep one of the teams that fired him here. The Rockets won at the Garden 118-99 on Nov. 2 behind 30 points and 15 assists from James Harden and are looking for their 10th season series sweep of New York over past 12 seasons.
Key trends: The road team has covered eight straight in the series. The over is 4-0 in Houston's past four.
Early lean: Rockets and over.
Suns at Jazz (-10.5, 206.5)
Phoenix ended a two-game losing streak with a 99-91 home upset of Toronto on Thursday -- although with the Raptors coming off a big game in Golden State on Wednesday, I recommended taking the Suns and the points. Eric Bledsoe had 22 points, Devin Booker 19 and Phoenix, one of the NBA's worst defensive teams, held Toronto to 40 percent shooting. Utah beat Philadelphia 100-83 on Thursday. George Hill returned after missing 13 games and had 21 points. The game marked the first in which Utah started its preseason projected lineup of Hill, Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. This team could take off now if all those guys stay healthy. Utah swept Phoenix last year and then won the first meeting this season, 112-105 at home on Dec. 6 behind 22 points and 11 rebounds from Gobert.
Key trends: The Suns are 0-4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 5-2 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Jazz and under.
Clippers at Thunder (TBA)
Los Angeles was in Houston on Friday with J.J. Redick listed as probable (hamstring) and Chris Paul (also hamstring) surprisingly out after just returning from his issues. Hard to see Redick playing both ends if he goes Friday. Oklahoma City had a four-game winning streak end Thursday in Memphis, 114-80. If Westbrook just misses averaging a triple-double for the season because of assists, look to this game. He had 21 points, five rebound and zero assists in 23 minutes -- getting tossed in the third quarter after two technicals. The 80 points were a season low for the Thunder. L.A. and OKC split back in November, each winning a 2-point game on the road. Westbrook hit the key late jumper in the Thunder's win but missed a winning 3-pointer in the loss.
Key trends: The Thunder are 5-2-1 ATS in their past eight at home. The over is 5-0 in the past five meetings in OKC.
Early lean: Wait on that L.A. backcourt.
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