The worst game on the NBA schedule Saturday night is easily Phoenix at Philadelphia, two teams who are in full-blown rebuild/tank mode (albeit with some intriguing young players). Both the Suns and 76ers are likely to finish last or close to it in their respective conferences, something that Philly is very familiar with. But this is a good year to be lousy. The current crop of NCAA basketball freshmen is considered to be one of the best in many years. Thus, winning next summer's draft lottery could be a boon to any franchise. So while Saturday's game looks ugly on paper, one extra win/loss could be huge for both clubs regarding the future.
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Jazz at Rockets (TBA)
Unusual 5 p.m. ET start time for this one. Utah was offensively inept for most of Thursday's 85-77 home loss to Chicago. Rudy Gobert finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks for the Jazz. Gordon Hayward had just eight points. Derrick Favors and George Hill were both out injured and not likely here. Houston was on the second of a back-to-back on Thursday and routed visiting Portland 126-109. James Harden had 26 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds for his third triple-double of the season. These teams split last year, but Houston has lost the past two meetings -- it hasn't dropped three straight in the series since 2012.
Key trends: The home team is 5-2 against the spread in the past seven meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in 12 of Houston's past 14 after a win.
Early lean: TBA for Jazz guys -- go Rockets.
Hornets at Pelicans (+5.5, 206)
New Orleans hosted Portland on Friday with Anthony Davis saying he would return from a one-game injury absence. Charlotte hosted Atlanta on Friday. These teams are of course intertwined in a couple of ways. The Pelicans used to be the Hornets, but then when Charlotte got back into the NBA and had a chance to switch from Bobcats back to Hornets jumped on the chance when New Orleans switched to Pelicans. Got all that? And of course Charlotte had the best chance to win the 2012 NBA Draft lottery and the chance to take Davis but finished second and had to settle for Davis' Kentucky teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. These teams split two high-scoring games last year, each winning at home.
Key trends: The home team is 6-1-1 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 4-0 in the previous four.
Early lean: Hornets and over.
Heat at Wizards (-5, 202.5)
Miami ended a six-game skid with a 96-73 home win over Milwaukee on Thursday. Hassan Whiteside had 12 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks. Point guard Goran Dragic made a surprise return from an ankle injury and had 16 points. Washington bounced back from a loss in Philly on Wednesday with a 119-112 home win over the Knicks on Thursday. John Wall scored 23 points and had 11 assists in his first time playing the second of a back-to-back this season. Bradley Beal returned after missing three games and had 18 points. Last season, these two teams split the season series 2-2. The Wizards have won five of the last six against the Heat in Washington.
Key trends: The home team is 8-3 ATS in the past 11 meetings. The over is 7-2 in the past nine.
Early lean: Wizards and under.
Mavericks at Magic (-7, 188.5)
Dallas hosted Memphis on Friday with guys like Dirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams out again. Orlando beat New Orleans 89-82 on Wednesday. Serge Ibaka scored 16 points and Nikola Vucevic had 10 points and 14 rebounds. The Magic are the worst-shooting team in the NBA. Not sure why they keep starting Jeff Green, who had as many points on nine shots as I did against the Pelicans. These teams split last year. Orlando snapped a seven-game losing streak and a nine-game home losing skid to the Mavericks on Feb. 19.
Key trends: The Mavs are 9-1 ATS in the past 10 in Orlando. The over is 5-1 in the past six there.
Early lean: Magic and under.
Celtics at Pistons (-3, 200.5)
Massive letdown game possibility for Boston as it hosted Golden State on Friday without Jae Crowder again and Al Horford a game-time decision. Guess you could say the same letdown chance for Detroit if it won in Cleveland on Friday. These clubs split four meetings last year. Isaiah Thomas averaged 23.5 points against the Pistons. Detroit has won six of the last eight games at home against the Celtics.
Key trends: The favorite is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 7-3 in the past 10.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
Suns at 76ers (TBA)
Phoenix was at Indiana on Friday. The 76ers lost in the second of a back-to-back at Minnesota on Thursday, 110-86. Joel Embiid had 10 points and 10 rebounds in 23 minutes after sitting out the front end. It was Philly's 21st straight road loss. The 76ers swept the series vs. the Suns last season. Phoenix had previously won five straight vs. Philly.
Key trends: The Suns are 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 4-0 in the past four in Philly.
Early lean: TBA here as Sixers coach Brett Brown said he wasn't sure if Embiid would play. Jeez, take the kid gloves off that guy! Not like Philly plays Sunday.
Timberwolves at Grizzlies (-3.5, 204)
First of an NBA TV doubleheader. Memphis was in Dallas on Friday, so be on alert that the Grizzlies could rest Marc Gasol here as they've done it earlier in the season in the second of a back-to-back. Or maybe they do it Friday on the road so Gasol can play at home. Minnesota routed the 76ers, 110-86, on Thursday. Andrew Wiggins had 35 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Karl-Anthony Towns had 25 points and 10 rebounds. Already the third meeting of this season between these two. Memphis won at home 102-98 on Oct. 26, rallying from an early 17-point deficit.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past four meetings. The over is 6-1 in the past seven.
Early lean: Wolves and under.
Warriors at Bucks (+10, 223)
Golden State was in Boston on Friday. Milwaukee lost a second straight Thursday, 96-73 at Miami. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Tony Snell each had 14 points for Milwaukee. The Bucks shot 32.9 percent (28 of 85) from the field and were outscored by 18 in the fourth quarter. Last year's game between these teams in Beer Town was very notable as the Bucks ended the Warriors' NBA-record 24-0 start to the season with a 108-95 victory. As in this case, Golden State was coming off a game the night before in Boston.
Key trends: The underdogs is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 4-1 in the previous five in Milwaukee.
Early lean: Bucks and under.
Bulls at Clippers (-6.5, 203.5)
Second NBA TV game. Los Angeles was in Sacramento on Friday. Chicago won a fourth game in a row and third straight on the road Thursday, 85-77 in Utah. Jimmy Butler had 20 points and 12 rebounds. Rajon Rondo missed a second straight game with a left ankle sprain. He no doubt will want to play here if possible against Chris Paul and his former coach, Doc Rivers. These teams split last year, with the Clippers winning 120-93 at home. Blake Griffin was out for that.
Key trends: The favorite is 8-2 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The under is 7-0 in the Clippers' past seven at home vs. teams with a winning road record.
Early lean: Clippers and under.
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