It's quite amazing how quickly things seem to sour around Dwight Howard. He had a very good thing going in Orlando and owned that town, but he not only got Coach Stan Van Gundy fired but forced a trade to the Lakers. Los Angeles appeared poised to have a super-team in Howard's one season there alongside Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, but injuries wrecked that and Kobe basically hated Howard. So he took less money to get away from ball-hogging Kobe and sign with Houston. And the Rockets reached the Western Conference Finals two seasons ago. But then Howard started whining about ball-hogging James Harden and the Rockets regressed to .500 last year. So of course Howard opted out to start fresh again, this time in his hometown of Atlanta. Thus, I will be interested to see if there's any bad blood on Saturday night when Howard faces Harden and his former teammates for the first time.
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Timberwolves at Thunder (-6.5, 207.5)
Minnesota lost 102-99 at home to Denver on Thursday to drop to 1-3. Nemanja Bjelica's tying 3-pointer at the buzzer rimmed out. Why is Nemanja Bjelica taking the last shot? Karl-Anthony Towns had 32 points and 14 rebounds as the Wolves blew at least a 15-point lead for the third time already this year. Oklahoma City lost in Golden State on Thursday, 122-96 as Russell Westbrook's Revenge Tour didn't go as planned. He struggled, hitting just 4-for-15 from the field for 20 points and was outplayed by Kevin Durant. Minnesota snapped a 10-game losing streak vs. Oklahoma City with a 99-96 road win on March 11. The Thunder have won 24 of the last 28 overall.
Key trends: The Thunder are 1-4 against the spread in their past five playing one day of rest. The "over/under" has gone under in five of the past eight meetings.
Early lean: Wolves and under.
Cavaliers at 76ers (+12, 204)
Cleveland stayed unbeaten with a 128-122 win over Boston on Thursday. LeBron James scored a season-high 30 points and moved within two points of passing Hakeem Olajuwon for 10th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. The Cavs are 5-0 for the first time in 40 years. Philly is still winless following a 109-93 loss in Charlotte on Wednesday. Joel Embiid sat out for rest. Ersan Ilyasova, who was acquired in a trade Tuesday with the Thunder, tied for a team-high 14 points in his first game with the 76ers. This looks to be one of the mismatches of the season. Cleveland has won six in a row against Philly.
Key trends: The Cavs are 1-6 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 6-1 in the past seven in Philly.
Early lean: 76ers and under.
Wizards at Magic (-2, 205.5)
Second of a back-to-back for Washington as it was looking for win No. 1 on Friday at home vs. Atlanta. Orlando won a second in a row Thursday, 102-94 over the Kings. Evan Fournier led the Magic with 29 points. The Magic have lost 12 straight in this series and six in a row at home. That's fairly surprising considering the Wizards haven't been that great.
Key trends: The home team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 5-2 in the past seven.
Early lean: Magic and under.
Nuggets at Pistons (-3.5, 202)
Denver won in Minnesota 102-99 on Thursday. Wilson Chandler scored eight of his 19 points in the fourth quarter. Guard Will Barton missed the game with a sprained left ankle and fellow guard Gary Harris was out with a strained right groin. Forward Darrell Arthur did make his season debut off left knee surgery. Detroit was upset 109-101 in Brooklyn on Wednesday in the second of a back-to-back. Andre Drummond looked almost disinterested with six points and six rebounds. Denver swept the two games vs. Detroit last year and has won four of the past six meetings.
Key trends: The home team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 7-3 in the previous 10 in Detroit.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
Bulls at Pacers (-3, 213)
Chicago hosted New York in Derrick Rose's return to the Windy City on Friday. Indiana lost 125-107 in Milwaukee on Thursday and is winless on the road. Guard Rodney Stuckey missed his third consecutive game with a right hamstring strain. Seems only fair the Pacers get the Bulls in the second of a back-to-back as last Saturday in Chicago the script was flipped and the Pacers were routed 118-101. Doug McDermott, who was questionable for Friday with concussion-like symptoms, had 23 points. The tired Pacers were down 21 at the half and that was pretty much that.
Key trends: The Bulls are 1-5 ATS in their past six at Indiana. The under is 6-0 in the past six there.
Early lean: Pacers and over.
Rockets at Hawks (-3.5, 219)
Atlanta was in Washington on Friday. Houston won 118-99 in New York on Wednesday in the second of a back-to-back. Harden had 30 points, 15 assists and six rebounds. He has at least 26 points, seven assists and six rebounds in all five games this season, tied for the longest streak with at least 26 points, seven assists and six rebounds by any player since Michael Jordan in 1989. Montrezl Harrell came up huge off the bench vs. the Knicks with 17 points and 10 rebounds. He got more time because Nene got the night off to rest. Atlanta has won five straight in the series.
Key trends: The Rockets are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 6-2 in Atlanta's past eight in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: Rockets and over.
Kings at Bucks (-3, 204.5)
Sacramento lost at third straight Thursday, 102-94 in Orlando. DeMarcus Cousins had 33 points and seven rebounds but was largely held in check in the fourth. The Kings have two more games to play until getting suspended point guard Darren Collison back. Milwaukee beat Indiana 125-107 on Thursday. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker had 27 points each. The Kings averaged 120 points per game in two wins vs. the Bucks last year and didn't have Cousins in either game. Rudy Gay totaled 68 points in the two.
Key trends: The Kings are 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 7-0 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Bucks and over.
Clippers at Spurs (-5.5, 197)
NBA TV game. Second of a back-to-back for Los Angeles after visiting Memphis on Friday. San Antonio was in Utah on Friday night looking to avoid a second straight loss to the Jazz. Tony Parker was going to miss Friday's game due to "right knee soreness" but it just could be Gregg Popovich resting him in the first of a back-to-back. The Spurs were 2-1 vs. the Clippers last year and have won the past two at home.
Key trends: The Spurs have covered 16 of their past 23 in the second of a back-to-back. The under is 7-2 in their past nine at home.
Early lean: Spurs and under.
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