So Thursday is an important day for the future of the NBA as the owners and NBA Players' Association both have until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement. The current deal, borne from the 2011 lockout, was a 10-year agreement with the opt-out window after five years. That's going to happen, but it won't affect this season as the sides would have until the end of June to negotiate a new contract. Although some transactions (i.e. trades) could be on hold as teams wait for word on any new contract rules. Many of the major parts of the deal have been addressed, but there have been a few stumbling blocks as we reach the deadline even though both sides really want to announce a done deal before Thursday night. In addition, they can agree to an extension to the deadline. It would be mindboggling for the owners to lock out the players again next summer with the NBA swimming in new TV money. This is all just a bit of last-minute posturing. I do know that owners want to make it almost impossible for "super teams" to form like the Warriors. Then again, the last CBA was supposed to fix that post-LeBron's Miami Heat clubs.
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Bulls at Bucks (-1, 209.5)
First of the TNT doubleheader. Chicago continued its baffling trend of playing to its opponent level, both good and bad, by blowing a 21-point lead and losing at home to Minnesota 99-94 in Tom Thibodeau's return to the Windy City on Tuesday. Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with 27. They were without Rajon Rondo, a late scratch with a sprained ankle. Consider him questionable here. Milwaukee lost a third straight Monday, 122-100 in Toronto. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 30 points, eight rebounds and five assists, but the Bucks shot just 16.7 percent from long range. Chicago is 10-4 in its last 14 contests at the Bradley Center.
Key trends: The Bulls are 4-1 against the spread in the past five meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in 10 of the past 14.
Early lean: Bucks and under.
Pacers at Pelicans (-2.5, 213)
Indiana was in Miami on Wednesday with Monta Ellis out due to a groin injury and sixth man Rodney Stuckey questionable with a bruised left knee. New Orleans played great on Tuesday at home vs. Golden State but lost 113-109 in a back-and-forth affair. Anthony Davis had the ball with a chance to tie, but had it stolen by Draymond Green and then drew a technical yelling at the officials for no foul call. I actually thought Davis was fouled. He had 28 points. The Pacers have won 10 consecutive matchups over New Orleans after sweeping the regular-season series in each of the past five seasons. Both last year were very low scoring.
Key trends: The Pacers are 8-1 ATS in the past nine meetings. The under is 15-3-1 in the Pelican's past 19 vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Pelicans and under.
Trail Blazers at Nuggets (-1, 222.5)
Portland ended a four-game losing streak with a 114-95 home win over Oklahoma City in the Blazers' first game off a five-game trip Tuesday. Damian Lillard had 17 points and nine assists and got the fourth quarter off as the Blazers were up by as many as 26. Denver has been off since a 112-92 loss in Dallas on Monday. The Nuggets were ending a six-game road trip and clearly had nothing in the tank. Nikola Jokic led Denver with a season-high 27 points and 11 rebounds. Portland has won 13 of the past 14 vs. Denver and is 2-0 this year with Lillard averaging 34.5 points.
Key trends: The road team is 4-0 ATS in the past four. The over is 6-1 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Blazers and over.
Spurs at Suns (+8, 209)
San Antonio hosted Boston on Wednesday night, so you probably see a couple of key Spurs get this game off because we all know that's what Gregg Popovich does, especially if the second of the back-to-back is on the road. The Suns' past two have gone to overtime, and they beat the visiting Knicks 113-111 on Tuesday. Eric Bledsoe had eight straight points in the OT, including the go-ahead layup. He finished with 31 points, while former Knick Tyson Chandler had 23 rebounds. The Spurs swept all four meetings last season and currently are on a seven-game winning streak in the series.
Key trends: The Spurs are 3-14-1 ATS in their past 18 on Thursday. The under is 6-2 in the past eight meetings.
Early lean: Suns and under.
Knicks at Warriors (-14.5, 227)
Second TNT game. New York lost in overtime in Phoenix on Tuesday in the third game of a five-game Western trip. Kristaps Porzingis scored 34 points for New York, one shy of his career high, before fouling out with 1:34 left in OT. Carmelo Anthony was just 3-for-15 from the field and Derrick Rose didn't play in the second half due to back spasms -- here we go with Rose again. Consider him questionable. Golden State concluded a five-game trip with a 113-109 win in New Orleans on Tuesday. Steph Curry had 30 points and Draymond Green his first triple-double of the year with 12 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Green also had the key late steal on Anthony Davis. Golden State has swept New York in the season series the last two years. Neither was close last year. Of course, Knicks team president Phil Jackson coached Warriors head coach Steve Kerr for five seasons with the Chicago Bulls (1993-97) and Jackson originally wanted Kerr as his first Knicks coach.
Key trends: The favorite is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 7-2 in the Warriors' previous nine at home.
Early lean: Knicks and over.
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