Kudos to Houston Rockets rookie Chinanu Onuaku. He temporarily brought the "granny style" underhanded free-throw shooting back to the NBA earlier this week, but if you follow the University of Louisville program then you know the big man also shot them there -- switching after a freshman season in which he hit only 46.7 percent. Onuaku isn't going to play much and was only called up from the D-League because of the injury to Houston center Clint Capela and was already sent back down. But I remember Hall of Famer Rick Barry, an underhand free-throw shooter in his career and one of the best shooters from the charity stripe in NBA history, saying he could turn Shaquille O'Neal or any other bad shooter currently like a Dwight Howard or Andre Drummond into the mid-70s percentage wise if they would just allow him to teach the granny style. But NBA players are too "cool" to shoot it that way in a game, which is ridiculous (I've heard some of those guys do try underhand during practices and are much better). Although in typical conceited Barry fashion, he said Onuaku's style wasn't quite right and the he could fix it if asked.
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Heat at Hornets (TBA)
Charlotte was in Atlanta on Wednesday. Miami lost a second straight on Tuesday, 106-94 at home vs. Oklahoma City. Josh Richardson tied a career high with 22 points for the Heat. James Johnson scored 16 and Tyler Johnson added 15, both off the bench. Starting point guard Goran Dragic sat out with back spasms. Charlotte won the first meeting of the season 97-91 in Miami. The Hornets were down 19 in the third quarter. Kemba Walker led them with 24 points.
Key trends: The favorite is 6-2 against the spread in the past eight meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in the past six.
Early lean: Wait on Dragic -- keep in mind Heat play again Friday too.
Thunder at Grizzlies (TBA)
Oklahoma City won a fourth in a row Tuesday, 106-94 in Miami. Russell Westbrook got his 15th triple-double of the season already with 29 points, 17 rebounds and 11 assists. The Thunder are now 12-3 when Westbrook has a triple-double. Guard Victor Oladipo missed his eighth game with a right wrist sprain and doesn't seem likely here. Memphis followed a loss in Orlando on Monday with a 113-103 defeat in Boston on Tuesday. Marc Gasol had 26 points and nine assists vs. the Celtics. Mike Conley (left big toe), Chandler Parsons (rest) and Brandan Wright (left foot) did not dress. First meeting between OKC and Memphis this year. The Thunder won two of three in the series in 2015-16.
Key trends: The home team is 7-1 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 5-2 in OKC's past seven on the road.
Early lean: Wait on Conley and Parsons.
Celtics at Cavaliers (-7.5, 216.5)
First of a TNT doubleheader. Boston won a second straight Tuesday, 113-103 over Memphis. Avery Bradley scored 23 points and Isaiah Thomas had 21 points and seven assists. Cleveland had a five-game winning streak snapped Monday in Detroit, 106-90. But you had to see that coming the night after beating the Warriors in the Cavs' regular-season game of the year and with LeBron James getting the Pistons game off. Cleveland is 0-3 without him this year, but James should be in there Thursday. Meanwhile, Tristan Thompson became the first player in franchise history to play in 400 consecutive regular-season games. Cleveland won the first meeting with Boston 128-122 on Nov. 3. LeBron had 30 points and 12 assists. It was the Cavs' second straight home victory in the series.
Key trends: The road team is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 8-3 in the previous 11.
Early lean: Cavaliers and under.
76ers at Jazz (-12, 198)
Philadelphia lost a third consecutive Monday, 102-100 in Sacramento. Joel Embiid had his potential winning 3-point attempt blocked at the end. Embiid got the ball back but shot an airball at the buzzer. He had 25 points and eight rebounds. Gerald Henderson had to leave with an ongoing hip issue. Utah's three-game losing streak ended in a 102-100 victory at the Lakers on Tuesday. Joe Ingles hit the winning 3-pointer with 21.6 seconds left. Might surprise you to know he leads the league in 3-point percentage. Guard George Hill remained out with a sprained left big toe and has seen action in just 11 games but might actually play here. Utah is on a seven-game win streak vs. the 76ers and on an 11-game win streak vs. the 76ers at home. The Jazz won by 25 in Philly back on Nov. 7.
Key trends: The road team is 5-2 in the past seven meetings. The under is 5-1 in the previous six.
Early lean: Sixers and under.
Raptors at Suns (+8, 220)
Toronto was in Golden State on Wednesday so I wonder if perhaps a Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan gets this game off. Phoenix was in San Antonio on Wednesday. Toronto and Phoenix have split the season series each of the past two seasons. Earl Watson made his head coaching debut against the Raptors in Phoenix on Feb. 2, 2016.
Key trends: The Raptors are 0-6 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 5-1 in those.
Early lean: Suns and over.
Mavericks at Lakers (-4.5, 203.5)
Second TNT game. Dallas lost a second straight Tuesday, 123-107 to Houston and things got rather intense during that one and after. There were eight techincals called and the Rockets' Trevor Ariza was waiting outside the Dallas locker room for Mavs center Salah Mejri to throw hands or something. The one bright spot for the Mavs was the return of center Andrew Bogut after missing 11 games. The Mavericks had their projected starting five for just the fourth time. L.A. lost 102-100 at home to Utah on Tuesday. With a chance to win, D'Angelo Russell airballed a 3-pointer. Julius Randle had 25 points and 12 rebounds for his team-high ninth double-double for the Lakers. Dallas won in L.A. 109-97 on Nov. 8 and has taken 11 straight regular-season meetings with the Lakers. 16). It's the Mavs' longest active win streak against any team and their longest ever win streak against the Lakers.
Key trends: The Mavs are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 10-4 in the previous 14.
Early lean: Mavericks and under.
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