More bad news for the terrible Dallas Mavericks, who are clearly going to finish with their first losing season since 1999-2000. Future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki, easily the best player in franchise history, could miss some time again -- or at least is going to sit occasional games into next month. He returned from an eight-game absence due to a strained Achilles on Wednesday and also played Friday but then sat out Sunday. Nowitzki, the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history, has struggled when he has managed to play this season. He has averaged 12.2 points on 35.8 percent shooting in the five games he has played. "He's come a long way in the four-week-plus period, but it's an Achilles strain and it's taking time," Coach Rick Carlisle said. "It's as simple as that, so we have to do whatever is right here to make sure that he is gradually working his way back into this. The way this is going, it's probably not going to be one day he comes in and he's going to be fully recovered. This recovery is going to take some time, a full recovery. My hope is that is that it can be complete sometime in December, but we've just got to be patient."
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Pistons at Hornets (-4.5, 199)
Charlotte was in Memphis on Monday. Detroit's two-game winning streak ended in a 106-88 defeat at Oklahoma City on Saturday. Tobias Harris scored 21 points for the Pistons, who have lost five of their past seven. Andre Drummond was held to 10 points and eight rebounds. The Pistons pretty much go as he does. Detroit won two of three against the Hornets last year but has dropped its past three in Charlotte. Hornets head coach Steve Clifford was an assistant coach under Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy with the Orlando Magic from 2007-12.
Key trends: The favorite is 6-0 against the spread in the past six meetings. The "over/under" is 10-1 in Charlotte's past 11 in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: Hornets and over.
Clippers at Nets (+11, 212.5)
The Clippers dropped a second straight Sunday, 91-70 at Indiana. L.A. shot just 31.4 percent from the field and was 4-for-24 from 3-point range. Really no excuse for that result considering the Pacers were without Paul George. It was the first time ever under Doc Rivers that the Clippers were held under 80 points. Brooklyn lost a seventh straight game on Sunday, 122-105 at home to the Kings. Starting forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (ankle) missed a second straight game and was limited at Monday's practice, so it's not looking great for him here. Los Angeles has won three straight in this series after a 127-95 home blowout victory on Nov. 14. The Clips had 35 points off 22 Brooklyn turnovers.
Key trends: The Clippers are 1-15 ATS in their past 16 at the Nets. Wow! The under is 7-1 in Brooklyn's past eight at home against teams with a winning road record.
Early lean: Nets and under.
Cavaliers at Bucks (+7.5, 210.5)
Cleveland won its fourth in a row Sunday but almost was caught in a trap in Philadelphia, winning 112-108. Kyrie Irving scored 19 of his season-high 39 points in the fourth quarter and LeBron James had a triple-double with 26 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists. The Cavaliers, who missed their first 14 shots, never led through the first three quarters. Channing Frye (personal) was not with the team after his father passed away. Milwaukee won in Orlando on Sunday, 104-96. John Henson returned to the Bucks' starting lineup and had 20 points and seven rebounds. Henson was a DNP-CD on Friday. Cleveland was 3-1 vs. Milwaukee last year, with the Cavs' three wins each by at least nine and the loss in double overtime.
Key trends: The Cavs are 2-7-1 ATS in their past nine vs. the East. The over is 5-1 in the previous six meetings.
Early lean: Bucks and over.
Lakers at Pelicans (TBA)
Los Angeles beat Atlanta 109-94 on Sunday to complete the season sweep of the Hawks. Lou Williams scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter. D'Angelo Russell remained out and won't play this week, while Julius Randle missed a third game with a hip injury. New Orleans lost a second in a row Sunday, 91-81 in Dallas. Anthony Davis had 36 points and 13 rebounds. The Pelicans have lost big man Dante Cunningham for at least a month with a fractured right fibula. New Orleans lost in Los Angeles 126-99 on Nov. 12. The Lakers shot 55.3 percent overall and were 16 of 30 from long range. Davis scored 34 for New Orleans but left the game for a bit in the third quarter with an injury, and that's when L.A. pulled away.
Key trends: The Pelicans are 4-0 ATS in their past four at home. The over is 6-0 in the Lakers' past six after a win.
Early lean: I guess this is TBA for Randle. Not sure he matters that much. Go Pelicans.
Magic at Spurs (-12, 194)
Orlando lost a fourth in a row Sunday, 104-96 to the Bucks. Coach Frank Vogel inserted D.J. Augustin, Aaron Gordon and Bismack Biyombo into the starting lineup looking for a spark, but it didn't help. Gordon had eight rebounds but was 0-for-12 from the field and didn't score. I thought that guy would have been a lot better pro. San Antonio won its ninth consecutive game Saturday, 112-100 at Washington. San Antonio's bench outscored Washington's reserves 35-18. Orlando was swept by San Antonio last year and is just 4-24 all-time visiting the Spurs, who have won the past 10 in the series overall.
Key trends: The Magic are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 10-4 in the Spurs' past 14.
Early lean: Magic and under.
Rockets at Jazz (pick'em, 201.5)
NBA TV game. Utah was in Minnesota on Monday. Derrick Favors (left knee) did not travel with the team there, so he pretty clearly isn't going to play here, either. Boris Diaw should continue to start in his absence. Houston won a second in a row Sunday, 130-114 in Portland. James Harden had 38 points and 10 assists for his seventh consecutive double-double. Houston beat visiting Utah 111-102 on Nov. 19. The Jazz outshot the Rockets 51.3 percent to 44.7 percent and outrebounded the Rockets 43-39, but Houston had just five turnovers. Harden had 31 points and 10 assists.
Key trends: The home team is 6-2 ATS in the past eight. The under is 7-3 in the past 10 in Utah.
Early lean: Jazz and under.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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