The New Orleans Pelicans stink right now. I don't think they are as bad as their record, but they are ravaged by injuries/missing players. There's only so much Anthony Davis can do each night. Unfortunately for the Pelicans, they have lost another guy in swingman Lance Stephenson. He was hurt in Friday's loss to Phoenix, suffering a serious groin injury (in my mind, all groin injuries are serious!). Stephenson had averaged 9.7 points, 4.8 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 27.0 minutes per game. So pretty solid numbers. Because Stephenson was going to be out quite a while, the team simply released him as he was just on a partially guaranteed contract for the veterans' minimum. The Pelicans replaced him by signing former Suns first-round pick Archie Goodwin, who was surprisingly cut before the season began. It's possible the Pelicans could re-sign Stephenson when he's healthy when he returns in two months or so.
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Hawks at Cavaliers (-8.5, 208.5)
First of an NBA TV doubleheader. Think the Hawks are tired of running into the Cavaliers in the playoffs? Atlanta was swept in the 2015 conference finals and then swept again in this past spring's East semis. Not many of the eight games were close. Atlanta comes off a 112-97 home win over Houston as Dwight Howard had 20 points and 14 rebounds in his first game against his former team. Cleveland is the only unbeaten left but nearly was stunned on Saturday in Philadelphia (I recommended taking the points), 102-101. Total definition of a trap game. LeBron James had 25 points to move into the Top 10 on the NBA's all-time scoring list, pushing Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon from that list. Believe it or not, this is the first time any James-led team has started 6-0.
Key trends: The Hawks are 1-7 against the spread in the past eight meetings. The "over/under" is 7-2 in the past nine in Cleveland.
Early lean: Cavs and over.
Timberwolves at Nets (+4, 206.5)
Minnesota lost 112-92 in Oklahoma City on Saturday to drop to 1-4. The Thunder shot 52 percent from the field and held the Timberwolves to 39 percent shooting. Karl-Anthony Towns scored 33 points for the Timberwolves, but just one other player, reserve Shabazz Muhammad, had double-digit points. Brooklyn has been off since a 99-95 home loss to Charlotte on Friday. Brook Lopez had 18 points and Trevor Booker 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Nets. They are banged up at point guard and second-round rookie Isaiah Whitehead, so good for Seton Hall in last season's Big East Tournament, made his first start. He had eight points. Minnesota blew out Brooklyn twice last year.
Key trends: The favorite is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 4-1 in Brooklyn's past five at home.
Early lean: Wolves and under.
Nuggets at Grizzlies (TBA)
Denver pulled off a 123-107 surprise in Boston on Sunday in the fourth of a five-game road trip. Emmanuel Mudiay had a season-high 30 points. Wilson Chandler had 22 but left due to a hamstring injury. Will Barton missed a third game in a row because of an ankle problem. Memphis saw big free-agent offseason acquisition Chandler Parsons make his season debut off knee surgery on Sunday but the Grizzlies lost at home to Portland. He was 0-for-8 from the field in about 22 minutes. Good player if he can stay healthy, though. That's now two major knee surgeries for him. The Grizzlies won three of four vs. Denver last year.
Key trends: The under is 7-2 in the past nine meetings. The Grizzlies are 0-5 ATS in their past five on one day of rest.
Early lean: Memphis.
Suns at Trail Blazers (TBA)
Phoenix had a two-game winning streak -- both in overtime -- snapped in a 119-108 loss at the Lakers on Sunday despite a career-high 39 points from Devin Booker. The Phoenix bench had just nine points. Portland completed a three-game road trip with a 100-94 win in Memphis on Sunday. C.J. McCollum had a career-high-tying 37, including 16 in the fourth quarter. Damian Lillard injured the knuckle on his left index finger and was seen wearing a splint. Portland has scored at least 100 in all seven of its games. Phoenix defeated visiting Portland, 118-115, on a game-winning 3-pointer by Eric Bledsoe as time expired in overtime last Wednesday.
Key trends: The Blazers are 7-3 ATS in their past 10 on Tuesday. The over is 6-0 in the Suns' past six on the road.
Early lean: Presuming the TBA is for Lillard, who didn't think the injury was anything major. Go Blazers and over whatever number if he plays.
Mavericks at Lakers (TBA)
Dallas got its first win of the season Sunday, beating visiting Milwaukee 86-75 in overtime. Harrison Barnes had a career-high 34 points. Dallas played without starters Dirk Nowitzki (right Achilles soreness) and Deron Williams (left calf strain). Sadly, Dirk, probably the best foreign-born player in league history, looks pretty much done at this point. The Lakers are above .500 after a 119-108 win over the Suns on Sunday. They're also unbeaten at home, winning three straight games at Staples Center for the first time since April 2013. Larry Nance, a solid contributor off the bench, suffered a concussion in the game and won't play here. The Suns won three of four meetings last year.
Key trends: The Mavs are 7-3 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The under is 5-1 in the previous six.
Early lean: TBA for those injured Mavericks. I doubt they play. Go Lakers.
Pelicans at Kings (-5.5, 206)
Second NBA TV game and a stellar matchup of former Kentucky big men here in the Pelicans' Davis and Kings' DeMarcus Cousins. It's the second of a back-to-back for New Orleans as it was surely losing at Golden State on Monday. Sacramento closed a five-game road trip with a 96-91 upset win in Toronto on Sunday. Cousins had 22 points and 14 rebounds, and Rudy Gay scored 23 against his former team. Cousins had his 247th double-double, most in Sacramento history. The Kings have lost six in a row to the Pelicans, including four straight in Sacramento
Key trends: The Kings are 6-2-1 ATS in their past nine at home. The over is 13-5 in the past 18 meetings.
Early lean: Kings and over.
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