While it's easy for Golden State to cast a huge shadow over every other team in the NBA, there's actually other important basketball being played at times. And the game of the year in the Eastern Conference is Friday night when Cleveland visits Toronto, one of the biggest regular-season games in that city's history. The Cavs (41-15) lead the Raptors (38-18) by three games atop the conference. Oddsmakers have little faith in the Raptors winning the East as they are +700 compared to -450 for Cleveland. I'd give Toronto a shot if it can get the top seed and home-court advantage. The winner of this game would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker as it's the final of three meetings. There's no doubt they will finish 1-2 in some order. The Cavs and Raptors have split the first two games, each winning at home.
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Hornets at Pacers (-4, 205)
Charlotte's five-game winning streak predictably ended in a 114-103 loss in Cleveland on Wednesday. Kemba Walker had 20 points for Charlotte, which had won four straight on the road. Frank Kaminsky scored 16 points for the Hornets, who fell to eighth place in the East. Reserve big man Spencer Hawes missed a third straight game with a sore lower back. Indiana beat the visiting Knicks 108-105 on Wednesday. Paul George scored 15 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter. Good-looking Pacers rookie Myles Turner had 24 points, including a key late free throw. The Pacers shot 50.5 percent from the field. Guard C.J. Miles did not play because of a strained calf injury. Charlotte won the lone meeting thus far, 117-95 at Indiana on Feb. 10 to snap a 12-game road losing streak in the series. Walker led all scorers with 25 points.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1-1 against the spread in the past six meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in six of the past eight in Indianapolis.
Early lean: Pacers and over.
Wizards at 76ers (+7.5, 215)
Washington couldn't beat a decimated Bulls team in Chicago on Wednesday, falling 109-104. Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 19 points. Forward Alan Anderson played for the first time this season after surgery on his left ankle. He finished with nine points in 16 minutes. Philadelphia dropped a sixth in a row Wednesday, 111-91 in Detroit. Jahlil Okafor had 13 points, but just two rebounds. Washington won the first meeting, 106-94 at home on Feb 5. John Wall had 18 points, a career-high 13 rebounds and 10 assists for his fourth career triple-double. It was 38-18 Wizards after one quarter.
Key trends: The Wizards are 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 17-4 in Philly's past 21 at home vs. teams with a losing road record.
Early lean: Wizards and over.
Magic at Knicks (-1.5, 206.5)
Orlando hosted Golden State on Thursday. So this probably is a huge letdown game regardless of what happens there, especially also having to travel. New York lost a second in a row Wednesday, 108-105 at Indiana. Kristaps Porzingis missed a 3-point shot that would've given the Knicks the lead with 1.9 seconds remaining, and Carmelo Anthony missed a 3 at the buzzer. Porzingis led New York, which has dropped 13 of 15, with 22 points. Orlando leads the season series 2-0. The Magic won at the Garden 107-99 on Dec. 21. Nik Vucevic had 26 points and nine boards. Orlando is still only 2-5 in its past seven visits.
Key trends: The Magic are 4-10-1 ATS in the past 15 meetings. The over is 5-0 in the Knicks' past five vs. the Eastern Conference.
Early lean: Knicks and under.
Cavaliers at Raptors (+1, 208)
You knew Cleveland was going to play well at home Wednesday after laying an egg there Monday, and the Cavs did in beating red-hot Charlotte 114-103. LeBron James and Kyrie "bed bug" Irving scored 23 points each. Cleveland used a 40-point second quarter to take control of the game. Channing Frye showed why the Cavs acquired him, hitting four 3-pointers and finishing with 15 points. Iman Shumpert missed a third straight game with a shoulder injury but is close to returning. Toronto won a 12th straight home game over Minnesota on Wednesday, 114-105. DeMar DeRozan had 31 points as the Raptors tied a team record with a ninth home win in a row overall.
Key trends: The Cavs are 6-1 ATS in the past seven in Toronto. The over is 4-0 in the past four meetings.
Early lean: Cavs and over.
Bulls at Hawks (TBA)
First of an ESPN doubleheader and will have live betting at sportsbooks. It's so aggravating betting on Chicago because you never know when brittle Derrick Rose will beg out of a game right before tipoff. He did on Wednesday with a hamstring issue yet Chicago beat the visiting Wizards 109-104 despite using a starting backcourt of E'Twaun Moore and Tony Snell. There are a few NCAA backcourts I'd rather have. But they played well, as Moore had 17 points and Snell 16. Rose said it was nothing serious and was just being cautious. Atlanta lost a third straight Monday, 102-92 to Golden State. Al Horford led the Hawks with 23 points. It was Atlanta's fourth straight home loss, a franchise first since 2007. Atlanta has blown out Chicago twice this season.
Key trends: The Bulls are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 13-5 in the previous 18.
Early lean: TBA for Rose; Bulls will lose regardless.
Nuggets at Mavericks (-6, 209.5)
Denver ended a three-game losing streak with a surprise 87-81 win at the Clippers on Wednesday. Kenneth Faried had 21 points and 11 rebounds as the Nuggets improved to 7-13 on the road vs. Western Conference opponents. Denver outscored the Clippers in the paint 44-22. It was a season low in points allowed overall for the Nuggets. Dallas lost 116-103 at home to Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Dirk Nowitzki had a season-high 33 points to lead the Mavericks, who were swept in the season series. David Lee had four points and four boards in 15 minutes in his Dallas debut. The Mavericks have won three straight and four of the last five regular-season meetings with the Nuggets. Dallas won the first this season, 92-81 at home on Nov. 28. It also has won three in a row at home in the series.
Key trends: The home team has covered four of the past six meetings. The under is 5-2 in the past seven in Dallas.
Early lean: Mavs and over.
Clippers at Kings (+2.5, 219)
L.A. was stunned at home by Denver on Wednesday, 87-81. I get the NBA is a 3-point shooting league these days, but the Clippers threw up a franchise-record 46 of them. That's crazy. They made just 13. Chris Paul had 17 points, 10 assists and six rebounds but appeared to suffer a calf injury in the game, although he played through it. Monitor that. Sacramento's three-game winning streak ended in a 108-92 home loss to San Antonio on Wednesday. DeMarcus Cousins started 0-for-10 from the field, failing to score in the first quarter for the first time this season. Rajon Rondo had seven points, 18 assists and eight rebounds. This closes the season series and will be L.A.'s final game ever at Sleep Train Arena. The Kings have lost six in a row there to Los Angeles but did pull off an upset at Staples Center in the most recent meeting.
Key trends: The Clippers are 4-1 ATS in the past five in Sacramento. The over is 5-1 in the past six meetings.
Early lean: Clippers (unless Paul sits) and over.
Grizzlies at Lakers (+4, 209)
Second ESPN game and also the second of a home-and home between these two. On Wednesday, the Lakers lost their seventh straight game, 128-119 in Memphis. Matt Barnes had a season high 25 points and the Grizzlies also had a season high in points. Guard Tony Allen missed a second straight game with a sore left knee. Jordan Clarkson scored 21 of his 28 points in the second half to lead the Lakers. Kobe Bryant had 13 points in his final game at Memphis. The Lakers have scored at least 101 points in their past five games but have allowed at least 108 in each of them.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 4-1 in the previous four in L.A.
Early lean: It's actually quite tough to sweep a home-and-home regardless of the opponent. So I'll take the points here.
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