And now we start to see Operation Tank Mode across the NBA. The Philadelphia 76ers almost surely were going to finish with the NBA's worst record regardless, but they pretty much would assure that by shutting down top rookie Jahlil Okafor for the season. He has missed the past five games with soreness in his right knee, and the team may just end his year. At this point, might as well. With Philly's luck, it probably would turn into something serious if he continued to play. Okafor was a preseason favorite for Rookie of the Year, but that will go to Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns. Okafor is averaging 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds, solid numbers to be sure. Maybe the next time we see him on the court, it's actually next to Joel Embiid, who has missed the past two seasons with foot issues.
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Pistons at Hornets (-4, 203.5)
Detroit won a second in a row Wednesday, 102-96 in Dallas. Andre Drummond had 25 points and 17 rebounds as the Pistons exceeded their win total of last season with victory No. 33. Rookie pistons forward Stanley Johnson missed a seventh straight game with a right shoulder injury but is getting close. Charlotte won a fifth straight Wednesday, 122-113 over New Orleans. Kemba Walker had 35 points, his fourth in a row with at least 30. Charlotte won in Detroit 104-84 on Dec. 7. The Hornets never trailed after the 6:09 mark of the first quarter. They have won two straight at home in the series.
Key trends: The Pistons are 2-6 against the spread in the past eight meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in four of the past five in Charlotte.
Early lean: Hornets and over.
Nets at 76ers (+1, 211.5)
Brooklyn lost a second in a row Tuesday, 104-99 in Toronto. Brook Lopez had 35 points, one shy of his season high. He was the only Nets player to attempt a free throw, which is rather hard to believe. Philadelphia lost its 13th straight game Wednesday, 118-104 to Houston. Nerlens Noel was back after missing two games and had 17 points, nine rebounds and four assists. These teams have split, each winning at home. The Nets are 10-4 in the series since moving to Brooklyn.
Key trends: The favorite is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 7-0-1 in the past eight.
Early lean: Nets and under.
Rockets at Celtics (-6, 222)
Houston won its second in a row Wednesday, 118-104 in Philly. James Harden had 29 points and Dwight Howard 21 and 18 rebounds. The Rockets are back at .500. The next time Howard plays in Boston, it could be as a member of the Celtics as they are likely to look at Howard in free agency this summer. Boston beat visiting Memphis 116-96 on Wednesday for its 14th straight home win. Isaiah Thomas had 22 points and one turnover -- amazingly his first giveaway in four games. Boston won the first meeting with Houston 110-95. The Celtics hadn't scored more than 103 points in the previous nine meetings. Houston had won the previous four.
Key trends: The favorite is 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 7-0 in the past seven.
Early lean: Rockets and under.
Heat at Bulls (TBA)
Miami's five-game winning streak ended in a 114-108 loss in Milwaukee on Wednesday. The Heat hadn't lost since signing Joe Johnson as a free agent on Feb. 27. Hassan Whiteside had 23 points and 13 rebounds in the loss. It's possible rookie Justise Winslow could be suspended here as he was called for a Flagrant Type 1 foul in the game. Chicago was in San Antonio on Thursday without Jimmy Butler, who was off to see Dr. James Andrews. So clearly you won't see him here. Miami leads the season series 2-0 and has won two straight in the Windy City.
Key trends: The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five. The under is 6-1 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Knowing Derrick Rose, he'll get hurt Thursday too and miss this one. Heat will win.
Pelicans at Grizzlies (TBA)
New Orleans lost 122-113 in Charlotte on Wednesday despite 40 points from Anthony Davis and a season-high 38 from Jrue Holiday. The injury-ravaged Pelicans were without point guard Norris Cole, so they had to start someone named Orlando Johnson, who was just called up from the D-League. He had five points in 20 minutes. Memphis lost by 20 in Boston on Wednesday and was again without Mike Conley and Zach Randolph. To make matters worse, guard Mario Chalmers went down with what looked like a serious right leg injury. He's not playing here and the other two are questionable. This is the final meeting of the season and New Orleans looks to avoid the 4-0 sweep.
Key trends: The Grizzlies are 12-3-1 ATS in their past 16 after a loss. The under is 6-1 in the past seven meetings in Memphis.
Early lean: Wait on Conley and Randolph.
Timberwolves at Thunder (-14, 226)
Minnesota lost a second straight Tuesday, 116-91 in San Antonio. Andrew Wiggins had 23 points and eight rebounds for the Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns had 19 points and nine boards. Nikola Pekovic remains out for the Wolves. OKC beat the Clippers 120-108 on Wednesday behind another triple-double from Russell Westbrook. He had 25 points, a career-high 20 assists and 11 rebounds. It was the first triple-double with at least 25 points, 20 assists and 10 rebounds since Magic Johnson did it for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1988 -- the year Westbrook was born. Minnesota is 0-3 vs. the Thunder this season and has dropped 12 in a row in OKC.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over has hit in seven of the past 11 in OKC.
Early lean: I'll take the points. Thunder might be a tad flat off a big win over the Clips.
Wizards at Jazz (TBA)
Washington lost a third in a row Tuesday, 116-109 in overtime at Portland. Marcin Gortat had a floating layup attempt with about three seconds left in regulation to win but it was blocked by Gerald Henderson. The Wizards led by as many as 13 points in the third quarter. Bradley Beal missed the game with a sprained pelvis. Utah lost 115-94 in Golden State on Wednesday. Jazz guard Rodney Hood missed the game with lower back soreness but he's likely to be back here as Wednesday was the second of a back-to-back. Washington beat visiting Utah 103-89 on Feb. 18 in a game postponed from Jan. 23. John Wall had 17 points and 11 assists.
Key trends: Utah is 1-9 ATS in its past 10 games. The under is 4-0 in the past four meetings.
Early lean: TBA for Beal, who might return. Jazz win regardless.
Magic at Kings (TBA)
Orlando lost a third in a row Tuesday, 107-98 at the Lakers. Victor Oladipo scored 26 points and Evan Fournier had 23 for the Magic, who were clearly flat after playing well at Golden State the night before. Center Nik Vucevic missed a second straight game with a groin strain. Sacramento lost its third in a row Wednesday, 120-111 at home to Cleveland. DeMarcus Cousins had 29 points and 11 rebounds. He was called for his 15th technical foul, meaning one more and he's suspended. Ben McLemore and Marco Belinelli missed the Cavs game with injuries. Orlando has lost five of the past seven meetings, including 97-91 at home on Nov. 21. Cousins tallied 29 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, three blocked shots and three steals.
Key trends: The Magic are 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 7-3 in the previous 10.
Early lean: Magic are gassed on this trip. Kings win.
Trail Blazers at Warriors (-13.5, 228.5)
Portland returned home from a long road trip and ended a three-game skid with a 116-109 OT win over Washington on Tuesday. Damian Lillard had 14 points and 11 assists. He became just the third player in NBA history with at least 1,500 points and 400 assists in each of his first four seasons. The others: LeBron James and Oscar Robertson. Nice company. Golden State won its 46th straight at home Wednesday, 115-94 over Utah. Steph Curry had just 12 points but another long-distance ridiculous make at the halftime buzzer. It was his fourth make from at least 40 feet this season. Portland and Golden State have split the season series, with the Blazers winning the most recent matchup in a 137-105 stunner on Feb. 19. Lillard had a career-high 51 points in that one. It was Golden State's worst loss since April 2012.
Key trends: The Blazers are 8-20 ATS in the past 28 meetings. The over is 4-0 in the previous four.
Early lean: Warriors want major payback. They cover and go over.
Knicks at Clippers (-10, 205)
New York won in Phoenix on Wednesday, 128-97. Sasha Vujacic made an incredibly rare start and had 23 points -- normal starter Arron Afflalo missed the game -- as did Carmelo Anthony. It was New York's highest point total and biggest margin of victory this season. Forward Lance Thomas also sat for the Knicks. L.A. lost 120-108 in Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Chris Paul shot just 5-of-15, scoring 12 points with 16 assists. That loss likely dooms the Clips to the No. 4 seed in the West and a conference semifinals matchup with Golden State (assuming both get there). The Clippers won in New York 116-88 on Jan. 22. Paul had 16 points, 13 assists and six rebounds. L.A. has won seven in a row overall in the series.
Key trends: The Knicks are 0-5 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 6-1 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Clippers and under.
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