Probably the stupidest firing of any head coach the past two seasons was the Bulls dumping Tom Thibodeau last offseason, but I touched on that earlier this week. No. 2 in my opinion was Sacramento firing Mike Malone in mid-December 2014. The Kings had started that season 5-1 and were still 11-13 despite losing star DeMarcus Cousins for several games due to an illness when Malone was fired. Malone had the Kings on the right track and he had connected with Cousins like no other coach had. Now the Kings are a total mess -- Cousins often acting like a spoiled brat -- and no doubt will have a third head coach this offseason since dumping Malone. And Malone I'm sure will take some major satisfaction if his new team, the Nuggets, beats his old one for the first time in 2015-16 on Saturday as they play for the final time. It's an unusually light schedule for a Saturday, no doubt because of the Final Four. There are no NBA games Monday opposite the NCAA final.
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Pacers at 76ers (-12, 205)
Indiana lost a second straight home game Thursday, 114-94 to Orlando. Can't lose those types of games and hang onto a playoff spot. The Pacers hadn't lost at home in the series in four years. Coach Frank Vogel hinted he might change his lineup now. Paul George finished with 27 points and eight rebounds. He needs two more 3-pointers to become the second Pacers player (Reggie Miller) to make 200 in a season. Philadelphia was in Charlotte on Friday no doubt losing its 11th straight game. Indiana has routed Philly twice this season, holding the Sixers to a combined 160 points. The Pacers have won four in a row in the series overall and two straight in Philly.
Key trends: The Pacers are 4-0 against the spread in the past four meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in seven of Indiana's past eight against the East.
Early lean: Pacers and under.
Pistons at Bulls (TBA)
Your lone national TV game on NBA TV. Important game with Detroit seventh in the East, two games ahead of No. 9 Chicago entering the Pistons' home game vs. Dallas on Friday. Indiana is in between the Pistons and Bulls in eighth. Chicago got an improbable 103-100 win in Houston on Thursday. Nikola Mirotic continues to shine in road games with 28 points. It's weird how much better he is away from home. But the injury problems persist. Taj Gibson has been diagnosed with a broken rib, so he's out a while. Derrick Rose tried to play through an elbow injury Thursday but only made it 12 minutes. So I'm sure he's out here at least. Detroit won the first two games in overtime this season vs. Chicago -- including a four-OT epic on Dec. 18 in the Windy City -- but lost the most recent 111-101 at home on Jan. 18. This will mark the 250th all-time meeting between the clubs.
Key trends: The Pistons are 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 5-0 in Chicago's past five overall.
Early lean: Pistons win if Rose sits.
Raptors at Spurs (TBA)
Potential Finals preview? Both teams are going to finish second in their respective conferences and be second-favorites to win said conferences. Toronto was in Memphis on Friday night. San Antonio beat New Orleans 100-92 on Wednesday to improve to 38-0 at home. That's an NBA record to start a season, although obviously Golden State is also potentially going to get that. Manu Ginobili returned from two games off and had 20 points vs. the Pelicans, and Kawhi Leonard was back after a three-game absence and had 16 points. San Antonio lost 97-94 in Canada on Dec. 9. The Raptors shot 57.8 percent from the field. No team has done better against the Spurs this season. They have won six straight at home in the series, however.
Key trends: The home team is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The over is 4-1 in the previous five.
Early lean: I happen to think Gregg Popovich will play his guys here with San Antonio off until Tuesday. But I'm not sure the Raptors will play their stars. Spurs should thus roll.
Kings at Nuggets (TBA)
Sacramento hosted Miami on Friday without Cousins due to a one-game suspension for too many technical fouls. He says he's not playing here, either, simply for rest. To be fair, the Nuggets were stupid for firing Coach George Karl after the 2013 season. Of course, now he's coaching the Kings, albeit only for a few more weeks. Denver lost 101-95 in New Orleans on Thursday. Darrell Arthur tied a career high with 24 points off the bench for Denver. Will Barton had been red hot but was 0-for-8 from the field. Jusuf Nurkic sat out with an illness. The Kings are 2-0 against the Nuggets this season even though Denver scored exactly 110 points in each.
Key trends: The Kings are 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 6-0 in the past six.
Early lean: Go big on Nuggets if Cousins is indeed out. They want this for their coach.
Heat at Trail Blazers (-5, 209.5)
Miami was in Sacramento on Friday. Portland won a third straight Thursday, all at home, 116-109 over Boston. Al-Farouq Aminu had a career-high 28 points. Damian Lillard was held to 14 points on 3-for-16 shooting. Miami beat visiting Portland 116-109 on Dec. 29 behind 29 points from Chris Bosh and 22 points and 11 rebounds from Hassan Whiteside. Lillard had 32 points. The Heat also are 4-2 in their past six trips to the Moda Center.
Key trends: The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 10-2 in Portland's past 12 vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Blazers and over.
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