Many around the NBA think that the team with the best chance to beat the Golden State Warriors in this year's playoffs is not the San Antonio Spurs but the Oklahoma City Thunder. That's because obviously OKC has two of the best players/scorers in the NBA in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and they are capable of matching Steph Curry point-for-point. But mostly it's because the Thunder also can thrive playing small-ball, and that's what makes Golden State nearly unbeatable. That's why I will be parked on the couch Saturday night (9 p.m. ET) for the lone national TV NBA game of Saturday (ESPN) as Oklahoma City visits Golden State in the first matchup of the season between these teams. The Warriors put their 40-game regular-season home winning streak on the line. With the Super Bowl being held down the road on Sunday, there should be a huge amount of celebrities at this game.
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Trail Blazers at Rockets (-5, 213.5)
Portland's five-game winning streak ended in a 110-103 home loss to Toronto on Thursday. Damian Lillard had 27 points and 11 assists, while CJ McCollum added 21 points for Portland. The team was without starting forward Noah Vonleh due to an ankle injury. Maurice Harkless, who almost never plays even a minute, got a surprise start in his place. Houston won a second in a row on Thursday, 111-105 in Phoenix. Corey Brewer scored a season high 24 points and Trevor Ariza 22 to lead the Rockets. James Harden was just 4-for-17 from the field. Houston beat Portland 108-103 in OT in Houston on Nov. 18 behind 45 points from Harden. The Rockets outscored the Blazers by 15 in the fourth quarter. Houston has won five of its past six games against the Trail Blazers. Harden has at least 40 in four of the past five in series.
Key trends: The Blazers are 5-2 against the spread in their past seven in Houston. The "over/under" is 12-2 in the past 14 in Houston.
Early lean: Rockets and over.
Wizards at Hornets (TBA)
Washington hosted Philly on Friday, while Charlotte was home to Miami. The Hornets weren't sure if point guard Kemba Walker was to miss a second straight game. Walker thought he would play after practicing Thursday. These teams have split two meetings this season, each winning at home by at least eight points. The game in Charlotte finished 101-87 on Nov. 25.
Key trends: The Wizards are 2-7 ATS in the past nine meetings. The under is 8-2 in the past 10.
Early lean: Hornets if Walker plays.
Pistons at Pacers (-4, 204.5)
Indiana was in Atlanta on Friday. Detroit beat the visiting Knicks 111-105 on Thursday despite blowing a 27-point lead. But the Pistons learned that starting shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be out through the All-Star break with a core muscle strain. He's averaging 14.6 points this season. This is the final meeting of the season between the teams. The Pacers lead 2-1, winning the home game 94-82 on Jan. 2 behind 32 points from Paul George. He and Marcus Morris scuffled a bit at the end so keep an eye on that here.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 8-3 in the past 11.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
Pelicans at Cavaliers (-11, 208.5)
Cleveland hosted Boston on Friday. New Orleans dropped a third in a row Thursday, 99-96 at home to the sorry Lakers. The Pelicans have been held under 100 points in each loss. Anthony Davis had 39 points and 11 rebounds in the Laker loss. Jrue Holiday missed a tying 3-pointer at the buzzer. New Orleans was just 16-for-26 from the free-throw line. Tyreke Evans missed a fifth straight game, and don't expect him here. The Pelicans won the first meeting, 114-108 on OT on Dec. 4 in the Big Easy. LeBron James led all scorers with 37 points, including 23 in the fourth quarter to erase a 13-point Pelican lead and get the game to OT. Davis had 31 points and 12 rebounds.
Key trends: The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 6-1 in those seven.
Early lean: Cavaliers and over.
Nets at 76ers (pick'em, 202.5)
Philly was in Washington on Friday, while Brooklyn hosted the Kings. Brooklyn and Philly are clearly the two worst teams in the East, but at least the 76ers have a plan, their first-round pick in this year's draft and some good young players. The Nets don't have any of those. Brooklyn won the first meeting at home, 100-91 on Dec. 10.
Key trends: The Nets are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 6-0-1 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Wow, Sixers might be favored by tipoff! And I'll take them.
Mavericks at Grizzlies (-4, 196)
Dallas was home to San Antonio on Friday without Deron Williams, while Memphis was in New York. The Mavs and Grizzlies have split two meetings, each winning at home. The game in Memphis was Nov. 24, and the Grizz rolled 110-96. Mike Conley scored 21 points to lead seven Grizzlies in double figures. Dirk Nowitzki had 14 points and 10 boards in the loss.
Key trends: The Mavs are 5-2 ATS in the past seven in Memphis. The over is 4-1 in the previous five there.
Early lean: Grizzlies and over.
Bulls at Timberwolves (TBA)
Chicago was in Denver on Friday night with both Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol questionable. It does appear like the team will see the season debut of small forward Mike Dunleavy on Saturday, however. He had offseason back surgery and then a bit of a setback in rehab. Minnesota had a stunning win at the Clippers on Wednesday, 108-102. The Wolves had lost five straight games entering that and played the night before against the Lakers. Minnesota hadn't won on the second of a back-to-back all year, anywhere on the road since Dec. 20 in Brooklyn and had dropped 14 straight to the Clippers. Kevin Garnett, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic all missed it, and they aren't expected here. Minnesota pulled a 102-93 OT surprise in Chicago on Nov. 7 but has dropped six straight at home in the series.
Key trends: Chicago is 6-1 ATS in its past seven in Minnesota. The under is 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Everything would seem to set up for Minnesota to win this outright.
Lakers at Spurs (-17.5, 203.5)
San Antonio was in Dallas on Friday. Los Angeles won a second in a row Thursday, 99-96 in New Orleans. Kobe Bryant had a second straight big outing with 27 points and season-high 12 rebounds. He was questionable with a shoulder injury but probably always will be. The Lakers have lost both meetings this season in routs. The one in San Antonio was 109-87 on Dec. 11. The Spurs have won the past three overall.
Key trends: The Lakers are 0-7 ATS in their past Saturday games. The over has hit in four of San Antonio's past six at home vs. teams with a losing road record.
Early lean: Lakers and under.
Jazz at Suns (+4.5, 195)
Utah hosted Milwaukee on Friday. Phoenix dropped a sixth consecutive on Thursday, 111-105 against Houston. The Rockets outscored the Suns 20-10 over the last half of the fourth quarter. Archie Goodwin led the Suns with 22 points, while Alex Len added 12 with a career-high 18 rebounds. Utah won the first meeting 110-89 at home on Dec. 21. The Jazz's lead was never below double digits in the second half. Gordon Hayward had 24 for Utah, while not a single Suns starter reached 10 points. The Suns have won seven of their last nine home games in the series.
Key trends: The home team is 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 5-1 in the past six in Phoenix.
Early lean: Jazz and under.
Thunder at Warriors (-6.5, 233.5)
Oklahoma City won its fifth straight on Wednesday, 117-114 over the visiting Magic. The Thunder might have been caught looking ahead a bit as they needed a Durant 3-pointer with under a second left to avoid the upset. He finished with 37 points, his 36th straight game with at least 20. Westbrook might have been better with his third straight triple-double, this time 24 points, a career-high 19 rebounds (most by an NBA point guard since November 2007) and 14 assists. If it wasn't for Curry, those two would be battling for league MVP honors most likely. Speaking of Curry, he was sublime in a 134-121 win in Washington on Wednesday, the Warriors' eighth straight victory. Curry had 11 3-pointers on the way to 51 points. He actually had been slumping a bit his previous three games with 50 total points. The Warriors won the season series with OKC 3-1 last year and have won three straight vs. the Thunder in Oakland.
Key trends: The home team is 5-0 ATS in the past five. The over has hit in seven of the previous nine.
Early lean: This may be the highest total I've ever seen. I just can't go over something that high. Take OKC.
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