So we have learned that the Golden State Warriors are quite vulnerable without MVP Steph Curry. They were blown out without Curry on Wednesday in Dallas and then opened as underdogs for the first time this season the next night in Houston. Golden State bounced back with a 114-110 win over the dysfunctional Rockets again without Curry. The team might get great news Saturday and not just on Curry possibly playing: the return of Coach Steve Kerr. He has missed the entire season, although he technically gets credit statistically for the 30-2 start, following back surgery. Kerr was with the team on its road trip to see how his body handled things. If all went well, Kerr could be on the bench Saturday. Interim coach Luke Walton has done such a good job that many expect he will be hired by some club as its head coach after this season.
Nets at Celtics (-9.5, 203.5)
A rare matinee at 3 p.m. for this one. These teams play again Monday in Brooklyn. The Nets lost 100-93 in Orlando on Wednesday, blowing a 10-point second-half lead. Brooklyn was just 3-for-20 from 3-point range. This concludes the Nets' three-game road trip. I have no explanation for Boston's 112-104 home loss to the Lakers on Wednesday, which ended a four-game winning streak. Coach Brad Stevens benched guard Marcus Smart for much of the first half after missing the team's shootaround. Interesting that these teams are playing a home-and-home again as they did in November and split, each winning by double digits at home.
Key trends: The underdog is 4-1 against the spread in the past five meetings. The "over/under" is 5-2 in the past seven.
Early lean: Celtics and under.
Suns at Kings (TBA)
This also has an unusual start time of 5 p.m. ET and will be televised by NBA TV. These are two franchises in need of a total overhaul right now. Phoenix is in a free-fall, having lost seven straight. It was beaten 110-106 in Oklahoma City on Thursday. Forward Jon Leuer, who averages 9.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, sat it out with an ankle injury. By the way, when the Suns fire Jeff Hornacek after this season, their rumored top choice to replace him? That would be the Warriors' Walton. The Kings lost embarrassingly at home to Philly on Wednesday, 110-105 for their third straight defeat. Sacramento coach George Karl remains one win shy of tying Phil Jackson for fifth place on the NBA's career coaching list with 1,155. Obviously Karl isn't in the same ballpark as Jackson overall. The Suns won first meeting with the Kings 118-97 on Nov. 4 in Phoenix.
Key trends: The Suns are 6-2 ATS in the past eight in Sacramento. The over has hit in eight of the past 12 meetings overall.
Early lean: This is TBA because Rudy Gay is questionable. Kings don't need him to beat Suns.
Thunder at Hornets (+5.5, 208.5)
Charlotte was in Toronto on Friday with Nicolas Batum a game-time call and Jeremy Lin out. Oklahoma City won a third straight Thursday, 110-106 over Phoenix. Russell Westbrook had 36 points, 12 assists and five steals. Oklahoma City shot 52.5 percent (42 for 80) from the field. This is the first meeting between these teams. The Thunder are 11-2 vs. the Hornets since moving to OKC, although both losses were in Charlotte. OKC swept last year, winning by seven at Charlotte.
Key trends: The Thunder have covered eight of the past nine meetings. The under is 8-3 in Charlotte's past 11 in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: Thunder and over.
Pistons at Pacers (-4, 201)
Detroit ended a three-game skid with a 115-90 rout of the Timberwolves on Thursday. Andre Drummond had 23 points and 18 rebounds. The Pistons outscored the Timberwolves 100-68 over the final three quarters. Indiana lost a second straight Thursday, 120-116 at home to Milwaukee. It was the second of a back-to-back for the Pacers and it showed. Paul George had 31 points, his first time scoring more than 18 since Indiana lost to Memphis on Dec. 19. Pacers starting center Ian Mahinmi missed the game with a sore left knee. Detroit and Indiana have split two meetings this season, both in Detroit.
Key trends: The Pistons are 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 4-1 in the past five in Indiana.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
Magic at Cavaliers (-8.5, 195.5)
Orlando was in Washington on Friday and Elfrid Payton was expected to play through an ankle injury. Cleveland returns home from a four-game West Coast trip, and it closed it 2-2 thanks to a 93-87 win in Denver on Tuesday. LeBron James had 34 points in that one. Kyrie Irving didn't play vs. Denver as it was the second of a back-to-back. He'll be in there Friday. This is the third of four regular-season meetings between the Cavs and Magic. The Cavs won the first two matchups by an average of 25.0 points. Cleveland has won 12 straight in the series, the franchise's longest active winning streak over any club.
Key trends: The Magic are 0-5-1 ATS in the past six in Cleveland. The under is 4-1 in the past five there.
Early lean: Cavs and under.
Bucks at Timberwolves (-2.5, 200.5)
Milwaukee ended a three-game losing streak with a 120-116 win in Indiana on Thursday. Khris Middleton had 33 points as the Bucks shot 58 percent from the field and scored 35 points off Pacers turnovers. It was the first time this season the Bucks won when their opponent shot at least 50 percent from the field. Minnesota lost by 25 in Detroit on Thursday. Kevin Garnett sat out the second of a back-to-back. Milwaukee swept the season series with Minnesota last year. The teams made NBA history in the Nov. 26, 2014, matchup when four teenagers all were on the court at one time.
Key trends: The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 5-0 in the past five in Minnesota.
Early lean: Bucks and under.
Pelicans at Mavericks (-5, 206.5)
Dallas was in Miami on Friday with Deron Williams expected to return from injury. New Orleans lost a second straight Thursday, 95-89 at home to the Clippers. Anthony Davis had 14 points and 15 rebounds. There is some good news for the team in that the minutes restriction on point guard Jrue Holiday has been lifted. He will also be able to play in both sets of a back-to-back. The Mavs and Pelicans have split two meetings this year, each winning at home. New Orleans has lost six straight in Big D.
Key trends: The home team is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The over is 5-1 in Dallas' past six in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: New Orleans and over.
Rockets at Spurs (-12, 201)
The NBA TV nightcap. Houston lost a third straight on Thursday, 114-110 to the Warriors. That's a game Houston should win considering the Warriors were without Curry and in the second of a back-to-back. James Harden had 30 points for the Rockets, who have dropped seven straight regular-season games to the Warriors. San Antonio won a third in a row Wednesday, 112-79 over Phoenix to improve to 19-0 at home. LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points and 12 rebounds. Tim Duncan missed his third straight game due to right knee soreness. Houston beat the visiting Spurs 88-84 on Christmas in the only meeting thus far.
Key trends: The home team is 7-0 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 4-1 in the past five in San Antonio.
Early lean: Rockets and over.
Grizzlies at Jazz (TBA)
Memphis beat Miami 99-90 in overtime on Tuesday. Marc Gasol scored seven of his 23 points in the extra session. That win enabled the Grizz to finish December at 8-8, their 12th consecutive non-losing month. Memphis played without starting forward Matt Barnes, who served the first game of a two-game suspension. Utah beat Portland 109-96 on Thursday. Trey Burke had a season-high 27 points as the Jazz hit at least half their shots for only the third time this season. Forward Derrick Favors missed a fourth straight game with a back issue. Utah won the first meeting over the visiting Grizzlies 87-79 on Nov. 7. Burke had 24 in that one.
Key trends: The Grizzlies are 1-6 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 8-3 in the past 11.
Early lean: Wait on Favors. Under no matter the total.
Nuggets at Warriors (TBA)
While Golden State looked lost on Wednesday without Curry, Klay Thompson stepped up Thursday with 38 points and Draymond Green had 10 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high 16 assists in the win in Houston. Center Festus Ezeli and guard Leandro Barbosa also missed the game. Curry seems likely to return here. Denver dropped a fourth straight Wednesday, 110-103 in Portland. Will Barton, traded by Portland to Denver last season, led the Nuggets with 31 points. Forward Danilo Gallinari (left ankle sprain) and center Jusuf Nurkic (left patellar tendon) both sat but could play here. Rookie guard Emmanuel Mudiay will sit yet again. Golden State is 2-0 vs. Denver this year, winning each by double digits.
Key trends: The road team is 7-2 in the past nine meetings. Denver is 4-0 ATS in the past four.
Early lean: Too many intangibles to hazard a guess here yet.
76ers at Clippers (-14, 207.5)
Philly played in the same building Friday vs. the Lakers looking for a second straight win. There's no question that Blake Griffin is one of the NBA's best players, but the Clippers haven't missed him since going out injured as they finished off a 5-0 road trip with a six-point win in New Orleans on Thursday. J.J. Redick had 26 points. It's the first time L.A. has swept a road trip at least that long. The Clippers routed the Sixers twice last year and have won seven straight in the series overall.
Key trends: The Sixers are 0-7 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 4-1 in L.A.'s past five at home.
Early lean: I like Sixers to cover here. Seems an easy letdown game for Clips off that successful trip.
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