New on the NBA schedule this season are eight prime-time Saturday night games spread out over the second half of the season and televised nationally by ABC. ESPN/ABC's No. 1 team of Jeff Van Gundy, Mike Breen and Mark Jackson will work the "Saturday Primetime" games, which will follow a pregame studio show. It's an interesting choice because ESPN already has NBA packages for Friday night and Sunday afternoon -- some games that would have been showcased on Sundays were moved to Saturday nights. Saturday is generally the worst night of the week for TV ratings, but ABC has found success with those marquee Saturday night college football games, and the NBA Saturday games also will be excellent matchups. The good news for bettors is it means five straight nights of national TV games and thus likely live betting options. ESPN has a Wednesday doubleheader and TNT has one Thursdays.
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Jazz at Wizards
Celtics at 76ers
Both of these games, to no surprise, were postponed Saturday because of the winter storm pummeling the Northeast. The Celtics-76ers will play Sunday. Philly had opened as an 8.5-point dog for Saturday. Boston leads the season series 2-0, winning both at home. The Wizards swept Utah last year and it's not clear as of this writing when this will be made up. Neither team does play Sunday, but it likely would already have been rescheduled for then.
Knicks at Hornets (TBA)
New York hosted the Clippers on Friday on a two-game winning streak. Charlotte was in Orlando with starters Nic Batum (toe) and Cody Zeller (shoulder) both out. Jeremy Lamb (toe) was questionable. Might be tough for the Knicks and Hornets to get to Charlotte late Friday night with the winter storm in that area. These teams have split two meetings this season, each winning at home. Hornets have won four straight at home vs. New York.
Key trends: The road team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 8-2 in Charlotte's past 10 in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: I doubt Batum and Zeller play, so Knicks win on the road.
Bucks at Pelicans (-5, 205.5)
Milwaukee was in Houston on Friday. New Orleans has held its past two opponents to exactly 99 points and won both. It beat Detroit by 16 on Thursday in the Big Easy. Tyreke Evans had 22 points and 10 assists for the Pelicans. He'll be counted on a lot more now with Eric Gordon out 4-6 weeks with a broken right finger on his shooting hand. Norris Cole started for Gordon and had 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. New Orleans swept Milwaukee last season and is 13-1 all-time at home in the series.
Key trends: The Bucks are 2-7 ATS in the past nine meetings. The over is 4-0 in the Pelicans' past four.
Early lean: Pelicans and over.
Grizzlies at Timberwolves (+4.5, 198)
This isn't your old Memphis as the Grizzlies have won four straight and scored in triple digits in all of them. They edged the Nuggets in Denver 102-101 on Thursday. Marc Gasol had 27 points, including a go-ahead three-point play with 12.2 seconds left. Guard Tony Allen was a late scratch from the lineup. Minnesota lost a second in a row Wednesday, 106-94 in OT in Dallas. It was Minnesota's 11th loss this season when leading by at least 10 points. That leads the NBA. Wolves lost first meeting with Grizzlies, 114-106 in Minneapolis.
Key trends: The Grizzlies are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 8-2 in the past 10 meetings in Minnesota.
Early lean: Grizzlies and under.
Bulls at Cavaliers (TBA)
This is your ABC debut game. Chicago was in Boston on Friday. Cleveland has won two straight since a home blowout to Golden State. The Cavs looked good on Thursday in beating the visiting Clippers 115-102. LeBron James scored 22 points with 12 assists, while Kevin Love had a second straight strong game with 18 points and 16 rebounds. He was invisible against the Warriors. These teams haven't met since opening night, a Bulls two-point home win. Cleveland has won two straight at home vs. Chicago in the regular season.
Key trends: The underdog is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The over is 6-0 in Chicago's past six road games.
Early lean: This is TBA because Jimmy Butler was dealing with an illness on Friday but still expected to play in Boston. Cavs will win this by double-digits.
Hawks at Suns (TBA)
Atlanta's three-game winning streak ended in a 91-88 loss in Sacramento on Thursday (called that one). The Hawks couldn't get a shot off in two crucial possessions in the game's final 13 seconds as their 15-game winning streak in the series ended. Right now, the Suns are easily the NBA's worst team. They were trashed by San Antonio 117-89 in the desert on Thursday, Phoenix's sixth straight loss. It played without four regulars, including starting guard Brandon Knight and forward Markieff Morris. The Hawks won both meetings last season, their first sweep of the Suns since 1991-92.
Key trends: The favorite is 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 5-2 in the Suns' past seven.
Early lean: Have to wait on all those Suns, but it shouldn't be close.
Pistons at Nuggets (+2.5, 206.5)
Detroit lost 115-99 in New Orleans on Thursday in the second of a back-to-back. Andre Drummond had 19 points and 22 rebounds for Detroit. A night after going 13-for-36 from the free-throw line, Drummond was only 3-for-5. Denver lost a second in a row Thursday, 102-101 at home to Memphis. Danilo Gallinari, who led Denver with 17 points, missed a 3-pointer with 3.9 seconds left. Center Jusuf Nurkic was available to play after missing the previous three with a knee injury but didn't get on the court. Surprising as he was a pleasant surprise as a rookie. Denver has won five straight at home in this series.
Key trends: The favorite is 6-0 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 5-1 in the past six in Denver.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
Lakers at Trail Blazers (-9.5, 205.5)
Los Angeles was home almost surely losing to San Antonio on Friday. I would be slightly surprised if Kobe Bryant plays here in the second of a back-to-back. Although this is his final trip to Portland, so he might feel obligated to do so. The Blazers lost at home to Atlanta on Wednesday, 104-98 to start an eight-game homestand. Portland has won both of its games against the Lakers this season, the team's third consecutive season with at least two wins against L.A. Damian Lillard has averaged 29.5 points and 10.0 assists against the Lakers this season. Bryant has averaged 27.9 points in 31 career games against the Trail Blazers at the Moda Center.
Key trends: The favorite is 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 5-1 in the past six.
Early lean: Blazers and under.
Pacers at Kings (TBA)
Indiana was at Golden State on Friday. Don't look now, but the Kings are a playoff team as things stand. They ended that 15-game losing streak to Atlanta with a 91-88 win on Thursday. DeMarcus Cousins had 24 points and 15 rebounds and Rajon Rondo his fifth triple-double of the season with 11 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Second-leading scorer Rudy Gay missed the game with a heel injury. The Kings have won three straight in the series after a 108-106 win in Indianapolis on Dec. 23.
Key trends: The underdog is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The over is 5-2 in the past seven meetings.
Early lean: TBA for Gay and Indiana's George Hill and Ian Mahinmi. Hill is likely to play here but not Friday due to personal reasons, but Mahinmi was questionable for Friday with an ankle injury.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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