Sometimes when I speak with people who know nothing about sports betting, usually women, they don't understand anything about spreads or moneylines. "Why can't you just bet on which team wins?" I'm often asked. Exhibit No. 1 for why you need a spread in a game is on Saturday evening when we will see probably the third-biggest spread all season as the NBA's best team, record-setting Golden State, visits the league's worst, Philadelphia. I wonder if there will even be a moneyline on this utter mismatch. If there's ever a time where Coach Steve Kerr will give one or two of his guys the night off, you'd think it would be here. Although that would be a crime for those Sixers fans who have little reason to attend home games but surely will sell this one out in Steph Curry's only appearance. If you are wondering, Philly visits Golden State on March 27. That probably will be the biggest spread of the year. From what I can gather, the biggest spread in the NBA since 1990 was Phoenix at -24 against Dallas in March 1993. The Suns were 45-13 entering that one and Dallas 4-54 and on a 16-game losing streak. Phoenix won 116-98.
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Warriors at 76ers (+19, 216)
Golden State won its fifth straight, all by double digits, 127-107 over visiting Dallas on Wednesday. Curry was relatively quiet with 14 points, but Klay Thompson had a season-high 45 points. He was 14-for-20 from the field in his sixth career 40-point game. The Warriors had 30 assists for a fifth straight game, the first team to do so since the 1994-95 Magic. Backup center Festus Ezeli sat out with a sore knee. Pretty sure he won't be needed here. Philly lost 110-97 in Detroit on Wednesday, failing again to win two in a row for the first time. Jahlil Okafor and JaKarr Sampson both missed their second straight game with the flu, but I'm sure they will play here. The Warriors have won four straight in the series, but the game in Philly was very close last season.
Key trends: Golden State has covered only two of its past 10 vs. the East. Philly is 5-0 against the spread in its past five after a loss. The "over/under" has gone under in six of the past eight meetings.
Early lean: Fairly surprised this isn't a point or two higher actually. I'll take the points.
Pistons at Raptors (-7.5, 204.5)
Detroit hosted Cleveland on Friday. Toronto wasn't sure if All-Star guard Kyle Lowry would play Thursday night against the visiting Knicks with a wrist injury, but he did and Toronto won 103-93 to set a franchise record with its 10th straight win. Lowry looked just fine with 26 points and 10 assists, and fellow All-Star DeMar DeRozan also had 26 points. Toronto leads the Eastern Conference with an 11-2 record in January. It's the first meeting of the season between these teams. They split last year. The Raptors have won four of the past six at home.
Key trends: The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 5-0 in those past five.
Early lean: Raptors and over.
Nuggets at Pacers (-8, 207.5)
Denver ended a two-game skid with a 117-113 win in Washington on Thursday. Danilo Gallinari had 26 points and Emmanuel Mudiay was better than John Wall with 20 points. The Nuggets played without big man Joffrey Luvergne due to a toe injury. Indiana ended a three-game losing streak with a 111-92 home win over Atlanta on Thursday. The Pacers finished the game on a 23-2 run. Coach Frank Vogel moved rookie Myles Turner into the starting lineup to shake things up, and Turner had 20 points and six rebounds. Denver is looking for a second straight season sweep with Indiana after winning 129-126 at home on Jan. 17. Randy Foye hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 21 seconds left.
Key trends: The Nuggets are 6-2-1 ATS in the past nine meetings. The over is 8-3 in the past 11.
Early lean: Pacers and over.
Nets at Pelicans (TBA)
Brooklyn was in Dallas on Friday. New Orleans won for a fourth time in five games on Thursday, all at home, beating the Kings 114-105. Ryan Anderson, who has been rumored as a trade candidate, tied a career high with 36 points and Jrue Holiday added 25 points. I didn't see that result coming because the Pelicans were without both Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans. I'd say Davis is less likely here with his concussion. The Pelicans swept last year, and Davis played in one of those two. New Orleans shot a combined .516 from the field in the wins.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 7-0 in New Orleans' past seven overall.
Early lean: If those two Pelicans sit out again, go under regardless of number.
Wizards at Rockets (-3, 215.5)
Houston was in Oklahoma City on Friday. I'm not sure how Randy Wittman still has a job for Washington, which lost a third straight on Thursday, 117-113 to the visiting Nuggets. John Wall was just 5-for-17 from the field. The Wizards had seven players in double figures but still lost. Oh, and Denver was on the second of a back-to-back. Wizards forward Otto Porter is iffy here after leaving with a hip issue. Bradley Beal did return after missing one game with a concussion and broken nose. He wore a mask and had 17 points. Houston won in D.C. 109-103 on Dec. 9. James Harden had 42 points.
Key trends: The underdog is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 14-3 in Houston's past 17 overall.
Early lean: Rockets and over.
Kings at Grizzlies (TBA)
Every time I think the Kings have things figured out, they go back in the tank. Sacramento has lost three straight and allowed 112 points minimum in each. On Thursday it was 114-105 to a Pelicans team missing its two best players. DeMarcus Cousins had 26 points and 10 rebounds for the Kings, who fell behind by 18 points in the first quarter. Coach George Karl missed the game with an illness but should return here. Memphis won a second straight Thursday, blowing out the Bucks by 20. The improved the Grizzlies to 19-4 this season against teams with a losing record. Memphis has won 10 straight at home in the series.
Key trends: The road team is 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 4-0 in the past four.
Early lean: TBA for Rudy Gay again but I'm not sure he's that important. Grizzlies will win.
Spurs at Cavaliers (+2.5, 205)
This is the ABC Saturday night national TV game and will have live betting at sportsbooks. It's also an All-Star Game preview of sorts as Gregg Popovich will coach the West with Golden State's Steve Kerry ineligible to do so a second straight season (still say Luke Walton should have gotten the nod); Cleveland Tyronn Lue will coach the East even though he just replaced the fired David Blatt. The Cavaliers were in Detroit on Friday. San Antonio destroyed Houston 130-99 on Wednesday again without Tim Duncan and there's supposedly no timetable for his return, but I don't trust a thing Popovich says. The Spurs beat the visiting Cavs 99-95 on Jan. 14. Tony Parker led San Antonio with 24 points. LeBron James had 22 for Cleveland. The Cavs got only 12 points from their bench.
Key trends: The road team is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The under is 5-1 in the Cavs' past six in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: This actually opened as a pick'em. Cavs and under.
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