Boston visits Phoenix on Saturday night, and that brings me back to the 2015 NBA trade deadline in a deal that altered the directions of the Celtics and Suns franchises. On that deadline day, the Suns traded guard Isaiah Thomas to Boston and Goran Dragic to the Heat while acquiring Brandon Knight from Milwaukee. Big mistake. Knight's an OK player, but Thomas is on a very team-friendly contract and has blossomed into an All-Star in Boston. All the Suns got back for him from Boston was Cleveland's 2016 first-round draft pick, which will be near the bottom of the first round, and journeyman Marcus Thornton (now with Wizards). The Suns figured they were set at guard with Eric Bledsoe and Knight and that Thomas was just a good sixth man. Suns GM Ryan McDonough, who came from the Boston organization, has since admitted dealing Thomas was a mistake. Boston could finish as high as third in the East this season led by Thomas, while the Suns have the fourth-worst record in the West.
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Pacers at Nets (TBA)
Indiana won a second straight Thursday, 92-84 over New Orleans. On his 20th birthday, rookie Myles Turner had 24 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. However, Paul George left in the third quarter with a bruised right leg -- the same leg he gruesomely broke in August 2014. George appears to have avoided anything serious but certainly is in doubt here. Brooklyn ended a three-game losing streak with a pretty surprising 104-95 win over visiting Cleveland on Thursday. The Nets used a late 14-0 run for the upset. Shane Larkin had 16 points and seven assists for the Nets in his return to the starting lineup. The youngster will start the rest of the season so the Nets can see what they have. Indiana has won the first two meetings this season by an average of 10.5 points per game.
Key trends: The road team is 5-1 against the spread in the past six meetings. The "over/under" is 6-1 in the past seven.
Early lean: Nets if George is out.
Bulls at Magic (TBA)
Orlando was in Miami on Friday again without center Nik Vucevic. Victor Oladipo was questionable with a wrist injury. Chicago somehow got swept in a home-and-home by the Knicks on Thursday in New York, 106-94. Sometimes that team looks like it doesn't care. "We're playing against teams that are not playing for anything and we're just laying down." Taj Gibson said after. Pau Gasol missed the game with knee inflammation, so he's questionable here. These teams have split two low-scoring meetings, each winning at home.
Key trends: The Bulls are 0-6 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 6-0 in Orlando's past six in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: Bulls and under, whether Gasol plays or not.
Raptors at Pelicans (+9, 206.5)
Toronto was in Houston on Friday looking to avoid back-to-back losses. With this the second of a back-to-back, you might see the Raptors rest one of DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry (who was to play Friday after missing the last game). New Orleans lost 92-84 in Indiana on Thursday playing without just about everyone you have ever heard of on that team. The starters were: Toney Douglas, Alonzo Gee, Dante Cunningham, Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca. Yikes! Toronto beat visiting New Orleans 100-81 on Nov. 13. The Raptors lost last season in the Big Easy.
Key trends: The Raptors have covered nine of the past 12 in the series. The over 21-4-1 in the Pelicans' past 26 playing on one day of rest.
Early lean: New Orleans is a D-League team right now, but I can't give that many points with Toronto coming off a back-to-back. Go over.
Hawks at Pistons (pick'em, 204)
Atlanta hosted Milwaukee on Friday and Detroit hosted Charlotte. Atlanta leads the season series vs. Detroit 2-1 and has won nine of the past 13 meetings. Detroit won the most recent one 118-114 at home on March 16. Andre Drummond is averaging 21.5 points and 16.3 rebounds against Atlanta this season, while Jeff Teague is averaging 21.0 points against the Pistons.
Key trends: The Hawks are 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 4-0 in the past four.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
Cavaliers at Knicks (+8.5, 204.5)
I thought Cleveland might rest a guy or two in the second of a back-to-back Thursday in Brooklyn, but everyone was on the court physically if not mentally in a 104-95 loss. LeBron James could be seen yelling at his own bench during the fourth quarter after a Nets make. He's clearly not happy right now. But perhaps he should look inward as James was 13-for-14 from the floor for 30 points in the first three quarters but scoreless in the fourth. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were a combined 11-for-36 from the field. New York completed the home-and-home sweep of Chicago with a 12-point win at the Garden on Thursday. Carmelo Anthony had 26 points and now gets to face his good buddy LeBron. New York has completed all 17 back-to-backs this season, finishing 8-9. New York is 0-3 vs. Cleveland and hasn't scored more than 86 points.
Key trends: The Cavs are 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 6-0 in the past six.
Early lean: Assuming Cavs got a wake-up call Thursday. Give the points and definitely under.
Jazz at Timberwolves (+3, 200.5)
Minnesota was in Washington on Friday. Utah lost 113-91 in Oklahoma City on Thursday. Gordon Hayward, who averages 20 points, was held to six on 2-for-6 shooting. Jazz starters had just 34 combined points in the second of a back-to-back. Utah turned it over 18 times and it led to 32 Thunder points. These teams have split this season, each winning at home.
Key trends: The Jazz are 6-2 ATS in the past eight in Minnesota. The under is 5-2-1 in the previous eight meetings there.
Early lean: Love Utah ... and under.
Spurs at Thunder (TBA)
No ABC Primetime Game this week opposite the Elite Eight, so this is on NBA TV instead. San Antonio hosted Memphis on Friday with Kawhi Leonard in doubt. I'd be shocked if Gregg Popovich doesn't rest him and a couple of others here. It really means nothing for the Spurs. OKC routed the tired Jazz on Thursday for its sixth straight win. Kevin Durant had 20 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Russell Westbrook probably would have had a fourth straight triple-double if he didn't sit out the fourth quarter with the game in hand. He had 15 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. These teams have split two meetings, each winning at home.
Key trends: San Antonio is 2-10 ATS in the past 12 in OKC. The under is 7-2 in the past nine there.
Early lean: Wait on the Spurs' lineup, but I actually think Thunder roll here regardless. Just doesn't matter to San Antonio.
Hornets at Bucks (+2.5, 204.5)
Charlotte was in Detroit on Friday and Milwaukee in Atlanta looking to end a three-game losing streak. Charlotte leads the season series 2-1 and has won four straight in Milwaukee. Most recent meeting was a 98-95 Hornets road win on Feb. 19. The Hornets were down 13 in the third quarter. Charlotte has won eight of its last 10 games against Milwaukee overall.
Key trends: The road team is 8-0 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 4-0 in the past four.
Early lean: Hornets and under.
Celtics at Suns (+7.5, 216)
Phoenix was in Sacramento on Friday. Boston won a third in a row Wednesday, 91-79 over Toronto. Thomas had 23 points. He has scored 20 or more points in 11 straight games. The victory ensured that Boston would finish with at least a .500 record -- its first since coach Brad Stevens took over three years ago. Boston beat Phoenix 117-103 at TD Garden on Jan. 15 in the first meeting behind 19 points from Thomas. Marcus Smart had 10 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds, becoming the first Celtics player to record a triple-double off the bench since Art Williams on Jan. 6, 1971.
Key trends: The road team is 6-2 ATS in the past eight. The over is 6-2 in the Suns' past eight at home.
Early lean: Celtics and over.
76ers at Trail Blazers (-13, 217)
Philly dropped a seventh straight Wednesday, 104-103 in Denver on a fluke buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Emmanuel Mudiay. Robert Covington, who missed the previous six games with a concussion, had 16 points for the Sixers. Nerlens Noel missed the game with a right knee contusion. Portland lost 96-94 at the Clippers on Thursday on a buzzer-beater. Damian Lillard scored 18 points in the loss. The Blazers ended a stretch playing 12 of 15 road games. Philadelphia upset visiting Portland 114-89 on Jan. 16 behind 25 points and 10 rebounds from Jahlil Okafor, now out for the season. Portland has won four of its past five games against the 76ers at the Moda Center.
Key trends: The Sixers are 4-11 ATS in their past 15 road games vs. teams with a winning home record. The over is 7-2 in Portland's past nine at home.
Early lean: Sixers and over.
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