I actually feel sorry for the New Orleans Pelicans. There's a lot of talent on that team, to the point where I believe it could be maybe the fifth-best in the West behind Golden State, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and the L.A. Clippers if the Pelicans could just get healthy all at once. But that never seems to happen and injury has struck again. Guard Eric Gordon can't stay on the court, and now he has been lost for 4-6 weeks after fracturing his right ring finger. Despite being devastated by injuries this season, the Pelicans are still only four games out of the final playoff spot. But why bother straining to get the No. 8 and get swept by Golden State? Start shutting guys down soon, get a lottery pick and then come back in full force next season.
Clippers at Cavaliers (TBA)
This is your TNT opener and will have live betting at sportsbooks. Cleveland is in the second of a back-to-back after playing at Brooklyn on Wednesday. While the Nets shouldn't be much of a challenge for the Cavs, I am very interested to see how they play here back at home in wake of Monday's home destruction by Golden State. The Clippers beat Houston 140-132 in OT on Monday for their 11th win in 12 games. J.J. Redick, who has really been on fire lately, had a career-high 40 points. The Clips made a franchise-record 22 3-pointers. Redick tied a team records with nine. Clips center DeAndre Jordan returned after missing two games with an illness and had 16 points and 15 rebounds. First meeting of season between Clippers and Cavaliers.
Key trends: The Clippers are 5-0 against the spread in their past five road games. The Cavs are 7-1 ATS in their past eight vs. teams with a winning record. The "over/under" has gone under in four of the past five meetings.
Early lean: I suppose the TBA is for the chance Blake Griffin returns from injury. That's not likely, however. I expect a Cavs win here but wait until after their Nets result in case of injury.
Pistons at Pelicans (-1, 202.5)
Detroit was in Houston on Wednesday. New Orleans beat the visiting Timberwolves 114-99 on Tuesday but obviously lost Gordon, who is averaging 14.9 points per game. Anthony Davis had 35 points as the Pelicans rallied from a 17-point deficit. Expect Jrue Holiday to move back into the starting lineup for Gordon. Holiday had 19 points vs. Minnesota. New Orleans swept Detroit last year and Davis averaged 33.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 6.0 blocks. The Pistons have lost six straight in the series overall.
Key trends: Detroit is 2-5 ATS in its past seven in the second of a back-to-back. New Orleans is 1-4 ATS in its past five at home. The over is 11-5 in New Orleans' past 16 at home.
Early lean: Pelicans and over.
Grizzlies at Nuggets (+2, 194.5)
Memphis won a third in a row Monday with a 101-99 win over New Orleans. Grizzlies guard Courtney Lee missed a free throw with 3.5 seconds left, but Memphis center Marc Gasol was able to get a hand on the rebound and tipped it away where no Pelicans were to corral and potentially get possession and a tying or winning shot off. Mike Conley had 15 points and 10 assists for the Grizz. He had missed the previous six games due to injury. Denver lost 110-104 at home to Oklahoma City on Tuesday. Center Jusuf Nurkic dressed but did not play. He had missed the previous two games with a left knee injury. Grizzlies won first meeting of the season with Nuggets, 91-84 in Memphis on Jan. 8. Conley missed that one.
Key trends: The home team is 8-3 ATS in the past 11 meetings. The under is 6-0 in the past six.
Early lean: Grizzlies and under.
Hawks at Kings (pick'em, 218.5)
Atlanta was in Portland on Wednesday and Sacramento at the L.A. Lakers. So I'd say advantage Kings there. The Hawks beat visiting Sacramento 103-97 on Nov. 18. Paul Millsap had 23 points and 16 rebounds and the clinching shot with 15.7 seconds left. Atlanta was without starters Jeff Teague and Kent Bazemore. DeMarcus Cousins had 24 points and 12 rebounds, but the Kings turned it over 20 times. Rajon Rondo had a triple-double with 12 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Atlanta has won 15 straight games over the Kings.
Key trends: The Kings are 1-5 ATS in their past six at home. The Hawks are 6-0 ATS in the past six in Sacramento. The over is 13-3 in the past 16 meetings.
Early lean: Kings and over.
Spurs at Suns (TBA)
This is the TNT nightcap and it could be a slaughter, although be aware the Spurs do play again Friday night at the Lakers so Coach Gregg Popovich could be up to his tricks here. San Antonio won an 11th straight on Sunday, 112-83 over Dallas. However, point guard Tony Parker left in the third quarter with right hip soreness. He recently missed two games with that problem, and I could see him getting this weekend off since the Spurs don't need him to beat the Suns or Lakers. Phoenix lost a fifth consecutive Tuesday, 97-94 at home to Indiana. Devin Booker had a career-high 32 points for the Suns, who lost for the 14th time in 15 games. Booker is the third-youngest player in NBA history with a 30-point game. You may have heard of the other two guys: LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Phoenix lost starting forward Markieff Morris to a shoulder injury and he sat out the second half. So monitor his status. San Antonio is 2-0 vs. Phoenix this season, winning both easily.
Key trends: The Spurs are 5-2 ATS in the past seven in Phoenix. The under is 6-0 in the past six meetings.
Early lean: I'd take double-digit points here actually, especially if no Parker.
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