Somewhere, Tom Thibodeau must secretly be enjoying the struggles of his Chicago Bulls. That team never had a winning percentage blow .549 under Thibodeau in his five seasons -- despite rarely having Derrick Rose -- but Thibs was fired this past offseason in part because he rode his players too hard during the season and they were worn down by the playoffs. So the Bulls hired the polar opposite type of guy in Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, but this season has been a disaster under the laid-back Hoiberg. Chicago will need a minor miracle to even reach the playoffs despite having All-Star players in Rose (who actually is playing pretty well these days), Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol. The Bulls' front office isn't going to fire Hoiberg after just one season because that would really make them look bad. But clearly something has to be done with this roster in the offseason, including potentially trading Butler. And Thibs is a lock to get a job this summer as his stock has only gone up. He could be hired in Houston, where the Bulls visit Thursday.
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Nets at Cavaliers (-13.5, 210.5)
Brooklyn lost 139-105 in Orlando on Tuesday for its second straight defeat. It was the second of a back-to-back for the Nets, and they clearly didn't care. They also rested Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Thaddeus Young. Both should be back here. LeBron James got Tuesday's home game vs. Houston off and the Cavs blew a 20-point third-quarter lead in losing 106-100 to the Rockets. Kyrie Irving had 31 points to lead the Cavs, who are now 1-3 this season when James doesn't play. He'll surely be back here. James is four points away from passing Dominique Wilkins for 12th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Final meeting of season with Cleveland leading 2-1. The teams played last Thursday in Brooklyn and the Nets pulled a 104-95 surprise even though the Cavs weren't resting any of their stars.
Key trends: The Nets are 3-0-1 against the spread in the past four meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in those previous four.
Early lean: If LeBron and all the Cavs play, give the points. Go under.
Magic at Pacers (TBA)
Orlando destroyed visiting Brooklyn 139-105 on Tuesday for its second straight win. Reserve Andrew Nicholson had 24 points to lead eight Magic players in double figures. It was Orlando's highest point total in seven years. The Magic shot 61.5 percent from the field, their best in eight seasons. Victor Oladipo returned from injury and played 26 minutes. Nik Vucevic remained out, but he has been practicing and could play here. Ersan Ilyasova is day-to-day with a shoulder sprain that kept him out Tuesday. Indiana lost 98-96 at home to Chicago on Monday. CJ Miles missed a 3-pointer that would have won it as time expired. Orlando is 0-3 vs. Indiana this season and has dropped seven straight and 11 of the past 12 in the series.
Key trends: The Magic are 0-7 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 7-3-1 in the previous 11.
Early lean: Pacers won't blow another home game.
Bulls at Rockets (TBA)
First of a TNT doubleheader and will have live betting at sportsbooks. Chicago ended a four-game losing streak with a 98-96 win in Indiana on Tuesday but is still two games outside of the playoff field. Butler made a tiebreaking jumper with 3.7 seconds left. Nikola Mirotic had 28 points, but Rose of course got hurt again, this time an elbow. X-rays were negative, but knowing Rose he won't play here. Bulls power forward Taj Gibson also is iffy as he missed the second half of Tuesday's game because of a rib contusion..Chicago beat Houston 108-100 on March 5. Pau Gasol had 28 points and 17 rebounds. The Rockets have won three straight at home vs. the Bulls, however.
Key trends: The home team is 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 4-1 in Houston's past five at home.
Early lean: Rockets in a big way, Rose or not.
Nuggets at Pelicans (+7, 207)
Denver was in Memphis on Wednesday. New Orleans was in San Antonio. The Pelicans on Tuesday added two more players to the season-ending injury list: Jrue Holiday and Alonzo Gee. These teams have split two early-season meetings, each winning on the road back in 2015. The Nuggets' Danilo Gallinari averaged 25.0 points in the two, but he's now out for the season. Ryan Anderson averaged 20.0 points for New Orleans but also probably is done due to a sports hernia.
Key trends: The road team is 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 6-2 in the previous eight.
Early lean: Pelicans, even with their D-League roster, and under.
Clippers at Thunder (-8.5, 216)
Second TNT game with live betting. Los Angeles was in Minnesota on Wednesday looking for a fourth straight win. Oklahoma City saw its eight-game winning streak end Tuesday in Detroit, 88-82. After a big win Monday in Toronto that didn't surprise me -- it helped that Billy Donovan gave Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka the night off. It was OKC's lowest-scoring game of the season. Russell Westbrook looked tired himself, shooting 8-for-28. These teams won't meet again this season unless each pulls a playoff upset and they square off in the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder lead 2-1 and won the most recent matchup 120-108 at home on March 9.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 9-3 in the past 12 in OKC.
Early lean: This really seems like a game that Westbrook and/or the Clippers' Chris Paul could get off. But, without knowing that I like OKC at home and over.
Celtics at Trail Blazers (-2, 217)
Boston had a four-game winning streak snapped in a 114-90 loss at the Clippers on Monday. Isaiah Thomas scored 24 points for Boston, which is now 21-22 this season against teams with a .500 record or better. Portland won a second straight Monday, 105-93 over short-handed Sacramento. Reserve Allen Crabbe led the way with 21 points. The Blazers have won 14 of their last 16 games at home, including five straight. Boston beat Portland 116-93 on March 2 behind 30 points from Thomas. The Blazers are also 4-6 in their past 10 at home in the series.
Key trends: The Celtics are 1-6 ATS in their past seven road games. The favorite is 7-2 ATS in the past nine meetings. The under is 4-0 in Portland's past four at home.
Early lean: Blazers and over.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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