I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the health of Zaza Pachulia could determine whether the Golden State Warriors win their second NBA title in three years. I will say, however, that the Dubs had trouble with the big lineups trotted out by Oklahoma City and Cleveland in last year's playoffs because of their lack of interior size other than Andrew Bogut. The Warriors had to say goodbye to Bogut, their top rim protector, this offseason after adding Kevin Durant. Pachulia now starts at center. He will miss at least a week with a rotator cuff strain. Pachulia was a square peg in a round hole at first with the Warriors, but in January had been averaging 8.4 points and 6.6 rebounds and doing the little things like setting screens, making smart passes and dolling out punishment to an opposing player as needed so none of the Warriors stars had to. Ask Russell Westbrook about that. When Pachulia missed time in December with a wrist injury, JaVale McGee filled in as the starter and likely will get that role going forward. My point to this whole thing is that just because a team has four stars doesn't mean it doesn't need role players to win a title or even a specific game. The Warriors do have one Achilles' heel.
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Raptors at Magic (TBA)
Toronto started a three-game trip with a 109-104 loss in Boston on Wednesday. DeMar DeRozan had a setback with his ankle and missed his fifth in the past six games. Kyle Lowry led Toronto with 32. Orlando lost a second straight Wednesday, 98-88 at home to Indiana. Serge Ibaka led the Magic, who are 8-16 at home, with 20 points. Toronto has won 14 of the past 16 meetings with Orlando but was upset by the Magic at home last Sunday, 114-113.
Key trends: The Raptors are 1-5 against the spread in the past six meetings. The "over/under" has gone five of the past seven.
Early lean: I'd take Magic if DeRozan doesn't play.
Pacers at Nets (+7, 220.5)
Indiana won its fourth consecutive game Wednesday, 98-88 in Orlando. Paul George's streak of four games in a row with at least 30 points ended as he had just eight on 3-for-14 shooting. Rodney Stuckey returned to the lineup after missing the previous 15 games with a hamstring injury. He had eight points in 14 minutes. Brooklyn lost a seventh in a row Wednesday, 95-90 to the Knicks. It had a rare fourth-quarter lead but gave that up on a 16-2 Knicks run. It was the Nets' 10th loss in a row at home. Indiana leads the season series 2-1 and has taken the past two by double digits.
Key trends: The home team is 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 4-1 in the past five in Brooklyn.
Early lean: Pacers and over.
Timberwolves at Pistons (-5.5, 212.5)
Minnesota's two-game winning streak ended in a 125-97 blowout in Cleveland on Wednesday. Karl-Anthony Towns led Minnesota with 26 points and Andrew Wiggins added 23 for the Timberwolves. It was their worst loss of the season. Detroit ended a three-game losing streak with a 118-98 win over New Orleans on Wednesday. In the final 17 minutes of the game, Detroit outscored the Pelicans 52-24. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had a career-high 38 points. Detroit has won the past three meetings vs. Minnesota, including 117-90 on Dec. 9.
Key trends: The favorite is 7-1-1 ATS in the past nine meetings. The over is 7-0 in the Pistons' past seven.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
Bulls at Rockets (-9, 221)
Houston hosted Atlanta on Thursday. Chicago played one of its best games of the year in a 128-100 victory at Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Jimmy Butler had 28 points as the Bulls shot 60.5 percent from the field. Dwyane Wade had 18 points and seven assists. First meeting of the season between Chicago and Houston, which was swept last season.
Key trends: The home team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 5-1 in the Bulls' past six vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Bulls and over.
Grizzlies at Thunder (-1, 206.5)
Memphis won its third in a row Wednesday, 119-99 in Denver. Marc Gasol scored 24 points and Mike Conley had 18. Vince Carter, now 40, had 14 points, six assists and five rebounds in 26 minutes and became the fifth player in NBA history to make 2,000 career 3-pointers. OKC was flat in the second of a back-to-back Wednesday and routed at home by Chicago 128-100 in a third consecutive loss. Russell Westbrook had 28 points and eight assists. Oklahoma City shot just 38 percent from the field and made 10 of 37 3-pointers. Memphis and OKC have split two meetings, each winning at home.
Key trends: The home team is 9-1 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The over is 4-0 in OKC's past four after a double-digit home loss.
Early lean: Thunder and over.
Lakers at Celtics (-12.5, 220.5)
First of an ESPN doubleheader. Tough second of a back-to-back for L.A. as it was in Washington on Thursday to start a long road trip and with Julius Randle questionable. Boston has won five in a row following a 109-104 victory over Toronto on Wednesday. Isaiah Thomas is going nuts lately and had 44 points, 19 in the fourth quarter. He's a legit MVP candidate. Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk sat with injuries for Boston. Bradley's close to returning from his eight-game absence. First meeting of the season between these former rivals. They split last year.
Key trends: The Lakers are 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 7-1 in the Celtics' past eight vs. the West.
Early lean: Celtics and over.
Bucks at Nuggets (TBA)
Milwaukee lost a fourth straight Wednesday, 104-88 in Utah. Told you I loved the under 199 there. Giannis Antetokounmpo was held to nine points, the second time he hasn't scored double figures all season. Denver lost a second straight Wednesday, 119-99 at home vs. Memphis. Emmanuel Mudiay returned from a five-game injury absence and had 14 points, seven assists and six rebounds in 26 minutes. However, Nikola Jokic sat again with a hip strain and Danilo Gallinari left in the third quarter with a groin strain. Milwaukee and Denver split last year, and the Nuggets have won the past six at home.
Key trends: The underdog is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 5-0-1 in Denver's past six vs. the East.
Early lean: Wait on the two Nuggets; highly doubt Gallinari plays.
Suns at Kings (-5, 218.5)
Phoenix dropped a fifth in a row Wednesday, 124-114 to the Clippers. Former Clipper Eric Bledsoe scored 41 to tie a career high. Devin Booker added 20 points, his 14th straight game scoring at least 20. Sacramento returns from an eight-game road trip. It ended that with back-to-back losses, falling 105-83 in Houston on Tuesday when the Kings clearly were running on empty. They have won the past four meetings with Phoenix and three straight at home. These two opened the season against one another.
Key trends: The Suns are 0-4 ATS in the past four meetings. The under is 5-2 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Kings and over.
Mavericks at Trail Blazers (-5, 208)
Second ESPN game. Dallas is really improving and beat Philadelphia 113-95 on Wednesday for its third straight victory. Seth Curry had 22 points and Salah Mejri 16 points and 17 rebounds. Yeah, not sure the Mavs can continue to get that production from those guys. Center Andrew Bogut was out again with a hamstring injury. Deron Williams sat with a toe strain. Dallas and Portland have split two meetings, each winning on the road. Portland beat Charlotte 115-98 on Tuesday. Damian Lillard had 27 points. Ed Davis missed his fifth straight game with a wrist injury, but could return Friday.
Key trends: The Mavs are 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 4-1 in the previous five in Portland.
Early lean: Mavericks and under.
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