All the talking head wonks on Wednesday were discussing whether the Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki is a Top-10 player all-time after becoming the sixth in NBA history (seventh if you count Dr. J's ABA points) to reach 30,000 career points. Dirk, Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant are the only players to score at least 30,000 points for one team. If Nowitzki plays each of Dallas' remaining 19 games and continues to average 13.9 PPG this season, he would finish with roughly 30,269 points. That would put him 1,151 points shy of passing Wilt Chamberlain for fifth on the all-time scoring list. My take is that Dirk probably isn't a Top-10 guy - largely because of his defense -- but he's on the Mount Rushmore of foreign-born players. Dirk won a single MVP award and just one NBA championship, although it wasn't his fault the Mavs were an utter mess when he first got there. The Mavs are making a playoff push after sitting at 11-27 at one point and enter Friday having covered six straight games.
Magic at Hornets ( -7, 207.5)
Orlando beat visiting Chicago on Wednesday, 98-91. Elfrid Payton had his second straight triple-double with 22 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists. The Magic rallied from a 13-point third-quarter deficit. Nikola Vucevic missed his third straight game with a sore right Achilles tendon. Charlotte's two-game winning streak ended in a 108-101 defeat in Miami on Wednesday. Kemba Walker scored 33 points for Charlotte, which was outscored 27-15 in the fourth. Charlotte is 2-0 vs. Orlando this year and has taken seven of the past eight overall.
Key trends: The Magic are 1-4 against the spread in the past five meetings. The "over/under" is 7-3 in the past 10.
Early lean: Hornets and over.
Rockets at Bulls (TBA)
Houston dropped a second straight Wednesday, 115-108 at home to Utah. The Rockets were only 8 of 32 from long range to end a streak of 18 straight games with at least 10 3-pointers. James Harden had 35 points but was 0-for-8 from deep. Ryan Anderson sat out with back spasms. Chicago dropped a third straight Wednesday, 98-91 in Orlando playing without Dwyane Wade again. The Bulls still led by 13 in the third quarter. Jimmy Butler played through an illness and was 7-for-21 shooting. Houston won the first meeting with Chicago 121-117 in OT on Feb. 3 with Butler out. The Rockets have dropped their past three at the Bulls.
Key trends: The Rockets are 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 4-0 in the Bulls' past four.
Early lean: Wait on Wade - the Bulls have been beating the NBA's best teams in Chicago this season, though.
Pacers at Bucks (-3.5, 208)
Indiana beat Detroit 115-98 on Wednesday. The Pacers trailed for only 22 seconds in the game in sweeping the season series. Paul George had 21 points. Milwaukee won its fourth in a row Wednesday, 104-93 over the Knicks. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 22 of his 32 points in the second half and had 13 rebounds and seven assists. Terrence Jones did not play for the third straight game after signing with Milwaukee on March 4.Milwaukee is 2-0 vs. Indiana this season, winning each by at least 16.
Key trends: The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 6-2 in the previous eight.
Early lean: Bucks and over.
Warriors at Timberwolves (+6, 219)
First NBA TV game. This screams trap for Golden State as it has a mega-showdown in San Antonio on Saturday. Might the Warriors give a key guy this one off? They don't look right at the moment after losing 99-86 at home to Boston on Wednesday. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined to shoot 4-for-17 from 3-point range as Golden State went just 6-for-30 overall out there. The Warriors had won 10 straight at home - they also lost there to Boston last season. Minnesota beat the Clippers 107-91 on Wednesday for its seventh straight cover. Karl-Anthony Towns had 29 points and 14 rebounds, and Ricky Rubio had 15 points, 12 assists and six rebounds. The Wolves had dropped nine consecutive at home to L.A. Golden State has won 15 of the past 17 vs. Minnesota, including 10 in a row in the Twin Cities.
Key trends: The Warriors are 0-4 ATS in the past four meetings. The under is 4-0 in Minnesota's past four.
Early lean: I was ready to jump all over Minnesota until I saw this rather low number. Perhaps the books are slightly overreacting to the Warriors' loss and the Wolves' stellar ATS run. Take Golden State and go under.
Raptors at Hawks (-2.5, 202.5)
Toronto won in New Orleans on Wednesday, 94-87. Jonas Valanciunas had 25 points and 13 rebounds in arguably his best game of the season. Forward DeMarre Carroll, who sprained his left ankle last Saturday in a loss to Milwaukee, was ruled out before tip-off. Atlanta's three-game losing streak ended with a 110-105 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. Dennis Schroder scored 31 points, and Paul Millsap added 24. Atlanta improved to 15-2 at home this season when leading after three quarters. These two teams have split two meetings this season in Toronto.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 7-2-1 in the Hawks' past 10.
Early lean: Hawks and under.
Celtics at Nuggets (TBA)
This defines letdown game for Boston as it concludes a five-game trip through the Western Conference and comes off a 99-86 upset win in Golden State on Wednesday. Isaiah Thomas scored 25 points, and Kelly Olynyk added 17 points, five rebounds and five assists off the bench. The C's play the Warriors better than anyone. Denver lost 123-113 to Washington on Wednesday. Nikola Jokic and Danilo Gallinari were both out because of illness. Gary Harris had 26 points. Denver won the first meeting in Boston 123-107 early in the season. The Nugs have dropped the past two at home in the series.
Key trends: The Celtics are 1-4 ATS in their past five after a win. The over is 11-3-1 in the Nuggets' past 15 vs. the East.
Nets at Mavericks (-10, 213)
Brooklyn was trying for its first two-game winning streak of the season on Wednesday but lost 110-105 in Atlanta. The Nets were trying to win consecutive games for the first time since last March 24-26. Sean Kilpatrick scored 27 points. Dallas won its third in a row Tuesday, 122-111 over the Lakers. Dirk had 25 points to reach 30K. Nerlens Noel had 11 points and 12 rebounds. He has been a great addition from Philly. First meeting between Brooklyn and Dallas. The Mavs swept last year.
Key trends: The Mavs are 7-1 ATS in their past eight Friday games. The over is 19-7 in the Nets' past 26 vs. the West.
Early lean: Mavericks and over.
Wizards at Kings (+10.5, 217)
Second NBA TV game. Washington won its third straight Wednesday, 123-113 in Phoenix. John Wall had 30 points, Bradley Beal 23 and Otto Porter 22. The Wiz have won nine of their past 12 on the road. Markieff Morris was ejected with 2:08 left to play after a flagrant foul 2, but it shouldn't be suspension-worthy. Sacramento lost a sixth in a row Wednesday but covered a big number (as I projected) in a 114-104 defeat in San Antonio. It helped the Spurs rested their two best players. The Kings were up 28 at one point in the first half and then remembered who they are. Tyreke Evans had a season-high 26 points. Washington beat Sacramento 101-95 in late November. The Wiz have dropped their past six at the Kings.
Key trends: The Wizards are 0-7 ATS in their past seven road games vs. teams with a losing home record. The home team is 7-0 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 5-1 in the Kings' past six at home.
Early lean: Kings and under.
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