Are the Golden State Warriors better with Kevin Durant? Obviously, as he's a Top-5 player in the league and was putting up MVP-caliber numbers (25.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists) before going down with a knee injury suffered in Washington on Feb. 28. That said, I wonder if the Warriors will scuffle a bit immediately upon Durant's return on Saturday. With Durant out of the lineup, the Warriors stumbled initially, losing four of their next six games. However, Steph Curry has since regained his alpha male status and the Dubs are on a 13-game winning streak to clearly re-establish themselves as NBA Championship betting favorites. Curry has raised his game with Durant sidelined, averaging 26.8 points, 7.6 assists and 4.3 three-pointers.Golden State already has clinched the NBA's No. 1 overall seed, but I think Coach Steve Kerr has to play Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, etc., these last three games at least some minutes so they can get back in sync with KD.
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Bulls at Nets (TBA)
NBA TV game. Golden State isn't the only team getting a future Hall of Famer back. It sounds as if Dwyane Wade will play for the Bulls. He had originally been ruled out the rest of the regular season with a fractured right elbow suffered on March 15. The Bulls have been much better offensively since Wade went down in averaging 108.6 points per 100 possessions (103.8 before the injury). Chicago won in Philadelphia on Thursday, 102-90. Jimmy Butler had 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Rajon Rondo sat out with a sprained right wrist and he's questionable here. Brooklyn lost 115-107 in Orlando to see its three-game winning streak end. Jeremy Lin led the Nets with 32 points. Chicago is 2-0 vs. Brooklyn this season.
Key trends: The Bulls are 4-0 against the spread in the past four in Brooklyn. The "over/under" is 4-1 in the Nets' past five at home.
Early lean: TBA must be for Rondo and Wade. Like Bulls regardless.
Celtics at Hornets ( +2, 213.5)
Boston all but officially lost any shot at the East's top seed with a 123-116 loss in Atlanta on Thursday - I told you I was huge on the Hawks there after the Celtics lost Wednesday against Cleveland. Isaiah Thomas scored 35 points. Boston still hasn't clinched the No. 2 seed so it will keep playing key guys until then. Charlotte could be eliminated from the playoffs by the time it takes the court Saturday. The Hornets lost a second in a row Wednesday, 112-99 vs. Miami. Kemba Walker was held to 18 points on 6-for-17 shooting. Boston leads Charlotte 3-0, holding the Hornets below 100 in all three.
Key trends: The Celtics are 7-1 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 9-0 in the Hornets' past nine overall.
Early lean: Celtics and under.
Pacers at Magic (TBA)
Indiana won its second in a row Thursday, 104-89 over Milwaukee. Paul George had 23 points and 10 rebounds. The Pacers can't afford a letdown here or they might miss the playoffs. Orlando ended a five-game losing streak Thursday, 115-107 against Brooklyn. Elfrid Payton had 22 points, 11 assists and five rebounds, and Aaron Gordon added 21 points and six rebounds. Scoring leader Evan Fournier was out with a slight hand injury.Indiana goes for the four-game season sweep and has taken the past five in Orlando.
Key trends: The favorite is 9-1 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The under is 10-4-1 in the past 15.
Early lean: Pacers will win.
Bucks at 76ers (+5, 208.5)
This is certainly a must-win for Milwaukee's playoff hopes. The Bucks are trending the wrong way on three-game skid. It was 104-89 in Indiana on Thursday. Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee with a game-high 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Rookie Malcolm Brogdon missed his fourth game in a row with a sore back and reportedly won't play here. The 76ers are in full tank mode, having dropped five straight. It was 102-90 at home to the Bulls on Thursday. Rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot led the Sixers with 18 points.Philadelphia is 2-1 vs. Milwaukee.
Key trends: The Bucks are 4-1 ATS in their past five in Philly. The over is 4-1 in the previous five meetings.
Early lean: Bucks and over.
Heat at Wizards (TBA)
Miami was in Toronto on Friday without Dion Waiters again and could do Washington a favor with an upset. It's the regular-season home finale for the Wizards. They come off a 106-103 win at the Knicks on Thursday. Bradley Beal scored 25 points and made the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 49 seconds left. Markieff Morris was out with an ankle injury. The Wiz are two victories shy of their first 50-win season since 1978-79. Miami is 2-0 vs. Washington this season, both back in 2016.
Key trends: The Heat are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 9-2 in the previous 11.
Early lean: A lot depends on what Miami does Friday.
Clippers at Spurs (TBA)
ABC Saturday showcase game. Too bad for ABC because I doubt many key Spurs players will go here as San Antonio has nothing to play for and was in Dallas on Friday. Then again, pretty much every key Spurs player was rested in Dallas so maybe Gregg Popovich allows them to play some here just because it's on national TV and it's a sensitive issue with commissioner Adam Silver. It's the regular-season road finale for the Clips, who still have the motivation of chasing the No. 4 seed. They won a fourth consecutive Wednesday, 112-101 over Dallas. Blake Griffin had 32 points, his third in a row with at least 31. I believe the Clippers are the West's second-best team right now. The Clippers are 2-1 against San Antonio.
Key trends: The Spurs are 1-4 ATS in their past five in the second of a back-to-back. The over is 5-1 in the Clippers' past six on the road.
Early lean: Wait to see which Spurs play, but this still matters to L.A.
Jazz at Trail Blazers (TBA)
Utah hosted Minnesota on Friday with a couple of starters questionable. Huge win for Portland on Thursday in terms of the West's No. 8 seed as the Blazers rallied for a 105-98 victory over Minnesota. Portland was down nearly all of the first three quarters but outscored the Wolves 25-11 in the fourth. Allen Crabbe had 25 points, including a career-high eight 3-pointers. Damian Lillard added 22 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Utah leads Portland 2-1. Gordon Hayward is averaging 26.0 ppg in two games vs. the Blazers. Lillard is averaging 22.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists.
Key trends: The favorite is 6-0 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 7-3 in the Blazers' past 10 overall.
Early lean: Wait on those Jazz guys.
Pelicans at Warriors (TBA)
New Orleans was in Denver on Friday with DeMarcus Cousins questionable. As noted above, the Warriors bring a 13-game winning streak into this one. They won in Phoenix 120-111 on Wednesday behind 42 points from Curry. Green and Andre Iguodala got the night off. Golden State became the first team have the NBA's best record for three consecutive seasons since the Boston Celtics did it in 1983-84, '84-'85 and '85-'86. There's no chance that any Warrior plays more than 30 minutes here if Kerr does play them all. Golden State is 3-0 vs. New Orleans - none were close -- and has won 16 of the past 17 in the series.
Key trends: The Warriors are 10-1-1 ATS in their past 12. The over is 4-1 in the previous five meetings.
Early lean: Wait on Cousins, although I doubt this is close regardless.
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