Should we start including Boston's Isaiah Thomas in the MVP conversation with Russell Westbrook and James Harden? Thomas, who was taken last (No. 60 overall) in the 2011 draft by Sacramento, is carrying the Celtics as one of the league's Top 4 scorers. He has been even better in the fourth quarter, as entering Wednesday Thomas was averaging 10.1 points in the fourth quarter this season. The NBA has only been tracking fourth-quarter points for 20 years, and the record for a season is 9.5 by the Lakers' Kobe Bryant in 2006. Eight times this season, Thomas has scored at least 15 points in the fourth quarter. Westbrook, who is averaging 9.6 points in fourth quarters this season, is second in the league with four such games. At a minimum, Thomas better be in the East's starting backcourt at the All-Star Game.
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Suns at Cavaliers (-14.5, 221)
Phoenix lost Monday at home to Utah 106-101 to complete a four-game homestand. The Suns led 101-99 with 1:13 left. Eric Bledsoe had 31 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, falling just short of his third career triple-double. Devin Booker, coming off consecutive 39-point games in Mexico City, added 25 points. Tyson Chandler (illness), Brandon Knight (wrist) and Jared Dudley (dizziness) all sat out. Cleveland closed out a six-game road trip at 3-3 following a 126-91 embarrassment on Monday at Golden State in their final meeting of the regular season. LeBron James was minus-32, the second-worst plus/minus rating of his career. He also pretty clearly flopped on a Draymond Green foul. Kevin Love played only 16 minutes and left with some lower back issues. Love says he's fine. The Cavs played in Phoenix on Jan. 8 and won 120-116. James scored 12 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter. Kyrie Irving added 27 points and Love 25. Bledsoe scored 31 points and Booker had 28 for the Suns. Cleveland goes for a second straight season sweep.
Key trends: The Suns are 4-1 against the spread in the past five meetings. The "over/under" is 6-1 in Cleveland's past seven after a loss.
Early lean: Cavs and over.
Mavericks at Heat (-1.5, 189.5)
Dallas won a season-high third in a row with an upset in Chicago on Tuesday, 99-98. Wesley Matthews hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 12 seconds left. Harrison Barnes had 20 points, Seth Curry added 18 and Dirk Nowitzki finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Andrew Bogut missed his third straight game with a hamstring injury. Miami ended a four-game losing streak with a 109-103 home upset over Houston on Tuesday. The Heat used a 20-5 run in the fourth to put it away. Goran Dragic had 21 points and eight assists. Miami's bench outscored Houston's 51-32. First meeting of the season between Dallas and Miami. The Heat have won nine of the last 10 in the series.
Key trends: The Mavs are 1-4 ATS in the past four meetings. The under is 4-0 in the previous four.
Early lean: Heat and under.
Wizards at Knicks (TBA)
First of the TNT doubleheader. Washington hosted Memphis on Wednesday having won five of six. The imploding Knicks were in Boston on Wednesday with Kristaps Porzingis expected out again due to his Achilles injury. I wonder if the team would even let him play both ends of a back-to-back. I wouldn't expect him. Washington won the first meeting with New York 119-112 on Nov. 17 at home. John Wall scored 23 points and had 11 assists.
Key trends: The Wizards have covered eight of the past 11 meetings. The over is 7-1 in the Knicks' past eight in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: Could see a key guy on both sides get this one off, plus wait on Porzingis.
Nuggets at Spurs (-10.5, 221)
Denver won a third straight game on Tuesday, 127-121 at the Lakers. Nikola Jokic, who has really been playing well, had 29 points and 15 rebounds. The Nuggets haven't scored fewer than 125 points during the mini-run. San Antonio beat Minnesota 122-114 on Tuesday. Kawhi Leonard had 34 points and became the first San Antonio player to score 950 points in the first half of a season since Tim Duncan in 2003. Tony Parker collected his 6,500th career assist, joining LeBron James as the only two active players with 6,500 assists and 18,000 points. San Antonio won the first meeting with Denver 127-99 in the Mile High City on Jan. 5 and also has taken the past seven at home in the series.
Key trends: The Nuggets are 3-7 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The over is 6-2 in the past eight.
Early lean: Nuggets and over.
Timberwolves at Clippers (-2.5, 201)
Second TNT game. Minnesota dropped a second straight game Tuesday, 122-114 in San Antonio. The Wolves played great in the first half with 71 points but then had only two more points in the second half than they did in the second quarter (41). Karl-Anthony Towns had 27 points and 16 rebounds, and Ricky Rubio added 21 points and 14 assists. Minnesota is now 4-22 when allowing 100-plus points. The Clippers are 7-0 in the New Year after beating Oklahoma City 120-98 on Monday, but they lost Chris Paul for 6-8 weeks to a thumb injury (and surgery). I'll likely go more in depth on that in Friday's Opening Line Report, but it's a crushing loss. Minnesota lost the first meeting at home with L.A., 119-105 on Nov. 12. The Clippers have won 16 of the last 17 overall in the series dating to April 2012.
Key trends: The Clippers are 6-1 ATS in their past seven at home. The over is 8-2 in the past 10 meetings.
Early lean: Wolves and under.
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