The Toronto Raptors don't play Thursday, but I want to address the bad news this week from north of the border as the team's best player, point guard Kyle Lowry, had wrist surgery on Tuesday to remove "loose bodies." The team didn't give an official timetable, only that the "aim" is for Lowry to return for the playoffs. That sounds rather ominous. Lowry hurt the wrist on Feb. 15 but decided to play in the All-Star Game and compete in the Three-Point Contest. I suppose that's his right, but it looks bad now considering Lowry wasn't able to play after the break before going under the knife. He trails only Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler and Draymond Green in ESPN's real plus-minus and leads the league in minutes per game. Lowry was averaging 22.8 points, 6.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds - he hits free agency this summer.
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This is a total bummer for the Drakes because this is probably their best chance ever to reach the NBA Finals for the first time with the Cavs looking somewhat vulnerable due to their injuries. Toronto smartly added Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker ahead of the trade deadline and looks to have no glaring holes. Until now. If Lowry gets back toward the end of the regular season, I suppose no harm done. Cory Joseph has played pretty well as Lowry's main backup. However, I believe the Raptors had a reasonable shot at the No. 2 seed in the East and at worst the No. 3 with a healthy club the final six weeks. Now I can see them slipping to No. 4, which would mean a conference semifinals matchup with Cleveland instead of avoiding the Cavs until the East Finals like last year. At 5Dimes, Toronto is +1075 to win the East.
Warriors at Bulls ( +6, 219.5)
First of a TNT doubleheader. One of the most unusual active winning streaks
in the NBA is on the line here. The Bulls have managed to win 17 straight
home games televised by TNT on Thursdays. I kid you not. That streak nearly
ended on the eve of the All-Star break but Jimmy Butler was the recipient
of really questionable foul call on Boston with less than a second
remaining and Butler made two free throws for the win. The streak dates to
late in the 2012-13 season. Golden State comes off a 112-108 loss in
Washington on Tuesday in a game that saw Kevin Durant leave with a
hyperextended knee. An MRI on Wednesday revealed a
Grade 2 MCL strain and bone bruise. Durant will be re-evaluated in four weeks and should be back by the playoffs (perhaps a few regular-season games), so it sounds like the Warriors dodged a major bullet. Chicago's four-game winning streak ended in a 125-107 home loss to Denver on Tuesday in a clear look-ahead game. Butler finished with just eight points on 3-for-13 shooting. The Bulls were up eight early in the third quarter. Chicago was pummeled in Oakland 123-92 on Feb. 8 without Butler and Dwyane Wade. The Bulls have also dropped the past two at home vs. the Warriors.
Key trends: The Warriors are 0-4 against the spread in their past four games. The Bulls are 7-1 ATS in their past eight at home vs. teams with a winning road record. The Warriors are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in eight of Chicago's past 11 after a loss.
Early lean: Might Dubs be a bit down after the Durant news? I'll take the points.
Hornets at Suns (+3.5, 218)
Charlotte improved to 2-3 on a seven-game road trip with a 109-104 win at the Lakers on Tuesday. Kemba Walker scored 30 points and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:55 to play. Frank Kaminsky had 24 points and 12 rebounds for the Hornets. Cody Zeller returned from a six-game injury absence and had six points in 19 minutes. Phoenix dropped its third in a row Tuesday, 130-112 in Memphis. Devin Booker, the Suns' second-leading scorer at 21.1 points a game, was limited to nine points on 3 of 11 from the floor. It was his first game not in double digits since late December. First meeting between Charlotte and Phoenix. The Suns have won seven of the last nine games in the series.
Key trends: The Hornets are 2-6 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 19-7 in the Suns' past 26 home games.
Early lean: Suns and over.
Thunder at Trail Blazers (TBA)
Second TNT game. Oklahoma City won its fourth consecutive Tuesday, 109-106 over visiting Utah. Russell Westbrook had his 30th triple-double of the season, topped by 43 points. He scored 12 of those in the final 2:05. Oklahoma City, which entered the night last in the NBA in 3-point percentage, made 15 of 22 three-pointers. Portland lost a second in a row Tuesday, 120-113 in OT at Detroit. Damian Lillard had 34 points and 11 rebounds for Portland while falling an assist shy of his first triple-double. The Blazers led by 13 in the second half. Final meeting between OKC and Portland. They have split two games, and the Blazers have won five in a row at home vs. the Thunder. Westbrook's 42 points vs. visiting Portland on Feb. 5 represents his highest-scoring total in 30 career games against the Trail Blazers.
Key trends: The home team is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 6-1 in the Thunder's past seven overall.
Early lean: Assuming this is for Victor Oladipo again - he has missed the past three. Not sure he's worth a TBA himself. Like Portland regardless.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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