With the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 tipping off opposite the NBA action on Thursday, you are going to be seeing a lot of stars playing potentially their final games in college basketball as the waves of draft declarations will begin when their teams lose. For example, Oklahoma State star sophomore guard Jawun Evans announced his decision on Tuesday. Both Kansas and Arizona play Thursday night - I think they both win, though -- and it's presumed their star freshmen, Josh Jackson and Lauri Markkanen, respectively, will be playing for money next year. Oregon is a slight underdog to Michigan on Thursday in the Midwest, and it could be the final game for Ducks star Dillon Brooks, the Pac-12 Player of the Year. He's a junior and probably playing his final season in Eugene. That's the problem with college coaches these days: you want guys who are good enough to contend for a national title but not quite good enough to be a first-round pick as a freshman (or ideally their entire NCAA career).
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Suns at Nets ( -2.5, 219)
Phoenix dropped its fifth straight Tuesday, 112-97 at home to Miami. Rookie Marquese Chriss had 24 in the loss. Leandro Barbosa returned after missing two games with an illness. Coach Earl Watson is only playing 7-8 guys a night. The Suns are one defeat away from consecutive 50-loss seasons, something the franchise hasn't endured since the 1973-74 and 1974-75 campaigns. Brooklyn handed playoff-hopeful Detroit a crushing loss Tuesday, 98-96. Brook Lopez hit a jumper as time expired and finished with 29 points. The Nets improved to 5-7 in March, their best month of the season. Brooklyn swept Phoenix last season and won the first meeting this one, 122-104 back on Nov. 12.
Key trends: The Nets are 4-1 against the spread in their past five vs. teams with a losing record. The "over/under" is 6-2 in the Suns' past eight vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean : Nets (fourth time this season favored) and over.
Raptors at Heat (TBA)
NBA TV game. Could be a first-round playoff preview. Toronto won its third in a row and ended an 11-game losing streak to Chicago with a 122-120 OT win Tuesday. DeMar DeRozan had 42 points, but it took him a team-record 38 shots. It was DeRozan's fifth 40-plus-point game of the season. Serge Ibaka scored 16 before he was ejected for his role in a fight with Robin Lopez during the third quarter. Both guys surely will be suspended at least a game. Miami beat Phoenix 112-97 on Tuesday but may have lost center Hassan Whiteside for a few games. He had 23 points and 14 rebounds to set the team record for rebounds (and double-digit rebound games) in a season but suffered a cut on his right hand that needed 13 stitches. It's in the same spot that needed 10 stitches to repair two seasons ago, an injury that kept him out for three games.Toronto and Miami have split two meetings, each winning at home.
Key trends: The home team is 6-0 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 9-3 in the Heat's past 12 at home.
Early lean: Wait on Whiteside.
Clippers at Mavericks (+3, 207)
Los Angeles won its third in a row Tuesday, 133-109 "at" the Lakers. The Clippers were up 30 at the half so none of their starters played heavy minutes. Chris Paul had 27 points. Dallas lost 112-87 at home to Golden State on Tuesday. The Mavs shot 36 percent (33 of 92) from the field, only two days after shooting 54 percent at Brooklyn. They are 2-4 in their past six to severely harm their playoff hopes. L.A. and Dallas have split two meetings, each winning on the road. The Clips have taken six of their past nine in Big D.
Key trends: The favorite is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 10-4 in the previous 14.
Early lean: Clippers and over.
Grizzlies at Spurs (-8.5, 201)
Memphis' four-game winning streak ended in a 95-82 loss in New Orleans on Tuesday. The Grizz couldn't stop DeMarcus Cousins and were outscored 61-41 in the second half. Tony Allen got the night off to rest. San Antonio won a second in a row Tuesday, 100-93 over Minnesota. Kawhi Leonard scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half and hit a go-ahead jumper with 54 seconds to play. LaMarcus Aldridge had 26 points. Memphis leads San Antonio 2-0 this season, taking both at home. The Spurs have won the past three in the series at the AT&T Center.
Key trends: The home team is 5-1 ATS in the past six and the under is 5-2 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Grizzlies and under.
Knicks at Trail Blazers (-8, 219)
New York was in Utah on Wednesday. This is the final of six away-away back-to-backs this season. The Knicks are 3-10 on the backend of back-to-backs overall. Portland's three-game winning streak was snapped Tuesday, 93-90 vs. Milwaukee. Damian Lillard led Portland with 31 points, and CJ McCollum added 21. Jusuf Nurkic had 11 points and 14 rebounds. The Blazers rallied from a 15-point hole to lead with under four minutes left. New York won the first meeting with Portland, 107-103 on Nov. 22. Kristaps Porzingis led New York with 31 points and nine rebounds, while Lillard had 22 points, five assists and five rebounds for Portland. The Blazers have won seven of the past 10 overall vs. NYK.
Key trends: The favorite is 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 15-3 in Portland's past 18 on Thursday.
Early lean: Blazers and over.
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