Some much-needed good news for the Los Angeles Clippers is imminent as Blake Griffin is expected to return from his knee injury. It's most likely he will do so Tuesday in Philadelphia. Griffin underwent an arthroscopic procedure to remove loose bodies from his right knee on Dec. 20. Griffin worked out Friday with Brice Johnson and Alan Anderson and reported no problems. The Clippers were 9-8 without him entering Monday's trip to Atlanta -- Griffin wasn't playing there as I'm sure the team didn't want him out there for both ends of a back-to-back -- and really looked bad in losses to Minnesota and Denver last week once they lost Chris Paul for 6-8 weeks following thumb surgery. Griffin is averaging 21.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists this season.
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Spurs at Raptors (TBA)
NBA TV game. Could be an NBA preview as the Spurs are surely the West's second-best team and the Raptors are most likely the same in the East. So one injury to a key Warrior and Cavalier and we could be looking at a San Antonio-Toronto Finals that would make ABC/ESPN cringe from a ratings perspective. Alas, we likely won't see the best of the Spurs here as they played Monday in Brooklyn so Gregg Popovich probably rests a guy or two. Pau Gasol is already out with a broken finger and Tony Parker had missed the previous two games entering Monday with a foot injury. Toronto perhaps was looking ahead to this one Sunday with it was upset 115-103 at home by Phoenix for a third straight loss. To make matters worse, leading scorer and All-Star DeMar DeRozan had to leave late after rolling his ankle on a teammate's foot. I haven't seen any updates yet on his status. San Antonio routed Toronto 110-82 on Jan. 3, but the Spurs have dropped their past two north of the border.
Key trends: The home team is 5-1 against the spread in the past six meetings. The "over/under" is 8-3 in the past 11.
Early lean: Wait on DeRozan.
Clippers at 76ers (TBA)
As noted above, Los Angeles was in Atlanta on Monday. Philadelphia had a three-game winning streak snapped in a 110-93 loss in Atlanta. It's amazing how different -- i.e. bad -- this team is without Joel Embiid and how good with him. He sat that one out as it was the second of a back-to-back. I suppose it's possible he doesn't play here, either, as Embiid did suffer a knee contusion on Friday. This is the first meeting of the season between Los Angeles and Philly. The Clippers have won the past nine meetings.
Key trends: The 76ers are 5-0 ATS in their past five at home. The under is 4-1 in the Clippers' past five in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: Wait on Embiid and Griffin.
Celtics at Wizards (+1, 217.5)
Washington was in Charlotte on Monday. Boston dropped a second straight home game Saturday in a 127-123 OT upset to Portland. Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 41 points, his 14th time this season with 30 or more points. Guard Avery Bradley was out for the second straight game with a sore right Achilles. You won't see him here. The C's and Wiz have split two games this season, with the Wizards winning the game in Washington by 25 points on Nov. 16.
Key trends: The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 20-6 in the Wizards' past 26 in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: Wizards and over.
Bulls at Magic (+3, 206)
Chicago ended a two-game losing streak with a 102-99 home win over Sacramento on Saturday. Dwyane Wade had 30 points and two key steals in the final minute. The Kings were on the wrong side of a clearly wrong foul call on DeMarcus Cousins in the final seconds and the league has admitted it was a bad call. Orlando lost at home to the Warriors on Sunday, 118-98. The Magic were playing well against a Warriors team playing its first noon Eastern time zone game since 1995, but Golden State woke up in the third quarter by outscoring the Magic by 18. Orlando starting guard Evan Fournier missed his fifth straight game with a right foot injury. Point guard D.J. Augustin sprained his right ankle during the second quarter and did not return to the game. Orlando lost the first meeting vs. the Bulls, 112-80 in Chicago on Nov. 7.
Key trends: The Bulls are 1-7 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 4-0 in the previous four.
Early lean: Magic and under.
Jazz at Nuggets (+1.5, 212)
Utah hosted Oklahoma City on Monday. Denver lost 111-108 in Minnesota on Sunday. Gary Harris scored 22 points and Nikola Jokic had 18 points and eight rebounds for the Nuggets on the second night of a back-to-back. The Nugs were without Emmanuel Mudiay due to back troubles, and he's questionable here. This is the last meeting between the Jazz and Nuggets this season. Utah leads 2-1 but lost by 14 in Denver on Nov. 20.
Key trends: The Jazz are 11-3 ATS in the past 14 meetings. The under is 7-1 in the past eight meetings.
Early lean: Nuggets and under.
Timberwolves at Suns (+1.5, 214.5)
Minnesota won a second straight Sunday, 111-108 over Denver. Ricky Rubio was away from the team because of a death in the family and rookie Kris Dunn started and played well with 10 points and nine assists. That's why the Wolves want to trade Rubio, who is expected to play Tuesday, so Dunn can start every game. Karl-Anthony Towns had 32 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and four blocks. Phoenix upset the Raptors 115-103 in Toronto on Sunday. Eric Bledsoe had a career-high 40 points to go with 13 assists and six rebounds. Too bad the Suns aren't in the East as they are 11-6 against that conference. This is the last meeting of the season between Phoenix and Minnesota, which leads 2-0.
Key trends: The favorite is 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 5-2 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Suns and over.
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