You have to love youth. Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, the clear leader for NBA Rookie of the Year and a likely future multiple-time All-Star, said after Sunday's win at Brooklyn with a straight face that he thought the 76ers could make the playoffs. Let's not put the cart before the horse, big man. It's nice that the 76ers already have 10 wins, matching last season's total. This team has some really intriguing young pieces, and I can't wait to see Philadelphia whenever Ben Simmons is able to debut this season. But to quote former NFL coach Jim Mora: Playoffs? Playoffs!!?? "It's an amazing thing to really have this mindset of potential playoffs in just a matter of a year," said fellow big man Nerlens Noel, who has lobbied Philadelphia's front office for a trade all year. "Guys are really looking forward to it. Presuming everything stays on the right road with health and the direction we're going now, we're playing good basketball, that's definitely a possibility." Maybe next year. I would now rather have Philadelphia's future, however, than some mediocre team caught in the middle like a Chicago.
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Knicks at 76ers (TBA)
New York is officially imploding. It lost for the eighth time in nine games Monday, 110-96 to New Orleans. Both Carmelo Anthony and Kyle O'Quinn were ejected and Derrick Rose simply went AWOL and didn't show up for the game. I don't know anything more about this as of this writing but will certainly delve deeper into it later in the week. Rose is apparently fine but attended to a family matter back in Chicago. One problem: He never told the team. Reports are that he's pouting for being benched the past few fourth quarters by Jeff Hornacek. Must be rough being a millionaire multiple times over and being paid to play basketball. Philadelphia won in Brooklyn on Sunday, 105-95. Embiid had 20 points. The Nets led by 11 at halftime, but the Sixers scored the first 13 points of the third quarter. Point guard Sergio Rodriguez returned after a three-game absence with a sprained left ankle but he came off the bench. This is the first meeting of the season between New York and Philadelphia. The Knicks have taken the past five in the series.
Key trends: The favorite is 6-1 against the spread in the past seven meetings. The "over/under" is 4-1 in the past five.
Early lean: Wait on Rose.
Grizzlies at Thunder (-6, 207)
First of an ESPN doubleheader. Memphis beat Utah 88-79 on Sunday for a second straight win. Mike Conley had 19 points and Marc Gasol 17. Memphis had nine 3-pointers, snapping a string of five straight games where it recorded at least 10 outside the arc. The Grizzlies have totally reinvented themselves offensively. Oklahoma City won its second in a row Monday, 109-94 in Chicago. Russell Westbrook was a rebound shy of a triple-double, and the Thunder caught a break that Bulls star Jimmy Butler was really sick and had just one point. He probably should have simply sat out. Memphis won the first meeting vs. OKC 114-80 on Dec. 29. Westbrook was tossed for two technicals in the third quarter, but it was already a 16-point lead for the Grizzlies.
Key trends: The home team is 8-1 ATS in the past nine meetings. The over is 6-0 in the Grizzlies' past six on the road.
Early lean: Thunder and over.
Rockets at Timberwolves (TBA)
Houston hosted Charlotte on Tuesday with Eric Gordon questionable. Minnesota ended a four-game losing streak with a 101-92 home victory over Dallas on Monday. Karl-Anthony Towns had 34 points and 11 rebounds, and Ricky Rubio added 13 points and a season-high 15 assists. The Wolves shot 56.3 percent. Zach LaVine left early in the fourth with a bruised left hip and did not return, so he might sit this one out. The Rockets have beaten Minnesota in 12 of the past 13 overall, including eight in a row since the Wolves' 112-110 home victory on April 11, 2014.
Key trends: The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 9-1 in the previous 10.
Early lean: Wait on Gordon and LaVine.
Wizards at Celtics (TBA)
Washington hosted Chicago on Tuesday, while Boston was in Toronto with Avery Bradley missing a second straight game due to a strained Achilles' tendon. Thus I doubt he plays here. Washington won the first meeting vs. Boston 118-93 on Nov. 9 in D.C. It was 34-8 after one quarter and already over. Otto Porter had 34 points and 14 rebounds for the Wiz. Boston has won the past three in the series at home.
Key trends: The favorite is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 5-2 in the past seven in Boston.
Early lean: Wizards might sit Bradley Beal in second of back-to-back so wait on that.
Magic at Clippers ( -9, 208)
Orlando lost its third straight Sunday, 111-95 at the Lakers. The Magic trailed by two at the break but missed their first 10 shots in the second half to fall into a big hole. Orlando finished with just nine third-quarter points. Los Angeles won its fourth consecutive Sunday, 98-86 over Miami. J.J. Redick had 25 points and Chris Paul 19 points and 18 assists. Austin Rivers sat out with the flu. Los Angeles won its sixth straight in this series on Dec. 14 in Florida, 113-108. Rivers had 25 points in his hometown. Aaron Gordon had 33 points for the Magic.
Key trends: The Magic are 1-4-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 6-2 in the past eight.
Early lean: Clippers and under.
Cavaliers at Trail Blazers (TBA)
Second ESPN game. Cleveland was in Utah and Portland was at the LA Lakers on Tuesday. Thus I have a feeling a key Cavalier or two -- i.e. LeBron James or Kyrie Irving -- might take a seat here as it's the team's third game in four nights. Portland generally plays everyone in both ends of a back-to-back if healthy. The Cavaliers beat the visiting Trail Blazers in one of the highest-scoring games of the season, 137-125 on Nov. 23. Kevin Love had an NBA-record 34 first-quarter points and finished with 40. LeBron had a triple-double and Damian Lillard had 40 points for the Blazers.
Key trends: The Cavs are 1-5 ATS in their past six in Portland. The over is 4-1 in Portland's past five vs. the East.
Early lean: Wait on the key Cavs.
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