Has there ever been a season where the top NBA contenders have been dealing with such serious health issues? You have Kevin Love (and to a lesser extent Andrew Bogut) with the Cavaliers, Kevin Durant with the Warriors and now LaMarcus Aldridge with the Spurs. He's out indefinitely with a "minor heart arrhythmia." Most times when an NBA player is ruled out indefinitely, the team has a pretty good idea when that player will return. This obviously isn't a broken bone or pulled muscle for which doctors can forecast a recovery time. The Spurs will not win the West without Aldridge, but if history is any indication he should be back well before the playoffs. His rookie season was cut short after he was diagnosed with and treated for Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, an electrical abnormality that can cause a rapid or irregular heartbeat. He had a procedure in 2011 to correct a recurrence of the problem. That time he was out about 10 days. Here's hoping every contender is healthy come the postseason so we see a true champion.
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Mavericks at Wizards (TBA)
Dallas dropped a second straight Monday at Toronto, 100-78. The Mavs shot just 36.5 percent and were dominated on the boards. Starting forward Wesley Matthews left in the first half with a right calf strain. Nerlens Noel sat a third game in a row with a sore knee. Washington's five-game winning streak ended at the end of a long road trip Monday in Minnesota, 119-104. John Wall, after being named Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday, had 27 points. Dallas won the first meeting with Washington 113-105 on Jan. 3. The Mavs have won 12 of the past 3 overall in the series and seven straight in D.C.
Key trends: The Mavericks are 7-1 against the spread in the past eight meetings. The "over/under" is 4-1 in the previous five.
Early lean : I think this is a Washington blowout regardless of Noel and/or Matthews.
Hornets at Pacers (TBA)
Indiana was at the Knicks on Tuesday. Charlotte dropped its second straight Monday, 115-109 at home to Chicago. Jeremy Lamb led Charlotte with 26 points. Marvin Williams had 13 points and tied a career high with 18 rebounds for his fifth double-double in six games. Nic Batum sat with a migraine. Final meeting between Charlotte and Indiana, with the Hornets leading 2-1.
Key trends: The home team is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The under is 4-1 in the Pacers' past five in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: Wait on Batum.
Timberwolves at Celtics ( -6, 210.5)
Minnesota won for the third time in four games Monday, 119-104 over Washington. Karl-Anthony Towns - named Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday -- had 17 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter and Ricky Rubio had 22 points and a franchise-record 19 assists. It's the first time in Rubio's career he has scored at least 20 in back-to-back games. Boston crushed visiting Chicago 100-80 on Sunday. Isaiah Thomas had 22 points in just 24 minutes. It was over after one quarter with Boston up 22-9. Minnesota lost at home to Boston 99-93 on Nov. 21 and has dropped 10 straight in Beantown.
Key trends: The Wolves are 9-1 ATS in their past 10 overall. They are 0-4 ATS in their past four in Boston. The under is 5-1-1 in Boston's past seven at home.
Early lean: Wolves and under.
Pelicans at Heat (TBA)
New Orleans hosted Portland on Tuesday. Miami's four-game winning streak ended in a 102-98 defeat at Indiana on Sunday. Hassan Whiteside led the Heat with 26 points and 21 rebounds.Goran Dragic did not play after injuring an eye in Saturday's win over Toronto. Google that bad boy as it swelled up to the size of a tennis ball. There's no long-term damage, but I'd consider him questionable here. Miami has won six of the past seven at home vs. New Orleans but lost in the Big Easy back in December.
Key trends: The Pelicans are 3-8 ATS in the past 11 meetings. The over is 7-3 in the previous 10.
Early lean: Wait on Dragic.
Jazz at Pistons (TBA)
Detroit was in Cleveland on Tuesday. Utah, which starts a four-game trip here, beat the visiting Clippers 114-108 on Monday. Gordon Hayward scored 27 points as the Jazz broke a nine-game home losing streak to the Clippers. Derrick Favors was held out with a bone contusion in his left knee for the third straight game and will be re-evaluated later in the week.Utah crushed Detroit 110-77 on Jan. 13 and is looking for its first season sweep in two seasons.
Key trends: The road team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under has hit in the previous four.
Early lean: I presume TBA for Favors, although Rudy Gobert has been dealing with a sore leg.
Grizzlies at Bulls (+1, 200)
Memphis ended a five-game losing streak with a 113-93 home win over Milwaukee on Monday. Ageless Vince Carter, 40, had a season-high 24 points on 8-for-8 shooting. Mike Conley had 20 points and 10 assists for the Grizzlies, who shot 52 percent overall. Chandler Parsons sat out again with knee troubles and now it's looking as if his season is over. Chicago ended a five-game skid with a 115-109 win in Charlotte on Monday. Coach Fred Hoiberg started Rajon Rondo for the first time in months, and he responded with 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Nikola Mirotic returned from a three-game absence and scored 24 points. The Bulls had four 20-point scorers for the first time this decade. Chicago won in Memphis 108-104 on Jan. 15.
Key trends: The underdog is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 3-1-1 in the past five.
Early lean: Bulls and under.
Lakers at Rockets (-16.5, 235)
Los Angeles lost its second in a row Monday, 129-101 in Denver. Ivica Zubac had 25 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who have lost 10 of their last 11. Jordan Clarkson, who got the start ahead of D'Angelo Russell, added 19 points. Russell wasn't hurt, Coach Luke Walton just wanted a different look. Houston won its second straight Sunday, 117-112 over Cleveland. James Harden had a triple-double of 38 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. It was the 16th triple-double this season for Harden and his 31st game with at least 30 points.L.A. and Houston have split two high-scoring meetings, each winning at home.
Key trends: The Lakers are 1-6 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 4-0 in the previous four.
Early lean: Lakers (I'll always take anything 15+) and over.
Trail Blazers at Spurs (-10, 212)
First ESPN game. Portland was at New Orleans on Tuesday. San Antonio remained without Aldridge but got Kawhi Leonard back from concussion-like symptoms Monday and beat the Hawks 107-99 to temporarily tie for the top spot in the Western Conference. Leonard had 31 points and the Spurs made a season-high 16 3-pointers to overcome a season-high 23 turnovers. Tony Parker sat out again with a back problem. San Antonio leads Portland 2-0 and has won four in a row at home vs. the Blazers.
Key trends: The Blazers are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 4-1 in the previous five in San Antonio.
Early lean: Spurs and over.
Kings at Suns (-6.5, 220)
Sacramento's eight-game losing streak ended Monday in a 120-115 home win over Orlando. Darren Collison had 19 points and 13 assists, and reserve Anthony Tolliver also scored 19 points. Sacramento was 16-for-30 from long range. Kosta Koufos and Ty Lawson had planned rest nights and Tyreke Evans missed the game with a sore left ankle. Phoenix lost 110-101 Sunday at home to Portland. Devin Booker led the Suns with 28 points. They trailed by 18 in the third but briefly led in the fourth. Alex Len missed his second game in a row with a bruised hip. These teams have split two meetings this season, and Sacramento has won its past two in the desert.
Key trends: The Kings are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 4-0 in the previous four.
Early lean: Suns and over.
Bucks at Clippers (-9, 212.5)
Second ESPN game. Milwaukee's six-game winning streak ended Monday in a 113-93 loss in Memphis. That started a six-game trip. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 18 points. They haven't won seven consecutive games since January 2002. Los Angeles had a two-game winning run end Monday in Utah, 114-108. Chris Paul had 33 points, six rebounds and seven assists. The Clippers held the Jazz to an average of 73.5 points in their first two meetings before Monday.Milwaukee won the first meeting 112-101 but has dropped eight in a row in L.A.
Key trends: The Bucks are 4-9 ATS in their past 13 on the road. The under is 4-1-1 in the Clippers' past six at home.
Early lean: Clippers and under.
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