If before this season you projected that the Philadelphia 76ers would be the best against the spread team in the NBA, kudos to you because I surely didn't. I also expected the Sixers to start losing more games ATS once they ruled out Rookie of the Year candidate Joel Embiid for the season. Yet there the team is atop the ATS standings, and it has covered an NBA-high seven straight games entering Wednesday. The 76ers continue to play hard for Coach Brett Brown, although they have the fifth-worst record in the NBA. The sportsbooks still are handing them too many points most nights. This year really might be the last time the 76ers are in the lottery for a while if Embiid can stay healthy next season, Ben Simmons is as good as hoped, Dario Saric keeps improving (he might be the new ROY favorite) and the team lands a backcourt star with its 2017 draft pick. If the Sixers also get the Lakers' Top-3 protected pick, they could be scary good by 2019.
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Hornets at Magic ( +3.5, 206)
Charlotte won a second straight Monday, 105-90 against Atlanta. The Hornets took control early in the second period with a 23-4 run. Nicolas Batum and Kemba Walker each had 16 points. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist left the game with a right ankle strain in the third quarter and did not return. Orlando won a second straight as well Monday, 112-109 in OT against Philadelphia. The Magic rallied from a 17-point third-quarter deficit. Former Sixer Nikola Vucevic led the Magic with 26 points and 13 rebounds. Charlotte goes for the four-game season sweep of Orlando. The Magic have dropped eight of the past nine in the series overall.
Key trends: The Hornets are 4-0 against the spread in the past four meetings. The "over/under" is 6-1 in the past seven in Orlando.
Early lean: Hornets and over.
Pacers at Celtics (-8.5, 209)
Indiana beat visiting Utah 107-100 on Monday in the second of a back-to-back. The Pacers had been blown out Sunday in Toronto. Jeff Teague had 21 points, five rebounds and five assists vs. the Jazz. Paul George missed his first eight shots. Indiana has alternated wins and losses since the All-Star break. Boston welcomed back All-Star Isaiah Thomas from a two-game absence Monday and got a huge win over Washington in terms of the No. 2 seed in the East, 110-102. The Celtics now are unlikely to finish worse than second. Thomas had 25 points. Boston is 2-0 vs. the Pacers, winning both in Indy.
Key trends: The favorite is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The under is 13-3 in the Pacers' past 16 road games.
Early lean: Celtics and under.
Pistons at Bulls (pick'em, 202)
Both teams played Tuesday night, with Detroit in Brooklyn and Chicago in Toronto. This could be crucial in terms of a playoff tiebreaker as the Pistons and Bulls are right there with the Heat and Bucks fighting for the East's final two spots. Detroit is 2-1 against Chicago and thus would own the tiebreaker with a victory. Tobias Harris is averaging 15.0 points against the Bulls this season, while Jimmy Butler is averaging 26.0. points against the Pistons. Detroit has won two of its past three in the Windy City.
Key trends: The Pistons are 7-2 ATS in their past nine in Chicago. The under is 4-0 in the previous four meetings.
Early lean: Pistons and under.
76ers at Thunder (-10.5, 219)
Philadelphia couldn't hold a 17-point second-half lead in Orlando on Monday but did cover as a 6-point dog in a 112-109 OT loss. Richaun Holmes tied a career high in points with 24 and established a career best in rebounds with 14 for the Sixers. Jahlil Okafor was out with right knee soreness in the second of a back-to-back. Oklahoma City was swept by Golden State on Monday, 111-95 to end the Thunder's five-game losing streak. Russell Westbrook had one of his worst games of the season with 15 points on 4-for-16 shooting. OKC opened the season in Philadelphia and won 103-97 in Embiid's NBA debut. Westbrook had 32 points and 12 rebounds.
Key trends: The 76ers are 5-0 ATS in their past five road games. The over is 11-5-1 in the Thunder's past 17 overall.
Early lean: 76ers and over.
Hawks at Wizards (-7, 212.5)
First ESPN game. Atlanta dropped a fourth straight Monday, 105-90 in Charlotte, and I wouldn't touch this team until All-Star Paul Millsap returns from some knee discomfort. He will miss at least one more game. Dennis Schroder had 20 points to lead the Hawks, while Dwight Howard had 13 points and 10 rebounds. Howard has had at least 10 rebounds in 12 straight games. Washington lost for the fourth time in its past five Monday, 110-102 in Boston. Bradley Beal led Washington with 19 points, and John Wall had 16 points with eight assists. Wall tweaked an ankle but stayed in the game. Markieff Morris (illness) returned to the starting lineup after missing the past two games.This could be a first-round playoff preview. The Wizards lead the series 2-1 but they haven't played in two months.
Key trends: The Hawks are 0-6 ATS in their past six after a loss. The over is 9-2 in the Wizards' past 11 overall.
Early lean: Wizards and under.
Cavaliers at Nuggets (TBA)
Cleveland won at the Lakers 125-120 on Sunday as its Big 3 was back in the lineup after sitting out the night before vs. the Clippers. Kyrie Irving, LeBron James and Kevin Love combined for 101 points vs. the Lakers, their most ever as a trio with Cleveland. Irving had 46. Kyle Korver missed his seventh straight game with a sore foot and probably won't be back on this road trip. Denver was swept in a home-and-home in Houston on Monday, 125-124, on a last-second layup. Will Barton had given Denver a one-point lead on a three-point play with less than a minute left. Gary Harris scored a career-high 28 points for Denver, while Nikola Jokic was two assists shy of a triple-double. Danilo Gallinari (knee) and Wilson Chandler (groin) both participated in shootaround but did not play. They both think they can play Wednesday. Cleveland has won the past three overall vs. the Nuggets and three straight in Denver.
Key trends: The Cavs are 5-1-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 6-2 in the Cavs' past eight on two days of rest.
Early lean: Wait on those two Nuggets.
Bucks at Kings (+4.5, 205.5)
Milwaukee was in Portland on Tuesday, and this concludes a six-game Western Conference trip so I expect not much in the tank for the Bucks players. Sacramento lost a second in a row Sunday, 118-102 in San Antonio. The Kings led 14-2 early. Rookie Buddy Hield had 18 points for Sacramento, matching his high with the Kings since being acquired in the DeMarcus Cousins trade. Guard Arron Afflalo missed his second straight game for personal reasons.Milwaukee beat Sacramento 117-91 very early in the season, leading wire-to-wire.
Key trends: The Bucks are 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 8-0 in the previous eight.
Early lean: Kings and over.
Knicks at Jazz (-10, 201.5)
Second ESPN game. New York has lost back-to-back games after falling at the Clippers 114-105 on Monday to start a four-game Western Conference trip. Kristaps Porzingis had 18 points and 11 rebounds. He had missed the previous game with a thigh injury. Utah dropped a third straight Monday to close a four-game trip, 107-100 at Indiana. Former Butler star Gordon Hayward scored a career-high 38 points in his hometown to lead the Jazz. Those were the most points by a Utah player in any game since 2010. Utah won at the Knicks 114-109 in November and has taken the past two in Salt Lake City. New York coach Jeff Hornacek played seven seasons (1993-2000) with the Jazz. He is the franchise leader in three-point field goal percentage (.428) and free throw percentage (.896).
Key trends: The favorite is 8-3 ATS in the past 11 meetings. The under is 7-1 in Utah's past eight vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Jazz and under.
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