Thursday night was supposed to be a cakewalk sweep with just three games on the docket. Instead, the Charlotte Hornets had upset on the brain, riding yet another strong performance from Kemba Walker. We felt pretty confident about the Raptors taking care of the Al Jefferson-less Hornets in Toronto, but Walker put up 29 points, falling one point short of a fourth straight 30+ point effort.
That was our one miss, though, as we exited last night with a solid 2-1 mark and enter Friday night’s onslaught of NBA action with a 287-151 season record:
Celtics @ Pacers
Indiana hosts the reeling Celtics, who have dropped seven of their last 10. Boston can’t stop anyone defensively, so the Pacers should have a shot at getting their seventh win in 11 contests if they can keep the tempo slow and play good defense. That might be more difficult if Roy Hibbert sits (ankle), but Indy is a solid pick at home, regardless.
Pick: Pacers 95, Celtics 93
76ers @ Nets
Brooklyn has dropped three in a row and head coach Lionel Hollins hasn’t been shy about calling out his players. He specifically called center Brook Lopez “lazy” and doesn’t like how his team is handling itself. Luckily they get the Sixers at home.
Pick: Nets 104, Sixers 95
Hawks @ Pistons
Detroit has been extremely impressive, ripping off an insane seven straight wins after cutting Josh Smith. It’s anyone’s guess if they’re legit suddenly, but with wins in San Antonio and Dallas on this run, now isn’t the time to start betting against them.
Pick: Pistons 104, Hawks 102
Bulls @ Wizards
Chicago has been red hot with an 8-2 mark in their last 10 games, and they’ll take on an equally solid Wizards squad on the road tonight. They’re actually better on the road (14-4) and they handled the Wiz last time, so the Bulls look like a good pick.
Pick: Bulls 98, Wiz 94
Jazz @ Thunder
Russell Westbrook has been atrocious and the Thunder have gotten blown out in two straight games, but that can’t go on forever. Even if Russ can’t get it going on Friday, Kevin Durant should look to take over to keep his Thunder from losing at home to the Jazz.
Pick: Thunder 106, Jazz 97
Grizzlies @ Pelicans
New Orleans and Memphis are both just 4-6 over their last 10, but the Grizz are the ones that are more likely to start cleaning things up. They clearly have been missing Zach Randolph’s scoring, but with Z-Bo back in the saddle on Friday, the Grizz look like the right call.
Pick: Grizz 106, Pellies 101
Timberwolves @ Bucks
The Timberwolves have lost 13 straight games and are a hopeless 2-14 away from home. Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic are still out, so they could be in trouble on the road again tonight.
Pick: Bucks 101, T’Wolves 99
Suns @ Spurs
Phoenix is on a nice roll (winners of four straight), while the Spurs have basically been in shambles since the beginning of December. San Antonio has looked better since the new year hit, though, so as long as their key players are active they should take care of business at home.
Pick: Spurs 104, Suns 103
Nuggets @ Kings
Sacramento seems to slowly be turning things around now that DeMarcus Cousins is healthy again, but they’ve got a tough test tonight at home against the Nuggets. Denver is atrocious on the road this year, however (5-12), so we like the Kings.
Pick: Kings 103, Nuggets 101
Magic @ Lakers
The Lakers are just 11-25 but they’ve mostly remained competitive and the Magic give them a shot at a win at home. Orlando could also easily get the win in what figures to be an offensive shootout, but their 9-13 record on the road doesn’t exactly bode well.
Pick: Lakers 106, Magic 104
Cavaliers @ Warriors
LeBron James is still out (knee, back), so the Cavs will be short-handed when they try to be just the second team to win in Golden State this year. Best of luck, Cavs.
Pick: Warriors 108, Cavs 103