The Cleveland Cavaliers won without LeBron James, the Knicks lost again and Kobe Bryant got mad as we rode a stellar 8-2 record through a jam-packed NBA Friday night. Things slow down slightly on Saturday, but we still have to maneuver through eight NBA games. Let’s break down all of the matchups and see who makes for the safest picks for tonight:
Hornets @ Magic
The Hornets made a bit of a surge a week ago but without big man Al Jefferson they’ve slipped back off the edge, losing five straight games coming into tonight. They’ve lost to the Magic twice already this year and this game is in Orlando, so it’s tough to bet on a short-handed Hornets squad.
Pick: Magic 102, Hornets 98
Celtics @ Bulls
Chicago will miss Jimmy Butler (personal) and Michael Dunleavy (ankle) tonight, while Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson are also questionable. That could leave the Bulls short-handed, but they’re pretty deep and seem to be turning a corner at home. They’re still a solid pick over a Celtics team that has dropped six of their last 10.
Pick: Bulls 106, Celtics 102
Jazz @ Timberwolves
This is a no-defense toss up, as Utah travels to Minnesota in what could be a high-scoring affair. Enes Kanter will sit out, so the Timberwolves might have a decent shot at snapping a horrific 10-game skid.
Pick: T’Wolves 107, Jazz 105
Heat @ Rockets
Dwight Howard hasn’t been quite himself lately, and the Heat come into Houston at 100%. The Rockets have been a different team with Josh Smith added to the lineup (just 5-5 in last 10), but Miami has dropped three straight and is a mediocre 8-7 away from home. Take Houston at home tonight.
Pick: Rockets 109, Heat 101
Wizards @ Spurs
San Antonio had a miserable December but got 2015 started off right with a win. They’ll try to make it two in a row in the new year when the Wiz come to town. Washington can bang down low, but the Spurs are 11-5 on their home floor so they’re a solid bet to keep things going in the right direction.
Pick: Spurs 104, Wizards 102
Grizzlies @ Nuggets
Denver can bring the offense but hasn’t been able to finish games lately with three straight losses. Finally doing so won’t get much easier on Saturday when they host a Grizzlies team that has won three straight and is a solid 11-4 on the road.
Pick: Grizzlies 107, Nuggets 106
Hawks @ Trail Blazers
Atlanta heads to Portland for the first time this season, where the Blazers are a deadly 15-2. Portland is one of the more balanced teams in the league and just doesn’t lose at home, but the Hawks have been on fire (8-2 in last 10) and should at least make it a good game.
Pick: Blazers 109, Hawks 106
76ers @ Clippers
Philly has four wins on the year and is knee-deep in another losing streak (four straight), while the Clips have won two straight and are a blistering 14-4 on their home floor. They’re not losing to the Sixers tonight.
Pick: Clips 112, 76ers 90