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The 12-pack of games inside the NBA on Friday mostly highlights Western Conference clubs that are trying to break into the upper-tier. The Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, and Grizzlies seem to be the top four teams out West, but there are a handful of clubs that fighting for respect, including the Rockets, Warriors, and Nuggets. Those three squads are under the microscope against teams that are playing well of late. We'll start in the Lone Star State with a pair of old Texas rivals hooking up for the third time this season.

Rockets at Spurs - 8:35 PM EST

Houston is on fire as of late by winning and covering five straight games, including three in the underdog role as Kevin McHale's club travels to San Antonio. The Spurs are wrapping up a four-game homestand after winning each of the first three contests against New Orleans, Dallas, and Toronto, while the last two victories came by at least 20 points.

Since falling in overtime at home to the Spurs on December 10, the Rockets have run off seven victories in eight games, including outright 'dog wins at New York, Chicago, and Minnesota. Houston is scoring at a frantic pace, but its defense has stepped up by limiting six of the last eight opponents to less than 100 points. In that overtime defeat to San Antonio, James Harden missed his only game of the season with an ankle injury, as the Spurs managed a frontdoor cover in a 134-126 triumph as seven-point favorites.

The Spurs own just a 3-5 ATS record since that win at Houston, but four of those non-covers came on the highway. Gregg Popovich's team has won seven consecutive games at AT&T Center, while cashing five times, including Wednesday's 100-80 blowout of the Raptors as 14-point 'chalk.' On Fridays this season, the Spurs have compiled a 4-0 SU/3-1 ATS ledger, as the lone ATS defeat came in a five-point victory over the Hornets last week.

Nuggets at Mavericks - 8:35 PM EST

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Denver hits the road once again for its league-high 21st away contest as the Nuggets head to the heart of Dallas. The Mavericks enter Friday's game with no rest following an overtime defeat at Oklahoma City, as Dirk Nowitzki will play for the first time in front of the home fans after missing 22 games due to knee surgery.

The Nuggets took care of the unrested Lakers on Wednesday in a 126-114 shootout victory as 3 ½-point home favorites. George Karl's club has won five of their last seven games, but both those losses came on the road at the Clippers and Blazers. The offense is clicking recently by topping the 100-point mark in eight of the previous 10 contests, but the 'over' has cashed only six times.

Dallas returns to American Airlines Center owning an 8-4 SU and 6-6 ATS ledger, including a 15-point setback in its last home game against Miami on December 20. The 'over' is profiting at home for the Mavs by hitting nine of 12 times, while going 2-1 to the 'over' in three tries with a total of 200 or above. Dallas has won just two of seven times with no rest, as the Mavs are 5-2 to the 'under' in this situation.

Clippers at Jazz - 9:05 PM EST

Utah returned home from a 1-3 road trip on Wednesday only to get tripped up by Golden State, 94-83. The Jazz fell behind from the tip in their third home defeat in 12 tries, while being held to less than 97 points for the seventh straight game. The Clippers head to Salt Lake City looking for their second victory over the Jazz this month.

Los Angeles picked up its 16th straight win after routing Boston last night, while the streak includes six consecutive road victories. This highway hot streak began with a 105-104 triumph at Utah on December 3 as the Clippers won for the second straight time at EnergySolutions Arena following a 16-game skid that dated from March 2003 to January 2012. L.A. has won three of five times with no rest, but has failed to cover in two of three tries on the road in this spot.

With Utah's low-scoring ways as of late, 'under' bettors are taking notice as the Jazz have cashed the 'under' in six of the last eight contests. The Jazz have taken care of business in two opportunities as a home underdog by beating the Spurs outright on December 12, while barely covering as two-point 'dogs in the one-point setback to the Clippers earlier this month.

76ers at Warriors - 10:35 PM EST

Philadelphia has cashed in each of its first two games of an eight-game road trip, including a solid 99-89 triumph at Memphis on Wednesday as nine-point 'dogs. The Sixers have covered in three straight games since Jrue Holiday's return to the lineup following a five-game losing streak, as the task will be tough once again with a visit to Oracle Arena.

The Warriors have alternated wins and losses in each of the last five games, coming off Wednesday's road triumph at Utah. That low-scoring victory snapped a five-game streak of 'overs' for Mark Jackson's club, as Golden State is 5-1 to the 'over' the last six home contests. Oracle Arena is turning back into a strong home-court advantage as the Warriors have picked up five wins (and covers) in six tries against Eastern Conference opponents.

The Sixers have split 10 games in the role of a road underdog this season, while playing only their fourth game against Western Conference foes on the highway (2-1 SU/ATS). Doug Collins' squad has lost four straight games coming off a win, but picked up a pair of covers as away 'dogs at Chicago and Brooklyn. Philadelphia has won five of the last six meetings with Golden State, including a season sweep of the Warriors last season.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at rogers@vegasinsider.com

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

  
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