January 3, 2013
By Kevin Rogers
Following a short two-game slate on Thursday, the Friday NBA card is loaded with 11 contests on the board. The Clippers and Lakers meet for the second time this season at Staples Center, while the Rockets look to stay hot against Eastern Conference opponents with a trip to Milwaukee. We'll begin in South Florida as the Bulls conclude the Sunshine State trip against the Heat.
Bulls at Heat - 8:05 PM EST
Miami eliminated Chicago in five games of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, as these two teams have gone in different directions since that time. The Heat advanced to the NBA Finals twice, including last season's championship over the Thunder. Chicago was bounced in the opening round against Philadelphia last April, while the team is still trying to recover from Derrick Rose's torn ACL suffered in that series.
The Bulls (17-13 SU, 10-20 ATS) bounced back from a horrendous home loss to the Bobcats on Monday to hold off the Magic on Wednesday night. Charlotte snapped an 18-game losing streak on New Year's Eve at the United Center, but Chicago rang in the New Year with a 96-94 triumph at Orlando. Tom Thibodeau's club has failed to cover five straight games, while scoring less than 100 points in each contest during this span.
Miami nearly pulled off the most improbable pointspread cover of the season on Wednesday in a 119-109 victory over Dallas. The Heat (22-8 SU, 15-15 ATS) trailed the Mavs late in regulation, but forced overtime an nearly covered as 10 ½-point favorites, but Dwyane Wade missed a late free throw to avert a disaster for Dallas backers. Miami is riding a four-game ATS skid, but Erik Spoelstra's team has cashed six of the last eight home contests.
Blazers at Grizzlies - 8:05 PM EST
Memphis seeks some consistency heading into Friday's action after dropping three of the last five games. The Grizzlies (20-9 SU, 17-11- ATS) held off the Celtics on Wednesday as 2 ½-point road favorites, 93-83, the 13th straight game Memphis has been limited to fewer than 100 points. The Blazers play the third game of four on this road trip, as Portland put together a poor performance at Toronto.
Following a solid victory at New York on Tuesday, the Blazers fell behind early and never competed in a 102-79 drubbing to the Raptors. Portland shot just 4-of-22 from three-point range on Wednesday, while converting just 4-of-42 attempts from downtown in two meetings with Toronto this season. Those numbers won't fly against the league's best defense in Memphis, who allows 89.8 points per game.
The Blazers (16-15 SU, 13-17-1 ATS) covered all three meetings with the Grizzlies last season, including as 12-point underdogs at FedEx Forum in a 93-89 defeat in late April. Memphis has cashed the 'under' in nine of the last 12 home games, as one of the 'overs' came in an overtime victory over Phoenix. Since that win over the Suns in early December, the Grizzlies own a disappointing 5-8 ATS record, including outright home losses to Philadelphia and Atlanta.
Rockets at Bucks - 8:35 PM EST
Two third-place teams sitting above .500 meet up in Milwaukee on Friday for the first time this season. Houston (18-14 SU, 18-13-1 ATS) enters this contest owning an impressive 12-2 SU/ATS against Eastern Conference competition, while Milwaukee is just 2-7 SU and 1-8 ATS versus the Western Conference. The Bucks (16-14 SU/ATS) suffered another setback to a team from the Lone Star State on Wednesday night in a 117-110 home defeat to the Spurs as 5 ½-point 'dogs.
Milwaukee outscored San Antonio by ten points in the second half, but the Bucks couldn't overcome 51% shooting from the floor by the Spurs. The loss snapped a minor three-game ATS win streak by Scott Skiles' club, while the Bucks have split their last six games at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. The poor defensive effort by Milwaukee on Wednesday ended a seven-game stretch in which the Bucks allowed less than 100 points.
The Rockets have turned into one of the best bets recently, covering eight of the last nine games. Kevin McHale's team is rolling in the role of an away underdog, cashing four straight, including double-digit victories at New York and Chicago. Houston's offense continues to score at a wicked pace by hitting the 'over' in six of the last eight games, while busting the 110-point mark five times.
Lakers at Clippers - 10:35 PM EST
The battle of Los Angeles pits two clubs that have stumbled recently, even though the Clips did own a 17-game winning streak going into Tuesday's action. The Lakers (15-16 SU, 13-17-1 ATS) fell behind from the opening tip in Tuesday's home defeat to the 76ers to drop back below .500. Mike D'Antoni's squad has won six of their past eight contests, but the Lakers are playing with revenge after getting embarrassed by their cross-town rivals earlier this season.
The Clippers (25-8 SU, 20-13 ATS) landed the first swing on November 2 in a 105-95 triumph over the Lakers as Steve Nash missed the loss with a displaced fracture in his leg. In spite of shooting 45% from the floor, the Clips attempted 16 more shots than the Lakers, while the two teams hit the 'over' for the sixth consecutive meeting.
Vinny Del Negro's team has the most wins in the league, but is coming off back-to-back defeats to the Nuggets and Warriors on the road. The Clippers have covered eight of their last nine home contests, while allowing 100 points or less in 10 consecutive games at Staples Center.
The Lakers have not performed well in the road underdog role by posting a 0-6 SU and 1-5 ATS record. The Purple and Gold is scoring points on the highway recently (even though this game is on their home floor) with 100+ point efforts in nine of the last 10 away contests.
You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.
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