March 15, 2013
By Kevin Rogers
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Things heat up on the NBA hardwood on Friday night with a heavy 10-game card. The two hottest teams behind the Heat square off in Denver as the Nuggets battle the Grizzlies, while the Bulls try to put Wednesday's awful effort at Sacramento behind them with a trip to Golden State. We'll start in the Hoosier State as the Lakers will be without their main man for the first time this season.
Lakers at Pacers - 7:05 PM EST
Kobe Bryant will miss his first game of the 2012-13 campaign after suffering an ankle sprain on the final shot of Wednesday's 96-92 setback to the Hawks. The Lakers were making plenty of headway for a playoff spot in the Western Conference with a 16-6 run prior to the Atlanta loss, but Los Angeles' lead over Utah for the eighth spot is just a half-game heading into Friday's action.
The task will not be easy with a trip to Indiana, as the Pacers own a 26-7 record at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season. The Pacers have alternated wins and losses in each of their last five games, coming off Wednesday's blowout of the Wolves, 107-91 to barely cash as 15-point favorites. That victory snapped a three-game ATS skid for Frank Vogel's team at home, while Indiana owns a 6-2 mark to the 'over' the last eight home contests.
The Lakers haven't lost consecutive games since January 21 and 23, while winning seven straight times off a defeat. Bryant missed eight contests last April, as Los Angeles put together a 4-4 ATS record, but only a 1-2 ATS ledger in the underdog role. L.A. continues to struggle in the road 'dog situation by cashing just four of 12 times this season, but the Lakers have won seven of their last 12 away from Staples Center since the start of February.
Heat at Bucks - 8:30 PM EST
Miami can't be stopped right now after becoming the fifth team in NBA history to win 20 consecutive games. The Heat heads to Milwaukee in a potential first-round playoff matchup, as the Bucks begin a three-game homestand. Milwaukee tries to get on track following consecutive losses to Dallas and Washington, while allowing at least 106 points in seven of the last eight games (6-2 to 'over').
The Heat held off the 76ers for the second time in a week, this time sneaking by with a fourth-quarter rally, 98-94 at the Wells Fargo Center. Miami failed to cover as eight-point favorites, falling to 12-8 ATS during this hot streak. The defense has tightened up since allowing 129 points to Sacramento on February 26, as Erik Spoelstra's club has not given up more than 96 points in the last eight trips to the court.
The Bucks have cashed in both meetings this season against the Heat, including a 104-85 blowout of Miami as 4 ½-point 'dogs in late December. In spite of shooting just 40% from the floor, Milwaukee found a way to win by outscoring Miami, 35-14 in the final quarter, while Brandon Jennings led the Bucks with 25 points. That victory over the Heat was the only one in five tries as a home 'dog this season, as Milwaukee is a dreadful 1-9 ATS the last 10 games at BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Grizzlies at Nuggets - 9:05 PM EST
Past Miami, Memphis and Denver are the two teams heating things up in the Western Conference as the two clubs look to improve their seeding at the Pepsi Center. The Grizzlies have won 14 of their past 15 games (with the only loss coming to the Heat), while covering six of their last seven. Memphis avenged two earlier defeats to the Clippers in Wednesday's 96-85 triumph as Staples Center as six-point underdogs, as the Grizzlies held their 12th straight opponent to less than 100 points.
The Nuggets are riding a 10-game winning streak following Wednesday's 23-point blowout of the Knicks, while Denver has covered seven in a row. George Karl's team has won 14 consecutive contests at the Pepsi Center, including a 12-2 ATS record in this stretch. The offense continues to run by eclipsing the 100-point mark in 16 of the last 17 home games, but the 'under' is 5-2 the past seven home contests.
The first three meetings between these teams have all finished 'under' the total, including a 99-94 victory by the Nuggets in Memphis' last visit to Denver in mid-December. Denver has taken 18 of the last 20 meetings with Memphis at the Pepsi Center dating back to 2002, but one of those losses came last March as the Grizzlies pulled off a 94-91 triumph as six-point 'dogs.
Bulls at Warriors - 10:35 PM EST
Chicago is coming off by far its most embarrassing effort of the season on Tuesday night in a 121-79 thumping at Sacramento. The Kings shot 54% from the field, while putting up 65 points on the vaunted Bulls' defense. The Bulls continue their West Coast swing in northern California with a trip to Oakland, taking on a Warriors' team that is wrapping up a seven-game homestand.
Golden State won its second in a row by holding off Detroit on Wednesday, 105-97, but the Pistons cashed as 11 ½-point 'dogs. The Warriors own a 1-4 ATS record the last five games at Oracle Arena, while scoring 93 points or less four times in this stretch. Mark Jackson's club has dominated Eastern Conference foes at home by compiling a 9-3 SU/ATS record.
The Bulls beat the Warriors earlier this season at the United Center, 103-87 in late January as 2 ½-point favorites. Chicago has lost three straight visits to Golden State, but the Warriors were listed as an underdog in those games. The highway has been a tough road for the Bulls, who have lost five consecutive games away from the Windy City, while covering just once in this cold stretch.
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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