Friday’s Essentials

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Game of the Night - Chicago at Golden State (-15.5, 221.5), 10:35 ET

Friday night’s card is filled with matchups where the home team is clearly favored. Of the nine contests, five hosts are laying nine or more points, requiring a double-digit win to pull off a cover. There’s only one game where the spread is inside five points, but that matchup pits last-place teams as the Timberwolves look to get back to .500 against the visiting Mavericks.

I’ll look at all of the night’s matchups below, but wanted to touch on the game expected to be the biggest blowout just to see if there’s any value in taking 15.5 points with the visiting Bulls in their lone visit to Oakland.

The Warriors hung 149 points in a 25-point win when these teams squared off in Chicago back on Oct. 29. Klay Thompson, who comes off a tremendous shooting game against New York, scored 52 points against the Bulls, setting an NBA record with 14 3-pointers.

Last season’s visit to Oracle produced a 143-94 loss. When it came through in February of 2017, Chicago lost 123-92. It has lost six of seven in this series.

Golden State was saddled with its largest spread of the NBA season on Tuesday night and covered the 17 points handily in an 122-95 victory over the Knicks. The Warriors built up a lead that got up to 33 points and won every quarter, riding a 43-point night from Thompson. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant actually combined to shoot just 5-for-19 from 3-point range while Curry finished 5-for-19 from the field on his own, so the carnage would’ve been even worse had he shot his typical percentage. The 27-point margin of victory was the Warriors’ second-largest of the season, trailing only a 125-97 rout of Portland on Nov. 23 in terms of dominance.

While New York has lost 15 of 17, Chicago has dropped 22 of 28, including five straight. This will be the Bulls’ 29th consecutive game as an underdog. They’re 0-11 straight up as a double-digit ‘dog and have covered only three times in those contests. Their biggest upset came in a 98-93 win in San Antonio, which closed as a 9.5-point ‘chalk’ back on Dec. 15, in a game where they ralled from a 21-point deficit by winning the second half 55-31.

Neither leading scorer Zach LaVine nor top reserve Bobby Portis participated in that game, while Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn and Portis were absent in the October clash against the Warriors. Justin Holiday and Cameron Payne started in that loss but have since been moved to different teams. Holiday is now with the Grizzlies and Payne is with the Cavs.

Dunn, the team’s customary point guard and arguably the top backcourt asset due to his effectiveness on both sides of the ball, has dished out seven assists in nine of the last 11 games and has scored in double-figures in 11 of 12 since returning from an MCL sprain that cost him nearly two months. He’ll make Curry and Thompson work far harder than they had to in Chicago. LaVine and reserve guard Antonio Blakeney each scored 21 points in the 25-point loss to the Warriors, shooting a combined 6-for-12 from 3-point range. LaVine is 'probable' after suffering an ankle sprain.

The presence of Markkanen and Portis should afford their guards the luxury of more space to work with, so we should see improvement over the next few weeks if everyone can stay healthy. Dunn, LaVine, Markkanen, Portis and rookie Wendell Carter, Jr. have played in only four contests this season, losing them all. The Bulls are 5-12 under new head coach Jim Boylen, who replaced Fred Hoiberg in early December. Chicago’s current five-game losing streak is its second-largest of the season. The Bulls have lost seven games by at least 25 points.

This grueling five-game Western road swing they’re embarked upon opened with a 124-112 loss in Portland on Wednesday, allowing the Blazers to shoot nearly 57 percent while being outscored off the bench 56-41. Chicago’s trip continues on Saturday night against the Jazz before continuing Tuesday against the Lakers and concluding next Thursday in Denver. The Bulls will be heavy underdogs in each of the contests, though probably not by as many points as they’re getting tonight.

The Warriors will play seven of their next eight games after this one on the road and will visit Dallas on Sunday night. They’re expected to have one more home game before the DeMarcus Cousins experience begin since the All-Star center isn’t expected to make his debut until after Jan. 16 matchup against the Pelicans. Everyone will be asked to make some concessions to get him up to speed by the postseason, so this could be one of the final games where we’re seeing the defending champs as we know them.

The Dubs have only won four of their last eight home games and were 1-9 against the spread at Oracle prior to Wednesday’s rout of the Knicks. Incredibly, they haven’t covered consecutive games at home since Nov. 3. They lost last year’s 42nd game in Oakland against the Clippers last season, falling to 33-9. Their 27-14 record the Warriors’ worst at the halfway point since the 2013-14 season, the team’s last with Mark Jackson at the helm. They open Friday’s action 1.5 games behind the Nuggets for the top record in the Western Conference. Chicago is tied with New York at 10-31 for the third-worst mark in the entire NBA, ranking ahead of only Cleveland (8-34) and Phoenix (10-33).

Best of the Rest

Milwaukee at Washington, 7:05 p.m. ET: The Bucks approach the halfway point of their season looking for their 30th win as they try to increase the NBA’s highest winning percentage. Giannis Antetokounmpo is expected to sit to rest a hip issue. Milwaukee is the only team in the league with eight wins over its last 10 contests and opened a three-game road trip with an impressive victory in Houston. This will be its first meeting of the season against the Wizards, who won the last encounter between the teams last February. Washington is 4-3 since losing John Wall to heel surgery and come off an upset of the 76ers to improve to 12-7 at home. Otto Porter scored 23 points off the bench and will slot in behind Trevor Ariza and Jeff Green, both of whom have played well since Markieff Morris was lost for at least six weeks due to a neck injury. D.J. Wilson and Christian Wood have been upgraded to questionable with Antetokounmpo out, while Ersan Ilyasova and Thon Maker should get increased minutes. The Wizards shot a season-best 48 percent (13-for-27) from 3-point range with Bradley Beal tying a season-best by shooting 6-for-11. He’s averaging 28.8 points over the last five games.

Atlanta at Philadelphia, 7:05 p.m. ET: The 76ers had their four-game win streak snapped in D.C. but will look to improve on their NBA-best home record (18-3) in order to bounce back. Philadelphia has only lost back-to-back games twice this season and cruised in its first meeting with the Hawks back on Oct. 29, outrebounding them 64-47 in a 113-92 rout. Kent Bazemore led Atlanta in scoring in that game with 18 points but is out indefinitely due to an ankle injury. The 76ers have been without guard J.J. Redick due to a back injury but may get him back tonight. Rookie shooter Landry Shamet hit eight 3-pointers filling in for Redick earlier this week and is listed as probable.

Indiana at New York, 7:35 p.m. ET, ESPN: The Pacers have followed up a 5-0 run against the spread with an 0-5 mark after getting blown out 135-108 in Boston on Wednesday. Indiana is looking to close out a five-game road swing with a 3-2 mark by taking care of business at Madison Square Garden. Center Myles Turner has been sidelined with a shoulder injury this week, which has really impacted the Indiana defense throughout his three-game absence. He's out again tonight. The Pacers have allowed 123.7 points, losing two of three to the Raptors and Celtics. He’s questionable to return tonight. Point guard Darren Collison has been playing though a leg injury and should continue at the controls. New York has dropped nine of 10 and list center Enes Kanter as questionable due to illness. He paced the Knicks with 20 points and 15 boards in their 110-99 Dec. 16 loss in Indiana but may be on the trade block and won’t accompany the team to Europe next week even if he is still on the roster. If he doesn’t play, center Luke Kornet should get additional playing time. The Pacers have seen their last seven games go ‘over’ the posted total.

Brooklyn at Toronto, 7:35 p.m. ET: The Nets have gotten Joe Harris and DeMarre Carroll back in the lineup and may see shooting guard Allen Crabbe return soon, so they’re in good shape as they attempt to build on a stretch that has seen them win four of five outright to improve to 13-4 since Dec. 7. This run began with a 106-105 OT upset of the Raptors in Brooklyn as an 8.5-point underdog in which they held a 60-41 advantage on the glass and got 29 points from D’Angelo Russell. Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry played together for the first time in 2019 in Tuesday’s 104-101 win over the Hawks that they secured due to a franchise-record 18 steals. Toronto has won six in a row at home against the Nets and prevailed in 12 of the last 13 matchups.

Cleveland at Houston, 8:05 p.m. ET: The Cavs have the fewest victories in the NBA, but one of their victims were the Rockets, who they took down at the Q as a 6.5-point underdog on Nov. 24. Cleveland won 117-108 behind 29 points from rookie point guard Collin Sexton and a 20-rebound game from Tristan Thompson. James Harden scored 40 points and dished out 13 assists in the loss and will try and avoid a sweep by helping hand Cleveland its 12th consecutive defeat. Although Sexton and Thompson will be in the lineup, top reserve forward Larry Nance, Jr. (knee) remains out and wing scorer Rodney Hood (achilles) is questionable to return to the lineup. Jordan Clarkson has been the primary catalyst for the Cavs of late despite coming off the bench and is his team’s best shot at securing a cover here since the Rockets remain limited on depth. Chris Paul (hamstring) and Eric Gordon (knee) are still out. Cleveland’s last five games have all surpassed the posted total.

Dallas at Minnesota, 8:05 p.m. ET: Ryan Saunders debuted as Timberwolves’ interim head coach with an upset victory over Oklahoma City. If Andrew Wiggins can continue to play well, Minnesota has a chance of overcoming all the drama caused by the now-traded Jimmy Butler and now-fired Tom Thibodeau to make consecutive playoff appearances. He scored 40 against the Thunder. Meanwhile, the 32-year-old son of late Minnesota favorite Flip Saunders will make his home debut with everyone on the roster firmly in his corner, so this could be an emotional night at Target Center. Derrick Rose is scheduled to return from an ankle injury to try and help the Timberwolves match a season-best with a fourth straight win to climb back to .500. Dallas is an NBA-worst 3-18 on the road but beat the Timberwolves140-136 back on Oct. 20 thanks to 26 points from rookie Luka Doncic. Mavs point guard Dennis Smith, Jr. has already been ruled out due to a back issue, so J.J. Barea will likely get more minutes and rookie Jalen Brunson is likely to start. The ‘over’ is on an 11-1 run in Minnesota games. Meanwhile, the under is 7-0-1 in Dallas’ last eight contests.

L.A. Lakers at Utah, 10:05 p.m. ET, ESPN: LeBron James didn’t make the trip to Salt Lake City, so Kyle Kuzma will be in the spotlight as he returns to his old college stomping grounds. Jae Crowder will likely be assigned to slow down the second-year forward as he looks to follow up scoring 41 points in just three quarters to help L.A. crush the Pistons on Wednesday night. With Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball enjoying productive weeks, this could be a big week in the development of the Lakers’ young supporting cast. Currently, the Lakers reside in the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference, two games up on the Kings and these Jazz. Utah will be without point guards Ricky Rubio (thigh), Dante Exum (ankle) and Raul Neto (groin) so Donovan Mitchell should be the primary ball handler with help from Joe Ingles. After a dreadful start to his sophomore season in the pros, Mitchell is averaging 24.4 points and 4.2 assists this month and is shooting 16-for-34 from 3-point range, a marked improvement. Utah swept L.A. last season and will be looking to get back on track in the series after suffering a 90-83 loss at Staples in the only meeting of the season back on Nov. 23.

Charlotte at Portland, 10:05 p.m. ET: Damian Lillard was holding his elbow during a blowout win over Chicago last time out and has been diagnosed with an elbow strain. He's expecting to play despite the fact the the Blazers visit Denver for a more important game on Sunday. Portland has won 10 of 14, including three straight contests and would likely rely on C.J. McCollum to serve as primary playmaker if Lillard sits. Shooters Nik Stauskas and Seth Curry would be in for a bump in playing time as well. The Hornets are on their fourth stop of a six-game roadie and haven't been good outside of Charlotte, winning just five of 18 games. The Hornets are trying to get away with playing small due to the absence of starting center Cody Zeller, which may hurt them against a surging Jusuf Nurkic. Portland has won 14 of 18 matchups between these teams since '09, including 10 in a row at home.

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