Several NBA handicappers share free picks for Friday night's matches involving likely playoff teams, including the marquee matchup of Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Atlanta Hawks.
Bulls vs. Pacers (-6, 186.5), 7 p.m.
Covered by: Dave
Chicago is one of only two teams playing in the second of a back-to-back on Friday as the Bulls rallied to beat visiting Oklahoma City on Thursday, 108-105. Rookie Nikola Mirotic had third straight big game with 26 points and seldom-used E'Twaun Moore had 19 and the game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds. Believe it or not, Indiana has the best winning percentage in the NBA at .838 since the start of February. The Pacers improved to 11-3 with point guard George Hill in the starting lineup with a 105-82 home rout of the Knicks on Wednesday. Hill, who missed a big chunk of the season injured, had a season-high 21 points. The Knicks are so bad that Pacers coach Frank Vogel opted to rest center Roy Hibbert in the game. The Pacers and Bulls have split two season meetings so far with each squad winning on the road. Indiana won in Chicago 99-90 in mid-November with the Bulls winning 92-90 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Dec. 29. David says take Indiana against the tired Bulls.
Lakers vs. Grizzlies (-11.5, 194), 8 p.m.
Covered by: Jason
Looking at the Western Conference standings, this shouldn't be close. Los Angeles is second-to-last in the conference, while Memphis is second from the top. Yet sometimes a bad team can give a good team fits for whatever reason. The Lakers are 0-3 this season against Memphis but haven't lost by more than six points. Will Lakers leading scorer Nick Young play in this one? "Swaggy P" has missed five straight with a knee injury and is questionable. L.A. has lost 13 of its past 14 road games. Memphis has won five straight overall in this series. Jason likes the Lakers to cover the NBA odds here.
Cavaliers vs. Hawks (+1.5, 202), 7:30 p.m.
Covered by: Jason
This likely will be the final time that Atlanta is a home underdog this season -- it actually opened as a pick'em. The Hawks, with the NBA's best record, bring a five-game winning streak into this one and none of the five opponents have scored more than 96 points. Cleveland remains the NBA title favorite at sportsbooks and has won two straight games. The Cavs and Hawks' first two meetings this season were rather unusual. Cleveland handed Atlanta its worst loss of the season on Nov. 15, 127-94, but the Hawks handed the Cavs their worst defeat a month later, 127-98 in Cleveland. Atlanta won again on Dec. 30, 109-101. Check out Jason's opinion for this showdown.
Celtics vs. Pelicans (-7, 200.5), 8 p.m.
Covered by: Steven
How good is Pelicans star Anthony Davis? This good: He had missed five straight games with a shoulder sprain and was a game-time decision Wednesday against visiting Detroit but played and had 39 points, 13 rebounds, eight blocks and two steals in 42 minutes in the 88-85 victory. Davis moved into first place on the all-time franchise list for blocks and it was the fifth game in his career he had at least eight. Since blocks became official in 1973-74, Shaquille O'Neal is the only other player with more than three eight-block games as a 21-year old or younger. Boston comes off an 85-84 home win over Utah in which Tyler Zeller hit a buzzer-beating layup. The Celtics beat the visiting Pelicans 108-100 on Jan. 12 despite 34 points from Davis. Steven is taking the points for his NBA pick today.
Suns vs. Nets (-2.5, 207), 8 p.m.
Covered by: Jason
Brooklyn was clearly caught in a letdown game Wednesday at home against Charlotte, two nights after upsetting Golden State on a buzzer-beater. The Nets were pounded by the Hornets, 115-91. That put Charlotte into the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference. The Suns ended a two-game slide with Wednesday's 105-100 win in Orlando as Brandon Knight had his best game with Phoenix, putting up 28 points and seven assists. Phoenix rallied from a 19-point deficit to beat Brooklyn 112-104 on Nov. 12, ending a five-game losing streak in the series. Jason leans the home side.
Mavericks vs. Warriors (-10, 209), 10:30 p.m.
Covered by: Ross
Dallas is the other team besides Chicago to be playing a second game in 24 hours. The Mavs were routed 94-75 in Portland on Thursday. Dallas did get center Tyson Chandler back from a three-game absence but not Chandler Parsons, who missed a sixth in a row. Golden State played just its third home game since the start of February on Wednesday and beat Milwaukee 102-93 behind 23 points, 12 rebounds and five assists from Draymond Green. The Warriors are 2-0 against Dallas this season, winning by seven in Big D and 14 at home. in that latter game on Feb. 4, Stephen Curry recorded his second career 50-point game (51), setting career highs for points in a half (36 in the second) and in a quarter (26 in the third). Golden State has won five straight in the series overall. Ross likes the 'under' total despite two high-scoring teams.