We’ve reached the mid-point of the season and two of the best teams in the NBA will meet when the Golden State Warriors visit the Windy City for a Friday night showdown against the top-seeded Chicago Bulls. The smoking-hot Memphis Grizzlies won 11 games in a row, and Ja Morant and the Griz host Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavs in a Southwest Division showdown. The Mavs will try to prevent the Grizzlies from continuing the NBA’s longest current win streak.
In case you missed it, there was a slight shakeup at the top of the playoff standings in both conferences. The cagey Miami Heat snuck into #2 seed in the Eastern Conference ahead of the Brooklyn Nets in the #3 spot, but both teams are only two games behind the Chicago Bulls.
Out in the Western Conference, the sizzling Grizzlies surged into the #3 seed where they have a chance to catch the Warriors, who slipped into the #2 seed behind the top-seeded Phoenix Suns.
Steph Curry has been vexed by a shooting slump that began during his pursuit of the all-time NBA 3-point record. He shot 42.3% from 3-point range in December while averaging 27.4 ppg. He slipped a bit in November with a 37.4% clip from downtown, yet still averaged 27.6 ppg. In January, Curry hasn’t been himself, struggling from deep while shooting 28.1% and seeing his average dip to 19.7 ppg. The Warriors went 3-3 since the start of the new year, and couldn’t have asked for a better time to get Thompson back in the lineup.
NBA Friday: Magic’s Skid Continues, Warriors/Bulls
Orlando Magic (7-35) at Charlotte Hornets (23-19)… The Magic, the worst team in the NBA, saw their losing streak hit double digits with 10 losses in a row. The Magic also have one of the NBA’s worst road records at 2-15. The Hornets have everyone in Buzz City excited because they won four games in a row and moved into the #7 seed. The Hornets boast a 26-16 ATS record for fourth-best in the league.
Golden State Warriors (30-11) at Chicago Bulls (27-12)… A couple of weeks ago, I would have said this game could be a preview of the NBA Finals with the #1 seeds from each conference slugging it out. Da Bulls held on to the top seed even after they were ravaged by a COVID-19 outbreak. They host the Warriors, who have the Splash Brothers back for the first time in two seasons. Thompson is still a bit rusty and Curry is bogged down in a slump, which is why they slipped into the #2 seed. NBA totals bettors have been pounding the under in Golden State games this season. The Warriors are tied as the best under team in the league with a 26-13-2 record.
Dallas Mavs (22-19) at Memphis Grizzlies (30-14)… The Grizzlies keep winning and covering as the second-best betting team in the NBA with a 29-15 ATS record. Ja Morant emerged as a bona fide MVP candidate. He almost missed a triple-double against the Timberwolves last night. On the flip side, a paunchy Luka Doncic only posted three triple-doubles this season. The overweight Doncic is having an off-year due to a sprained ankle and slow recovery from COVID-19. Doncic and the Mavs versus Morant and Grizzlies is must-see TV.
NBA Saturday: 76ers/Heat, Westbrook Slump
Toronto Raptors (20-18) at Milwaukee Bucks (27-17)… The Raptors recently had a six-game winning streak snapped, but they’ve been trending upward since they fought off a COVID-19 outbreak and had three games postponed shortly before Christmas. Fred VanVleet is one of the hottest shooters in the NBA right now. He’s averaging 29.5 ppg in January while sniping at 46.1% from downtown. The Bucks are 21-9 since they shrugged off their championship hangover after a sluggish 6-8 start.
Philadelphia 76ers (23-17) at Miami Heat (26-15)… The streaky Miami Heat are on an upswing with a 10-3 record since mid-December. Jimmy Butler has been banged up and the Heat don’t have Bam Adebayo, yet they find ways to win thanks to Sixth Man of the Year candidate Tyler Herro (20.7 ppg). The Heat have the best over record in the NBA with a 25-16 clip. The 76ers recently had discussions about trading Ben Simmons, but they made zero progress with four weeks until the deadline.
Los Angeles Lakers (21-21) at Denver Nuggets (21-19)… The Lakers are a hot mess and an avalanche of trade rumors have been nagging at Russell Westbrook. He’s bogged down in one of the worst shooting slumps of his career, but he shouldn’t fret because he makes too much money to find another team that’s stupid enough to take on his mammoth contract. The Nuggets are only 10-7 at home in the thin air of Colorado this season, but Nikola Jokic can’t wait to play a Lakers team that doesn’t have Anthony Davis (MCL injury) in the lineup. The Lakers have been fade-worthy all season with a 17-25 ATS record, which is fourth-worst in the NBA.
NBA Sunday: Quiet Suns, Jazz Mini-Slump
Phoenix Suns (31-9) at Detroit Pistons (9-31)… The Suns proved they’re one of the elite teams in the NBA. They took advantage of a slumping Curry and Warriors squad, and snagged the #1 seed in the Western Conference. The Suns will have an easy opponent on Sunday when they take on the Detroit Pistons, who have yet to reach the 10-win mark this season. The Pistons are thankful that the Orlando Magic exist, otherwise they’d be the doormat of the Eastern Conference.
Utah Jazz (28-14) at Denver Nuggets (21-19)… The Jazz dropped four games in a row, which coincided with Rudy Gobert testing positive for COVID. Without their rim protector and the NBA’s premier defensive player roaming the paint, the Jazz is merely mortal. Jokic will be licking his chops for a chance to dominate a Gobert-less Jazz.