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Friday NBA Game Day Predictions
Win Your Friday NBA Bets
By Dan Favale
Are the Cleveland Cavaliers any less likely to turn in a defensive dud against the Charlotte Hornets after LeBron James called them out for a lack of toughness following a Wednesday night loss to the Denver Nuggets?
Let's go with yes.
The Cavaliers are still the best team in the Eastern Conference, and it'll take a disappointing effort of epic proportions to slip up against a Hornets squad that's spent most of the time since the turn of the calendar in an unsolvable malaise.
The Pick: Cleveland Cavaliers (-3.5)
The Milwaukee Bucks have been one of the NBA's best teams through the month of March. They're coming off a highly impressive 4-2 road trip, are 5-1 at home for the month and are 10-3 overall, with top-10 marks in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
Most important of all: The Bucks have figured out to win close games. This is a big deal, as a six-point spread suggests the night will come down to late stretches. The offense still wants for ball movement in these situations, but it's rounding into form slowly, gradually.
Milwaukee should be able to handle a Hawks unit that won't suit up Kent Bazemore or Paul Millsap.
The Pick: Milwaukee Bucks (-6)
The Indiana Pacers are a hella tough team to beat at home. They've played like one of the Eastern Conference's four best outfits at Bankers Life Fieldhouse all season, and they have the best net rating in friendly territory in the league since the start of March.
Still, the Nuggets are trying to lock up the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff spot. They have the best offense in the league since re-inserting Nikola Jokic into the starting lineup on Dec. 15. They're a threat to turn an average squad like the Pacers upside down, even when playing on the road.
The pick: Denver Nuggets (+1)
There is nothing about the Detroit Pistons that inspires much confidence these days. They have fallen to 10th place in the Eastern Conference and have one of the NBA's five worst net ratings for the month of March.
Coach-president Stan Van Gundy tried shaking things up on Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls by benching Reggie Jackson in favor of Ish Smith. It didn't work. The Pistons were slaughtered and left searching for answers to questions we shouldn't be asking this late in the season.
Nonetheless, you can see the outline of a good team in this Detroit squad thanks to name power alone. And if nothing else, the Orlando Magic are just plain worse. They have more of an incentive to lose for the sake of their draft pick, while the Pistons are still in contention for a playoff spot.
The Pick: Detroit Pistons (-3.5)
Last time the Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans met, the latter destroyed the former. The Rockets haven't forgotten about that game.
Even though they have nothing left to play for, with the Western Conference's three-seed all sewn up, the Rockets want to win this game. And it's hard to pick against their full-on three-point-chucking cast when it's facing a team like the Pelicans that will struggle to keep up with said deep-ball barrage.
The Pick: Houston Rockets (-8)
Let's take a risk.
Winners in three of their last five games, including back-to-back victories, the Brooklyn Nets are playing with spunk. They have been capitalizing on teams that don't have anything to play for, which doesn't describe the Washington Wizards. But they've always played hard; we're just now starting to see the results.
Investing in them on the second night of a back-to-back is a gamble. The Wizards have been money in their own right at home since Christmas. But the defense has stalled of late, and they came out positively flat against the Hawks on Wednesday.
With the way these Nets are playing, they should have enough juice to keep the deficit within 11 points by the final buzzer.
The Pick: Brooklyn Nets (+11.5)
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