If the Portland Trail Blazers are going to make the playoffs, it looks as if it will be without center Jusuf Nurkic this entire season. He suffered a serious leg injury last season and had yet to play this year. Nurkic returned to his first full-contact practice on Jan. 22, but strained his right calf in the process. Now it’s looking like this season will be a total loss with only about 20 games left. Here’s a look at two early-week matchups around the NBA. Check back for Mybookie NBA odds.
Top NBA Betting Picks of the Week
76ers vs Lakers
- When: Tuesday, 10 PM ET (TNT)
This could be an NBA Finals preview, although the Sixers aren’t looking very likely to get there and are missing their two stars in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Simmons hasn’t played since Feb. 22 as he suffered nerve impingement in his lower back. He’s not close to returning and there’s a chance he won’t all season.
His fellow All-Star Embiid left last Wednesday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers and was diagnosed with a left shoulder sprain. The team is fortunate an MRI revealed no structural damage. Still, he’s not likely to be back by Wednesday – although you know he wants to play against the star-studded Lakers and in front of that Hollywood crowd. Al Horford will continue to start in his place.
When these teams met Jan. 25 in Philadelphia it was quite a 12-hour span. The 76ers won the game 108-91. Simmons had 28 points and 10 rebounds and Tobias Harris scored 29 points. Embiid was out with a different injury then. The Sixers led by 22 and watched that lead shrink to five in the fourth quarter. Horford buried a 3 that pushed the lead back to 10 and that was that.
However, that was secondary to LeBron James passing Kobe Bryant for third on the all-time scoring list during the game. James entered 18 points shy of passing Bryant and finished with 29 points. That it happened in Philly was ironic as Kobe was born there. Sadly, about 12 hours after this game, Bryant died in helicopter crash in Los Angeles.
This will be the 283rd meeting between the two franchises dating back to 1950 (201st in the Los Angeles era) and the 175th since the Sixers moved to Philadelphia prior to the 1963-64 season. The Lakers are 7-8 against the Sixers in their last 15 overall meetings. Last season, the Lakers lost a (multiple-game) season series to the 76ers for the first time since 2004-05. Los Angeles is 12-7 all-time against Philadelphia at Staples Center.
Pelicans vs Mavericks
- When: Wednesday, 9:30 PM ET (ESPN)
Will the Pelicans allow rookie sensation Zion Williamson to play? This is the second of a back-to-back and they might not. Let’s freaking hope they do because it would be the first-ever matchup between Zion and another incredible young player in the Mavericks’ Luka Doncic, who was last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year. Perhaps New Orleans will opt to rest Zion on Tuesday at home vs. Cleveland because the Pels don’t need him to beat the Cavs.
Not clear if the Pels will have JJ Redick, either. He missed Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury suffered Friday. Redick was sidelined in January with a hamstring injury that forced him to sit out a three-game stretch. He averaging 15.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game while shooting 45.0 percent from the field, including 45.2 percent from three. Josh Hart and Frank Jackson would both likely pick up extra minutes.
We are assuming Doncic will play even though he didn’t Sunday vs. Minnesota with a thumb injury. Doncic’s thumb was bothering him on Friday against the Heat, but he played through it. Probably just a day of rest against a bad Timberwolves team. Doncic has a league-high 13 triple-doubles in 2019-20 (21 in career).
Dallas goes for the four-game season sweep. In the Mavs’ 118-97 win in New Orleans on Dec. 3, Doncic tallied 15 points and 10 rebounds in the third quarter. He became the only guard in the last 20 seasons to collect at least 15 points and 10 boards in a single quarter. The third-quarter boards marked a new career-high for rebounds in a single period; Doncic had never had more than seven rebounds in a quarter. He finished with a career-high (game-high) 18 rebounds to go along with a game-high 33 points and five assists against the Pelicans.
NBA Week 20 Expert Picks
Lakers 112, Sixers 104/Mavericks 122, Pelicans 116