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MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (37-31) at NEW YORK KNICKS (34-32)
Tip-off: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EDT
Line: New York -4.5, Total: 215.5
The Grizzlies visit the Big Apple on Thursday seeking payback for the Knicks. They fell to New York on a last-second shot by Carmelo Anthony on March 9 in Memphis.
Memphis has one of the best records ATS this season at 42-25, including wins in nine of its past 13 games ATS. On the road, the Grizzlies are an impressive 22-13 ATS this season. In the loss to the Knicks earlier this season, they trailed by 14 points entering the fourth quarter before storming back and tying the game, only to lose on a buzzer-beater.
Since then, Memphis has split two games with Miami and the Clippers and currently sits 1½ games ahead of the Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. Zach Randolph had 30 points and 12 rebounds in the win over the Clippers on Monday, and is averaging 26.0 PPG and 13.6 RPG in his past five games against the Knicks.
The Knicks are also one of the best teams in the NBA ATS, posting a 39-25 record, but they have lost three straight both ATS and overall. New York’s defense has been deplorable in back-to-back losses against the Pacers and an 18-point defeat at Dallas, allowing an average of 117.3 PPG on 53.2% FG. At Indiana on Tuesday, the Knicks lost on a last-second shot by Danny Granger after rallying from as many as 15 points down to tie the game.
After averaging 32.5 PPG on 60% FG (7-of-10 three-pointers) in wins against the Jazz and at Memphis, Anthony is averaging 24.0 PPG on 42.5% FG during this three-game losing streak. Amar’e Stoudemire has picked up his scoring pace since Anthony joined the Knicks, averaging 29.8 PPG in his past nine games. Since returning to the lineup after missing six games with an injury, Chauncey Billups is averaging 11.5 PPG while shooting just 36.0 percent from the field and 0-for-11 from behind the arc.
The last time the Knicks took their home court and lost by 13 to Indiana, they were booed off by a fan base that expects results now, after watching half of their team’s roster go to Denver in getting two high-profile players in Anthony and Billups. The talk-show circuits in New York want Mike D’Antoni’s head for the Knicks lack of defense, but they did hold the Hawks, Hornets and Heat, all teams that will be in the postseason, to under 90 points with this new roster.
Before New Yorkers burn the Garden down in protest, the Knicks should put together a much better defensive effort Thursday night and defeat the Grizzlies.
New York Knicks still needs some more firepower
The New York Knicks have NFL Odds earned respect this season with the arrival and stellar play of Amar’e Stoudemire, but former Knicks superstar John Starks believes that the team needs to add a few more pieces in order to contend for an NBA title.
Starks, who have been a constant follower of the Knicks since he retired, said that the sky is the limit for the team, but the Knicks would be more formidable if they would be able to add two or more solid players in their fold.
“We definitely need a couple more players,” Starks said. “I know there's been talk about certain players coming here and Donnie Walsh understands what it takes in order to put together a championship squad. He did it when he was in Indiana and he's doing a masterful job here in New York.”
Starks, who have been a crowd favorite during his eight seasons with the Knicks from 1990 to 1998, remains confident that Walsh is the right man for the job and he believes that the veteran general manager would be able to build a championship contender like what he did when he was still with the Indiana Pacers. Walsh had a successful stint with the Pacers, putting together a team that reached the 2000 NBA Finals, although they vowed to the Shaquille O’Neal-led Los Angeles Lakers.
“You always have to continue to improve. You can't just sit still in this league and hope for the best,” Starks said. “And what Donnie is trying to do is he's trying to put together that team can definitely get us back to the Finals.”
The Knicks have the ability to add another marquee player in their fold because they are expected to be a huge player when the trade deadline approaches. New York was reportedly Carmelo Anthony’s preferred destination.
The Denver Nuggets forward has been involved in a lot of trade rumors since the off-season, and the Knicks are one of the most aggressive suitors for the superstar forward. The Knicks are willing to unload players other than Stoudemire plus first-round draft picks on order to acquire Anthony.
Although Starks did not directly talked about acquiring Carmelo Anthony, Starks said that acquiring an elite player, while giving up a hefty package of players would be a good gamble depending on the quality of player the Knicks would acquire.
“It's happened before in the past and it worked out,” Starks said. “Depending on what player you're going after and what you have to give up. That's the business that's we're in. You sometimes have to give up a little bit more to get the type of player that you want.”
Starks, who was a member of the Knicks that reached the 1993-94 NBA Finals, also expressed excitement about the renewed hope and energy of the Knicks fans. Starks said that the recent decent showing from the Knicks have brought Madison Square Garden to its status of being the best basketball arena in the World.
“You can see the intensity, the energy that's in the building again and it's just exciting to see the city lit up right now,” Starks said. “Walking down the street yesterday and you can hear the rhetoric about the Knicks now, and you haven't heard that in some years.”
After being a regular cellar-dweller in past few years, the Knicks are on pace to return to the playoffs this season and adding another marquee player like Carmelo Anthony would make them an instant title-contender this season. The Knicks are +900 to win the Eastern Conference championship according to the Basketball Odds at Sportsbook.com the home of NBA betting.
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Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah out for two months
The improving Chicago Bulls squad absorbed a major blow to their campaign after starting center and team’s rebounding leader Joakim Noah underwent thumb surgery that will sideline him for eight to ten weeks this season.
Noah, who is averaging 14 points and 11.7 rebounds per game this season, injured his thumb in their game against the Sacramento Kings on 27 November, but he was able to play through it, which could have aggravated the injury. The 25-year-old center also tore ligaments in his right ring finger and right index finger, but the Bulls training staff said that no surgery is needed to repair the tore ligaments.
Without Noah, Bulls general manager Gar Forman said that the team will have to make a huge adjustment and signing a big man as a short-term solution is possible, although he prefers to stick with the talents that they have in their fold.
“Obviously it affects us,” said Forman on losing Noah. “Not only from a statistical standpoint with his points and rebounds, but the energy that he brings. He'll still be around the team. But in the short term it's a blow.”
The Bulls, who are starting to play well since Carlos Boozer returned from a hand injury, will have to rely on their reserve big men to fill in Noah’s role, although Forman knows that the energy Noah brings inside the court would be sorely missed by the team.
However, Forman is confident that their reserve big men like Taj Gibson, Turkish rookie center Omer Asik, and veteran big man Kurt Thomas would give them a boost and continue to perform well this season.
“We'll go with what we have. We do think we have some depth,” Forman said. “Taj has stepped in, obviously in the past and done a very good job. I think it's an opportunity for guys. It's an opportunity for Omer to play some. Kurt Thomas, even a year ago when he was with Milwaukee found himself in this type of situation.”
Gibson, who started for the Bulls early in the season when Boozer was still recovering from a hand surgery, would take Noah’s spot in the starting lineup, but his entry could mean that Boozer should start at the center spot, which would definitely give them a size disadvantage.
“His presence,” said Boozer when asked what they would miss with Noah out of the lineup. “His presence defensively. I think he clogs up the middle so good for us. He blocks shots. He rebounds. Does a great job of putting pressure on the defense.”
Bulls superstar point guard Derrick Rose also expressed his frustration saying that Noah is the “heart and soul” of the team because of the intangibles he brings day in and day out. He also admitted that none of their remaining big men could fill in the role of Noah.
“Energy,” said Rose when asked about the difference of having and not having Noah inside the court. “Of course, you know, rebounding, just almost everything. He puts a lot into the game. Little things like passing, him talking, things like that.”
Despite losing Noah, Rose is still confident that they would continue to play well as long as they would stay focused. He also added that Gibson and Asik should have great confidence in themselves and the former rookie of the year believes that both of them would be up to the challenge.
“The guys that are coming in like Taj and Omer and all them that's coming in, they got to be ready to ball,” Rose said. “We got to get their confidence up high. They've at least got to put forth the effort that he put up every game. That's going to be a lot on them, but I think they can bear it.”
The Bulls will definitely be a different team with Noah out of the lineup, but with the talent that they have and by having two superstars in their fold, Rose and Boozer, the Bulls remain a formidable team and would still be a threat to teams like the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat.
With Noah out the Chicago Bulls are xxx to win the Eastern Conference championship according to the Basketball Odds at sportsbook.com. Are you betting on the Bulls? Head over to sportsbook.com and get into the NBA betting action today.
ATLANTA HAWKS (13-8) at ORLANDO MAGIC (15-5)
Sportsbook.com using Orlando -6.5 &188
Only eight players were active for the Magic in their 96-85 loss in Milwaukee, as Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick and Mickael Pietrus were home with a stomach virus. Ryan Anderson was also out with a sprained foot. The 11-point loss to the Bucks snapped a six-game winning streak for the Magic.
Howard, Nelson and Pietrus also missed Friday's 104-91 win at Detroit, and they remain day-to-day. Redick missed Friday's game and Tuesday's win over Chicago. Anderson is listed as doubtful for Monday.
Howard won't want to miss his third straight game, especially given his success against the Hawks. He's averaged 22.0 points and 16.8 rebounds against Atlanta the past six meetings and is at 21.3 PPG, 12.1 RPG and 2.4 BPG for the season. In a Nov. 8 home win over the Hawks, 93-89, he scored 27 points and pulled down 11 boards.
The Magic have five players who are scoring in double-digits this season. Vince Carter is second on the team in scoring (15.4 PPG), while Jameer Nelson is third with 14.9 PPG and a team-best 7.1 APG.
Carter scored 19 points against Atlanta in the season's first meeting, hitting 8-of-12 from the field.
The Hawks are having their own health problems as Joe Johnson will remain out for at least a month. Johnson (17.1 PPG, 5.2 APG) is sidelined four-to-six weeks after undergoing arthroscopic elbow surgery this past Thursday. He scored 23 in the early-November loss at Orlando.
The Hawks lost at Miami on Saturday, 89-77, which ended a five-game winning streak and gave them their third road loss in 10 games (7-3 SU and ATS).
Al Horford (16.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG) scored 22 points on 10-of-11 shooting, but the rest of the team was held to 31.9% FG. Horford had 16 points, five rebou*nds and five assists in the first meeting between the two teams.
Johnson and Horford are two of six players who are averaging double-figures in scoring for Atlanta. Josh Smith (14.9 PPG, 8.9 RPG), Jamal Crawford (14.0 PPG), Mike Bibby (10.3 PPG) and Marvin Williams (10.1 PPG) are the other.
The November loss marked Atlanta's sixth straight defeat in Orlando. The Hawks haven't won on the road against the Magic since a 99-85 victory on Oct. 29, 2008. The Magic swept four games from the Hawks in the 2010 playoffs, winning by an average of 25.3 points.
Including this postseason matchup, the Magic are 11-2 SU (10-3 ATS) against the Hawks over the past three seasons.
79% of action at Sportsbook.com is banking that Orlando will continue their success against the Hawks by winning and covering the spread.
Play On - Favorites of 3.5 to 9.5 points (ORLANDO) - off a road loss by 10 points or more, good team, winning 60-75% or more of their games on the season. (239-157 since 1996.) (60.4%, +66.3 units. Rating = 2*).
Ten of the past 13 meetings have finished Under the Total, but this trend thinks the Over.
Play Over - Any team (ORLANDO) - off a road loss against opponent off an embarrassing road loss scoring less than 80 points. (74-36 over the last 5 seasons.) (67.3%, +34.4 units. Rating = 2*).