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Pre-game analysis of every NBA game by the RotoWire staff.

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NBA Game Previews for March 24, 2017
March 24, 2017 at 7:00 PM ET

Cavs and Hornets Clash at Spectrum Center

By Martin Springall

The defending NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers (46-24) have lost two of their last three contests, and are coming off a Wednesday night road mugging at the hands of the Denver Nuggets, 126-113. Despite the Cavs collective shooting a respectable 50.6 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from beyond the arc, the tepid performance was still not enough to lift the team over an overwhelming Denver offense. Kyrie Irving led the charge offensively on the back of a 33-point performance, going 11-of-22 from the paint, 4-of-5 from deep and nailing all seven of his attempts from the foul line. LeBron James put up 18 points, six rebounds and five assists, going 8-of-12 from mid-range, while newly acquired Deron Williams served up 19 points, four rebounds and a pair of three-pointers in a reserve capacity. Kevin Love was largely ineffective with nine points and seven rebounds as Cleveland enters a tough final two weeks of the regular season with questions looming about their resolve in close games. With the second place Boston Celtics now just one game behind the Cavs in the Eastern Conference, James and company can ill afford a slump with upcoming match-ups at San Antonio, Boston and Atlanta. The Charlotte Hornets (32-39) find themselves headed in the other direction down the stretch, winners of their last three contests, including a Wednesday night victory over the Orlando Magic at Amway Center, 109-102. With 22 points, seven assists and three rebounds, Kemba Walker emerged as the scoring leader in the win, but struggled from long range, where he shot 1-of-7. The team was bolstered by a pair of strong performances from their bench, with Marco Belinelli logging 20 points in going 3-of-5 from downtown, and Frank Kaminsky contributing 18 points, five boards and four triples. Cody Zeller scored 15 points, grabbed six boards and had three steals for a Hornets team that, despite their recent surge, remain in 11th place in the East, three games out of Playoff contention.

Posted on March 23, 2017 at 5:47 PM ET

March 24, 2017 at 7:00 PM ET

Pistons Look to Keep Playoff Hopes Alive Versus Magic

By Juan Carlos Blanco

The Detroit Pistons travel to Central Florida to tangle with the Orlando Magic at Amway Center on Friday evening. The Pistons (34-38) have put their playoff hopes in serious danger with their recent struggles, which include losses in five of the last six games. While they still remain just one game behind eighth-seeded Miami, Detroit looked nothing like a postseason-worthy team in their most recent defeat, a 117-95 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night. The Pistons were led by matching 14-point efforts from Tobias Harris and Maurice Morris. The former added four boards, three assists and one steal, while the latter posted three rebounds and one assist. Ish Smith ran with the first unit in pace of Reggie Jackson and delivered nine points, seven assists, one rebound and three steals. Andre Drummond generated a modest eight points but also brought down 17 rebounds and recorded a block. Jon Leuer led the bench with 13 points, six rebounds and one assist while Stanley Johnson totaled 12 points and three boards. The Pistons will count Michael Gbinije (ankle) as their one injury coming into Friday, and he's likely to be listed as doubtful or out. The Magic (26-46) haven't been great shakes themselves recently either, as they've dropped five of their last seven contests. Their most recent loss came at the hands of the Charlotte Hornets by a 109-102 score on Wednesday night. Terrence Ross paced the Magic with 19 points, two rebounds, one assist and two steals. Evan Fournier poured in 15 points and added four boards, three assists and a steal. Elfrid Payton matched Fournier's point total and added five rebounds and five assists. Nikola Vucevic posted a 14-point, 12-rebound double-double that also included eight assists, three blocks and one steal. Jodie Meeks led the bench with 10 points and a pair of boards. The Magic will likely list Jeff Green (back spasms) as questionable for Friday's game after he missed Wednesday's contest. Friday's game will mark the third of four meetings between the teams this season. Each club has taken a game so far, with the Pistons scoring a decisive 108-82 win in the first contest and the Magic bouncing back to notch a 98-92 victory in the second encounter.

Posted on March 23, 2017 at 11:45 PM ET      Updated on March 23, 2017 at 11:50 PM ET

March 24, 2017 at 7:00 PM ET

Suddenly-Hot Nets Face Off With Wizards

By Juan Carlos Blanco

The Brooklyn Nets head to the Nation's Capital to do battle with the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on Friday evening. The Nets (15-56) may still own the league's worst record, but they've looked like a completely different team in March. The Nets now have six victories during the month and have notched consecutive wins for the first time all season. Their most recent triumph came at the expense of the Phoenix Suns on Thursday evening, with Brooklyn blasting them by a 126-98 score. The victory may have been their most impressive of the season, as a whopping eight players hit double digits in the scoring column. The Nets also limited the Suns to a 36.6 percent success rate from the field and 28.8 percent figure from three-point range while causing 19 turnovers. Their bench also scored a whopping 81 points, spearheading the blowout. Brook Lopez led the way for the Nets with 19 points, six rebounds and one block. K.J. McDaniels followed with a bench-leading 16 points, which he supplemented with eight rebounds, one assist, two steals and one block. Trevor Booker managed 14 points, eight boards and one assist. Jeremy Lin tallied 13 points, five assists and three rebounds. Archie Goodwin and Quincy Acy contributed matching 12-point efforts as reserves. Isaiah Whitehead compiled 11 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block over 28 minutes. Justin Hamilton supplied 10 points and one rebound. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson mustered a modest five points but hauled in 16 boards, dished out two assists, recorded two steals and posted one block. Sean Kilpatrick (hamstring) and Joe Harris (shoulder) are both likely to be listed as either doubtful or out for Friday's game with their respective injuries. The Wizards (43-28) remain in the third seed in the Eastern Conference but have lost four of their last six contests. They did manage an impressive victory in their most recent game, as they edged the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday evening. Bradley Beal posted 28 points, nine rebounds, two assists, four steals and a block. John Wall tallied 22 points, 10 assists, two rebounds, four steals and two blocks. Markieff Morris managed 13 points, seven boards, two assists, a steal and a block. Otto Porter, Jr. supplied 10 points and eight rebounds. Jason Smith led the bench with eight points, four boards, one assist and two blocks. Washington will check into Friday's contest with a clean bill of health. Friday's contest will mark the fourth and final meeting of the season between the teams. The Wizards have taken the first three games by respective scores of 118-113, 118-95 and 114-110.

Posted on March 24, 2017 at 12:05 AM ET

March 24, 2017 at 7:00 PM ET

Pacers and Nuggets Play for Playoff Lives

By Joel Bartilotta

The Indiana Pacers play host to the Denver Nuggets at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday. The Nuggets (34-37) currently sit eighth in the west, as they are holding on to their lead by a finger nail. In fact, they are just 1.5 games up on the Portland Trail Blazers, who have surged to win seven of their last 10 games. The most recent win for Denver was one of the biggest of the season too, as it came against the Cleveland Cavaliers and snapped a two-game slide. What's really kept this team afloat is the fact that many players have returned from injury, as Danilo Gallinari is the only significant piece who is out of action. He has been upgraded to questionable for this game too, so it will be interesting to see how all these minutes are distributed between all these talented players. The Pacers (36-35) are in one of the most bizarre stretches in NBA history, as they've traded off wins and losses in 15-straight games. While that's not terrible, it's certainly not a good thing for a team barely holding on to their playoff lives. The home/road splits are definitely the reason for the mediocrity, as Paul George said this is a lottery team on the road and a playoff team at home. In fact, Indiana are 25-10 in their home building, while posting some gaudy numbers. This strange run of trading off wins and losses has dropped the Pacers to seventh in the east, as they are only 2.5 games up on the Chicago Bulls, who currently sit ninth. That seven-seed will mean that Indiana has to win on the road in the playoffs to advance and they've given us no reason to think they can do that against a team like the Boston Celtics or Toronto Raptors. The last time these teams played, the Nuggets handed the Pacers a devastating, 140-112, loss in London. Those 140 points marked a season-high for both teams, as it was the most points scored by Denver and the most allowed by Indiana all season.

Posted on March 23, 2017 at 5:22 PM ET      Updated on March 24, 2017 at 2:01 AM ET

March 24, 2017 at 7:30 PM ET

Celtics Host Struggling Suns

By Joel Bartilotta

The Phoenix Suns travel to Beantown to play the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on Friday. The Suns (22-50) are really struggling right now, as they've lost their last six games. That directly correlates with the resting of Eric Bledsoe, as this team simply can't win with their best player off the floor. The one good thing it has done is open up the door for Tyler Ulis, who is posting some gaudy numbers in that starting point guard role. In fact, Ulis is averaging 14 points, four rebounds, 10 assists and two steals over his last five games. The development of Ulis is promising, but it just stirs up more questions for an already muddled backcourt. Not only will Bledsoe return next season, the Suns still have Brandon Knight and Devin Booker on the payroll. Those are four legitimate guards and it's unclear which direction they'll go next season with such an abundance of talent. In any case, it's turned into a complete rebuild in Phoenix and fans will have to hope for a big offseason. The Celtics (46-25) have won five of their last six games, as they are finally at full health. The returns of Al Horford and Avery Bradley are especially important, as those are quietly two of the most effective players in the league. What this run has done is move the Celtics within striking distance of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the one-seed, as they are just one game behind them now. That would be a heck of an accomplishment and it's scary to think about how good they'll be in the future. Not only do they have plenty of assets to part with, they have Brooklyn's lottery pick this offseason. That could be the best player in the country and that's got to put fear in everyone else in the east. It's still Isaiah Thomas' team though, as he remains third in the league in scoring, averaging 29 points per game. The Suns actually took down the first and only meeting between these teams this season in a 109-106 win earlier this month.

Posted on March 24, 2017 at 12:21 AM ET      Updated on March 24, 2017 at 12:26 AM ET

March 24, 2017 at 8:00 PM ET

Hawks, Bucks Square Off in Milwaukee

By Nick Brazzoni  

The Atlanta Hawks will travel to Milwaukee on Friday to take on the Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Hawks (37-34) have reached a tough stretch in what has been an overall successful season for them, as they have now lost five straight games. The main reason for that is that they were without All-Star power forward Paul Millsap, who has been dealing with a sore knee, for three of those games. Millsap has already been ruled out for Friday's contest in Milwaukee, so Atlanta will once again have to deal with the absence of their best player. The struggles have taken a real tole on the Hawks' seeding as well with the playoffs just around the corner, as while they are still in fifth place, Atlanta is now just one game ahead of the Pacers and Thursday's opponent, the Bucks (36-35). That makes Thursday's game high stakes for both teams, but especially for Milwaukee, who has now won four of their last five games and could use a win over Atlanta to garner up even more momentum with the playoffs quickly approaching. Regardless, the Bucks have established themselves as one of the hottest teams in basketball, having won 10 of their last 12 games overall and ending a six-game road trip out west with a 4-2 record. It hasn't come easy for Milwaukee, however, with three of their last four wins coming by four points or less. This will be the fourth and final meeting between these two teams this season, with the Hawks winning each of the first three matchups.

Posted on March 24, 2017 at 12:27 AM ET      Updated on March 24, 2017 at 12:29 AM ET

March 24, 2017 at 8:00 PM ET

Bulls in Must-Win Against Sixers

By Joel Bartilotta

The Philadelphia 76ers travel to Illinois to play the Chicago Bulls at United Center on Friday. The Sixers (26-45) are really struggling right now without Joel Embiid (knee), as they've lost 10 of their last 14 games. The crazy thing about that is the fact that this is their best season since 2012 and the future is as bright as ever. In fact, Philly have the top-two candidates for Rookie of the Year, as Embiid and Dario Saric have developed into some of the best young players in the league. Saric has been especially impressive since Embiid's knee injury, as he is averaging 19.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.1 steals across his last 19 games. The return of Ben Simmons next year only adds to that young talent, as the process finally seems to be paying dividends. The Bulls (34-38) are limping their way to the finish line and they appear in line to fall just short of a playoff berth. Chicago currently sit ninth in the east, just 1,5 games behind the Miami Heat. It's the most recent run that has really killed them, as the Bulls are just 3-8 across their last 11 games. That directly correlates with the Dwyane Wade elbow injury and it's clear they miss his offense and veteran presence. The last three games are a minor bright spot though, as they've won two of those to keep their playoff hopes alive. The re-insertion of Rajon Rondo into the starting-five is surely playing a role in the small hot stretch, as he's averaging 12.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.3 steals since recapturing that role. They'll need he, Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic to continue their strong play if they want to sneak into the playoffs. This is the third of four meetings between these teams, with Chicago winning the first two games by a double-digit margin.

Posted on March 23, 2017 at 5:35 PM ET      Updated on March 23, 2017 at 5:54 PM ET

March 24, 2017 at 8:00 PM ET

Improved Pelicans Hit Road to Play Rockets

By Nick Brazzoni  

The New Orleans Pelicans will travel to Houston on Friday to take on the Rockets at Toyota Center. The Pelicans (30-41) appear to have finally figured things out since trading for DeMarcus Cousins at the trade deadline, as they have now won three games in a row and five of their last six contests. However, it may be too little too late for New Orleans, as they are still four games behind the Nuggets, who currently hold the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference standings. To make matters worse, the team will now embark on a three-game road trip out west, and all three games will be against playoff teams. Their first matchup on that trip, the Rockets (49-22), have been just as hot lately, winning two games in a row and five of their last six as well. Houston is also sitting comfortably as the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference standings, as they are 5.5 games ahead of the fourth-place Jazz but still six games behind the second-place Spurs. The Rockets will now play three straight games at home starting Friday before playing five of their final eight games on the road to close out the season. This will be the fourth and final meeting of the season between these two teams, with the Rockets winning two of the three matchups by a total of 52 points.

Posted on March 24, 2017 at 1:19 AM ET

March 24, 2017 at 10:30 PM ET

Warriors Host Kings

By Jason Rubin  

The Golden State Warriors will host the Sacramento Kings at Oracle Arena on Friday. The Warriors (57-14) have ripped off a five game winning streak after dropping three straight games for the first time since the 2016 NBA Finals. Matt Barnes, a mid-season acquisition from Golden State from Sacramento, said he was "trying to kill them" and "things didn't go well" (ESPN). The extra edge to game might help Barnes, who has some teammates to rely on in many departments. Kevin Durant (knee) is expected to make his return at the very end of the season and could be back as early as April 1st. Most recently, the Warriors trounced the Mavericks 112-87 in Dallas, where Klay Thompson led Golden State with 23 points on 5-of-8 three-point shooting. Ian Clark was strong off the bench down the stretch, and scored 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting, however, he did struggle from behind the arc where failed to make a three-pointer on four attempts. The Kings (27-44) have dropped three straight and struggled immensely against the length of Giannis Antetokounmpo who dropped 32 points for the Bucks in their 116-98 win over the Kings. Sacramento did have four starters in double figures scoring, led by 21 points from rookie Buddy Hield, who came from the Pelicans in a deal for DeMarcus Cousins earlier in the season. Tyreke Evans was also efficient off the bench where he scored 18 points on 8-of-14 scoring.

Posted on March 24, 2017 at 1:32 AM ET

March 24, 2017 at 10:30 PM ET

Lakers Host Timberwolves

By Jason Rubin  

The Los Angeles Lakers will host the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center on Friday. One losing streak will be broken on Friday when the Lakers (20-51) and Timberwolves (28-42) square off in Los Angeles. The Lakers are owners of a six game skid, while the Timberwolves dropped four straight. With both teams eyeing draft position over playoff position, it is surprising the Timberwolves are struggling as much as they are given Karl-Anthony Towns monsterous second half of the season. Since the All-Star break, Town has averaged 28.4 points per game and 13.9 rebounds per game, in addition to shooting 60.6 percent from the field. The stats have not translated into wins though, granted their schedule has not been forgiving. Three of the last four games have come against elite teams including the Spurs, Celtics and the red hot Heat. Most recently, Towns crew fell to the Spurs 100-93, where Wiggins did his best to aid KAT with 22 points, four rebounds and four assists. The Lakers have been the worst team in the league defensively over the last 10 games and that includes giving up 133 points in their most recent loss the Clippers, 125 points to the Cavaliers and an insane 139 points to the Rockets. While those three teams do boast superstar scoring talent, the sheer volume of scoring per quarter is nothing short of amazing. The bright spot for the Lakers in the loss to the Clippers came from rookie Brandon Ingram, who scored 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting in 40 minutes of action. Aside from the rookie's successful night, the Lakers gave up 33-plus point in each quarter, save for the fourth period where the Clippers reserves ran the floor.

Posted on March 24, 2017 at 1:12 AM ET