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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.
Phoenix Suns agree to Blockbuster deal with Orlando Magic
Aiming to bolster their chances Online Sportsbook this season, the Phoenix Suns made their first big move this year when they struck a deal with the re-tooling Orlando Magic squad on Sunday 18 December.
The Suns, who are still in the process of adjusting after losing Amar’e Stoudemire during the offseason, acquired eight-time all-star guard Vince Carter, defensive specialist Mickael Pietrus, center Marcin Gortat, and a first-round draft pick in exchange for Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, and second-year forward Earl Clark.
“This transaction helps us now and in the future,” Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said in the team’s official statement. “While it is difficult to see players like Jason, Hedo and Earl depart; we are excited to welcome Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus. Marcin addresses our need for more size, rebounding and defensive presence. Vince and Mickael will be dynamic in our offense and improve our perimeter defense.”
Although he admitted that trading away Richardson, Turkoglu, and Clark was a difficult decision, Babby believes that the deal would benefit the team and will greatly address their lack of size and their poor defense, which has caused some struggles for them this season.
“Carter and Pietrus give us a great defensive presence on the perimeter and they should be extremely dynamic offensively,” Babby said. “And, of course, I think we all recognize that we had a need here for an increased interior presence, size and rebounding. And Gortat is really someone that we've had our eye on since we got here.”
The deal, which was the first major move made by the Suns new front office tandem of Babby and general manager Lance Blanks, also produced speculations that Phoenix will start revamping their roster and dealing two-time Most Valuable Player Steve Nash would be the next big move that the Suns will look for.
However, Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver reiterated that they have no plans of dealing Nash and they would not even entertain trade proposals for their backcourt general, who is averaging MVP-like numbers this season: 17.5 points and 10.2 assists in 23 games this season.
“This deal has nothing to do with trading Nash,” Sarver said in an ESPN interview. “We have no intention to trade him.”
Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith, on the other hand, said that the deal would improve their team after struggling this month, dropping six of their last 10 games, while witnessing their Eastern Conference rivals, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics, racked up 12 consecutive wins each.
“We’re very excited to welcome these three players to our family,” Smith said. “Richardson is a tremendous athlete who runs the floor, can shoot the ball and loves to compete. We’re obviously familiar with Hedo. He is a great shooter and is a player that has flourished in our system. We liked Clark in the draft a few years ago, and he will help fortify our frontcourt.”
The Magic also acquired Gilbert Arenas in a separate deal that sent sharp-shooting forward Rashard Lewis to the Washington Wizards, proving that they are dead serious in contending for a title this season.
“We needed a little bit more punch,” general manager Smith said. “All those guys coming in have an ability to move the ball. After looking at our team through 25 games, we were missing a little something. I thought change was needed.”
The Suns and the Magic, who both sit in the middle of the standings of their respective conferences, are expected to improve with the deals that they have made, providing a serious threat to their conference rivals.
After this deal the Magic are +700 to win the Eastern Conference championship according to Sportsbook.com. Are you betting on them? Get over to sportsbook.com and get into the betting action today.
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.