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One of our expert hoops handicappers' gives his two best picks for tonight's games

Denver Nuggets (-4) @ Orlando Magic, 7:00 PM:

The Denver Nuggets (3-2) hit an early bump in the road and dropped a second straight game after losing to the New Orleans Pelicans 122-107.

Denver struggled to keep up with New Orleans, shooting an ice cold 7-for-26 (26.9%) from three-point range.

Despite the loss, there was a huge bright spot for Denver - rookie Michael Porter Jr. The former first-round pick made his NBA debut and finished with a team-high 15 points off the bench on 5-of-8 shooting.

All-Star center Nikola Jokic was held in check, shooting 5-of-6 from the field for 13 points, six assists and six rebounds.

Guard Gary Harris and forward Jerami Grant both contributed 14 points while big men Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee added 10 points.

The Orlando Magic (2-3) struggled on Friday night, and were handled at home 123-91 by the Milwaukee Bucks.

Orlando shot ice cold as a team, shooting 37 percent from the field and 32 percent from three-point range.

Evan Fournier was the lone sharp-shooter for the Magic, firing 7-of-12 from the field, including four made threes for a team-high 19 points.

Center Nikola Vucevic contributed 14 points with seven rebounds, two assists and two steals. Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, and Terrence Ross all added 11 points.

Take the Nuggets to cover the spread (-4). Denver is due for a bounce back, and I don’t see them losing a third straight game - especially not to the Magic.

Look for Jokic to play like his usual self and lead the Nuggets past Orlando.

Philadelphia 76ers @ Portland Trail Blazers (-2), 10:00 PM:

The Philadelphia 76ers were gritty at home and remained undefeated (4-0), defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves 117-95.

Joel Embiid finished with a team-high 19 points but would do that in two-and-a-half quarters, as the All-Star center was ejected for getting into a brawl with Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns.

As a result, Embiid and Towns were both disciplined with two-game suspensions which includes the Sixers’ upcoming game in Portland.

Newly acquired forward Al Horford held down big man duties in Embiid’s absence, totaling a double-double with 12 points and a team-high 16 rebounds.

Philadelphia’s three other starters also posted double figures. Tobias Harris had 18 points and nine rebounds, Ben Simmons scored 16 points with seven assists and Josh Richardson added 12 points and a team-high four steals.

The Portland Trail Blazers (3-2) got back on track by edging out the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99.

Damian Lillard lead the way for Portland with his first double-double of the season, totaling a team-high 23 points and 13 assists with seven rebounds.

Center Hassan Whiteside contributed a double-double of his own with 12 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

CJ McCollum was lights out from deep, knocking down five three-pointers for 22 points, but struggled with a season-high seven turnovers.

Take the Trail Blazers to cover the spread (-2) at home. With Embiid set to miss the next two games, Philadelphia will need major contributions on both sides of the ball.

The Sixers will have their hands full containing Portland’s Whiteside in the paints and need to pick up the slack for Embiid’s lost point production; Embiid leads the team in points (23.3 ppg) and rebounds (10.3 rpg).

My expectation is the Trail Blazers will outlast the 76ers at home.

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By Stephen Rodriguez


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