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Expert handicapper Jonathan Macri is back with three picks for Saturday's NBA slate

One matchup that’s been 20 months in the making highlights the NBA’s Saturday slate of five games, and that’s where we begin.

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Brooklyn Nets vs. Golden State Warriors

It’s been less than two months, but what a long, strange journey it’s already been for the Brooklyn Nets.

After starting off looking like a team that would run roughshod over the rest of the NBA, we were soon reminded that there are two sides of the court, and they both matter equally. One Kyrie sabbatical and one Harden trade later, we’ve finally arrived at what we think the Nets are going to be for the rest of the year: an offensive powerhouse that can’t be stopped if they decide to play defense.

Even with this seeming sense of certainty, we still haven’t really gotten the full taste of what Brooklyn has to offer. Durant, Irving and Harden have only been healthy and available for six of the 13 games since the trade, and have shared the floor for a scant 165 minutes. The Nets are 4-2 in those affairs, but will have a chance to improve that mark on Saturday night against the Warriors, as all three will be ready to go.

For Golden State, this will be a chance to feel like the rest of the league did during the three seasons KD was in Golden State. Thankfully for them, they’re currently riding a Steph Curry wave that appears to be nearing its crest. Curry is averaging 38 points over his last six games and is hitting 50 percent of his 14 threes per contest over that time.

The has the feel of a game that Steph isn’t going to allow the Nets to run away with, which would be par for the course of late. In their last seven games, Golden State is only 4-3, but their losses have come by just two, four and five points. The spread here is 5.5.

The Pick: Golden State +4.5 @ -109

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Phoenix Suns

Only six teams in the NBA still have single-digit losses, and these are two of them.

On paper, the Sixers are the better team. They have the guy who might be the MVP of the league at the one-third mark of the regular reason, are comfortably in first place in the East, and have both the better ranked defense and offense for the year.

But Phoenix enters this one as the hotter team. The Suns have won and covered seven of eight games, including most recently against the Bucks, ending Milwaukee’s three-game winning streak.

That Bucks team profiles as being far superior competition than Philly, with a league-leading plus 9.6 net rating to the Sixers’ plus 3.8. That number goes down to a positive 1.8 on the road, whereas Phoenix’s number shoots up from a plus 2.6 overall to a positive 6.1 at home.

The key to the Suns’ recent success lies in large part with their biggest offseason addition. After starting off the season hitting just 27.7 percent from downtown in his first 15 games, he’s up to 41.5 percent over his last eight.

Philly’s defense is a juggernaut, but if they have one black spot, it’s allowing teams to feast on above the break threes. According to Cleaning the Glass, for the season, the Sixers allow the third highest conversion rate in the league on such shots – coincidentally where Chris Paul gets almost all of his looks from deep.

The Pick: Phoenix PK @ -106

Indiana Pacers vs. Atlanta Hawks

Looking at the NBA standings going into Friday night’s games, the Pacers had not beaten a team with a winning record in over four weeks. They have been struggling, and with all due respect to the Detroit Pistons – who Indiana throttled 111-95 on Thursday night to end their four-game slide – the concerns that have dogged them for the last month are still present.

Those concerns lie squarely with their two best players, Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon. While both men are still in the thick of the All-Star conversation, neither is putting up numbers like they were during the Pacers’ hot start. After hitting 55 percent from the field over his first 15 games, Sabonis is hitting just 50 percent over his last 11. Brogdon, meanwhile, has hit just a third of his threes over those same 11 games – almost a full 10 percentage points worse than the 42.3 percent he started out with over his first 15.

In the Hawks, Indiana gets an opponent with a worse record but a nearly identical net rating for both the year and the last two weeks. These are two evenly matched teams, yet the home squad is getting points. Take advantage.

The Pick: Atlanta +1.5 @ -107

Saturday's Other NBA Games:

Houston Rockets at New York Knicks

The Rockets will be without Victor Oladipo for this one, but it may not matter. Since Oladipo arrived from Indiana, Houston’s on/off numbers indicate that they’re the same team when he plays as when he doesn’t. The Knicks have also dropped and failed to cover their last three back to backs, and they played in Washington on Friday night.

Miami Heat at Utah Jazz

It’s just impossible to bet against the Jazz right now. They’re the best team in the league by a comfortable margin for the last month, having lost just once since January 6. That includes wiping the floor with the Bucks last night. Don’t think too hard on this one.

NBA Expert Picks

(Click Odds To Bet)

Golden State +4.5 @ -109 (Click To Bet)

Phoenix PK @ -106 (Click To Bet)

Atlanta +1.5 @ -107 (Click To Bet)

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Article Author


Dean of Knicks Film School, host: KFS Pod, co-host: Pick N Pod. There isn't much about Knicks basketball that Jonathan doesn't know and he's here to break down the big games each and every week.


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