Cavaliers at Thunder (-3, 215) – 3:35 ET, ABC
Sunday’s top matchup could be a Finals preview, so both teams will be up for this second and final encounter between top contenders. The Thunder lost in Cleveland 104-100 on Dec. 17, outrebounded 50-43 in a game where the Cavs knocked down 12 3-pointers. LeBron James went for 33 points, 9 rebounds and 11 assists in a performance best remembered for him squashing Ellie Day, the wife of golfer Jason, while chasing a loose ball into the stands.
This rematch will feature Kyrie Irving in addition to a new head coach with Tyronn Lue having replaced David Blatt. One tweak who won’t be available will be the recently acquired Channing Frye, who didn’t complete his physical in time to be counted on here. The Cavs may be extremely short-handed since Iman Shumpert is considered questionable with a shoulder injury. Cleveland hasn’t been without its top defender since he missed the first meeting against OKC, going 24-7 with him playing major minutes. Although he hasn’t shot it well at all, his presence wreaking havoc guarding on the perimeter has been an asset and would be missed against Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
James went for 25-9-9 in Thursday’s win over Chicago, showing off fresh legs. The Thunder fell at home to Indiana 101-98 as guys not named Durant or Westbrook shot 19-for-52. Westbrook delivered a career-high 18 assists, a total that should’ve been higher since OKC shot just 5-for-26 from 3-point range. Newly acquired Randy Foye didn’t play, but is available for this one. Oklahoma City hasn’t lost consecutive games since Dec. 3. The Cavs have won the last two in this series. This will be their first road game since a 106-97 loss in Charlotte on Feb. 3. They’re an Eastern Conference-best 16-10 (10-14-2 ATS) on the road. OKC is 25-6 at home, but just 15-16 ATS.
Pacers at Magic (PK, 200.5) – 6:05 ET
Paul George felt that Indiana’s 101-98 Friday night upset at OKC was the product of desperation, a desire to start the stretch run off on the right foot. The Pacers overcame a seven-point deficit in the final 3:00, knocking down four 3-pointers, the last of which Monta Ellis delivered with 18.8 seconds remaining. Ellis finished with a team-high 27 points, his second-highest output in this first season in Indiana. The 14.1 points he’s averaging is his lowest since his rookie season, so If Ellis can build some momentum off the performance, Indy may really take a step forward. George had double-digit assists for just the fifth time in his entire career.
The Magic were also winners on Friday night, surviving at home 110-104 against Dallas in OT. Nikola Vucevic led the way with 21 points and 12 rebounds, while Victor Oladipo added 17 points and a career-high 14 boards to help Orlando survive a Mavericks franchise-record 19 3-pointers in a game that featured wild runs and momentum swings. Slam Dunk contest Aaron Gordon rebounded in double-figures for the fourth straight game, adding a career-high six steals. The Magic got immense contributions from newcomers Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova, who each played over 20 minutes and combined for 34 points on 6-for-13 3-point shooting. It was a dream start considering the jettisoning of Tobias Harris was due in part to his inability to consistently take advantage from the perimeter.
Orlando has covered in seven of the last eight games, including each of the last four, bouncing back from a run where it failed to cover in 12 of 14. Indiana’s Rodney Stuckey sat out with a right foot injury and will be absent here. C.J. Miles will return after sitting in OKC due to a stomach virus. The Magic are as healthy as they’ve been all season. The Pacers have won 10 of the last 11 in this series, including the last six. The Pacers won the first two meetings this season (97-84 on Nov. 9, 95-86 on Jan. 6). Both went under posted totals that were in the high-190s.
Grizzlies at Raptors (-7, 202) – 6:05 ET
After dealing key contributors Courtney Lee and Jeff Green at the trade deadline as part of a restructuring, it was worth wondering how the Grizzlies would open the final stretch as they try and remain among the West’s top eight with center Marc Gasol sidelined for the foreseeable future after fracturing his foot.
Newly acquired center Chris Andersen and wing P.J. Hairston saw minutes off the bench, while JaMychal Green played a season-high 30 minutes in settling in next to Zach Randolph, finishing with 9 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in a 109-104 win over Minnesota. Vince Carter and Mario Chalmers saw the majority of minutes at shooting guard, backing up starter Tony Allen. The Grizzlies have actually won 11 of 14, but Gasol was available for all but three of those and is unquestionably the team’s most important player as the focal point at both ends of the floor. It remains to be seen where Lance Stephenson fits in for Memphis, but he’s questionable with a hip injury, as is Allen (knee).
The Raptors are still without DeMarre Carroll (knee), who is drawing closer to a return but likely won’t play for at least another week. The Raptors lost at Chicago 116-106 in their first game out of the break, wrapping up a six-game road swing that has encompassed all of February due to All-Star. This will be the Raps’ first home game of the month, and while they’ll visit the Knicks on Monday, they’ll be at the Air Canada Centre for 10 of the next 12, giving them a great opportunity to make a run at Cleveland, which visits Feb. 26. DeMar DeRozan shot just 6-for-21 in Chicago, his third-worst performance of the season. Despite the off night, Toronto’s All-Star shooting guard is averaging a team-best 24.8 points per game in February.
Toronto hasn’t lost three straight since Nov. 17. These teams are meeting for the first time and will play again in Memphis on April 1. The over is 10-4-1 in Toronto games over the last 15 and 14-2 in Grizzlies games in roughly the same span, prevailing four straight times.
Jazz at Blazers – 9:05 ET (-3.5, 198)
It can be argued that these teams have put together the two singularly most impressive efforts since the All-Star break. While Damian Lillard’s 51-point effort in a 137-105 dismantling of the mighty Warriors is the runaway winner for most eye-popping performance, Utah’s nationally-televised 111-93 rout of the East’s current No. 2 seed, Boston, was no slouch. The Northwest Division mates will now have the weekend’s final stage to themselves in a game where the winner will leave in sole possession of second place behind OKC, not to mention residence among the Western Conference’s top eight.
This will be the fourth and final meeting of the ’15-‘16, as the Trail Blazers gained a split in the matchups in Salt Lake City earlier this season before winning at home 99-85 on Jan. 13. It should be noted that PF Derrick Favors has participated only once, while center Rudy Gobert missed the Dec. 31 win. Portland’s 108-92 win on Nov. 4 marked the only time the Jazz had their starting lineup intact, and their two big men combined for just 14 points. The Jazz are 8-2 over their last 10 since getting completely healthy. The Trail Blazers are 9-1 in that same span and are on a 13-3 run (12-4 ATS).
Overshadowed by Lillard’s remarkable night was Mo Harkless’ continued excellence off the bench, as he hit 5-of-6 shots to maintain the momentum he had established before the break, scoring in double-figures for the fourth consecutive time as head coach Terry Stotts gave him 25 minutes. Over the last four, Harkless has averaged 13.8 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 5-for-11 from 3-point range. Considering he was 19-for-72 (26.3 pct) before this run and was hovering under 30 percent for his short career, this run Harkless is on may either be one tantalizing anomaly or perhaps the beginning of a breakthrough. C.J. McCollum is averaging 20.2 points per game over this current 16-game run the Blazers are on. He’s torched Utah this season, averaging 24.7 points and 6.0 assists while shooting nearly 48 percent from 3-point range.