Friday NBA Picks

Our team of writers and handicappers hand out their NBA picks and predictions for Friday, January 16.

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New Orleans Hornets at Cleveland Cavaliers, 8:05PM ET

LeBron James is putting up MVP-caliber numbers, but it's been the help he's received from his teammates that's made the Cleveland Cavaliers one of the league's best teams.

As Cleveland hits perhaps its toughest stretch of the season, though, that help is dwindling.

The Cavaliers could be without three starters on Friday when they host Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets, leaving the task of extending their perfect home record to 20-0 squarely on James' shoulders.

James has put together a convincing case for NBA MVP honors while leading Cleveland to the best start in franchise history. He's averaging 27.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.7 assists, and has vastly improved at the defensive end, turning the Cavaliers (30-7) into a likely championship contender.

James' second triple-double of the season came Wednesday in Memphis, and briefly propelled Cleveland to the best record in the NBA. Thursday in Chicago, though, the Cavaliers' outlook grew cloudier.

Starting guard Delonte West scored 11 points in the game's first 10 minutes before breaking his right wrist, an injury that could keep Cleveland's top 3-point shooter out of action for a while.

NBA Free Pick: New Orleans  View Game Matchup | Best Line: +4.5

San Antonio Spurs at Philadelphia 76ers, 7:05PM ET

The San Antonio Spurs relied on an unlikely candidate down the stretch to beat the team with the best record in the Western Conference. Late heroics could again be in order when they meet the surging Philadelphia 76ers.

The Sixers look to extend their season-high winning streak to six games Friday night when they host a Spurs team coming off a dramatic win over the defending West champs.

San Antonio (25-12) led the Los Angeles Lakers by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter Wednesday night before reigning MVP Kobe Bryant made a 3-pointer to put the first-place Lakers up two with 12 seconds remaining.

With Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker all on the court, the Spurs gave the ball to Roger Mason, who made a baseline jumper with 10 seconds left despite being fouled. Mason then sank the free throw and the Spurs held on for a 112-111 victory.

It was the second game-winning play of the season for Mason, who also hit a last-second 3-pointer to beat Phoenix on Christmas.

San Antonio has lost six of its last eight visits to Philadelphia, falling 103-96 there last March 15 as Miller and Iguodala combined for 57 points.

NBA Free Pick: Philadelphia View Game Matchup | Best Line: +3.5

Atlanta Hawks at Golden State Warriors, 10:30PM ET

The Atlanta Hawks used a matchup against one of the Western Conference's worst teams to snap their longest skid of the season. They hope a game against another struggling club from the West will help them start their first winning streak of the month.

The Hawks close a three-game road trip Friday when they meet the Golden State Warriors.

Atlanta (23-15) has stumbled recently after winning nine of 10 from Dec. 12-30. The Hawks dropped five of their next six, including a season-high four straight before snapping that losing streak with a 97-80 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

The Clippers are in last place in the Pacific Division and the Hawks took advantage of their offensive struggles, holding them to 12 points in the first quarter and 31 in the first half.

Josh Smith scored 26 points and Joe Johnson added 21 for the Hawks, who overcame their own slow start in which they scored 15 points in the first quarter.

The Hawks beat the Warriors 115-99 on Dec. 19, holding Crawford to six points on 3-of-15 shooting - 0-of-4 from 3-point range. They've won five of the last six meetings, including two in a row in Oakland after losing four straight there.

NBA Free Pick: Atlanta View Game Matchup | Best Line: -1.5

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Posted: 1/16/09 1:30PM ET


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