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Philadelphia 76ers (+5.5) at Memphis Grizzlies 

Friday likely marks the final game Philadelphia will play without the services of James Harden, who is expected to return to the lineup at some point during the Sixers current road trip. Depending on your point of view, that is happening either at the perfect time or could be breaking up Philly’s rhythm.

After losing two of its first three games with Harden sidelined, Philadelphia found a groove, winning seven of its last nine outings. Against the spread, the Sixers are 8-2 in their last ten.

The 76ers have been especially punchy as underdogs in that stretch, covering in five of their last seven chances when getting points on the final line.

Harden re-establishing himself in the lineup could cause some speed bumps, yet I trust Joel Embiid and crew to continue finding a way to win with The Beard out of the lineup here.

Golden State Warriors (-6.5) vs. Chicago Bulls 

In each of the last two weeks, I’ve made a point to pick the Warriors to cover at home and Golden State continues to oblige. For whatever reason, this team plays at a different level in front of its home fans in the Bay Area.

Let’s hop right on that train again, expecting more of the same.

Golden State is 9-1 at home this season, with a 7-3 record against the spread. The Warriors have won and covered in each of their last six games at home.

Against a more challenging opponent, I might start looking for that trend to regress. Against this Chicago team, that’s not the play. The Bulls limp in to San Francisco, the fifth stop on a six-city road trip across the West Coast. In their last outing, the Bulls were smoked by the Phoenix Suns, a 19-point loss on Wednesday.

Commit to the trend: take the Warriors at the Chase Center.

Utah Jazz (-5.5) vs. Indiana Pacers 

Prior to the season, this game looked like one of the key battles between teams tanking their way to the top of the draft, with almost no reason for fans to watch. Sitting in early December, however, both teams are over .500 and eyeing the back-end of the playoff race.

Utah has been especially surprising, selling off Rudy Gobert, Bojan Bogdonavic, and Donovan Mitchell this summer for future assets. Despite that offloading of talent, the Jazz have been feisty all season, ranking in the top five of both offensive and defensive efficiency. Stats like that might fall victim to a small sample size so far, but they show that this Jazz team isn’t stealing lucky wins. There’s some substance behind Utah’s success.

If anything, the Jazz are due for their strong play to start showing itself even more in the win column, especially against the spread. Utah is just 2-5-1 as a favorite this season and has lost seven of its last 10.

Luckily for Jazz fans, Indiana enters in a similar situation to Chicago, amidst a hellish road trip. Utah marks the fourth of a brutal eight games on the road out West for the Pacers. I like Utah to bounce back against a travel-weary Indiana club.

Toronto Raptors (+2.5) vs. Brooklyn Nets 

The Nets schedule has led to an interesting quirk early in the season. Brooklyn’s games against the class of the Eastern Conference are backloaded on the schedule.

So far, through 23 games, the Nets have only played four games against the top five teams in last year’s conference standings, all expected to be among the best in the East again this year: Boston, Miami, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Toronto. Only one of those four games came at home at the Barclays Center, a late-October win over Toronto.

We’re going to learn a lot more about the now-Jacque Vaughn led Brooklyn Nets this month. Following three straight wins over lesser opponents, I’m looking for a letdown performance from Brooklyn here. They’ve beaten the Raptors twice already, making this a potentially critical meeting for future tiebreak scenarios.

No team has more long, rangy bodies to toss defensively at Kevin Durant, and Nick Nurse is one of the best prepared coaches in the NBA. He’ll have Toronto ready in this one.