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Immanuel Quickly of the New York Knicks is showering with a mask on, which tells you about all you need to know about the state of things around the NBA and the United States amid COVID madness.

Your favorite player may have been fine yesterday, but that does not mean he will be in the lineup tonight. A total of 36 players were in coronavirus protocols as of Thursday night, and another day of testing today could knock even more players out heading into the weekend.

That means wagering on specific games is a crapshoot unless you place those wagers just before tipoff, keeping an eye on line movements over the course of the day. But another thing you can do is look at this period of COVID anarchy as an opportunity to invest in the futures market, which always offer the promise of huge rewards if you have the wherewithal to ride things out until June.

We will take a look at tonight’s ESPN doubleheader in this column, because there is simply no ignoring the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers, who are both on national TV. But if you want a prediction on who will actually play, you have come to the wrong place. With the way positive COVID tests are popping up, you have to be a G-League aficionado to be a sage these days.

Back to Coach of the Year. Steve Kerr of the Warriors and Monty Williams of the Suns are worthy +375 co-favorites because their teams are tied atop the Western Conference standings at 23-5, which makes it easy to overlook the fact that the Utah Jazz are nipping at their heels with an eight-game winning streak that has them at 20-7.

How have the Jazz done against the Warriors and Suns? Great question, and there is no answer because those teams have not played each other yet this season. The first Utah-Phoenix game is more than a month away (they play a back-to-back Jan. 24-26) and the first Utah-Golden State game is the night of Jan. 1.

Snyder is sitting at +1800, behind Kerr, Williams, J.B. Bickerstaff, Billy Donovan, Eric Spoelstra and Steve Nash. The Jazz are in the midst of a six-game homestand and really do not have a tough matchup on paper until that meeting with the Warriors on New Year’s night. If they avoid COVID disruptions and play the way we’ve grown accustomed to seeing over this season and last, it is not unrealistic to expect them to enter that game with a 16-game winning streak. And if that is the case, we will not be seeing Snyder at +1800 when 2021 comes to an end.

Bickerstaff (+500) is the next guy we want to key on because Coach of the Year often goes to the leader of a team that has exceeded preseason expectations, and right now the Cavs are fourth in the East with an 18-12 record as they prepare to play five or their next six on the road. Cleveland has overcome the loss of Collin Sexton for the season and is fielding a supersized lineup that includes Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, a rejuvenated Kevin Love, Dean Wade (6-foot-9), Lauri Markannen (6-foot-11) and Isaac Okoro (6-foot-5) that is causing matchup problems for every opponent they face.

The Cavs also have a valid Sixth Man of the Year candidate in Ricky Rubio (+4500) who is coming off a game in which he had 12 assists in just 21 minutes against Houston, but we will withhold judgement on their chances of winning the East until we see how they fare this weekend on a road back-to-back vs. Milwaukee and Atlanta followed by a road game at Boston. But there is no arguing with the fact that they have the NBA’s No. 2 defense (101.2 points allowed per game, second only to Golden State’s 100.2), and Bickerstaff at +500 is tempting. He is the guy that is making it all work.

Now, onto the ESPN doubleheader.

Steph Curry is now the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers, and the pressure of breaking that record is behind him. His Warriors are 3-point favorites tonight against the Celtics on the road, and the last time Curry played in Beantown he hit 11 3-pointers on 19 attempts on April 17. (Curry also went 7-for-14 on 3s in a home loss to the Celtics last season. He did not play there in 2019, and in 2018 he was 6-for-12 from distance at the TD Garden). Curry’s 3-pointers made over/under is 5.5, and with the pressure off we like him to exceed that number.

Jayson Tatum of the Celtics, coming off a 42-point game in which he made seven 3s, should go over his point total over/under of 27.5 and his 3-pointers made over/under of 2.5.

The nightcap features the Lakers visiting their ancestral home in Minneapolis, where the only guarantee is that it will be cold outside. Los Angeles just lost Russell Westbrook, Avery Bradley, Talen Horton-Tucker and Dwight Howard to COVID protocols, and they are bringing in former All-Star Isaiah Thomas, who has been toiling in the G-League since returning from Mexico where he represented Team USA in two World Cup qualifying games.

Minnesota is favored by one point after victories over Denver and Portland, the latter of which featured 10 3-pointers by Anthony Edwards, who is +2600 for Most Improved. His points, assists and rebounds added up to 44 in that game, making tonight’s number for his total on those three stats (30.5) seem too low. We like the over, especially with the Lakers down two backcourt defenders.

This is the Timberwolves’ only scheduled appearance on ESPN all season (they will be on TNT once), so expect them to play to the national audience. Karl-Anthony Towns has blocked at least one shot in five of six games, so we counsel taking the over on his blocks prop of 0.5. Also, reserve forward Jarred Vanderbilt has gone four consecutive games without reaching double figures in rebounds, so his rebounds prop of 9.5 seems too high. One more: Patrick Beverley had totaled 19 assists in his last three games, so his assists over/under of 3.5 looks low.

Hey, the Lakers may be a mystery team with so many players missing, but you sort of known what you are going to get from a Timberwolves team that is 13-15, which has head coach Chris Finch sitting as the +4500 16th choice for Coach of the Year, which gives him bragging rights in the post-game handshake with Frank Vogel, who is +6000.

So, it is a night when a lot of overs look enticing. And a night when just about anyone could be sidelined by COVID. So it is not just another Friday in the NBA. It is a dicey one, but a few things still seem reliable. Curry is certainly one of them.


Stephen Curry over 5.5 3-pointers (-110)

Jayson Tatum over 27.5 points (-115)

Jayson Tatum over 2.5 3-pointers (-175)

Anthony Edwards over 30.5 points + assists + rebounds (-120)

Karl-Anthony Towns over 0.5 blocks (-115)

Jarred Vanderbilt under 9.5 rebounds (+100)

Patrick Beverley over 3.5 assists (-155)