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Bucks vs. Warriors is not to be missed. Nor is the nightcap, because there is a push to get Nikola Jokic in the MVP debate.

What we have tonight in the United States is five of the last seven MVPs playing on national TV. The other games feature the league’s hottest team, the Memphis Grizzlies, and James Harden facing one of his former teams, the Oklahoma City Thunder, as the Nets’ cross-country odyssey beings them back to Brooklyn looking formidable at full strength.

It is a night with triple-double possibilities all over the place, along with a possible championship round preview because Golden-State-Milwaukee matches up two of the league’s best teams operating at less than full capacity.

The Nuggets, coming off a blown 25-point second half lead against the Clippers, take on the carcass of what was once a pretty good-looking Portland Trail Blazers team. Perhaps the best matchup in there is the Joker, last season’s MVP, going up against former teammate Jusuf Nurkic in the game that Shaq is scheduled to fall asleep midway through.

The Bucks, playing at home, are favored by 1.5 (down from 2.5 earlier today) against the Warriors and Curry, who is coming off a triple-double performance in the Dubs’ loss at Memphis two nights ago. He will have Klay Thompson but not Draymond Green alongside him, and Milwaukee has Jrue Holiday (ankle) listed as doubtful. He would have been the primary defender against Curry, whose prolonged slump ended in the second quarter at Memphis as he went for 27 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. He has not had a 30-point game in his last six appearances and has dropped to sixth in the scoring race, which Kevin Durant (also playing tonight against one of his former teams) leads by eight-tenths of a point over LeBron James.

Curry’ point total over/under is 26.5, and with both Holiday and George Hill likely sidelined, two of the Bucks’ best defenders are unavailable. Curry has scored 27 or more in each of the past two games and three of the last five, and he is long overdue for a 30-point night. We like the over.

The nightcap is trickier because the Nuggets are about as unpredictable as it gets when it comes to mystery NBA teams. They have dropped sixth in the West despite a favorable stretch of schedule and have not won three in a row in nearly two months. They are facing a Portland team that has lost Damian Lillard to abdominal surgery and C.J. McCollum to a collapsed lung, leaving Anfernee Simons as pretty much the greatest fantasy hoops pickup option out there, just not tonight (he is out for personal reasons). Denver is favored by 10 (up from nine earlier today) despite the collapse two nights ago, and is just 16-23 against the spread. But Portland is a league-worst (tied with Atlanta) 15-25-0 ATS, which makes this a lesser of two evils situation.

So what we do is focus on the superstud: Jokic. The Joker has been “disrespected” in the MVP debate, coach Michael Malone said. “I think he is one of the more disrespected reigning MVPs that I can think of in terms of the attention,” Malone said Tuesday. “But if you open up the dictionary, look up the word consistency, there's going to be a picture of Nikola there.”

Jokic’s combined points, rebounds and assist total has been set at 45.5, and in his last nine games he has been at 46 or better in seven of them. So go over on that one.

In the Timberwolves at Grizzlies game, Memphis is a 4.5-point favorite (down from 5.5) heading into this matchup with a Wolves team that had its four-game winning streak snapped two nights ago. Minnesota is a game under .500 and should probably be a bigger underdog, it says here, given what Memphis has been getting accomplished. We do not see the Grizzlies slowing down, and we further expect Kenny, Shaq and Ernie to be talking a whole bunch of Ja Morant during the TNT studio breaks.

The Grizzlies have passed the Jazz for third place in the West, and Morant is entering the MVP race as he sits on the board at +3000. His combined points, assists and rebounds number is 38.5, which he has gone over in five of his last eight games. He is hot, and we like him to stay that way, so we advise the over along with Memphis to cover.

Brooklyn is favored by seven (down from nine earlier today) against Oklahoma City a night after they took apart the Bulls 138-112 in Chicago in their first game with their big three of Durant, Harden and Kyrie Irving playing together. They have traveled from Brooklyn to Oregon to Illinois and back to Brooklyn since Sunday and are playing their fourth game in five nights. Assuming that Harden and Durant both play, the Nets should be fine. But covering? They have lost five of their past six home games and needed overtime to defeat San Antonio on Sunday after a late collapse, so we say stay away from the point spread on this one. The over/under was 216.5 early today, figure the Nets have surpassed in five or six and the Thunder have reached in two of their last three. It has since moved to 218.5, but we like it – the over.

The Pelicans are 3.5-point home favorites against the Clippers, and we are tempted to invoke our stay-the-hell-away-from-both-of-these-teams guidance. But a deeper dive reveals that Brandon Ingram, coming off a 33-point outing, has a point total over/under of 23.5. We like him to go over that number, and for teammate Jonas Valanciunas to go over both 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds. He had 29 and 15 the last time these teams met.

Good luck tonight. And if you parlay all of those picks, remember to round robin. Backatcha next week. Stay warm, safe and sane.


Steph Curry over 26.5 points

Nikola Jokic over 45.5 points + assists + rebounds

Ja Morant over 38.5 points + rebounds + assists

Memphis Grizzlies -4.5

Nets vs Thunder: Over 218.5

Brandon Ingram over 23.5 points

Jonas Valanciunas over 17.5 points

Jonas Valanciunas over 11.5 rebounds