NBA rivalry week Saturday tripleheader odds & predictions for Heat vs. Knicks, 76ers vs. Nuggets, Lakers vs. Warriors

A lot went down in NBA rivalry week, in which schedule makers intentionally set up matchups between teams and players with history. 

Although it felt a little empty without the Celtics and Lakers getting together, we did see both teams that share the same city get together in addition to squads that have shared bad blood in the past square off. Kevin Durant got in the spirit by pointing nastily at Grant Williams as the Suns and Mavs exchanged pleasantries. 

We also got to see the Warriors annoyed that the Kings are considered a rival. Friday, Dallas star Luka Doncic was scheduled to face off with Atlanta’s Trae Young, pairing up stars who were traded for one another on draft night.

Saturday offers up the culmination of the event with a tripleheader, and although there have been some games where you had to squint real hard to consider rivalries, there are no questions about why the three games squaring off on national television on Saturday have paired up. Let’s break down the contests, all set to be televised on ABC. 

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Heat vs. Knicks odds, prediction: Old school feud will carry present-day playoff circumstances

The image of then Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy ending up at Alonzo Mourning’s feet after he got caught up in the middle of their 1998 playoff brawl solidified what was already a budding rivalry between New York and Miami. 

Fast forward more than 25 years and the franchises remain tied by Pat Riley in addition to their on-court battles, which always carry a little extra. Given the state of the playoff picture in 2024, this Saturday afternoon showdown means even more. With Boston, Milwaukee and Philadelphia likely to wind up as the East’s top three, the final homecourt spot is probably going to come through New York, Cleveland or Miami. 

Currently, the teams are headed in different directions. The Heat (24-21, 19-24-2) is on a season-long five-game losing streak and were destroyed 143-110. The Knicks (28-17, 27-18) have matched its season-best by winning a fifth straight game, squashing the Nuggets 122-84. 

The Knicks are 11-2 in January, invigorated by OG Anunoby’s addition. They’ve covered in 10 of those games and are 12-1 to the UNDER, playing Tom Thibodeau’s preferred brand of ball and sporting the NBA’s No. 1 defense since their big trade. Center Isaiah Hartenstein remains day-to-day (Achilles), so the Knicks will continue looking to thrive with backups Jericho Sims and Precious Achiuwa patrolling the middle. 

The Heat are in the midst of a difficult schedule and may suffer some more bumps before they figure things out. Their acquisition of Terry Rozier hasn’t produced immediate results the way New York’s big splash did, and Erik Spoelstra will hope to have rookie Jaime Jaquez, Jr. to plug in the mix, further making his rotational decision more murky. 

Despite their current form, Miami will come to New York looking to grind and expecting a street fight. The Heat uncharacteristically wilted in the fourth quarter of the first meeting on Nov. 24, blowing a big lead and losing 100-98 after being outscored 29-11. Team culture-wise, returning to the scene of that meltdown may be precisely the remedy for its recent woes.

Prediction: UNDER

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76ers vs. Nuggets odds, prediction: Jokic set to host Embiid after losing in Philly in Round 1

Nikola Jokic was his usual dominant self in Philadelphia on Jan. 16. He finished with 25 points and 19 rebounds, although his three assists were way off his averages, as was missing nine shots out of 20.

So, yes, Joel Embiid definitely got the better of him, going for 41-7-10 and getting his 76ers (29-14, 28-15) a 126-121 win. Oddsmakers immediately installed the reigning MVP as the new favorite to win this season’s award, supplanting Jokic.

Eleven days later, Jokic welcomes Embiid to Denver, down 6-2 in career head-to-heads. These two first took the floor against one another on Dec. 30, 2016, but this will be only the second time when one can lead his team to a sweep over the other’s. In 2019, Embiid prevented the broom treatment with a home win after losing the first meeting. Can Jokic return serve now that both are undeniably considered among the all-time best at their position?

This will be the highlight of rivalry week, both from an individual standpoint and in handicapping how these teams will fare against one another in the rematch. Embiid has scored 30 or more in 21 games and is still having some knee issues, but plans to manage it and play through it.

76ers head coach Nick Nurse agreed he looked “a little sluggish” in Thursday’s 134-122 loss to the Pacers, but it’s unlikely he’d sit this one out. Tobias Harris sat in Indiana with an illness, but is likely to return. 

The Nuggets (31-15, 19-25-2) scored a season-low 84 points in New York on Thursday, so they’ll be in rebound mode. Although Jokic scored 31 on 13-for-18 shooting, everyone else was dreadful. Denver shot 40 percent, finishing 5-for-26 from 3-point range, and most admitted they were tired after a five-game road trip that spanned 10 days and ironically began with that loss in Philly. Jokic got poked in the eye but should be fine.

The rivalry is a cordial, friendly one. Both are bruised and tired, but they’re amazing. Everyone can’t wait for this next installment.

Prediction: Nuggets

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Lakers vs. Warriors odds, prediction: Scorers galore provide one last present through West contenders

Neither one of these teams is happy with where they are, running fourth and fifth in the Pacific Division. The Lakers (23-23, 20-26) were able to bounce back from a LeBron James-less loss to the Clippers by scoring a season-best 141 points against the Bulls on Thursday, while the Warriors (19-23, 20-22-1) dropped a 134-133 result to the Kings. 

In a game in which Stephen Curry hit six 3-pointers, Jonathan Kuminga looked like an All-Star and the Warriors collectively went 19-for-37 from beyond the arc, those guys from Sacramento that don’t have the resume to be their rivals made one more play.

Golden State beat Trae Young-less Atlanta on Wednesday and played a great game against the Kings, but you wonder if a third game in four nights may prove to be too much, especially coming off a layoff. Steve Kerr does have a deep group even with Chris Paul and Gary Payton II sidelined, and the home crowd that remains one of the league’s most supportive should aid the cause.

On the Lakers’ side, James moved very well against Chicago and was his productive self coming off an ankle injury, while center Anthony Davis continues to play through his heel issues. Best of all, D’Angelo Russell is on a tear, shooting 26-for-46 (56.5 percent) from 3-point range over the last five games. There’s also the fact that Taurean Prince, Rui Hachimura and Jarred Vanderbilt all played well, which would provide a major boost on this six-game Grammy road trip if it continues.

The OVER is on a 4-0 run in Lakers games and has gone 9-2 over the last 11 games involving Golden State entering the first meeting of the season. Last we saw them, LA was eliminating the Warriors in six games in the Western Conference semifinals, which featured four blowouts and the Lakers ultimately prevailing because they won both tight ones. The Warriors lost the last three regular-season matchups too. 

Prediction: Lakers


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