Five games will make up Thursday’s NBA slate with matchups tipping off between 7:30 and 10 p.m. ET. There aren’t a ton of standout bets on the table, but we’ve done our due diligence to find the best value ahead of the action. Are you looking to find an edge? We’ve gone over each pairing to identify a moneyline, spread and player prop pick worth considering.
Moneyline: Toronto Raptors (+110) vs. Chicago Bulls The Raptors unexpectedly beat the Miami Heat on Wednesday without Pascal Siakam and are home underdogs in the second night of a back-to-back. They improved to 10-10 at home with that victory and it appears like their recent trade additions have given them enough firepower to win games without their star power forward in the mix. Chicago’s starters are finally healthy, but they’re just 6-13 on the road in 2023-24. Half of Toronto’s home wins have come against teams with winning records.
Spread: Oklahoma City Thunder -3.5 (-110) @ Utah Jazz OKC is enduring a two-game losing streak, while Utah is looking to secure its seventh straight victory. Lauri Markkanen didn’t play when the Thunder handed the Jazz a 14-point loss in December and his presence will be impactful, but he shouldn’t tip the scales too much. The Thunder have endured three two-game losing streaks this season and have avoided dropping three straight each time. They won all three of those contests by at least eight points.
Player prop: Vince Williams Jr. under 3.5 assists (+114) Williams has made 11 starts for the shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies this season but will be challenged by the NBA’s top defense. The Minnesota Timberwolves are giving up a league-low 107.6 points per game, and only the Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers give up fewer assists per game. Williams has gone over three assists just three times, and Memphis doesn’t have any star players on the perimeter, so he could draw a matchup against the very capable Jaden McDaniels.
Oklahoma City Thunder wing Josh Giddey will not face police charges following allegations of his having had an inappropriate relationship with a minor, they announced in a statement on Wednesday.
“After a thorough and exhaustive examination, we have completed our investigation into information that was circulating on social media involving Josh Giddey,” the statement read. “Our detectives have reviewed all of the available information and were unable to corroborate any criminal activity related to Mr. Giddey.”
The Newport Beach (Calif.) Police Department first opened its investigation in late November. The NBA has deferred to the criminal investigation since, and Giddey has declined to speak on the matter.
“I get that you have to ask that, but I have no comment regarding that situation,” Giddey said on Thursday.
From The Athletic:
NBA commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN in December that the league was holding off on any punishment for Giddey until it knew the results of an investigation as it waited for Newport Beach PD to complete theirs.
“Where there is a criminal investigation, we take a back seat,” he said. “So you have an allegation, you have an ongoing criminal investigation. That impacts how the players and the Player’s Association can work with us because of course the player needs to protect his rights. I’m not going to say never ever, but this is the path we have consistently followed … that’s where things currently stand.”
Giddey is having a down season, averaging career lows across the board at 11.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists on 45% shooting. He has upped his 3-point efficiency to 36%, albeit on low volume (fewer than three attempts per game). Giddey’s down year hasn’t hurt the Thunder, who are currently the West’s No. 2 seed with a 27-13 record.
When Bruce Brown made his Toronto Raptors debut on Thursday night, he did so wearing his familiar No. 11, and with $10,000 less in his bank account. That’s because Brown, after he was traded from the Indiana Pacers to the Raptors in the Pascal Siakam blockbuster, decided to make a deal of his own.
Upon arriving in Toronto, Brown discovered that the No. 11 was occupied by Jontay Porter, the Raptors’ two-way player. Seeing as he knew Porter’s brother, Michael, from his time with the Denver Nuggets, and makes many times Jontay’s salary, Brown asked if he could buy the number off the big man.
The answer was yes. More so, the asking price was less than Brown was expecting. After all, what’s $10,000 when you’re making $22.5 million this season?
Bruce Brown said he reached out to his former Nuggets teammate Michael Porter Jr. to ask if brother Jontay would be willing to give up jersey No. 11. “I make enough to try to bribe him a little bit”
How much did it cost? “$10K”
“I thought he was going to ask for more.”
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) January 19, 2024 Brown wore No. 11 in college at Miami, but was unable to do so initially when he made it to the NBA as the No. 42 overall pick in the 2018 draft by the Detroit Pistons. The No. 11, of course, hangs in the rafters at Little Casears Arena in honor of Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas, who led the Pistons to two titles in 1989 and 1990. Instead, Brown wore No. 6.
When Brown was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in 2020 he couldn’t wear No. 11 there either on account of it belonging to Kyrie Irving. Brown, then just a third-year guard still looking to make his way in the league, did not have the clout to ask a future Hall of Famer to swap numbers. There, he went with No. 1.
Upon signing with the Denver Nuggets in 2022, Brown finally got his first choice and was able to switch to No. 11. After winning a title with Nikola Jokic and co., Brown earned a big payday from the Pacers and was able to keep his number there as well. Now, he’ll get his wish in Toronto after being part of a package deal in exchange for Pascal Siakam.
As the saying often goes, if you look good, then you feel good, then you play good. As it turns out, the $10K was certainly worth it on that front, as Brown went for 15 points and seven rebounds on 7-of-10 shooting from the field in his debut game north of the border.
As for Porter, he made the switch to No. 34, and after putting up 10 points, four rebounds and four assists, went home to count his money. Not bad for a day’s work.
Amid all the excitement over the Pascal Siakam trade on Thursday, a small bit of news flew under the radar. The Toronto Raptors waived second-year big man Christian Koloko in order to complete the blockbuster three-team deal with the Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Pelicans.
Now, we know why. Koloko is dealing with career-threatening blood clots, according to Shams Charania.
Former Raptors center Christian Koloko has a blood clot issue that is threatening his basketball career, details on @TheRally: pic.twitter.com/ZpNV5FG9uJ
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 18, 2024 “The NBA informed teams today that Christian Koloko has been referred to the NBA’s Fitness-to-Play Panel,” Charania said. “That essentially means that he’s unable to play or practice in the NBA until he’s cleared. There’s been no shortage of suitors, of teams interested in Koloko, calling his camp ever since he was waived yesterday by the Raptors to make space for that Pascal Siakam trade. I’m told that the reason he has this career-threatening issue is a blood clot situation, a source close to him told me.”
After flashing dominant defensive potential in college at Arizona, Koloko was selected with the No. 33 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. He appeared in 58 games for the Raptors last season, averaging 3.1 points and 2.9 rebounds, and also spent time in the G League. This summer, however, he was ruled out of Summer League and was not ready for the start of the season either.
The Raptors had been vague about the situation through the entire process, noting only that it was a “respiratory issue.” During a press conference on Thursday, Raptors president Masai Ujiri said that Koloko’s health status is “in the hands of the NBA.”
“This is a player that we felt was really a big part of our future,” Ujiri said. “This was a big one for us and it didn’t work out that way for now. His medical status is now in the hands of the NBA. But that’s a very tough one for us because that’s somebody we really believed in, someone that I know has incredible talent, and we saw has a future on this team, but we’ve exhausted all our options there.”
Per the collective bargaining agreement, the Fitness-to-Play Panel shall “consist of one (1) physician appointed by the NBA, one (1) physician appointed by the Players Association, and one (1) physician appointed by agreement of the first two (2) physicians.” Each panel then operates by majority vote on whether the player can return to action.
The Phoenix Suns look to continue their positive momentum and win their fourth straight game as they head on the road to face the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night. The Suns (22-18), stormed back from a 22-point deficit on Tuesday to defeat the Kings, 119-117, while the Pelicans (25-17) beat the Hornets, 132-112, on Wednesday. The teams haven’t played since December 2022, and they split a four-game series last season. Phoenix is 14-25-1 against the spread, while New Orleans is 24-17-1 ATS in 2023-24.
Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. ET at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. The Pelicans are favored by 1.5 points in the latest Suns vs. Pelicans odds, per SportsLine consensus, and the over/under is 237 points. Before entering any Pelicans vs. Suns picks, you’ll want to see the NBA predictions from the model at SportsLine.
The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned well over $10,000 in profit for $100 players on its top-rated NBA picks over the past five-plus seasons. The model enters Week 13 of the 2023-24 NBA season on a sizzling 42-23 roll on all top-rated NBA picks dating back to last season, returning well over $4,000. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.
The model has set its sights on Suns vs. Pelicans. You can head to SportsLine to see its picks. Here are several NBA odds and betting lines for Pelicans vs. Suns:
Pelicans vs. Suns spread: Pelicans -1.5 Pelicans vs. Suns over/under: 237 points Pelicans vs. Suns money line: Pelicans -123, Suns +112 Pelicans vs. Suns picks: See picks at SportsLine Why the Suns can cover Phoenix staged a stunning comeback in its last outing, outscoring Sacramento 32-8 in the final eight minutes on Tuesday to win the game by two points. Despite having their three top players, Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal starting, the Suns were led in scoring by guard Grayson Allen. With 29 points, including nine 3-pointers, Allen helped spur the furious comeback. He also chipped in with six assists and five rebounds in the win.
Durant scored 27 points, while Booker had 16, and Beal 13 in what was a fairly quiet evening for Phoenix’s superstars. Center Jusuf Nurkic delivered 10 points and 15 rebounds and should once again play a key role on Friday night against the lengthy Pelicans. With the Suns mostly healthy, they will need to continue their run of success to climb in the Western Conference standings after a slow first half of the 2023-24 season. See which team to pick here.
Why the Pelicans can cover New Orleans built on its five-point halftime lead to comfortably defeat the Hornets on Wednesday night. Brandon Ingram was phenomenal, posting a triple-double for the first time all season with 28 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. He also added three steals as the Pelicans’ defense forced 19 Charlotte turnovers.
Fellow forward Zion Williamson had 13 points and nine rebounds, while guard CJ McCollum scored 22 points with five rebounds and six assists in the victory. Unlike the Suns, whose bench doesn’t contribute much, New Orleans had strong efforts from Trey Murphy III and Jordan Hawkins, who scored 18 and 21 points, respectively. Against a dynamic Phoenix team, New Orleans’ bench will be relied upon to contribute a notable impact on Friday night. See which team to pick here.
How to make Pelicans vs. Suns picks The model has simulated Pelicans vs. Suns 10,000 times and the results are in. We can tell you that the model is leaning Under, and it’s also generated a point-spread pick that is hitting in well over 50% of simulations. You can only see the pick at SportsLine.
Teams looking to improve on sub-par seasons a year ago clash when the Houston Gamblers battle the Michigan Panthers at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium in Memphis on Sunday. This matchup will be the first of a doubleheader on Sunday. The Gamblers, 3-7 a year ago, were 1-3 against North Division foes in 2022. The Panthers, 2-8 last season, went 0-4 against the South Division. Despite its record, Michigan was the fourth-highest scoring team at 21.1 points per game, while the Gamblers averaged 19.6.
Caesars Sportsbook lists Michigan as the 1-point favorite for this noon ET kickoff. The total number of points Vegas thinks will be scored, or the over/under, is 38.5 in the latest Panthers vs. Gamblers odds. Before making any Gamblers vs. Panthers picks or USFL predictions, see what SportsLine expert Emory Hunt has to say.
Hunt is the founder and CEO of Football Gameplan, which has been supplying analysis of all levels of football since 2007. He is a former running back for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns and knows the game from a player’s perspective. Hunt’s dedication to analysis of all levels of college and professional football helped him start the USFL season 24-18 last year and he’s also off to a fast 21-11 start on his XFL spread picks this season.
Now, Hunt has set his sights on Panthers vs. Gamblers. You can head to SportsLine to see his picks. Here are several USFL betting lines for Gamblers vs. Panthers:
Panthers vs. Gamblers spread: Panthers -1 Panthers vs. Gamblers over/under: 38.5 points Panthers vs. Gamblers money line: Panthers -120, Gamblers +100 Panthers vs. Gamblers picks: See picks at SportsLine Why the Panthers can cover New head coach Mike Nolan is looking to fix things on the defensive end this year. He is a long-time assistant in the NFL with previous stops in San Francisco and Dallas. He was the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator in 2020. Nolan will have the benefit of having standout linebacker Frank Ginda return, after finishing second in the league with 90 tackles.
Michigan, who led the league in passing in 2022, will welcome back a healthy Josh Love at quarterback. He passed for 791 yards a year ago, splitting time between Pittsburgh and Michigan. He threw for four touchdowns and four interceptions. He will be challenged for the starting spot by Carson Strong, who was signed last month, and has been solid in camp. Strong, who was on the practice squad for the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals, threw for 9,379 yards in college at Nevada, including 74 touchdowns with just 19 interceptions.
Why the Gamblers can cover The Houston offense is led by quarterback Kenji Bahar, who is looking to improve in his second year with the team. The former undrafted free agent who had signed with the Baltimore Ravens in 2021 before joining the Gamblers last spring, played in seven games last year, including three starts. In those starts, the Gamblers went 2-1. In parts of seven games, Bahar completed 61-of-100 passes for 541 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.
Houston will also be led by running back Mark Thompson, as the Gamblers try to build on an offense that strives for better ball control. The bruising back led Houston with 463 rushing yards and two touchdowns in 2022. Complementing him is running back T.J. Pledger, who is explosive as a pass catcher. Pledger, who split his collegiate career between Oklahoma and Utah, played in 37 games at that level, rushing for 1,389 yards and 12 touchdowns, and catching 21 passes for 196 yards.
How to make Gamblers vs. Panthers picks Hunt has analyzed this matchup and while we can tell you he’s leaning Under on the point total, he has discovered a critical X-factor that has him jumping all over one side of the spread. He’s only sharing what it is, and which side to back, at SportsLine.
The USFL pulled off something last year that other football spring leagues could not: Completing a full season. This weekend the league kicked off another campaign, while the XFL continues to wrap up its own.
The USFL season started off with a matchup between the Philadelphia Stars and the Memphis Showboats. The Stars made it to the championship last season, where they fell to the Birmingham Stallions. On Saturday night we saw arguably last season’s two best teams square off, as the Birmingham Stallions hosted the New Jersey Generals. The teams each finished 9-1 in the regular season in 2022. On Saturday, it was all Stallions, as they began their title defense with a bang.
Sunday slate started with the Michigan Panthers’ convincing road win over the Houston Gamblers. Michigan is already halfway to reaching last season’s win total, when it finished 2-8. The first weekend ended with the New Orleans breakers knocking off the Pittsburgh Maulers.
Below we’ve got takeaways from each game so far. First, a look at the Week 1 scores and schedule:
Saturday Philadelphia Stars 27, Memphis Showboats 23 Birmingham Stallions 27, New Jersey Generals 10 Sunday Michigan Panthers 29, Houston Gamblers 13 New Orleans Breakers 22, Pittsburgh Maulers 15
Sunday highlights Breakers 22, Maulers 15 A tight game throughout, the Breakers took the lead for good on McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s two-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Jones with 1:13 left. New Orleans took advantage of good field position after kicker Nathan Hierlihy’s kickoff went out of bounds following Isiah Hennie’s 82-yard, game-tying punt return for the score.
New Orleans, by virtue of the USFL’s rules regarding kickoffs that go out of bounds, took over at midfield with 4:32 to play. The drive’s two big plays came on consecutive snaps, with Bethel-Thompson diving for a key first down before hitting tight end Sage Surratt for 35 yards.
McLEOD BETHEL-THOMPSON MOVES THE CHAINS!!!! 😤 pic.twitter.com/P9CUYJZ9Eq
— New Orleans Breakers (@USFLBreakers) April 17, 2023 Jones’ touchdown catch three plays later sealed the first career win for first-time head coach and former Eagles Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo.
It was a successful USFL debut for the 34-year-old Bethel-Thompson, a two-time Canadian Football League champion who joined with the Breakers this spring instead of spending another season in Winnipeg.
Panthers 29, Gamblers 13 Led by quarterback Josh Love, Michigan scored 20 unanswered points in the second half. Love enjoyed about as good as a game as a quarterback can have. The former San Jose State signal caller went 19 of 21 for 216 yards and three touchdowns. His 90.5% completion percentage snapped a USFL single-game record that had stood since the league’s first iteration back in the early 1980s. The record was previously held by Greg Landry who, prior to his USFL days, was an All-Pro quarterback for the Detroit Lions.
The Panthers pulled away with back-to-back touchdowns drives in the fourth quarter. Michigan’s first scoring drive of the quarter ended with Love’s 24-yard touchdown pass to Trey Quinn. The Panthers’ back-breaking score (which was setup by Breeland Speaks’ forced fumble of Gamblers quarterback Kenji Bahar) was another deep touchdown strike from Love. Wideout Joe Walker was on the receiving end of the 34-yard score.
We’re LOVING IT! 🔥 @Josh12Love with the DIME to @Legendaryking__ for the TD!
🎥: @nbc | @peacock pic.twitter.com/2NjgeFzTSm
— Michigan Panthers (@USFLPanthers) April 16, 2023 Love may have stole the show, but Mike Nolan’s defense deserves some love after holding Houston to just 196 total yards. Along with his forced fumble, Speaks tallied three sacks of Bahar, who threw two interceptions on the day.
Let us say it again….
BREELAND. SPEAKS. IS. HIM. @Bspeaks9 pic.twitter.com/6mlaMdaGTm
— Michigan Panthers (@USFLPanthers) April 16, 2023 Saturday’s highlights Stars 27, Showboats 23 The Stars returned star quarterback Case Cookus, running back Matt Colburn II and one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Channing Stribling. Fresh off of a championship run last year, Philly entered this matchup as 2.5-point favorites.
It was indeed the Stars who got off to a quick start, as Cookus and Co. scored touchdowns on three of their four first-half possessions to acquire a 20-10 halftime lead. However, the Showboats got back on track in the second half, and scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives to pull within three points.
White had a chance to lead a game-winning drive for Memphis, and the Showboats even got to the Philly 39-yard line with under a minute to play. However, the Stars defense then stood tall, and the Showboats turned the ball over on downs, which ended the game.
The USFL is the same as the NFL in that premier quarterback play leads to wins. Cookus was magnificent in his first action of the 2023 season, as he completed 20 of 29 passes for 212 yards, three touchdowns, and added 31 yards on the ground. If there were any questions about how he was feeling after breaking his leg in last year’s championship game, those have been answered.
Check out this passing touchdown on third-and-7 late in the third quarter. Cookus stood tall in the pocket, and floated the ball out to the left side of the field for the score.
To infinity and beyond, Case Cookus! 🚀@CaptainCookus10 to @FlyyGray in the endzone! pic.twitter.com/6bNuG3QQOn
— Philadelphia Stars (@USFLStars) April 15, 2023 For the Showboats, the hometown kid, White, completed 16 of 29 passes for 182 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. There were some good moments and bad moments, but check out this touchdown toss to Ryan McDaniel.
LETS GO!@BradyWhite223 connects with @ryan_mcdaniel11 for a TD to cap off an 80-yard drive! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/9LoZBhawXI
— Memphis Showboats (@USFLShowboats) April 15, 2023 White was replaced momentarily by the 6-foot-7 Cole Kelley, who completed 2 of 5 passes for 16 yards. Former NFL running back Alex Collins was rather effective on the ground for Memphis, as he rushed 14 times for 63 yards and one touchdown.
The Memphis pass rush was impressive, as the defense recorded five total sacks on Cookus. Greg Reaves and Jordan Williams recorded two QB takedowns apiece.
GREG. REAVES 😤@G_Reaves41 makes it FIVE sacks for the defense today 💪 pic.twitter.com/dPlSqqBDiB
— Memphis Showboats (@USFLShowboats) April 15, 2023 Stallions 27, Generals 10 The Generals and Stallions were seen as the top two teams in the league last year, and both squads not only retained their head coaches for this season, but their quarterbacks as well. Birmingham returned about 80% of last year’s roster, but the Stallions opening as five-point favorites was a tad surprising. At least, that’s what some thought until Saturday night.
The Stallions rolled to a 27-10 victory over the Generals, despite injuries to quarterback J’Mar Smith, star linebacker Scooby Wright and wide receiver Marlon Williams, who unfortunately tore his Achilles.
The first half was very back-and-forth. The Generals fumbled away possession to start the game, and the Stallions wasted no time taking advantage. On Birmingham’s first offensive play, Smith hit Austin Watkins for a 61-yard score.
It did not take long for the reigning champs to get on the board 👀🔥🐎pic.twitter.com/9BcPEM5QnC
— USFL (@USFL) April 16, 2023 The Generals responded with a touchdown at the beginning of the second quarter — a Dakota Prukop 2-yard scamper. The two teams then traded field goals.
At the end of the first half, the Stallions’ starting quarterback, Smith, suffered an injury, and was replaced by Alex McGough. He threw a touchdown on his first pass of the game to break the tie before the halftime break.
Alex McGough connects with @_Jstern to give us a 17-10 lead shortly before the half! #GiddyUp pic.twitter.com/nwS2OdthpS
— Birmingham Stallions (@USFLStallions) April 16, 2023 McGough remained in the game to start the second half, and recorded this impressive 29-yard rushing touchdown to give Birmingham a 14-point lead.
MCGOUGH SAID GIDDY UP 🐎
That’s another TD 🙌 pic.twitter.com/GRGfUycdMH
— Birmingham Stallions (@USFLStallions) April 16, 2023 This was the last notable score of the game, as the only points scored in the fourth quarter came on a Stallions field goal. Smith finished having completed 10 of 15 passes for 160 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while McGough completed 7 of 11 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. McGough also led the Stallions in rushing with 51 yards and another touchdown. Tight end Jace Sternberger is going to be a good player for Birmingham. He caught five passes for 62 yards and a score.
As for the Generals, reigning league MVP Darius Victor again lived up to the hype, as he rushed for a whopping 84 yards on just eight carries. Prukop completed 13 of 17 passes for 146 yards, while De’Andre Johnson completed 4 of 13 passes for 29 yards, and added 45 rushing yards.
The story of the game for New Jersey was turnovers. The Generals fumbled away possession twice, and the Stallions scored 14 points directly from those giveaways.
The New Jersey Generals and Birmingham Stallions tied for the best regular-season record a year ago at 9-1, and in USFL Week 2 they showed why they’ll likely be among the best teams this season — namely, stifling defense.
The Generals held the Pittsburgh Maulers to just 3 points on Sunday, but that wasn’t the best effort of the week, as a day earlier the Stallions held the Memphis Showboats to only 2.
In the Week 2 finale on Sunday night, the Michigan Panthers moved to 2-0 — after finishing 2-8 last season — with a win over the Philadelphia Stars.
The USFL’s biggest offensive fireworks came Saturday between the New Orleans Breakers and Houston Gamblers, who combined for 69 points.
We’ve got takeaways from all the Week 2 games below; first a look at the scores.
Saturday New Orleans Breakers 38, Houston Gamblers 31 Birmingham Stallions 42, Memphis Showboats 2 Sunday New Jersey Generals 20, Pittsburgh Maulers 3 Michigan Panthers 24, Philadelphia Stars 10
Sunday’s games Panthers upset Stars, sit in first place The Michigan Panthers managed just two wins all last season. Through two weeks, they’ve already equaled that win total.
Michigan running back Reggie Corbin was the star of the day, rushing for 131 yards and two TDs on 11 carries.
Standout RB Reggie Corbin with another huge performance for the Michigan Panthers in their 24-10 win over the Philadelphia Stars:
— USFL Center (@USFLCenter) April 24, 2023 The Panthers also picked off Stars quarterback Case Cookus twice, holding him without a TD as he threw for 283 yards. Panthers quarterback Josh Love, coming off a monster Week 1, threw for 174 yards with a TD and 2 INTs of his own.
Generals bounce back, stuff Pittsburgh The New Jersey Generals may have gone 9-1 last year but they were looking for their first win since last year’s regular-season finale after losing in the playoffs and dropping the 2023 opener to Birmingham.
New Jersey got the victory Sunday, and it did it with defense. As rain poured down in Canton, the Generals recovered two fumbles and had an interception, while also recording five sacks and holding the Pittsburgh Maulers to just three points. The Generals held Pittsburgh to just 166 total yards.
SACK BY @IAM_KJII 🔥@nbc | @peacock pic.twitter.com/7lopBfxeC5
— New Jersey Generals (@USFLGenerals) April 23, 2023 Darius Victor, last season’s USFL rushing leader, had 71 yards and a touchdown to spark the Generals offense. Backup quarterback Dakota Prukop had the game’s only passing touchdown.
Saturday’s games Stallions put on a show against Memphis The Birmingham Stallions are the defending USFL champions and if there’s any doubt about whether they’ll be in the mix to repeat, they’ve won their first two games by a combined score of 69-12.
It was all Stallions on Saturday night against a Memphis Showboats squad that had looked competitive in Week 1, losing to a Philadelphia Stars team that reached last year’s championship game by just four points.
Stallions quarterback Alex McGough went 21 of 28 for 301 yards and four touchdowns, including a 47-yard score to tight end Jace Sternberger.
Jace Sternberger popped OFF in yesterday’s win against the Showboats! 🐎 💪 @_Jstern pic.twitter.com/OtrpocSlQG
— Birmingham Stallions (@USFLStallions) April 23, 2023 Birmingham running back ZaQuandre White carried 8 times for 72 yards and two touchdowns, including a 35-yard score.
The Showboats’ only points came from a third-quarter safety.
Breakers win shootout over Gamblers The weekend got off to a hot start as the New Orleans Breakers and Houston Gamblers got into a back-and-forth battle, with New Orleans holding on for a 38-21 victory to go to 2-0 after making the playoffs last season.
The biggest star of the game was New Orleans running back Wes Hills, who rushed for 110 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries.
TOUCHDOWN BREAKERS! Wes Hills with the 19-yard TD run! 🙌
🎥: @USANetwork pic.twitter.com/VcwcdbuY5g
— New Orleans Breakers (@USFLBreakers) April 22, 2023 Breakers quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson threw for 251 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Gamblers quarterback Benji Bahar threw three TDs in a 266-yard effort, but also was picked off three times by the Breakers defense. Bethel-Thompson did not throw a pick.
The 2024 NBA All-Star Weekend is fast approaching, with all the festivities set for Feb. 16-18 in Indianapolis. As per usual, the action will begin with the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, followed by the Skills Challenge, 3-Point Contest and Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star Saturday Night, before the All-Star Game closes the show on Sunday.
As the showcase approaches, players are starting to make commitments for the All-Star Saturday events, and we’ll soon learn who will start the All-Star Game. Here’s a look at who will be involved:
Skills Challenge The league has switched up the Skills Challenge on a regular basis and no format has been announced for this year’s event. Each of the last two years featured a team event, but it’s unclear if that will continue in Indy.
Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs (reported) 3-Point Contest There’s been little change to the 3-Point Contest since it’s first appearance at All-Star Weekend in 1986. Five racks are set up around the arc with five balls each. Regular balls are worth one point, while “money balls” are worth two. In addition, there are two deep shots positioned on the wings that are worth three points each. While there has not been an official announcement yet, there’s no reason to expect any surprises this year.
TBD Slam Dunk Contest Many view the Slam Dunk Contest as the true main event of the weekend, and it certainly was last year when Mac McClung stole the show. He’s been invited back even though he’s playing in the G League, but has not made a commitment yet. Regardless of who’s involved, the classic format features four dunkers who get two dunks each in the first two round. The two players with the highest combined score advance to the championship round, where they’re each throw down two more slams.
Joel Embiid’s health has been a constant topic of conversation since before he even entered the league. If it wasn’t for questions about his foot back in 2014, he likely would have been the No. 1 pick in that year’s NBA Draft. A decade later, concerns about Embiid’s ability to stay on the floor remain.
The Philadelphia 76ers star has already missed 10 games this season and is on pace to play just 60, which would make him ineligible for year-end awards, like the MVP and All-NBA. This is because the NBA instituted a new player participation policy ahead of the season, indicating that players must appear in at least 65 games to be eligible for major awards. An appearance is defined as registering at least 20 minutes of action. Furthermore, a number of Embiid’s absences have come against other top teams, including the Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves.
His next big matchup will come on Tuesday when the Sixers host Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. Embiid is expected to play despite the fact that he just returned from a three-game absence on Monday and that game will be the second of a back-to-back. After dropping 41 points and 10 rebounds on the Houston Rockets in another impressive showing, Embiid said he’s heard the noise:
“I saw it,” Embiid said. “But I can’t control if I get sick, if I get the flu or whatever. Can’t control that. Can’t control if my knee is gonna swell up. It just happened. It was against New Orleans and Boston. I got the flu, obviously you can’t go. A lot of guys on the team had it. Like I said, the goal is to be ready for the playoffs. If I cant meet the criteria of 65 games, and if I can’t play against some of the best teams in the league then… As long as I’m ready to be dominant when it gets to that time in April, that’s all I care about.
“Every single team that I play against, I dominate. We win and I put up numbers necessary to win. You can’t read too much into it because one of the main things that I see is that as soon as you use the name Joel Embiid, that’s gonna get you a lot of likes and that’s gonna get you a lot of money. As long as my name has a chance to help somebody make money, I’m all for it. Keep trolling. I like it, I love it.”
Embiid’s big game against the Rockets was his 16th consecutive outing with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds, which tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the second-longest such streak. For the season he’s averaging a league-leading 34.9 points, 11.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists and two blocks per game on 53.6% shooting. While he’s certainly taken advantage of some lesser opponents along the way, he’s also dropped 51 points on the Timberwolves and their league-best defense and went for 35 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
If his comments on Monday are any indication, he’ll be looking to make a statement against Jokic and the Nuggets.