NBA Odds and Predictions: Thursday, December 18 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
by Alan Matthews - 12/17/2014
I almost didn't miss weeknight college football this week because the NBA had such great matchups. There was Golden State at Memphis on Tuesday, then the Grizzlies at Spurs on Wednesday. No offense to Memphis, however, but the Grizzlies aren't all that exciting. Thursday's TNT late game between Oklahoma City and Golden State should be terrific television between high-scoring teams and two of the league's premier players. The Warriors look to avoid their second two-game skid of the season, while the Thunder have lost just once since Kevin Durant debuted. Here's a look at every game on the schedule. The TNT doubleheader opens with New York at Chicago.
Knicks at Bulls (-10, 194.5)
Will Bulls center Joakim Noah play in this one? The 2013-14 NBA Defensive Player of the Year has missed four straight games with an ankle injury. He's considered questionable for this game -- I don't think he does get on the court because Chicago plays again Friday. Taj Gibson would start again, which obviously weakens the Chicago bench. The Bulls had won three straight before falling 93-86 in Atlanta on Monday. Derrick Rose was just 6-for-21 from the field. The Knicks lost 107-87 to Dallas on Tuesday, their third loss this season of at least 20 points. The Mavs jumped out to a 34-15 lead. The Knicks remained without injured guards Iman Shumpert (left shoulder) and J.R. Smith (left foot). It's possible Smith plays here. New York and Chicago opened the season against one another, and it was good foreshadowing on how lousy New York would be: a 104-80 Bulls win at Madison Square Garden. Carmelo Anthony had just 14 points, and the Knicks were down by as many as 35. New York has also lost six straight at the United Center. Expect heavy boos for Anthony after he turned down the Bulls this offseason.
Key trends: The Knicks are 2-8 ATS in their past 10 following a double-digit loss at home. Chicago has covered five straight vs. teams with a losing record. The "over/under" has gone under in six of the Knicks' past seven vs. the East. The over is 6-1 in Chicago's past seven at home. New York is 1-4 ATS in the past five in Chicago.
Early lean: Bulls and under.
Pelicans at Rockets (TBA)
Here we go again with Dwight Howard. He returned from an 11-game absence on Sunday and played really well in a win over Denver but was questionable for Wednesday's rematch with the Nuggets. Howard said he felt a bit tight on Sunday. Reserve guard Jason Terry missed Wednesday's game to be with his wife, who gave birth. He could be back for this game. New Orleans comes off a 119-111 home win over Utah. Anthony Davis returned from missing a game with a chest injury and had 31 points. This is the first meeting of the season between these teams. The Pelicans and Rockets made a fairly significant trade this offseason, with Houston sending center Omer Asik to New Orleans for a first-round pick. Both clubs likely remain happy with that deal. Houston won three of four against the Pelicans last year and has won six straight at home in the series.
Key trends: New Orleans is 5-1 ATS in its past six overall. The Rockets have covered five of their past six in the second of a back-to-back. The over is 5-0 in the Pelicans' past five. The over is 7-3 in Houston's past 10 playing on zero days of rest.
Early lean: Have to wait on Howard.
Bucks at Kings (TBA)
Second of a back-to-back for Milwaukee as it played in Portland on Wednesday. Really crushing news for Milwaukee as it learned late Tuesday night that NBA Rookie of the Year favorite Jabari Parker was done for the season with a torn ACL. The Bucks were hoping it was just a knee sprain. Better news for the Kings is that star center DeMarcus Cousins, who reportedly isn't happy the team fired Coach Mike Malone, is likely to return. He missed his 10th straight game on Tuesday against Oklahoma City. Sacramento lost 104-92 to fall to 2-8 without Cousins. He will be on a minutes limit until he gets his conditioning back. Sacramento swept the Bucks last season, averaging 120 points in winning each by at least 14 points.
Key trends: The Bucks have covered four straight Thursday games. The Kings have covered just one of their past eight at home. The over is 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: I think the Kings are amped up if Cousins returns, while the Bucks are going to be devastated with the Parker injury and tired. Sacramento in a rout.
Thunder at Warriors (-3, 206.5)
I expected Golden State's 16-game winning streak to end in Memphis on Tuesday, and it did in a 105-98 win. The Warriors were dominated in the paint without injured center Andrew Bogut -- who is very questionable here -- and Stephen Curry made just nine of 25 shots and 1-for-10 from long range. Now Oklahoma City has the NBA's longest winning streak at seven games and could get to .500 here. The Thunder won 104-92 in Sacramento on Tuesday behind 32 from Russell Westbrook and 26 from Kevin Durant. I almost hesitate to tell you these teams played on Nov. 23 in Oklahoma City because obviously the Thunder are a vastly different team now that they are mostly healthy. The Warriors won the game 91-86 behind a career game from reserve big man Marresse Speights, who had 28 points. The Warriors shot a season-low 35.5 percent from the field, and Curry and Klay Thompson were a combined 11-for-35. Of course no Durant or Westbrook in that game.
Key trends: The Thunder are 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 5-1 in the past six. However, the under is 4-0 in OKC's past four on the road and 6-0 in Golden State's past six at home.
Early lean: I really believe that getting to .500 is vastly important to OKC. Take the points and go over.
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