NBA Odds and Predictions: Wednesday, October 29 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
by Alan Matthews - 10/28/2014
Very interesting slew of openers on Wednesday night. I am particularly looking forward to watching the Chicago Bulls with the return of Derrick Rose. What will the Miami Heat look like without LeBron James? The Indiana Pacers without Paul George? How about the Thunder without Kevin Durant for the first six weeks at least? Could the Philadelphia 76ers be the worst team in NBA history? Here's a look at every game on the slate. Bovada will offer live betting on four: Nets-Celtics, Bulls-Knicks, Lakers-Suns and Thunder-Trail Blazers.
Bucks at Hornets (-9, TBA)
I believe that Milwaukee will be much improved in 2014-15 and could even challenge for a playoff spot in the still pretty weak Eastern Conference. Larry Sanders was a huge disappointment last year but was generally always injured. Plus, now the Bucks have a potential franchise player, at least on the offensive end, in Jabari Parker. The No. 2 overall pick is the Rookie of the Year betting favorite at all the sportsbooks. And I do think he wins it as he will be the primary offensive option from Day 1. No other rookie can say that this year. The Hornets (I actually typed Bobcats at first) are on the rise and also should be better after adding Lance Stephenson in free agency. There's a chance he won't play in this one as he's been dealing with a lingering groin injury, but he did practice Tuesday. Presuming that's why no total.
Key trends: The Bucks are 1-4 in the past five meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in four of those.
Early lean: Charlotte was very tough at home last year. Take the Hornets.
76ers at Pacers (-9, 199.5)
Every sportsbook has the 76ers pegged to be easily the worst team in the NBA this season, generally with a wins total of around 16.5. I'm sure the 73-loss record is probably safe but, yeah, this is going to be a terrible club. Will be interested to see Nerlens Noel play after last year's first-round pick missed the entire season. However, last season's Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams, is out until Nov. 6 with a shoulder injury. Carter-Williams averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.2 rebounds for Philadelphia. This starting five will be unrecognizable other than Noel. Indiana, meanwhile, lost George to a broken leg during Team USA's World Cup preparations. The Pacers should take the biggest step back of any team in terms of wins from last season. In addition, David West will miss at least the first three games with an ankle injury, George Hill at least three weeks with a knee injury and C.J. Watson two weeks with a foot problem. This might be the lowest-scoring game of the season, and it's opening night for these clubs!
Key trends: Philly is 14-2 in its past 16 vs. the East. They have covered the past five meetings. The under is 4-1 in Indiana's past five at home.
Early lean: This line dropped a few points with Hill/West injuries. I love the under for sure but probably take the points with how short-handed Indiana is.
Nets at Celtics (+3.5, TBA)
The big question here is whether Celtics star point guard Rajon Rondo, who probably is traded during this season (Bovada offered a special prop on that), will play. Rondo originally was expected to miss 6-8 weeks after breaking a metacarpal in his left hand Sept. 25 in a fall at his home. But he's way ahead of schedule. Rondo himself said it's "83 percent" on Monday that he would play. It likely will be decided on Tuesday after some more tests. Meanwhile, Brooklyn center Brook Lopez is iffy to go with more foot problems. He missed most of last year with that and the Nets got better without their All-Star.
Key trends: The Nets are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 6-2 in the past eight in Boston.
Early lean: Clearly no total due to Rondo and Lopez. Take Brooklyn.
Hawks at Raptors (-5, 200)
Atlanta should again be a playoff team -- it has the longest streak in the Eastern Conference of making it, believe it or not -- with the return of All-Star big man Al Horford, who missed a large chunk of last season injured. The Hawks have a nice frontcourt with him and Paul Millsap, although there's talk both could be traded if the Hawks decide to do a full rebuild under new ownership, whenever the team is sold. Toronto was a big surprise in finishing with the East's third seed before losing in seven games to Brooklyn in the first round of the playoffs. The Raptors are essentially the same team as last year other than trading for Atlanta sixth man Lou Williams.
Key trends: The home team has covered the past four meetings. The under is 5-2 in the past seven meetings in Toronto.
Early lean: Raptors were dominant at home last year, especially after the Gay trade. Take them.
Wizards at Heat (-5, 189.5)
Some people are picking Washington to win the Eastern Conference off last year's 44 wins and upset of the Bulls of the first round of the playoffs. I think that's overly optimistic. Definitely will be a playoff team again. The Wiz lost Trevor Ariza but did add Paul Pierce. They won't have rising star guard Bradley Beal for the first month or so with a broken left wrist. That's a big loss. He averaged 17.1 points last season. Otto Porter, a first-round bust last year, likely starts in place of Beal. I'm not even sure the Heat will sell this game out. Miami fans are very fickle, and now that LeBron is gone I expect not a lot of enthusiasm. The Heat also should be a playoff team as long as Dwyane Wade still has something left in the tank and Chris Bosh stays healthy.
Key trends: The home team has covered seven of the past nine meetings. The under is 5-0 in the past five in Miami.
Early lean: Like Miami in not having to deal with Beal. Also under.
Bulls at Knicks (+4.5, 187.5)
It's the coaching debut of New York's Derek Fisher as the Knicks transition to the triangle offense under team boss Phil Jackson, who taught it to Fisher while Fisher played for Jackson with the Lakers. New York will look a bit different after trading Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas this offseason for point guard Jose Calderon and center Samuel Dalembert. Both should start right away. Calderon (dealing with a calf injury but likely to play) is an upgrade over Felton for sure. The Bulls have to be giddy about Rose as he was brilliant in the team's second-to-last preseason game, putting up 30 points in 24 minutes on the Cavaliers. He then had 27 in the preseason finale. Otherwise he has been rather rusty, but his explosiveness is back. His shot simply needs work. I also believe Doug McDermott will have a pretty big role on this team. Rookies generally don't play much if at all under Coach Tom Thibodeau, but McDermott can flat-out shoot the ball. Chicago's Jimmy Butler may not play due to injury. He's a stellar defensive player.
Key trends: The home team has covered four of the past five meetings. The over is 5-2 in the past seven.
Early lean: Like the points here and the over.
Timberwolves at Grizzlies (-8, 193)
Minnesota isn't going to be very good this year after trading Kevin Love to Cleveland, but the Wolves will be one of the most fun teams to watch. This club is going to run and dunk plenty with Ricky Rubio, the past two No. 1 overall picks Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett (from the Cavs), 2014 first-round pick Zach LaVine (already a YouTube dunking sensation) and the addition of Thaddeus Young from Philly. Memphis, meanwhile, will again be one of the least fun teams to watch as no club plays a more plodding style. But that's what fits a team with bigs Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies did add Vince Carter this offseason to help with scoring.
Key trends: The Wolves are 2-8 ATS in their past 10 trips to Memphis. The under is 6-2 in their past eight there.
Early lean: Grizzlies and under.
Pistons at Nuggets (-7, 213.5)
The NBA is a more interesting place with Stan Van Gundy coaching, and he returns to the sideline with Detroit this season, also the president of the team. That hire alone made it a positive offseason for the Pistons. The team signed the likes of Jodie Meeks, D.J. Augustin and Caron Butler, but that's not very exciting. And Meeks will miss at least two months with a stress reaction in his lower back. Van Gundy would love to trade Josh Smith but can't find a taker. Thus, Greg Monroe will likely come off the bench even though he's a better player. Smith, Monroe and Andre Drummond on the court at the same time generally didn't work last year. Denver, I believe, will be vastly improved in Coach Brian Shaw's second season with the trade for Magic guard Arron Afflalo and the return of Danilo Gallinari from injury.
Key trends: Denver has covered five straight vs. the East. The favorite has covered the past four meetings. It has gone over in the past five in Denver.
Early lean: Highest total on board, and I still like over. Take the Pistons and the points.
Rockets at Jazz (+4, 204)
Houston already is stuck playing the second of a back-to-back as it visited the Lakers on Tuesday night. You hear some talk that Utah could be the Suns of the NBA this season. The Jazz have some nice young talent -- rookie Dante Exum is raw but looks incredibly talented -- and they will play faster this year under new coach Quin Snyder, the former Missouri coach. The Rockets won two of three meetings last year, with both wins by double digits.
Key trends: The Rockets are 2-5 ATS in their past seven in the second of a back-to-back. The under is 5-1 in the past six meetings in Utah.
Early lean: Rockets likely a bit gassed here. Under and Utah.
Lakers at Suns (-7, 210.5)
As noted above, the Lakers hosted Houston on Tuesday night and probably will be run ragged in that one. Phoenix is not exactly the team you want to face with heavy legs as the Suns will run and run. Expect a three-guard look at times from Phoenix after the team landed Isaiah Thomas from Sacramento this offseason. Put him on the court with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, and fun things should happen. Phoenix won the first three meetings with L.A. pretty easily last year before dropping the final one in late March.
Key trends: The Lakers are 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under has hit in five of those.
Early lean: Lakers will be gassed as well. Phoenix and over.
Warriors at Kings (+4.5, TBA)
Now we start to find out if Golden State was crazy for not packaging Klay Thompson to Minnesota for Love. Thompson is a very good player, but you have to make that deal in my opinion. David Lee was going to be part of that deal, and he's questionable for the opener with a hamstring injury. Draymond Green would start if Lee can't. Golden State's big offseason acquisition was free-agent guard Shaun Livingston from Brooklyn, but he's doubtful for the opener off toe surgery. This will be the NBA coaching debut of Steve Kerr. Sacramento for some reason let Thomas get away but did add Darren Collison. Other than that the team didn't do much. I think the Kings will be better because DeMarcus Cousins is becoming a monster. He finally is growing up mentally.
Key trends: The over is 6-0 in Golden State's past six on the road. The Kings have covered just three of their past 16 vs. the Pacific Division.
Early lean: Sacramento beat some good teams at home in 2013-14. I believe Kings win outright.
Thunder at Trail Blazers (-6.5, 203.5)
Obviously this line would have been much different if Durant was playing. I expect Russell Westbrook to average 30 shots and 30 points during Durant's absence. I liked OKC's Reggie Jackson as a Sixth Man of the Year this season but he's already hurt. Both Jackson and Jeremy Lamb were injured during practice Monday and are out for the opener. Offseason addition Anthony Morrow, a strong 3-point shooter, is out at least four weeks with a sprained MCL in his left knee. If you need three stars to win NBA titles these days, Portland is two-thirds there with LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard. Aldridge is dealing with a groin injury but should play.
Key trends: The Thunder have covered eight of the past 11 meetings. The over is 5-2 in Portland's past seven at home.
Early lean: The Thunder are really thin right now. Take Portland and the over.
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