NBA Odds: Thursday, March 13, 2014 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
by Alan Matthews - 3/12/2014
Enjoy the TNT opener Thursday night between Houston and Chicago, because the other two games on the NBA schedule look rather ugly. Of course, ugly can be pretty if it results in a winning bet. Here's a look at every game in order of tipoff. The TNT doubleheader was moved up an hour.
Rockets at Bulls (+4, 195)
Houston had its five-game winning streak snapped in a very chippy affair Tuesday night in Oklahoma City, 106-98. Patrick Beverley and Russell Westbrook went at it a few times themselves, but they weren't alone. There shouldn't be any suspensions. The Thunder hate Beverley because he injured Westbrook's knee in last year's playoffs while attempting a steal as Westbrook was calling timeout. Beverley tried again last night, infuriating Westbrook. Houston was held under 100 points for only the second time in the past nine. Dwight Howard was mostly a non-factor with nine points. Really only James Harden (28 points, nine assists, eight rebounds) showed up.
Chicago clearly had a huge letdown after an emotional OT win over Miami on Sunday as the Bulls were beaten 104-96 at home by the Spurs on Tuesday in a game that was nowhere near that close. It was 38-14 after one quarter, and it was over. The Spurs shot 50.6 percent overall and needed only 40 points from their starters because it was such a rout so quickly.
Houston beat the visiting Bulls 109-94 on Dec. 18, but neither team resembles the one it did that day. It was when Chicago was in the midst of its post-Derrick Rose injury tailspin and still had Luol Deng. It was also the first start for D.J. Augustin with the Bulls as he had been signed recently by the team. He's been a godsend with Rose out. Joakim Noah also wasn't playing like an MVP candidate yet and had six points and 10 rebounds. Howard (11-for-14 shooting) dominated him with 23 points and nine rebounds.
Key trends: Chicago is 12-2 ATS in its past 14 after a loss. The "over" is 7-1 in the Bulls' past eight against teams with a winning record.
Early lean: The Bulls just about never play two uninspired games in a row under Tom Thibodeau, who took the blame for not getting his team ready Tuesday. They will be for this one, so I lean Chicago.
Bucks at Hawks (-8.5, 209.5)
Good seats are likely very much available for this one! You could probably go on StubHub about an hour before tipoff if you live in Atlanta and get a seat for $1.The Hawks ended a six-game skid and won for only the second time in 16 games Monday by upsetting the Jazz 112-110 in Utah. The Jazz led 96-93 before Atlanta went on an 8-0 run take the lead for good. The Hawks are clearly a much better team with Paul Millsap in the lineup as they have been competitive in the three in which he's been back from injury. He had 23 points and eight rebounds against Utah, his former team.
Milwaukee was in Minnesota on Tuesday night looking for its first two-game winning streak of the season but lost 112-101. The Bucks were on a second of a back-to-back, and it showed in the fourth quarter as the Wolves pulled away with a 19-4 run to start the fourth. Bucks starting forward Ersan Ilyasova sat because of a sore ankle, and he's questionable here. O.J. Mayo didn't play a minute as he's back in the doghouse.
Somehow these conference foes have met just once, on Jan. 27. Atlanta rolled in that one, 112-87 in Milwaukee despite playing without injured starting point guard Jeff Teague. The Hawks have won five straight and eight of nine in this series.
Key trends: The over is 8-1 in Milwaukee's past nine after a loss. The Hawks have covered only two of their past 13 after scoring at least 100 points in their previous game.
Early lean: This is the type of game the Hawks know they need to hold onto the No. 8 playoff spot. They'll get it.
Lakers at Thunder (-16.5, 225)
Oklahoma City clearly wanted to make a statement on Tuesday against surging Houston, and the Thunder did with a 106-98 win over the visiting Rockets. Kevin Garnett had 42 points, his 11th 40-point game of the year and 29th straight with at least 25. If Oklahoma City finishes a game behind San Antonio, Houston or the L.A. Clippers for the West's top seed, the Thunder might point to last Sunday's inexplicable 114-110 loss at the Lakers when the Thunder blew an 18-point first-half lead. Jodie Meeks had a career-high 42 points, the first Laker to reach 30 points this season, and outscored the Thunder 20-19 alone in the third quarter. Russell Westbrook struggled, shooting 7-for-23 with eight turnovers. L.A. has been off since then.
Key trends: The home team is 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 4-0 in the past four in OKC.
Early lean: At first I was big time on the Thunder, who are going to want to inflict some major payback for Sunday. However, now I'm leaning L.A. with such a big number because OKC was really fired up in that foul- and skirmish-filled Houston game. A letdown is coming. The Lakers have lost four straight at the Thunder and were routed 122-97 there on Dec. 13. Considering L.A. has allowed at least 106 points in nine straight games, go over.
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