NBA Odds: Thursday, March 20, 2014 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
by Alan Matthews - 3/19/2014
If you go looking to TNT on Thursday night for the NBA doubleheader, you will instead find NCAA Tournament games. That's probably a good thing. Each of the four NBA games looks potentially one-sided with Oklahoma City the lone road favorite of the night ( or will be when line is released). Here's a look at all of Thursday's games by order of tipoff.
Thunder at Cavaliers (TBA)
Here's my theory on why no opening line here: Oddsmakers now are worried the Thunder won't play Russell Westbrook in both games of a back-to-back, and OKC is in Toronto on Friday night, so maybe Westbrook doesn't play this one. Westbrook didn't play Sunday at home against Dallas but did in Monday's 97-85 win in Chicago. In that one, Kevin Durant had 35 points to extend his streak of games with 25 or more points to 32, the second-longest streak in the NBA over the past 50 years. The only one better: Michael Jordan did it in 40 in a row during the 1986-87 season. Cleveland won't have all-star Kyrie Irving for this one as he will miss at least two weeks with a biceps injury. It's also possible guard Dion Waiters sits this out as he's pretty beaten up. Ditto Luol Deng, who missed Tuesday's loss to Miami with an ankle injury.
On Feb. 26 in Oklahoma City, the Thunder were stunned by the Cavaliers 114-104 as 15-point favorites. That's the biggest spread this season in which OKC lost a game straight up. It was at the time Oklahoma City's third straight loss out of the all-star break as the team worked Westbrook back into the swing of things. Irving had 31 points -- 14 in the fourth quarter when Cleveland outscored the Thunder 42-28 -- and nine assists for the Cavs, while Durant had 28 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. The Thunder also lost in Cleveland last season.
Key trends: Cleveland is 4-10 ATS in its past 14 after a loss. The "under" is 4-1 in OKC's past five overall.
Early lean: I say Westbrook does play. Take the Thunder.
Timberwolves at Rockets (TBA)
No opening line here because it's quite possible that Houston center Dwight Howard misses another game. He sat out Monday's 124-86 home rout of Utah with an ankle injury that seemed to come out of nowhere. Howard didn't practice on Wednesday, so the chances are he's not going to suit up. That means Omer Asik becomes relevant again. The Wolves are expected to be without their center, Nikola Pekovic, as well. He wasn't expected to play in Wednesday's game at Dallas.
Houston leads the season series 2-0. The teams last played Feb. 10 in Minneapolis, and the Rockets rolled 107-89 behind 18 points and 15 rebounds from Howard. All five Rockets starters scored in double-figures. Love had 31 points and 10 rebounds. Minnesota played without Kevin Martin, Pekovic and Coach Rick Adelman (personal reasons).
Key trends: The Wolves are 1-4 ATS in their past five in the second of a back-to-back. The under is 5-0 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Very tough second of a back-to-back for the Wolves, and Asik is a great defender, so Houston won't lose anything on that end. The Rockets will win comfortably and figure to open around -5.
Wizards at Blazers (-4, 206)
Portland nearly was caught in a trap game Tuesday night and overlooked the Bucks, winning 120-115 in overtime. The Blazers' 22 overtime points were a franchise record. How can two teams combine for 39 points in an NBA overtime? Damian Lillard admitted the Blazers were overconfident against Milwaukee. Portland star LaMarcus Aldridge missed his third straight game, and don't expect to see him here. The Wiz started a four-game West Coast trip with a 117-111 OT loss in Sacramento on Tuesday as they blew an 11-point fourth-quarter lead and five-point edge with 24 seconds left.
Washington hosted Portland on Feb. 3 and won 100-90 as a one-point dog. That game was notable because it improved Washington to 24-23, the first time the team was over .500 since Halloween night 2009 (355 straight games at .500 or below). John Wall had 22 points for Washington, which turned the ball over only six times. Lillard had 25 for Portland, while Aldridge had 20 points and 10 boards. The Blazers have won six of the past eight meetings in Portland.
Key trends: The Blazers are 7-2 ATS in their past nine Thursday games. The "under" is 8-1 in Washington's past nine against teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Didn't like the Wiz on Tuesday in Sacramento, and I don't here, even with Portland not playing very well and Aldridge out.
Bucks at Warriors (+14, 204)
Could Milwaukee pull a straight up upset here? It's possible considering the Warriors for sure won't have Andre Iguodala, their best perimeter defender and glue guy, and likely won't have center Andrew Bogut, the team's only post defender of note. Both sat out Tuesday's 103-89 win over Orlando. Bogut could play, but I'm thinking the Warriors believe they can win this game without him and give him two more days off before they host San Antonio. Backup center Jermaine O'Neal won't play Thursday, either.
Milwaukee hosted Golden State on Jan. 7 and was predictably routed 101-80. That was Golden State's season-high 10th straight win, one shy of the franchise record. The Warriors lost the next night in Brooklyn. David Lee led the Warriors with 22 points and 18 rebounds against Milwaukee, making his first nine shots. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were a combined 11-for-36. Ersan Ilyasova had 20 to lead Milwaukee. Golden State has lost two straight at home to the Bucks and seven of the past nine overall.
Key trends: The Warriors have covered just once in their past nine following a win of at least 10 points. The "over" is 9-3 in Milwaukee's past 12 after allowing at least 100 points in its previous game.
Early lean: I like the Bucks and the two touchdowns because of how short-handed Golden State could be and such a big game up next.
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