NBA Odds and Predictions: Friday, January 2 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
by Alan Matthews - 1/1/2015
It's the first NBA report of the New Year so let's start things out on a winning note. I didn't keep exact details of all the games I picked in 2014 but a rough outline, and I got more right than wrong, so that's something. The good thing about there being only two games on New Year's Night was there are no seconds of a back-to-back Friday. It might not be the best matchup but the one that will get a lot of attention and which is on NBA TV is Dallas at Boston as Rajon Rondo plays his first game against the Celtics since the big December trade. I'm sure he will get a warm welcome. Here's a look at that end every game on the schedule Friday. Note: no Saturday opening report this week.
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Cavaliers at Hornets (TBA)
No opening line here because it's unclear whether LeBron James and/or Kevin Love will play for Cleveland, which has lost three straight. James missed Tuesday's loss in Atlanta and Wednesday's blowout defeat at home to Milwaukee with knee soreness. All those minutes are starting to catch up to him. Love missed Wednesday's game with a minor back problem. So did Shawn Marion. Charlotte has lost four straight and will be without star Al Jefferson for at least a month so it's pretty much a lost season. Cleveland hosted Charlotte on Dec. 15 and won 97-88 behind 27 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds from James. NBA bettors may remember that game as the Cavs jumped out to a 21-0 lead. It was the largest game-opening run in the NBA since February 2004.
Key trends: The Cavs are 1-5 ATS in their past six after a loss. They have failed to cover the past six vs. Charlotte. The "over/under" has gone under in the past five.
Early lean: Wait on James and Love.
Nets at Magic (pick'em, 194.5)
Brooklyn enters off one of its best wins of the year, 96-82 in Chicago on Tuesday to end the Bulls' seven-game winning streak. The Bulls had routed the Nets in two earlier meetings. Brook Lopez had a season-high 29 points and returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench a few games. Deron Williams stayed a reserve and didn't do much. Jarrett Jack is a better player now. Brooklyn had just one previous win this season against a team with a winning record, a 95-93 overtime win against San Antonio on Dec. 3. Orlando lost 109-86 at home to Detroit on Tuesday. Brooklyn beat visiting Orlando 104-96 on Nov. 9. Rookie Bojan Bogdanovic had a career-high 22 in that one. Nik Vucevic led Orlando with 27 points and 12 rebounds.
Key trends: Orlando is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 10-2 in Brooklyn's past 12 on the road.
Early lean: Nets and under.
Mavericks at Celtics (+6, 212.5)
Dallas has won three straight to improve to 4-2 since acquiring Rondo. The Mavericks were very impressive in Tuesday's 114-87 home blowout of Washington. Monta Ellis played through an injured ankle and had 20 points in 27 minutes, getting the fourth quarter off. He still has yet to miss a game since arriving in Dallas. Rondo had 11 points and five assists. Boston ended a four-game skid with a 106-84 victory over visiting Sacramento on Wednesday afternoon. Jared Sullinger had 20 points and 11 boards as Boston never trailed. Celtics coach Brad Stevens dropped rookie point guard Marcus Smart from the starting lineup in favor of Evan Turner and Turner had 10 points and 11 assists, although Smart still played more minutes. The Mavs hosted the Celtics on Nov. 3 and won 118-113 behind 29 points from Chandler Parsons and 27 from Dirk Nowitzki. Jeff Green had 35 and Avery Bradley 32 but Bradley missed a key late free throw. Rondo had 15 assists and nine rebounds.
Key trends: Boston is 6-2 ATS in its past eight at home. The over is 6-1 in Dallas' past seven on the road.
Early lean: Love the over. Go Dallas.
Pistons at Knicks (+3, 199)
Here come the Pistons. I have been all over them in two games I've previewed since the team cut Josh Smith and Detroit has won three straight overall since then, all by double digits. The Pistons rolled the Magic 109-86 on Tuesday in Coach Stan Van Gundy's return to central Florida. Jodie Meeks had a season-high 34 points off the bench and was 9-for-11 from long range. I'm serious, I think this is a playoff team, albeit that's not saying much in the East. Smith is that much of an addition by subtraction. The Knicks lost their ninth straight on Wednesday, getting blowing out at the Clippers. I guess it's good news that J.R. Smith returned from injury and Andrea Bargnani made his season debut. Yeah, maybe not. Tim Hardaway Jr. suffered a concussion in the game so he's questionable for this one. Detroit got its first win of the season on Nov. 5 at home against the Knicks, 98-95. Greg Monroe had his best game of the year with 23 points and 18 rebounds. Carmelo Anthony was just 5-for-21 for 13 points.
Key trends: Detroit is 4-1 ATS in its past five after a win. The under is 6-1 in the past seven meetings.
Early lean: The Pistons are better, but I can't give three points on the road yet. Go under.
Rockets at Pelicans (pick'em, 199)
Houston ended a two-game skid with a 102-83 win over Charlotte on Wednesday. NBA scoring leader James Harden had 36 points. It was his league-best 14th 30-point game. New Orleans lost 95-93 in overtime at San Antonio on Wednesday despite 21 points and 12 rebounds from Anthony Davis. New Orleans won the first meeting of the season, 99-90 in Houston in what was the second of a back-to-back for the Rockets (and off an overtime game the night before in Denver). Davis had 30 points and 14 rebounds. Tyreke Evans was out for the Pelicans. Harden was 8-for-23 for 21 points in an off night.
Key trends: Houston is 1-5 ATS in its past six in New Orleans. The over is 5-1 in the Rockets' past six overall.
Early lean: Houston and over.
Wizards at Thunder (-6.5, 210)
It will be fun to watch this one as two of the fastest players in the NBA, Washington's John Wall and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, go at it. The Wizards come off their worst game of the year, a 114-87 loss Tuesday in Dallas. Wall was held to 11 points and Bradley Beal to 10. Nene left in the third quarter with an ankle tweak and didn't return so he's questionable. Kevin Durant returned from his injury on Wednesday and poured in a season-high 44 in a wild 137-134 overtime win over Phoenix. Westbrook was ejected from that game late in the first half after drawing two technicals. The teams split last season. The Thunder have won five straight vs. the Wizards at home.
Key trends: Washington is 0-8 ATS in its past eight after allowing 100 points or more in its previous game. The under is 7-1 in OKC's past eight vs. the East.
Early lean: Take the points and go over.
Pacers at Bucks (-2, 193.5)
Indiana beat visiting Miami 106-95 on Wednesday in a game I loved the Pacers. C.J. Miles led the team with 25 points. It's not a bad team when everyone is healthy. The Bucks have won two straight, both on the road. They were the beneficiaries of the Cavaliers missing James, Love and Marion on Wednesday in a 16-point win. Indiana lost at home to Milwaukee 87-81 on Nov. 4. That ended the Bucks' 16-game road losing streak dating to last season. Half the Pacers roster was out injured that game so don't read too much into it.
Key trends: The over is 6-2 in the past eight meetings in Milwaukee. The home team has covered seven of the past 10 in the series.
Early lean: Bucks and over.
76ers at Suns (-14.5, 212)
Philadelphia has nowhere to go but up after losing by 40 at Golden State on Tuesday. The 76ers have dropped three straight following back-to-back road wins over Miami and Orlando. The Sixers have committed 17 turnovers or more in 13 consecutive games. The Suns lost in overtime at Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Phoenix routed the 76ers in Philly 122-96 on Nov. 21, which dropped the Sixers at the time to 0-12. That game was right after the Suns' Eric Bledsoe said Kentucky, his alma mater, could beat the 76ers in a playoff series.
Key trends: The Suns have covered five straight against teams with a losing record. The under is 10-3 in Philly's past 13 road games.
Early lean: Sixers and over.
Hawks at Jazz (+3.5, 196.5)
Utah was going to be a lottery team regardless, but the Jazz got bad news this week when starting guard Alec Burks was ruled out the rest of the season due to shoulder surgery. He was averaging 13.9 points, a career-high 4.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists. Rookie Rodney Hood takes take Burks' place in the starting lineup. Hood had four points in 19 minutes in Tuesday's win over Minnesota. Utah looks for its third two-game winning streak of the season -- it has yet to win three straight. This could be a trap game for Atlanta. It beat the Cavaliers 109-101 on Tuesday and has a big one in Portland on Saturday. The Hawks finished December at 14-2, tied for their best month's winning percentage since moving to Atlanta (minimum 10 games). Utah lost in Atlanta 100-97 on Nov. 12. Paul Millsap led the Hawks with 30 points and 17 rebounds. Burks had 22 for the Jazz.
Key trends: Utah is 5-0 ATS in its past five vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 5-2 in the past seven meetings.
Early lean: I'll overlook the potential trap. Hawks and over.
Raptors at Warriors (-5.5, 212.5)
Toronto is 2-2 on its six-game road trip. It lost a tough one in Portland on Tuesday, 102-97 in overtime. Portland rallied from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit. Kyle Lowry led Toronto with 25 points but it took him 26 shots. The Warriors have won two straight blowouts, both at home. They destroyed the 76ers 126-86 on Tuesday -- alas, I took the 18.5 points. The Warriors were up 47 at one point. It was Golden State's 10th straight home win, the team's longest since 1994. These teams split last season, but Toronto hasn't won in Oakland since Feb. 8, 2004 (nine straight losses).
Key trends: Golden State is 6-0 ATS in its past six at home vs. teams with a winning road record. The over is 5-1 in Toronto's past six after a loss.
Early lean: Warriors and over.
Grizzlies at Lakers (+4, 204)
Memphis has followed a four-game skid with back-to-back wins. The Grizz beat visiting San Antonio 95-87 on Tuesday behind 30 points from Mike Conley. The Grizzlies have won the last two after dropping 15 of 17 to the Spurs. Forward Zach Randolph missed his fifth straight game with a sore right knee, but he might play in this one. He's close. Los Angeles ended a three-game skid with a 111-103 win in Denver on Tuesday behind 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists from Kobe Bryant. It was his 21st career triple-double and could well be his last. Bryant shot 6-for11 from the floor, giving him 25,000 field goal attempts for his career. That's the fourth most in NBA history. Lakers forward Ed Davis broke his nose in that game but plans to play while wearing a mask. Memphis is 2-0 against the Lakers this season but didn't cover either, winning by five at home and six in L.A.
Key trends: The Grizzlies have failed to cover the past seven meetings. The under is 5-2 in the past seven.
Early lean: Grizzlies and under.
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