NBA Odds and Predictions: Friday, March 13 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
by Alan Matthews - 3/12/2015
Well, here I was prepared to lead this story with how I expected the Charlotte Hornets to claim either the No. 7 or No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. I felt that way because the team was playing pretty well and welcomed back arguably its best player, point guard Kemba Walker, from a long injury absence on Wednesday. Then the Hornets went out and lost at home to Sacramento and may have lost their other top player, center Al Jefferson. So now I have no idea. Here's a look at Friday's schedule.
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Bulls at Hornets (TBA)
No surprise a TBA here because there are a few questions. The Bulls ended a three-game losing streak with Wednesday's 104-95 OT win in Philly. They were again without Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, and they aren't playing here. The surprise was that Joakim Noah was a late scratch with knee soreness. Now, that could be something or it could be the Bulls simply thought they could beat the Sixers without him. Charlotte lost a second straight Wednesday, 113-106 to the Kings. Walker had six points in 16 minutes off the bench after missing 18 games (with the same type of surgery Rose recently had). Jefferson strained his calf in the third quarter, which doesn't seem too bad. However, Coach Steve Clifford said afterward that Jefferson heard something "pop." That doesn't sound promising, although an MRI reportedly revealed nothing serious. Fellow big man Cody Zeller missed the game with a shoulder injury and probably won't play here. Charlotte lost by seven at home to Chicago on Dec. 3 but won the most recent matchup, 98-86 in Chicago on Feb. 25. That latter result was one of the least surprising of the season as it was the Bulls' first game after learning that Rose needed another knee surgery. They were completely deflated.
Key trends: The Bulls are 3-12 against the spread in their past 15 following an ATS win. Charlotte is 1-5 ATS in its past six at home. Chicago has covered six of its past seven in Charlotte. The "over/under" has gone under in nine of the past 12 meetings.
Early lean: I think if Noah plays the Bulls win assuming Jefferson doesn't. If both sit or both play, I like Charlotte.
Kings at 76ers (+4, 205)
Sacramento ended its four-game losing streak with Wednesday's seven-point win in Charlotte. DeMarcus Cousins had 20 points and 14 rebounds, while Ben McLemore had 27 points and Rudy Gay 26. Cousins has scored in double digits in all 49 games he's played this season. Philly lost in OT at home to Chicago on Wednesday. Ish Smith(!?) led the Sixers with a career-high 23 points. Isaiah Canaan was a game-time call but played and had 20. The 76ers tied a franchise-high with 41 3-point attempts, making 11. This is the first meeting of the season between the teams. Last year they split, each winning on the road. Philly's loss was No. 18 of 2013-14's record-tying 26-game skid.
Key trends: The Kings are 0-5 ATS in their past five after a win. The Sixers are 5-0 ATS in their past five vs. the West. The over is 7-0 in Sacramento's past seven vs. the East.
Early lean: Kings and under.
Magic at Celtics (-5, 198.5)
Orlando lost a second straight Wednesday, 97-91 in Milwaukee, the Magic's ninth straight road defeat. Boston won a second straight Wednesday, upsetting visiting Memphis 95-92. I didn't see that coming, especially with Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas missing it with a back injury. You won't see him here, either. This is the last meeting, with Boston winning the first at home and then the Magic the next two at home. They played last Sunday, a 103-98 Orlando win in which the Magic trailed by 20 at one point.
Key trends: Orlando is 5-2 ATS in its past seven on the road. Boston has covered eight straight at home. The home team is 6-0 ATS in the past six meetings.
Early lean: Celtics and over.
Heat at Raptors (-6, 202.5)
Miami beat visiting Brooklyn 104-98 on Wednesday to complete the season sweep. Dwyane Wade was a game-time call but played and had 28 points and nine assists. Goran Dragic also was questionable but played and had 17 points. The Heat played without center Hassan Whiteside due to suspension, but he'll be back for this. Toronto lost a fourth straight Tuesday in San Antonio despite 32 points from Kyle Lowry. These teams haven't played since very early in the season, a 107-102 Heat home win.
Key trends: Toronto is 2-8 ATS in its past 10 overall. The over is 4-1 in Miami's past five on the road. The Heat have covered six straight in Toronto (thanks to LeBron).
Early lean: Raptors and over.
Timberwolves at Thunder (TBA)
OKC lost 120-108 at home against the Clippers on Wednesday as Russell Westbrook was outplayed by Chris Paul. Sure, Westbrook had 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, but he also turned it over a career-high 10 times. Minnesota lost its second straight Wednesday, 106-97 in Phoenix. It appears the Wolves have lost center Nikola Pekovic to injury again. He left after just eight minutes (thus TBA). Oklahoma City has had little trouble in winning the first two matchups with Minnesota. I hope Andrew Wiggins gets plenty of time guarding Westbrook in this one. That's worth watching. Wiggins will be an All-Defensive Team member soon in his career.
Key trends: The Wolves are 0-4 ATS in their past four road games. OKC is 5-1 ATS in its past six vs. teams with a losing record. The over is 7-2 in the past nine meetings in OKC.
Early lean: No doubt Thunder win, but I wouldn't give more than seven.
Clippers at Mavericks (-2.5, 202.5)
L.A. won its second straight by double digits Wednesday, beating the Thunder in OKC by 12. I mentioned Chris Paul might sit in that preview, but he clearly was fired up by going against Russell Westbrook and had 33 points and nine assists. DeAndre Jordan had 18 points and 17 rebounds. Blake Griffin sat again, but there's an outside chance he returns here. I'm very curious to see how Dallas responds to a 127-94 home blowout loss to Cleveland on Tuesday, which led Amare Stouedmire to rip the team. Los Angeles has beaten Dallas by 20 and 17 points thus far. In the most recent matchup, Jordan went nuts with 22 points and 27 rebounds. They were the most rebounds against Dallas since Dennis Rodman had that many for Chicago on Dec. 29, 1997. Dallas has lost three straight at home in this series and eight of the past 10 overall.
Key trends: The over is 7-0 in the past seven meetings. L.A. has covered four of its past five in Dallas.
Early lean: Barring Griffin returning and providing a huge spark, I think Mavs do respond and cover.
Warriors at Nuggets (+9, 215.5)
Golden State won its fifth straight Wednesday, 105-98 against visiting Detroit. Klay Thompson had 27 points as the Warriors matched their win total from last season. I'm just warning you that Coach Steve Kerr might rest a guy or two here because he has talked about doing so and the Warriors are back home Saturday. Denver upset the Hawks 115-102 in the Mile High City on Wednesday. It wasn't even that close. The Nuggets have scored 100 or more points in all six games under interim coach Melvin Hunt. Just one meeting thus far between these teams, and it was ugly for Denver: a 122-79 shellacking in Oakland on Jan. 19. It was the Warriors' largest margin of victory this season.
Key trends: The Warriors are 5-0 ATS in their past five in Denver. The under is 5-2 in the past seven meetings.
Early lean: Nuggets and over.
Hawks at Suns (+5.5, 206)
I expect a much better effort here from Atlanta as it trailed by as much as 32 in Wednesday's loss in Denver. It was the Hawks' second straight road defeat to a bad team. About the only bright spot from that game was backup center Pero Antic returned from injury and had six points under 20 minutes. Without Brandon Knight, Phoenix beat Minnesota 106-97 on Wednesday. Knight might be back here, but I wouldn't count on it. First meeting of the season -- the only team Phoenix has yet to play. Phoenix swept last year and has won 10 of the past 13 meetings. The Hawks have not won a season series against the Suns since the lockout-shortened 1999 campaign.
Key trends: Atlanta is 8-1 ATS in its past nine after a loss. The Suns are 2-6 ATS in their past eight at home vs. teams with a winning road record. The under is 4-0 in Phoenix's past four.
Early lean: Hawks and over.
Pistons at Trail Blazers (-10, 197)
Detroit's free-fall continued with a 105-98 loss at Golden State on Wednesday, the Pistons' eighth straight defeat. At least Andre Drummond showed up as he had 22 points and a career-high 27 rebounds. Detroit dropped to 8-19 against the Western Conference. Portland beat Houston 105-100 on Wednesday. LaMarcus Aldridge led the way with 26 points and 14 rebounds. Damian Lillard became the only NBA player to make 150 or more 3-pointers in each of his first three seasons. Detroit lost at home to Portland 98-86 on Dec. 9 back when the Pistons were a mess with Josh Smith -- that dropped Detroit to 3-19 and was its 13th straight loss. Portland has won four straight in the series.
Key trends: The Pistons are 11-5 ATS in their past 16 following a loss. Portland is 5-2 ATS in its past seven at home. The over is 6-1 in the past seven meetings.
Early lean: Blazers and over.
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