NBA Odds and Predictions: Friday, March 20 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
by Alan Matthews - 3/19/2015
The NBA is point guard-driven league these days. There will be few better individual matchups at that position than you will see Friday night at Staples Center. Washington's John Wall is generally considered the fastest point guard in the league, while the Clippers' Chris Paul is the best defensive player at that position. Those two face off for the last time this season, barring an unlikely NBA Finals matchup, in one of the better games Friday. Here's a look at every game on the schedule opposite the final first-round day in the Big Dance.
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Trail Blazers at Magic (TBA)
Portland dropped a second straight Wednesday, 108-104 in Miami, blowing an 11-point second-half lead. It was the Blazers' first loss this season when shooting at least 50 percent. Orlando dropped a sixth straight Wednesday, 107-102 at Dallas. Rookie Elfrid Payton had the first triple-double of his career with 15 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Orlando nearly rallied from a 22-point third-quarter deficit. Tobias Harris missed the game with an ankle injury and is questionable here (guess why the TBA). On Jan. 10 in Portland, the Blazers won 103-92. LaMarcus Aldridge had 25 points to lead five Portland players in double figures. Nikola Vucevic scored a career-high 34 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead the Magic.
Key trends: Portland is 4-10 against the spread in its past four after a loss. Orlando is 6-2 ATS in its past eight vs. the West. The "over/under" is 4-0 in Portland's past four on the road and in Orlando's past four at home.
Early lean: Portland will win, but I wouldn't give many points.
Knicks at 76ers (-4, 190)
New York hosted Minnesota on Thursday, so it's not exactly the toughest two-games-in-two-nights schedule. The Sixers ended a two-game losing streak with a 94-83 win over Detroit on Wednesday. However, top rookie Nerlens Noel left in the third quarter with a bruised right foot and didn't return, so he's obviously questionable here. As terrible as the Knicks are, they are 2-0 against the 76ers, but New York had Carmelo Anthony for both of those. Not surprisingly for two struggling offensive teams, both were low-scoring games.
Key trends: The Knicks are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 4-0 in the past four meetings in Philadelphia.
Early lean: I would take the points if Noel is out but give them if he plays.
Bucks at Nets (-4, 192.5)
Milwaukee lost a fourth straight game Wednesday, 114-103 at home to the Spurs. Bucks guard O.J. Mayo missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury, while forward Jared Dudley missed his third in a row with a back injury. Brooklyn's two-game winning streak ended in Wednesday's 117-92 loss in Cleveland to close a four-game road trip. The Nets led 22-9 at one point. Joe Johnson had just six points. Milwaukee is 2-0 vs. Brooklyn, winning by four in OT at the Nets in November and six at home in February
Key trends: The Bucks are 0-7 ATS in their past seven after scoring triple digits in their previous game. Milwaukee is 9-1 ATS in its past 10 in Brooklyn. The over is 4-0 in the past four meetings.
Early lean: Nets and under.
Pacers at Cavaliers (-10, 200.5)
Indiana dropped a third straight Wednesday, 103-86 in Chicago. Pacers center Ian Mahinmi left in the third quarter with a bruised forehead after he was accidentally elbowed by teammate C.J. Watson. The Pacers shot only 39.5 percent and might be running out of steam. Cleveland bounced back from a bad loss in Miami and routed Brooklyn 117-92 on Wednesday, the Cavs' 14th straight home win. Kevin Love returned after missing two games with an injury and had 10 points and 11 rebounds. The Pacers lead the season series 2-1. The most recent was Feb. 27 in Indianapolis, a 93-86 victory in which both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving sat out.
Key trends: The home team is 7-0 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 5-2 in those seven.
Early lean: Cavaliers and over.
Nuggets at Heat (TBA)
Denver was in Houston on Thursday. Miami won a second straight Wednesday, 108-104 against Portland. Dwyane Wade scored 15 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, hitting a jumper with 13.6 seconds left to break a tie. This game ends a three-game homestand. Denver beat visiting Miami 102-82 on Dec. 10. Wilson Chandler led the Nuggets with 17, while Wade had just 10 on 4-for-15 shooting for the Heat.
Key trends: Miami is 4-1 ATS in its past five at home. The under has hit in Denver's past five in the second of a back-to-back. The underdog is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings.
Early lean: Not really sure why the TBA here -- perhaps just in case Denver rests guys in the second of a back-to-back. All the starters were expected to play Thursday.
Raptors at Bulls (TBA)
Chicago ended a two-game losing streak with Wednesday's 103-86 win over Indiana. Rookie Nikola Mirotic continued his hot March with 25 points, 20 in the second half. Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler sat out again, but it's possible one or both returns here. Toronto won a second straight Wednesday, 105-100 against Minnesota. Raptors All-Star guard Kyle Lowry left with just under five minutes to go in the third quarter after injuring his back on a hard fall, so he's obviously questionable at best (thus the TBA). Chicago is 2-0 against Toronto, although both came back in 2014. The Bulls won by nine at home and seven north of the border.
Key trends: Toronto is 6-1 ATS in its past seven trips to Chicago. The under is 5-2 in the past seven meetings overall.
Early lean: Bulls should roll if Lowry sits.
Hawks at Thunder (TBA)
Atlanta was blown out at Golden State on Wednesday 114-95. The Hawks had a chance to clinch their first division title since 1993-94 with a win. They shot only 35.6 percent and clearly missed Kyle Korver, who most likely won't play here. Oklahoma City beat Boston 122-118 on Wednesday. Russell Westbrook had 36 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and five blocks. Thunder forward Enes Kanter had to get X-rays after the game on his ankle. Those were negative, but he was limping. He's very iffy for this one. OKC lost in Atlanta 103-93 on Jan. 23, the Hawks' franchise-record 15th straight win at the time. Russell Westbrook had 22 points and 11 assists, while Kevin Durant had 21 points.
Key trends: Atlanta is 9-1 ATS in its past 10 after a loss. The over is 6-0 in OKC's past six after a win. The road team has covered four of the past five meetings.
Early lean: I suppose the TBA is for Kanter, although there was a slight chance Durant was going to return but that doesn't appear likely now.
Grizzlies at Mavericks (TBA)
Memphis lost 105-95 in Detroit on Tuesday. Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley sat out again with an ankle injury, so monitor his status for this one (why the TBA). Dallas won a third straight Wednesday, 107-102 over Orlando. Rajon Rondo had an interesting line with nine points, 11 assist and eight turnovers. Dallas had every player available for just the second time since Amare Stoudemire was added exactly a month ago. Memphis is 2-1 against the Mavericks and won the lone game in Big D, 109-90 on Jan. 27. Conley missed that one.
Key trends: The underdog is 4-1 in the past five meetings. The over has hit in six of the past eight.
Early lean: Dallas if Conley sits.
Celtics at Spurs (-9, 209)
Boston lost at Oklahoma City 122-118 on Wednesday to end a season-high five-game winning streak. The Celtics had three guys with at least 20 points but turned it over 20 times. Guard Isaiah Thomas sat out again with a bruised lower back and will sit here. San Antonio got a very rare tongue-lashing from Coach Gregg Popovich after Tuesday's baffling loss at the Knicks and responded with a 114-103 win in Milwaukee on Wednesday. Manu Ginobili sat out again and won't play against Boston. The Celtics lost at home to San Antonio 111-89 on Nov. 30 back when the C's still had Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger.
Key trends: Boston is 11-1 ATS in its past 12 vs. teams with a winning record. The Spurs are 5-2 ATS in their past seven at home. Boston has covered six of its past seven at San Antonio.
Early lean: Spurs and over.
Hornets at Kings (TBA)
Sacramento lost a fourth straight Wednesday, 116-105 against the Clippers. Rudy Gay did return from an injury and had 23 points, but DeMarcus Cousins sat out with a right calf strain as the Kings dropped to 2-13 without him. In addition, Ben McLemore left with a wrist injury. The Hornets also lost to the Clippers in their last game, 99-92 on Tuesday. Big man Cody Zeller sat out a fourth straight game with a sprained right shoulder. Charlotte lost at home to Sacramento 113-106 on March 11 as Cousins had 20 points and 14 rebounds. McLemore and Rudy Gay combined for 53 points. That was Kemba Walker's first game back from injury for Charlotte, but Al Jefferson left in the third quarter.
Key trends: Charlotte is 1-5 ATS in its past six vs. the West. The Kings are 1-6 ATS in their past seven after a loss. The favorite is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings.
Early lean: Totally depends on Cousins.
Pelicans at Warriors (-9.5, 204.5)
New Orleans was in Phoenix on Thursday. Golden State won a third straight Wednesday, 114-95 over Atlanta despite playing without All-Star Klay Thompson, who will miss this potential first-round playoff matchup as well. The Warriors have lost just twice at home all season and won 10 straight there. Justin Holiday started for Thompson vs. Atlanta and had five points and five assists. Golden State won two December games against New Orleans, one by blowout and one in overtime. The Warriors averaged 120 points in those wins.
Key trends: New Orleans is 1-4 ATS in the past five at Golden State. The under is 6-1 in the past seven meetings overall.
Early lean: Warriors and over.
Wizards at Clippers (-6.5, 201.5)
L.A. won a second straight Wednesday, 116-105 at Sacramento despite playing without Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford. The latter won't play here, but Barnes might. If not, Hedo Turkoglu would start again, and he had a season-high 19 points against the Kings. Washington won a fifth straight Wednesday, 88-84 in Utah. John Wall had 19 second-half points. It was the 11th game in a row the Wizards held an opponent under 100 points. On Dec. 12, the Clippers lost 104-96 in D.C. to end L.A.'s nine-game winning streak. Wall had 10 points and 11 assists, while Paul had 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists but a season-high six turnovers. Wall had been 0-6 against Paul in games when both played.
Key trends: The Clippers are 2-8 ATS in their past 10 vs. the East. The under has hit in seven of Washington's past nine on the road. The Wizards have covered four of the past five meetings.
Early lean: Clippers and under.
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