NBA Odds and Predictions: Thursday, January 15 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
by Alan Matthews - 1/14/2015
NBA bettors get a rare weekday matinee game to wager on Thursday as the New York Knicks will face the Milwaukee Bucks with a 3 p.m. ET tip from London as part of the league's expanded NBA Global Games schedule. This is the last one outside the USA this season. The Rockets and Timberwolves played in Mexico City in November. I feel for London fans that they have to watch the steaming pile of you know what that is the Knicks right now. It's the Bucks' first-ever regular-season game overseas. Here's a look at that matchup, which is on NBA TV, and the TNT doubleheader that rounds out Thursday's light schedule.
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Knicks vs. Bucks (TBA)
Perhaps no team needed four days off more than the Knicks. They were crushed 110-82 at home by Charlotte on Saturday for their franchise-record 15th straight loss. It was the eighth straight game the Knicks were held under 100 points. The Hornets outscored the Knicks 41-13 in the second quarter and were ahead 89-44 after three in a total embarrassment. Quincy Acy had 18 points for the Knicks, playing without Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani. Anthony admits he is going to need knee surgery at some point but is hoping to play in this game, no doubt to help increase his marketing value in Europe. Stoudemire is also aiming to play. Bargnani doesn't matter much, and the Knicks want to trade him and point guard Jose Calderon. The Bucks lost 95-87 on Saturday in Chicago to end a two-game winning streak. Brandon Knight scored 20 points for Milwaukee, which had won its last five road games. Forward Kenyon Martin left his second game with Milwaukee with a chest contusion. Fellow big man Ersan Ilyasova (concussion) missed his 10th straight game, but he did make the trip to London and is likely to play. Center Larry Sanders remains out for personal reasons.
Milwaukee is 2-0 against the Knicks this season. The Bucks won 117-113 at home on Nov. 16 behind 14 points and 13 rebounds from Zaza Pachulia. Carmelo led New York with 26 points on 10-for-16 shooting. The Knicks were plus-3 when he was on the court. On Jan. 4 at Madison Square Garden, the Bucks won 95-82, loss No. 11 of this current 15-game slide for the Knicks. Pachulia had another big game with 16 points and 14 rebounds. The Knicks were without Anthony and Stoudemire. Tim Hardaway Jr. led the club with 17 points.
Key trends: The Knicks have covered one of their past 10 overall. The Bucks are 5-0 ATS in their past five Thursday games. The "over/under" has gone over in four of the past five meetings.
Early lean: I actually like the Knicks and the points if Melo and Stoudemire play.
Thunder at Rockets (-2, 206)
In some odd scheduling, the Thunder haven't played since Friday when they beat Utah 99-94 to end a two-game losing streak. Dion Waiters had 15 points in his first home game for the Thunder since being acquired from Cleveland. Kevin Durant had 32 points and six assists, and Russell Westbrook 25 points and 12 assists. The Thunder are now 23-7 when Durant and Westbrook both have 25 points and five assists in their careers. It's the second of a back-to-back for Houston as it was in Orlando on Wednesday.
These teams played easily the ugliest NBA game of the season on Nov. 16 in Oklahoma City. The Rockets won 69-65. It was the first time a team won with 69 or fewer points since March 13, 2005. Houston shot only 28.8 percent; the last time a team had won with a lower percentage was on Feb. 19, 2000. James Harden led Houston with 19 points, including the go-ahead late 3-pointer, but was only 5-for-17 from the field. The Thunder, without Durant and Westbrook, shot a scorching-hot 29.4 percent. "That game will not go in the NBA Hall of Fame," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said in an understatement.
Key trends: OKC is 0-5 ATS in its past five vs. the West. The under is 6-1 in the Thunder's past seven against teams with a winning record. OKC is 5-1 in the past six meetings. The under is 6-1 in the past seven.
Early lean: Like the points here as Thunder are very rested and Rockets playing Wednesday. Go under.
Cavaliers at Lakers (+4.5, 205)
Could this be the final time we see LeBron James and Kobe Bryant go at it? First off, that's assuming both play. Secondly, obviously LeBron will be playing for several more years, but Kobe only has a contract through next season and at his age could be one major injury from forced early retirement. Kobe is getting games off just for rest as it is, and if Bryant does play through next season there are only three regular-season games left with the Cavs in that span. The Lakers visit Cleveland on Feb. 8.
Cleveland shockingly fell under .500 on Tuesday night even though James returned from missing eight games with injuries. The Cavs lost 107-100 at the Suns despite LeBron's 33 points. J.R. Smith, who joined the Cavaliers during James' absence, scored 29, going 8-for14 on 3-pointers. Interestingly, Kevin Love didn't play in the fourth quarter at all. The Lakers have dropped four of five and fell in an ugly one at home on Tuesday to the Heat, 78-75. Kobe makes me laugh sometimes at how he shoots and shoots and shoots even when he's terrible. Bryant was just 3-for-19 against the Heat for 12 points in his return to the lineup. Be aware that the Lakers play Friday in Utah, so Kobe will sit either Thursday or Friday most likely. I can't imagine he sits against LeBron, however.
Key trends: Cleveland is 3-13 ATS in its past 16 after a loss. The Lakers have covered one of their past seven against the East. The under is 5-0 in Cleveland's past five road games. The under is 6-0 in the Lakers' past six overall.
Early lean: This could be my favorite line of the season. Give the points! I'm shocked it's this low even with the Cavs' struggles. The Lakers are terrible.
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