NBA Odds and Predictions: Thursday, January 8 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
by Alan Matthews - 1/7/2015
Unfortunately, the NBA doesn't have flex scheduling like NFL gave to NBC for its Sunday Night Football telecasts for later in each season. I say this because the New York Knicks are the most unwatchable team in the NBA now and will be going forward. But they are going to be featured on national television often simply because they play in the nation's biggest city. That's the case on Thursday when they open the TNT doubleheader against visiting Houston. Here's a look at all three games on Thursday's schedule. I'm in an underdog frame of mind.
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Hornets at Raptors (-12, 199.5)
Second of a back-to-back for Charlotte as it hosted New Orleans on Wednesday night. The Raptors completed their longest road trip of the season with a 2-4 record following Sunday's 125-109 defeat in Phoenix. Toronto, the league leader at 11.7 turnovers per game, committed 13 in the first half, resulting in 25 Phoenix points. The Suns were up 70-53 at the half. The Raptors have lost three games in a row for the first time in over a year. The last time Toronto lost three games in a row was Nov. 26-Dec. 6, 2013 as part of a five-game skid. The Raptors' magic numbers are 100 and 45. The team is 13-0 when holding opponents under 100 points and 12-1 when opponents shoot less than 45 percent from the field.
It's the first meeting of the season between the Hornets and Raptors. Charlotte was 0-3 against Toronto in 2013-14, with each game decided by five points of fewer. DeMar DeRozan led Toronto in averaging 23.3 points. He has been out since late November with a torn adductor longus tendon and Toronto is 11-7 without him. DeRozan averaged 19.4 points prior to his injury Nov. 28 vs. Dallas and never missed more than five games in a season during his first five seasons in the NBA. He's close to returning, but it won't be Thursday. Al Jefferson led Charlotte in averaging 23.0 points and 14.5 rebounds against Toronto last year, but he remains out another three weeks or so with a groin injury.
Key trends: The home team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The "over/under" has gone over in 14 of Toronto's past 18 at home. The over is 4-1 in Charlotte's past five in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: This line already has moved a point toward Toronto. I'm sure the Raptors will play better back at home and the Hornets will be a bit tired, but 12 is a couple too many. Take the points and go over.
Rockets at Knicks (+11, 191.5)
This is the second of a back-to-back for Houston as it was in Cleveland on Wednesday, while New York was at Washington. The Knicks are going to have an unrecognizable starting lineup in games in which Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire don't play following the trade of J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert and release of Samuel Dalembert. For example, on Monday in Memphis when Anthony and Stoudemire sat out, the starting five was Tim Hardaway Jr., Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Cole Aldrich and Jason Smith. Hardaway and Calderon are decent players, but that lineup wouldn't win the D-League title. Because the Knicks played Wednesday, it's not clear if Stoudemire will play here. I would expect not -- unless he sat Wednesday -- because he rarely plays both of a back-to-back. Anthony is dealing with a knee injury and didn't play Wednesday. He won't here. Anthony will probably be shut down after the All-Star Game. He wants to play in that because it's in New York.
Houston beat the visiting Knicks 91-86 on Nov. 24. The Rockets trailed by six with less than nine minutes remaining, but James Harden scored 12 of his game-high 36 points in the final five minutes to lead Houston to the victory. The Rockets played without starters Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley due to injury. For the Knicks, Anthony left the game with back spasms with less than two minutes remaining in the first half and did not return. He finished with 14 points, the only Knick in double figures, which is rather humorous considering how long he played. Houston has won 10 straight games against the Knicks.
Key trends: Houston has covered five straight vs. teams with a losing record. The Knicks haven't covered their past eight vs. the West. Houston has covered four straight at the Knicks.
Early lean: Third road game in four nights for Rockets, so they probably will be a bit gassed and ready to get home. Take the points even as truly lousy as New York is. Only because the Knicks are home.
Heat at Trail Blazers (-9.5, 197.5)
This is your TNT late game. Miami has been off since ending a four-game losing streak Sunday with an 88-84 home win over Brooklyn in which the Heat never trailed. Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade combined for 51 points, and someone named Hassan Whiteside -- yes, this is what the post-LeBron James Heat have become -- went off with 11 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. Portland hasn't played since a 98-94 home win over the Lakers on Monday. Damian Lillard hit the go-ahead basket with 36 seconds left and had 39 points, his most ever at home. Lillard had 16 points in the final 5:12, while the Lakers had 11 as a team. Lillard has scored at least 39 in three of his past nine games. Portland starting guard Wesley Matthews went down with what looked like a bad injury in the first quarter and was helped to the locker room, but he actually later returned to the game. So he should be good to go here.
Miami has won three consecutive games against Portland and five of the past seven dating back to the 2010-11 season -- but those were mostly with LeBron in a Heat uniform. The two games last year were decided by three combined points. Bosh hit a winning 3-pointer with less than a second left in a 108-107 win in Portland in a game James missed due to injury. LaMarcus Aldridge has scored at least 20 points in each of his past seven games against Miami.
Key trends: The Heat have covered one of their past 11 after a win. Portland is 4-1 ATS in its past five vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 5-0 in Miami's past five road games vs. teams with a winning home record.
Early lean: As long as Bosh and Wade play, I'll take those points. Go over.
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