NBA Odds and Predictions: Thursday, March 12 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
by Alan Matthews - 3/11/2015
No question what the game of the night on Thursday's five-game slate is: Cleveland at San Antonio in what could well be a Finals preview. Of course, LeBron James faced the Spurs while with Miami in the past two Finals, winning the first and losing last year's. If the Spurs and Cavs don't play in June, Thursday night might be the last time that future Hall of Famers LeBron and Tim Duncan compete against one another. I fully expect Duncan to hang up the sneakers after this season. Here's a look at the entire schedule.
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Bucks at Pacers (-6.5, 185)
Milwaukee hosted Orlando on Wednesday. The Pacers beat those Magic 118-86 on Tuesday behind 34 points (season high), seven assists and six rebounds from Rodney Stuckey. The Pacers made 17 3-pointers to match the franchise record. Indiana moved into sole possession of seventh in the East -- the Hawks and Cavs are hoping to not face the Pacers in Round 1. Milwaukee and Indiana have split two meetings. The Bucks won 87-81 very early in the season in Indianapolis, and the Pacers won 94-91 in Milwaukee on Jan. 2. Both teams are very different now.
Key trends: The Bucks are 1-5 against the spread in their past six road games. Indiana has covered 10 of its past 11 at home. The "over/under" has gone under in four of the past five meetings.
Early lean: Pacers and love, love the under.
Grizzlies at Wizards (pick'em, 184.5)
Memphis played in Boston on Wednesday night. This is the TNT early game, but with an earlier start time of 7 p.m. ET. Washington is looking for its first two-game winning streak in more than a month. The Wizards looked really good Monday with a 95-69 victory in Charlotte behind 15 points and nine assists from John Wall to snap a nine-game road losing streak. The Wizards shot 51.8 percent from the field. Bradley Beal returned to the lineup after sitting out Saturday's game at Milwaukee with a mild stress reaction in his right leg. This is the first meeting of the season. Last year the Grizzlies swept, 92-89 at home (despite 37 from Beal) and 110-104 in D.C.
Key trends: Memphis is 5-2 ATS in its past seven against teams with a winning record. Washington is 0-7 ATS in its past seven vs. the West. The under is 5-2 in Washington's past seven.
Early lean: Wizards and under.
Rockets at Jazz (TBA)
Houston was in Portland on Wednesday. Utah won a third straight on Tuesday, 87-82 over the visiting Knicks. Derrick Favors had 29 points and 12 rebounds. Rudy Gobert, now one of my favorite players, added 10 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks and three steals. Leading scorer Gordon Hayward was out with a back injury and is questionable here (thus the TBA). Utah has yet to win four straight this season. Houston leads the series 2-0, winning its season opener 104-93 in Salt Lake City and 97-82 at home on Jan. 10. Dwight Howard was around for both those games.
Key trends: Houston is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 6-1 in the past seven in Utah.
Early lean: Wait on Hayward, but I like Jazz to win if he does play.
Cavaliers at Spurs (TBA)
This is the TNT nightcap with a 9:30 p.m. ET start. Let's start with the big question first: Will Duncan play? San Antonio won its sixth straight Tuesday, 117-107 at home against Toronto. Kawhi Leonard had 24 points and 11 rebounds and matched a career high with five steals, while Tony Parker continued his recent surge with 23 points and nine assists. As for Duncan, he left with about a minute remaining, hyperextending his left elbow when teammate Tiago Splitter fell into him. The team says he is OK but obviously monitor that (thus the TBA). Cleveland looked awesome on Tuesday in a 127-94 win in Dallas. LeBron James played without his usual headband for some reason and finished with 27 points. Every Cavs starter had at least 17 points in an offensive clinic. San Antonio won in Cleveland 92-90 on Nov. 19, the Spurs' 10th straight win over the Cavaliers. Duncan and Boris Diaw had 19 to pace the Spurs. LeBron coughed up the ball with 1.9 seconds left while trying to dribble behind his back. He was just 6-for-17 for 15 points. Leonard seems to give LeBron as much trouble on defense as anyone.
Key trends: The Cavs are 11-2 ATS in their past 13 vs. the West. San Antonio is 0-4 ATS in its past four Thursday games. The over is 8-1 in Cleveland's past nine against teams with a winning record. The over is 5-2 in the Spurs' past seven.
Early lean: I think Cavs win this somewhat easily, especially if Duncan sits -- LeBron remembers what happened last time he was on San Antonio's floor: his Heat career ended.
Knicks at Lakers (-6, 192.5)
In most years, there's no way this game isn't nationally televised -- it originally was supposed to be but was pulled because it's truly unwatchable with both Carmelo and Kobe out for the year. New York lost a fifth straight in Utah on Tuesday, 87-82, the Knicks' fifth straight game scoring under 90. Someone named Alexey Shved had 21 points, a career-high 10 rebounds and seven assists for the Knicks. New York missed Tim Hardaway Jr. (back) for the second consecutive game, but Coach Derek Fisher thinks he might return here. L.A. ended a five-game skid with Tuesday's 93-85 home win over Detroit. Jordan Hill led seven Lakers in double figures with 16 points as L.A. swept the season series. The game was Byron Scott's 1,000th as an NBA head coach during the regular season. The Lakers lost at Madison Square Garden 92-80 on Super Bowl Sunday. Anthony was still playing then and had 31 points and eight rebounds. Carlos Boozer led L.A. with 19 points and 10 rebounds, but the Lakers were missing both Nick Young and Jordan Hill. Young remains out.
Key trends: The Knicks are 0-4 ATS in their past four Thursday games. The Lakers have covered five straight vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 4-0 in each team's past four overall.
Early lean: Can I pass? Lakers and under.
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