NBA Odds and Predictions: Thursday, March 19 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
by Alan Matthews - 3/18/2015
With the NCAA Tournament kicking off in full on Thursday, it's a light four-game schedule in the NBA and no TNT doubleheader this week as that network is also college basketball focused for a while. The game of the night, in my opinion, is the ghastly matchup between the Knicks and Timberwolves, the teams with the worst records in the NBA. The loser could be the big winner, potentially holding a key tiebreaker by the end of the season for the most ping-pong balls in the draft lottery. Here's a look at all four games.
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Timberwolves at Knicks (TBA)
Plenty of good seats available! Minnesota played in Toronto on Wednesday. Nearly half the Timberwolves of relevance other than Andrew Wiggins were questionable for that one (thus the TBA). No way I play them here, even if they could. I'm wanting to lose this game if I'm both teams. I actually thought the Knicks would cover against the Spurs on Tuesday night, but I sure didn't expect a 104-100 overtime upset. New York became the first team in NBA history to enter a game this late in the season with a winning percentage below .200 and beat the defending champions. The Knicks were down 13 in the third quarter and tied it at 96 with 5.5 seconds left in regulation on a Lou Amundson layup. Tim Hardaway Jr. missed the game with a sprained right wrist. The Knicks lost at Minnesota 115-99 on Nov. 19 as the Wolves' Kevin Martin had 37.
Key trends: The Wolves have covered just eight of their past 32 in the second of a back-to-back. New York is 1-4 against the spread in its past five Thursday games. The "over/under" has gone over in five of the past seven meetings.
Early lean: Wait on all the Wolves.
Nuggets at Rockets (-8.5, 213.5)
Denver's four-game winning streak ended with a 92-81 loss at Memphis on Monday, but that wasn't a surprise because the Nuggets sat starters Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried and Danilo Gallinari. No, they weren't hurt, and it wasn't the players' or coach's call. It was the front office's, and there still hasn't been an explanation. I'll give you one: the front office wants to lose as much as possible to improve draft position. Houston beat Orlando 107-94 on Tuesday for its second straight victory. James Harden had an off night, shooting 4-for-14 from the floor for 17 points. Coach Kevin McHale decided to start Joey Dorsey over Terrence Jones, who had started the past 11. I don't think that's a trend as Jones said it was a personal issue. Houston is 3-0 against Denver this year, scoring at least 108 points in each game.
Key trends: The Nuggets are 5-0 ATS in their past five games. Houston is 7-1 ATS in its past eight at home vs. teams with a losing road record. The over is 6-2 in the past eight meetings.
Early lean: If all the Nuggets play, they cover. Go over.
Pelicans at Suns (TBA)
Phoenix will be well-rested, having been off since a 102-89 home win over the Knicks on Sunday. Eric Bledsoe was a rebound shy of a triple-double. Suns starters Brandon Knight and Alex Len sat with sprained ankles. Both are called day-to-day (thus TBA). Neither practiced on Tuesday, and Len in particular seems unlikely to play. New Orleans stands to benefit the most from the injury to Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka. The Pelicans start a tough three-game road trip here. They beat the visiting Bucks 85-84 on Tuesday. Anthony Davis struggled from the field but still had 20 points and 12 rebounds. The Pelicans and Suns have met just once thus far, a 110-106 New Orleans home win on Dec. 30.
Key trends: The Pelicans are 8-1 ATS in their past nine road games vs. teams with a winning home record. Phoenix is 11-2 ATS in its past 13 after a double-digit win. The under is 6-0 in the Suns' past six games. The home team has covered the past four meetings.
Early lean: I like the Pelicans whether Len and/or Knight play or not.
Jazz at Lakers (+5.5, 184)
Utah took a season-high six-game winning streak into Wednesday's home game with Washington, and the Jazz have been by far the NBA's best defensive club since the All-Star break. The Lakers gave the Warriors a good game Monday, with L.A. only losing 108-105 for its third straight defeat. Jordan Clarkson and Wayne Ellington each scored 17 points, while Jordan Hill had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers, who have lost eight of nine. These teams have split two meetings. One of the Jazz's only bad games since the break was a 100-97 loss at home to L.A. on Feb. 25, with Utah blowing a 13-point fourth-quarter lead.
Key trends: L.A. is 7-1 ATS in its past eight games. The under is 7-2 in the Jazz's past nine in the second of a back-to-back. The Lakers have covered five of the past seven meetings.
Early lean: Huge on the under. The side really depends on Wednesday. If the Jazz win, give the points here (unless it's a draining OT game or something). If they lose, take the Lakers.
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