NBA Odds and Predictions: Wednesday, January 7 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
by Alan Matthews - 1/6/2015
Pretty stunning trade in the NBA on Monday night that should improve the Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers and all but ensures the Knicks may finish with the NBA's worst record -- yes, worse than the Philadelphia 76ers. In a complete salary dump, the Knicks sent out guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert and received back ... well, nothing of immediate value. They received Alex Kirk and Lou Amundson from the Cavs and Lance Thomas from the Thunder. All three have non-guaranteed contracts and will be cut. So will center Samuel Dalembert. The moves to unload Smith, Shumpert and Dalembert will save the team more than $20 million in salary and luxury taxes. New York gets a protected 2015 first-round pick from OKC and a 2019 second-round pick. Smith and Shumpert head to Cleveland with the Cavs' Dion Waiters going to OKC. Smith can score off the bench, and Shumpert, when healthy, is a good defensive player. I'm sure LeBron James signed off on this. Waiters adds scoring off the bench for the Thunder with Reggie Jackson and is insurance if the team can't re-sign Jackson this offseason when he's a free agent. We should see the new guys in action Wednesday. Here's the full schedule.
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Rockets at Cavaliers (TBA)
Cleveland pretty clearly had to do something, although the club still desperately needs a rim protector. The Cavs' 2014-15 season hit rock bottom with Monday's 95-92 loss at Philadelphia, which had been 0-14 at home. James was out and will remain so for a while. Kyrie Irving missed the game with a bad back, and he's very questionable for Wednesday (thus the TBA). It was Cleveland's fifth loss in six games. Shumpert is dealing with a shoulder injury and won't play Wednesday but Smith should. Houston lost 114-105 in Chicago on Monday in a game that was a lot closer than that. Houston led much of the game but was outscored 19-5 over the final 3:19. Josh Smith had one of his best games as a Rocket with 21 points, but James Harden was only 7-for-22 for 20 points. It's the first meeting of the season between these teams. The Rockets have won four straight overall in the series.
Key trends: Houston has failed to cover its past four vs. teams with a winning record. The Cavs have covered only two of their past 10 at home. The "over/under" has hit under in seven of Houston's past eight vs. teams with a winning record and five of Cleveland's past six at home.
Early lean: Have to wait on Irving, but if Rockets get any points take them. I think they win outright regardless.
Pelicans at Hornets (+3, 194.5)
Charlotte has won two straight, but both on the road. It beat Boston 104-95 on Monday. Kemba Walker had 33 points and Cody Zeller a career-high 20 points while occasionally facing off against brother Tyler of the Celtics. The Pelicans lost 92-85 at home to Washington on Monday. Pelicans guard Eric Gordon, returning from a left shoulder injury, played for the first time in 21 games but scored only six points on 2-for-8 shooting in 33 minutes. Charlotte lost in New Orleans 100-91 on Nov. 4. Davis had 24 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks against the team that tanked to get him in the 2012 NBA draft but lost out on the ping-pong balls to New Orleans. The No. 2 pick in that draft by Charlotte, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, missed the game.
Key trends: The Pelicans are 4-0 ATS in their past four after a loss. Charlotte is 6-1 ATS in its past seven after a win. The over is 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Hornets and over.
Bucks at 76ers (+6.5, 197)
The NBA record for home losses to start a season was 19, but now the Sixers don't have to worry about that following Monday's three-point win over Cleveland. Tony Wroten scored 20 points and hit the go-ahead layup with 9.1 seconds left as the 76ers rallied from a 17-point hole. Michael Carter-Williams had 18 points and 13 assists for the Sixers after he missed one game because of right shoulder soreness. It's the second of a back-to-back for Milwaukee as it hosted Phoenix on Tuesday. The Sixers lost in Milwaukee 93-81 on Halloween. O.J. Mayo led the Bucks with 25 points, which remains his season high. Carter-Williams missed that game due to injury.
Key trends: The under is 7-0 in Philly's past seven playing on one day of rest. The favorite has covered the past four meetings.
Early lean: Philly and under.
Knicks at Wizards (-13, 190)
New York tied a franchise record with its 12th straight loss Monday night, getting routed 105-83 in Memphis. This team is 100 percent tanking now, and I guarantee that Carmelo Anthony will sit the rest of the season eventually. There's just no reason to play him and put more mileage on those bad knees. Save him for next year. Anthony and Amare Stoudemire both sat vs. Memphis. Both are day-to-day. The Wizards ended a season-high three-game skid with Monday's seven-point win in New Orleans. Washington hasn't had trouble with New York this season, but then no one really has. The Wizards won 93-83 at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 4 and then again at the Garden on Christmas, 102-91, behind 24 points and 11 assists from John Wall.
Key trends: Washington has covered five straight meetings. The under is 4-1 in those five.
Early lean: Wizards and under.
Celtics at Nets (TBA)
Boston lost its third straight and seventh in the past eight Monday, falling 104-95 at home to Charlotte. Jared Sullinger had 22 points and eight rebounds, but no one else did much. Point guard Jameer Nelson was sidelined with a sprained right ankle. Brooklyn dropped its second straight on Monday, falling 96-88 in overtime at home to Dallas. Deron Williams sat out with a sore left side and Kevin Garnett did just for rest as it was the second of a back-to-back. KG thus should be in there Wednesday against his former club, but Williams is questionable. These teams have split two meetings this season, both in Boston. The Celtics beat the Nets in the season opener 121-105. Brooklyn won the most recent meeting, 109-107 the day after Christmas. Sullinger's game-tying shot rimmed out at the buzzer.
Key trends: Brooklyn has covered five of the past seven meetings. The over has hit in five of those seven.
Early lean: Nets will certainly win, but I wouldn't give more than six.
Grizzlies at Hawks (TBA)
Guess it's time to start taking Atlanta seriously as it sits atop the Eastern Conference and is tied for the second-fewest losses in the NBA. The Hawks won their fifth straight Monday, and it was impressive: 107-98 at the L.A. Clippers. It was Atlanta's 19th win overall in the past 21 and seventh in a row on the road. Atlanta has won eight straight against Western Conference teams, equaling its best-ever streak from Oct. 31 to Nov. 18, 1997. Memphis blasted the Knicks 105-83 on Monday for its fourth win in the past five. Grizzlies star Zach Randolph missed his eighth straight game due to a sore right knee. Memphis won both meetings with Atlanta last year. The one at Philips Arena was 79-76. It was notable because the Grizzlies had just one free-throw attempt. That was the fewest by any team in the shot clock era. Yet they still won.
Key trends: Atlanta has covered eight straight vs. the West. The over is 7-3 in Memphis' past 10 after a win.
Early lean: Wait to see on Randolph.
Jazz at Bulls (-9.5, 195.5)
Utah lost 105-101 at home to Indiana on Monday and played without starting point guard Trey Burke as he is dealing with strep throat. So Dante Exum, the No. 5 overall pick of last summer's draft, made his first start and tied his career-high of 13 points on 5-for-14 shooting. Big man Enes Kanter also missed the game with an ankle injury. Both he and Burke are being called day-to-day, but it would be a minor surprise if they play here. Chicago beat visiting Houston by nine on Monday behind 27 points and 14 rebounds from Pau Gasol. Starting forward Mike Dunleavy missed his second straight game because of a sprained ankle. Chicago won in Utah 97-95 on Nov. 24. It was the Bulls' ninth win in the past 12 meetings.
Key trends: Utah has covered seven of its past eight road games. The Bulls are 1-4 ATS in their past five after a win. The under is 5-0 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Utah and under. Chicago will be looking ahead to Friday in Washington.
Pistons at Mavericks (-10, 212)
Second of a back-to-back for the streaking Pistons as they were in San Antonio on Tuesday. Dallas won its sixth straight game Monday, 96-88 in overtime at Brooklyn. In that one, Dirk Nowitzki moved into seventh place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Rajon Rondo had an interesting line. He was 1-for-13 for two points but also had 14 assists and 10 rebounds. Dallas won in Detroit 117-106 on Dec. 17 in the second of a back-to-back. Chandler Parsons had a season-high 32 for the Mavs. The Mavericks have won six straight against Detroit and 13 of the last 15.
Key trends: Dallas has covered five of the past six meetings. The over has hit in the past four.
Early lean: Take the points and go over.
Magic at Nuggets (TBA)
Orlando hasn't played since an eight-point home loss to Charlotte on Saturday, the Magic's third straight defeat, all at home. Forward Channing Frye sprained his right elbow in the second quarter and did not return. He expects to play Wednesday. Denver won 110-101 at Minnesota on Monday for its second straight win. Arron Afflalo had 34 points to lead the way. First meeting of the season between these teams and they made a fairly big trade this offseason, with Orlando sending Afflalo back to Denver and getting young swingman Evan Fournier and a 2014 second-round pick in return. I'd say Orlando won that deal slightly as Fournier is only 22 and has decent upside. Plus he's way cheaper right now than Afflalo. Fournier is averaging 13.6 points this season. Denver has beaten Orlando three straight times.
Key trends: Orlando is 8-2 ATS in its past 10 road games vs. teams with a winning home record. The under has hit in 10 of Denver's past 13 after allowing 100 points or more in its previous game.
Early lean: Denver should win easily. Not sure why the TBA here -- doubt it's for Frye.
Suns at Timberwolves (+7.5, 215)
Minnesota brings an NBA-high 12-game losing streak into this one. Most of those losses weren't close, and the opponent scored at least 100 points in all of them. The Wolves remain without three starters due to injury, and forwards Chase Budinger and Robbie Hummel sat Monday with an illness. Second of a back-to-back for Phoenix as it was in Milwaukee on Tuesday. The Suns won two of three meetings in 2013-14, including both in Minnesota. One was on a Gerald Green game-winner in the game's final five seconds and after rallying from a 22-point deficit.
Key trends: The Suns are 5-1 ATS in their past six in Minnesota. The under is 8-2 in the Wolves' past 10.
Early lean: I'll take the points only because second game in two nights for Phoenix. Like the over more than the side, though.
Thunder at Kings (+6, 212)
Presumably Waiters will make his debut here for OKC. The Thunder were routed 117-91 at Golden State on Monday. OKC (17-18) missed a chance to move above .500 for the first time this season. The Thunder shot just 30.6 percent. Kevin Durant was held to 14 points on 3-for-16 shooting. Sacramento has been off since a 114-95 loss in Detroit on Sunday. Oklahoma City is 2-0 vs. Sacramento this season. Durant and Russell Westbrook were out injured for the first one. They were both in the lineup for the last one, a 104-92 win in Sacramento. That was the Kings' first game after firing Coach Mike Malone. DeMarcus Cousins was out with an illness.
Key trends: OKC is 4-0-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 7-1 in the past eight in this series.
Early lean: Thunder and over.
Pacers at Warriors (-11, 203.5)
Indiana has alternated wins and losses over the past eight games. It won 105-101 in Utah on Monday behind Roy Hibbert's 22 points, his first 20-point game in almost two months. Starting point guard George Hill did not dress for the Pacers for the third straight game due to a left groin strain. Fellow guard Rodney Stuckey left the court with a sore right groin just four minutes into the game but returned. Golden State has won four straight blowouts. The Warriors were far superior to the Thunder on Monday. Golden State led by 20 at halftime and never let the Thunder get close after that. Golden State has won 12 consecutive home games and is 14-1 at Oracle Arena this season. Golden State and Indiana split last year, each winning at home. The Warriors have won five of their past seven at home in the series.
Key trends: The Pacers have covered nine of their past 12 overall. The over is 5-2 in the Warriors' past seven vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Indiana and over.
Lakers at Clippers (-12, 214)
The Clippers' three-game winning streak ended with a nine-point home loss to Atlanta on Monday. The Clippers committed six of their season-high 21 turnovers in the fourth, when the Hawks had one. L.A. is just 7-10 against teams with a winning record. The Lakers come off a four-point loss in Portland on Monday. Kobe Bryant didn't play in that one for a normal day of rest. He will here. Forward Wesley Johnson sat out with an injured hip and isn't expected to be ready yet. The Clippers beat the Lakers 118-111 on Halloween. Blake Griffin had 39 points. The Clippers have won eight of nine against the Lakers since the start of the 2012-13 campaign.
Key trends: The over is 12-2 in the past 14 meetings. The Clippers are 7-2 ATS in the past nine against their Staples Center co-tenants.
Early lean: Lakers and over.
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