Just when you think you've seen it all in the NBA ... something new comes along. The Portland Trail Blazers aren't very good and probably weren't going to beat the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night regardless. But the Blazers' chances certainly diminished when the team was without second-leading scorer C.J. McCollum, a candidate for Most Improved Player in the league. McCollum wasn't hurt; he was accidently left off the team's active roster in a clerical error by Terry Stotts' coaching staff. Before every game, coaches are required to submit a list of active and inactive players, designating up to 13 players as active on their 15-man roster. They are due one hour before tipoff and can't be changed. I've actually heard of this happening before, but not with one of a team's best players. McCollum wasn't designated as active. Portland disputed the error, and the NBA eventually agreed to let Clippers coach Doc Rivers decide if he would allow McCollum to play. Hey, this is a competitive business where one win can mean a lot. Rivers said no, and so would I. I'd bet big on McCollum "over" his points total the next time these teams play.
Free $60 in Member NBA Picks No Obligation Click Here
Raptors at Wizards (+1.5, 202)
Toronto ended a two-game slide with a 91-74 win in Brooklyn on Monday. Jonas Valanciunas had 22 points and 11 rebounds. However, the Raptors learned that starting forward DeMarre Carroll had to have arthroscopic knee surgery and likely out 6-8 weeks. Carroll is averaging 11.7 points and 4.8 rebounds in 31.9 minutes and is a fine defender. Washington lost a second straight at home Wednesday, 121-115 to Cleveland. John Wall had 20 points and 12 assists, and the Wizards got back Nene (19-game absence) and Gary Neal (five games). Toronto leads the season series 2-0, winning two low-scoring close games.
Key trends: Washington has covered seven straight meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in six of Toronto's past seven vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Wizards and under.
Magic at Nets (+3.5, 196.5)
Orlando lost its fourth in a row Wednesday, 95-86 to Indiana. It's the Magic's longest skid of the season. Starting point guard Elfrid Payton missed his second straight game with a bruised left ankle. Brooklyn lost 91-74 to the Raptors on Wednesday, the Nets' eighth straight defeat at home. Joe Johnson, battling a bruised left quad, finished with five points on 2-for-7 shooting. Orlando leads the season series 2-0, holding the Nets to 93 points or fewer in both.
Key trends: Orlando is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 6-1 in the past seven in Brooklyn.
Early lean: Magic and under.
Nuggets at Grizzlies (TBA)
Denver's six-game losing streak ended with a 78-74 win at Minnesota on Wednesday. Danilo Gallinari had 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Jusuf Nurkic had 15 points and 10 boards. It was the first time this season the team won when scoring fewer than 100 points. The Nuggets thought rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay might return from a sprained right ankle, but he was sore Wednesday morning after practice Tuesday. But there's a decent chance he returns here. Memphis lost 112-94 at Oklahoma City on Wednesday to conclude a three-game road trip. Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley sat out with a sore left Achilles. Seems likely he sits again here. This is the first meeting between these teams.
Key trends: The home team is 7-3 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The under is 5-0 in the past five.
Early lean: Wait on Conley.
Cavaliers at Timberwolves (+9.5, 201)
First of an ESPN doubleheader and should have live betting at sportsbooks. Cleveland is starting to look really good with Kyrie Irving getting better each game. The Cavs won a fifth consecutive Wednesday, 121-115 in Washington. Irving had a season-best 32 points. LeBron James had 34 points and 10 rebounds. Minnesota lost its fourth in a row Wednesday, 78-74 to Denver. Center Nikola Pekovic scored 12 in his season debut for the Timberwolves, but Minnesota was just 2-for-20 in the fourth quarter. Guard Kevin Martin returned after missing seven games. First meeting of the season between these teams and Kevin Love's second game back in Minneapolis after the big trade between these teams before the 2014-15 season.
Key trends: The Cavs are 7-3 ATS in their past 10 at Minnesota. The under is 6-2 in the past eight meetings overall.
Early lean: Cavs and under.
Pacers at Pelicans (+2.5, 206)
Indiana won in Orlando 95-86 on Wednesday. Paul George had 20 points and the Pacers didn't trail after the second quarter. Starting point guard George Hill was back in the lineup after missing the previous game. Hill had 16 points in 34 minutes. New Orleans lost at home to Dallas 100-91 on Wednesday even though the Mavs were without four resting starters. Coach Alvin Gentry ripped himself and the team afterward. First meeting of season between these teams.
Key trends: Indiana is 7-0 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 4-1 in the past five.
Early lean: Pelicans and over.
Mavericks at Bucks (+2.5, 201)
Dallas rested starters Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams, Zaza Pachulia and Wesley Matthews on Wednesday in New Orleans following a double-overtime win over Sacramento the night before, but the Mavs still beat the Pelicans. Chandler Parsons, the only usual starter in uniform, scored a season-high 21 points. Raymond Felton, starting for Williams, had 22 points. All those guys will be back here. Milwaukee lost 117-106 in Chicago on Tuesday. The Bucks were without Jerryd Bayless because of a left ankle injury. The Mavs beat the visiting Bucks 103-93 on Dec 28. Matthews scored 22 points, including two clutch 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Key trends: The Mavs are 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 5-1 in the past six in Milwaukee.
Early lean: Bucks and over.
Knicks at Spurs (-13, 194.5)
New York won a third straight Wednesday, 98-90 in Miami. Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points and the Knicks shot 56 percent. The Knicks have now surpassed last year's win total of 17. San Antonio won a sixth straight Wednesday, 123-98 at home against Utah -- the second win in a row for the Spurs by that exact same score, incidentally. San Antonio had nine players in double figures and got 70 points from its bench in improving to 21-0 at home. The Spurs are plus-526 against their opponents this season, the best mark in league history through 37 games. Warriors who? The Spurs won at the Knicks 94-84 on Nov. 2. Tim Duncan had 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in his NBA-record 954th victory with one team.
Key trends: The Knicks are 11-4 ATS in their past 15 after a win. The over is 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Spurs and over.
Heat at Suns (+4, 198)
Miami's three-game winning streak ended in a 98-90 home loss to the Knicks on Wednesday. The Heat had won eight straight in the series. They were just 2-for-17 from 3-point range. Hassan Whiteside was in the lineup after missing the previous game with a sore knee and had eight points and eight rebounds. I called Phoenix ending its nine-game losing streak on Wednesday as the Suns beat the depleted Hornets 111-102. Phoenix made a season-high 19 3-pointers. This will be Heat point guard Goran Dragic's first game in Phoenix since being traded to Miami at last season's deadline. He won't be warmly welcomed as Dragic forced his way out.
Key trends: The Heat have covered seven straight at Phoenix. The under is 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Heat and under.
Warriors at Trail Blazers (TBA)
Here's guessing Stotts will look more closely at his roster sheet before signing it; I'm sure some lower-level assistant is in charge of compiling that. The Blazers lost to the Clippers without McCollum 109-98, their second loss in a row. Damian Lillard had 20 points and nine assists. Golden State won its fourth straight Tuesday, 109-88 at the Lakers. Klay Thompson had 22 first-quarter points on the way to 36 overall. However, Steph Curry again injured his troublesome left shin and sat out the fourth quarter. That injury caused him to miss two games previously. Curry keeps saying he plans to play through this, but don't be surprised if he sits this one out. This is the first meeting of the season between the teams; Warriors swept last year.
Key trends: The Warriors are 8-2 ATS in the past 10 meetings in Portland. The over is 4-1 in the past five overall.
Early lean: Obviously need to wait on Curry. I'd take whatever points Blazers get if he doesn't go.
Thunder at Lakers (+13, 212)
Second ESPN game. Oklahoma City got back Kevin Durant from a one-game injury absence on Wednesday and the Thunder beat the Grizzlies 112-94. Durant had 26 points and a season-high 17 rebounds. Russell Westbrook added 20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. The Lakers were in Sacramento on Thursday night with Kobe Bryant questionable to play due to a shoulder injury. Oklahoma City has crushed the Lakers in two meetings this season, by a combined 75 points, with L.A. topping out at 85 in the two games.
Key trends: The Thunder are 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The over is 7-3 in the past 10.
Early lean: Thunder and over.
Get your $60 worth of member's picks absolutely free - no obligation, no sales people - you don't even have to enter credit card information. You can use this $60 credit any way you please on any of our top NBA handicappers. Get free picks now. Also, for a limited time only get three top NBA handicappers for the price of one! Click Here.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
Most Recent NBA Handicapping Articles
- Free NBA Picks: Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
- Expert NBA Handicapping: Home and Road Differences
- Expert NBA Handicapping: Utah Jazz Off to Rough Start
- NBA Betting and Handicapping: Studs and Duds Against the Spread
- 2019 NBA Championship Odds and Expert Predictions
- Expert NBA Handicapping: Betting Teams Out of Playoff Chase Already
- NBA Betting Advice: Handicapping the Golden State Warriors Drama
- NBA Betting and Handicapping: Los Angeles Clippers for Real After Hot Start?
- Expert NBA Handicapping: The Cavaliers Post-LeBron
- Expert NBA Handicapping: Toronto Raptors True Contender in East