Free NBA Picks: Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Has Golden State star Steph Curry ruined Christmas for NBA fans? That's the marquee day of the regular season in The Association and the marquee matchup this year is yet another Warriors-Cavaliers matchup, their first meeting of the season. I assure you that both teams have that circled. However, Curry might not be ready to play by then after seriously spraining his ankle on Monday. Against New Orleans, he attempted to steal a Dante Cunningham pass to the wing when his ankle bent at a gruesome angle. An MRI was negative, but Curry won't even be re-evaluated for two weeks which obviously puts Christmas Day in jeopardy. The team isn't going to let its superstar play if he's not 100 percent. The Dubs have much bigger goals in mind than winning some regular-season game. Plus, Curry is no stranger to ankle injuries as he was plagued by them in the early stages of his career. Bad ankles used to be the only knock on Curry. This could cost the Warriors a few wins as they have outscored opponents by a whopping 16.6 points per 100 possessions when Curry is on the court this season.
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Bulls at Hornets ( -10.5, 204)
Chicago lost its 10th in a row Wednesday, 98-96 in Indiana. The Bulls were outscored by 16 points in the fourth. Rookie Lauri Markkanen missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds. Kris Dunn had 18 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Bulls. Charlotte lost to the Curry-less Warriors on Wednesday, 101-87. Frank Kaminsky left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury and Cody Zeller left in the fourth with a strained left knee. One of Chicago's few wins this season was 123-120 over Charlotte on Nov. 17. The Bulls have taken the past three in the series overall.
Key trends: The Bulls are 1-4 against the spread in their past five in Charlotte. The "over/under" is 5-2-1 in the past eight meetings.
Early lean: Bulls and over.
Warriors at Pistons (+4.5, 213)
First ESPN game. This will matter to Golden State because it doesn't want to get swept by anyone. Detroit won in Oakland on Oct. 29, 115-107. Wasn't a fluke, either, as the Warriors led by eight after one but were outscored in each of the final three quarters. The Dubs won their fifth straight Wednesday, 101-87 in Charlotte. Kevin Durant had his first triple-double of the season with 35 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists - he's going to have monster numbers as long as Curry is out. Draymond Green sat out as well with a minor shoulder injury (i.e. rest). Detroit is perhaps fading on a four-game skid following a 104-100 loss in Milwaukee on Wednesday. Andre Drummond scored 27 points with 20 rebounds.
Key trends: The Pistons are 6-0 ATS in their past six vs. teams with a winning percentage above .600. The over is 5-0 in Golden State's past five on Friday.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
Cavaliers at Pacers (+3.5, 220)
Cleveland won its franchise record-tying 13th straight Wednesday, 101-95 vs. the Kings (told you to take the points in a letdown game). LeBron James hit the go-ahead 3 with 15 seconds left and finished with 32 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. Indiana won its second in a row Wednesday, rallying for a 98-96 victory over Chicago. Victor Oladipo scored 27 points, including a clutch 3-pointer with 31.1 seconds left. Indiana ended a seven-game road losing streak at Cleveland on Nov. 1 with a 124-107 victory. Meanwhile, after losing 10 straight regular-season road games at Indiana, the Cavaliers have won two of their last four there.
Key trends: The road team has covered six straight in series. The over is 5-1 in those six.
Early lean: Cavs and over.
Nuggets at Magic (-2, 218.5)
Denver dropped its second straight Wednesday, 123-114 in New Orleans. Nikola Jokic sat out again with his ankle injury, and he won't play here. Gary Harris led with 24 points. Orlando beat Atlanta, 110-106 in OT on Wednesday. D.J. Augustin sent it to OT on a 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds left after the Magic trailed by as many as eight in the fourth. Nik Vucevic had 22 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, four blocked shots and two steals. Denver won both meetings last season with Orlando, which has lost eight of the past 10 overall in the series.
Key trends: The favorite is 6-0 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 4-0 in the previous four.
Early lean: Magic and under.
Raptors at Grizzlies (+5, 199)
Toronto won a fourth consecutive Tuesday, 126-113 over the Suns. Kyle Lowry had 20 points and 10 assists, and DeMar DeRozan scored 20 points and added eight assists. Toronto held an opponent without an offensive rebound for the first time in franchise history. Memphis lost at the Knicks, 99-88 on Wednesday. Marc Gasol had 17 points and eight rebounds. The Grizz have dropped their past six on the road and are 0-7 vs. the East this year. These teams split last year. Toronto has won the past four at home in the series.
Key trends: The Grizzlies are 1-8 ATS in their past nine at home. The under is 6-0 in their past six there.
Early lean: Raptors and under.
Mavericks at Bucks (-7, 205)
Dallas lost in Boston on Wednesday, 97-90, but covered. Harrison Barnes led the Mavericks with 19 points and seven rebounds. Dirk Nowitzki added 16 points and six rebounds. Dallas led by 10 at the half. Milwaukee edged Detroit, 104-100 on Wednesday. The Bucks began the fourth on a 14-1 run to take control. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points and 10 rebounds on his birthday. The Bucks have ruled out reserve guard Jason Terry for several weeks with a calf strain. Dallas has won the past three vs. Milwaukee, including 111-79 on Nov. 18. It remains the Mavs' biggest margin of victory in 2017-18 (and probably will stay that way) and also the fewest points they have allowed.
Key trends: The home team is 6-1-1 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 4-1 in the previous five.
Early lean: Mavs and under.
Kings at Pelicans (TBA)
Sacramento played valiantly but lost in Cleveland on Wednesday, 101-95. Zach Randolph had 18 points and 10 rebounds. Willie Cauley-Stein sat with a strained lower back and isn't expected to go here. New Orleans beat Denver, 123-114 on Wednesday behind 40 points, 22 rebounds and four blocks from DeMarcus Cousins. That guy's amazing when he has his head on straight. Anthony Davis missed a third in a row with an adductor strain. In the first meeting this season on Nov. 26 and Cousins' return to Sacramento, the Pelicans rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to win 114-106. That game clearly fired up Cousins as he had 41 points, 23 rebounds and six assists. Davis missed the game and probably will here, too.
Key trends: The Kings are 0-4 ATS in their past four in New Orleans. The over is 9-3 in the past 12 there.
Early lean: Pels will win with or without Davis but books will wait on him.
Celtics at Spurs (TBA)
Second ESPN game. I suppose you could call this a potential NBA Finals preview, as Boston could easily win the East. The only way the Spurs take the West is if the Warriors lose someone like Curry to injury in the playoffs. San Antonio was in the second of a back-to-back when it lost in Boston 108-94 on Oct. 30. It ended the Celtics' 10-game losing streak in the series. Boston won a fourth straight Wednesday, 97-90 over Dallas. Jaylen Brown sat with an inflamed right eye, while Marcus Morris was out due to left knee soreness. Both will travel with the team. San Antonio beat the visiting Heat on Wednesday, 117-105. There's some talk that Kawhi Leonard could make his season debut in this one off his quad injury.
Key trends: The favorite is 7-1 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 7-3 in San Antonio's past 10 following a win.
Early lean: Leonard certainly would affect this line, as would to a much lesser extent Brown.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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