Free NBA Picks: Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
A couple of things happened late last week that lead me to believe the NBA could expand from 30 to 32 teams within five years or so. The first was that the mayor of Seattle and a private investment group signed a $660 million Memorandum of Understanding, which will renovate KeyArena with it completed by October 2020. It's no secret that the city has wanted the NBA back since about the day after the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City, and Seattle is a great basketball town and deserves an NBA franchise (although I think the NHL will get there first). You don't want to expand by just one team and have an odd number of clubs as that's a scheduling nightmare (ask the NHL currently). The second bit of news was that the NBA is planning to put a G League team in Mexico City as soon as next season. The NBA is the most global of the four major U.S. pro sports leagues and it's no secret that Adam Silver wants another international club eventually. Ideally it would be in Europe, but Mexico City (the largest market in North America) makes the most sense immediately simply because of proximity. If the G League team is a success down there, the next step could be a NBA team.
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Hawks at Cavaliers (TBA)
Atlanta still has yet to win back-to-back games this season as it followed a home win over Orlando on Saturday with a 111-107 loss at the Knicks on Sunday. The Hawks are winless in the second game of a back-to-back, going 0-6 so far this season. Dennis Schroder led with 21 points but was benched for the final eight minutes or so. It's possible rookie John Collins could return from a shoulder strain suffered Nov. 30 for this one. The Cavs saw their 13-game winning streak snapped Friday at Indiana but bounced back with a 105-98 home win over Philadelphia on Saturday. LeBron James had 30 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists for his 58th career triple-double. These teams have split two meetings thus far, with the Hawks upsetting the Cavs in Cleveland on Nov. 5 and the Cavs winning by seven in Atlanta on Nov. 30. Cleveland will get forward Tristan Thompson back for this one. He has been out since Nov. 1 due to a calf injury.
Key trends: The Hawks are 4-0 against the spread in the past four meetings. The "over/under" is 40-0 in the previous four in Cleveland.
Early lean: Not really sure why the TBA.
Nuggets at Pistons (TBA)
First ESPN game. Denver is off a 126-116 overtime loss at Indiana on Sunday, blowing an eight-point lead with under three minutes left. It actually led by 19 at one point, marking the biggest blown lead by the team this season. Trey Lyles led the Nuggets with a career-high 25 points. Detroit has come crashing back to earth on a six-game losing streak. It lost 91-81 at home to Boston on Sunday. Andre Drummond was held to six points and Reggie Jackson just two. Detroit was 2-0 vs. Denver last season. Drummond averaged 16.5 points and 15.5 rebounds.
Key trends: Denver is 1-5 ATS in its past six road games. The under is 6-0 in the past six meetings.
Early lean: Pistons will win.
Lakers at Knicks (-4, 212.5)
L.A. is on a two-game winning streak following a 110-99 victory in Charlotte on Saturday. Jordan Clarkson had 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter. Lonzo Ball finished with five points and nine assists; he didn't play at all in the fourth quarter because Clarkson was on fire. The Knicks beat the Hawks on Sunday, 111-107. Kristaps Porzingis had 30 points. New York is 7-2 this year when he scores at least that many. The Lakers and Knicks split last year, and New York has not lost a season series to L.A. since the 2011-12 season.
Key trends: The road team is 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 6-1 in New York's past seven at home.
Early lean: Lakers and under.
Wizards at Nets (+3, 213.5)
This is the finale of a five-game trip for Washington. It's 2-2 on it following a 113-112 loss at the Clippers on Saturday. Lou Williams hit the winning 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left. Bradley Beal would counter with what appeared to be the game-winning jumper but it was waived off because the game clock started a couple tenths of a second too soon. The Wizards were given possession again, but this time Marcin Gortat's jumper missed. Otto Porter Jr. had 27 points and 11 rebounds in the loss. This might be the last game the Wizards are without John Wall. Brooklyn lost in Mexico City vs. Miami on Saturday, 101-89. It was the Nets' sixth straight loss in the series. Brooklyn has also lost seven in a row vs. Washington, including the past four at home.
Key trends: The favorite is 8-2 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The over is 6-1 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Nets and over.
Spurs at Mavericks (TBA)
San Antonio won a fourth straight Saturday, 104-101 in Phoenix. Apparently, the Spurs didn't get the NBA memo that you aren't supposed to rest guys in road games as they left Pau Gasol and Manu Ginobili home. There was some hope that Kawhi Leonard was going to make his season debut Saturday, but that didn't happen. He could here. Dallas lost a third straight Sunday, 97-92 at Minnesota. Rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed his second game in a row with a left hip strain and he's not going to play Tuesday, either. San Antonio is 2-0 vs. Dallas this season, winning by six and seven points.
Key trends: The Spurs are 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 5-2 in the previous seven in Dallas.
Early lean: Wait on Leonard.
76ers at Timberwolves (TBA)
Second ESPN game. Ton of young talent on the floor for this one. Well, if Joel Embiid plays. The Sixers lost a fourth straight Sunday, 131-124 in New Orleans and were without Embiid (back stiffness) and Robert Covington (sore back). Both could return here, with Embiid saying he fully expects to. Minnesota won a second consecutive Sunday, 97-92 over Dallas. Karl-Anthony Towns had 28 points, and Jimmy Butler scored 10 of his 22 in the fourth quarter. Minnesota is 7-0 at home vs. West teams but 6-5 vs. the East. The Wolves have won seven of the last 11 overall against the 76ers.
Key trends: The Wolves are 0-6-1 ATS in their past seven at home. The under is 6-2-1 ATS in the past nine meetings.
Early lean: Wait on Embiid.
Suns at Kings (-4, 212)
Phoenix got its first win of the season in its first game after firing Coach Earl Watson, beating these Kings 117-115 on Oct. 23 in the desert. Devin Booker, now out a couple of weeks, scored 22 points, including two free throws with 9.8 seconds to play. Phoenix shot 54.5 percent from the field. The Suns enter this on a three-game skid following a close home loss to San Antonio on Saturday. Phoenix's Mike James scored 25 points, one shy of his career high, but missed a last-second 3-pointer. Sacramento lost at home to the Raptors on Saturday, 102-87. Zach Randolph had 19 points and 11 rebounds in a losing effort. Sacramento committed 21 turnovers, leading to 27 points for Toronto.
Key trends: The Suns are 2-6 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 6-2 in those.
Early lean: Kings and under.
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