Free NBA Picks: Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
I'm not sure I believe in curses, although how else can you explain the Chicago Cubs going 108 years without a World Series title and what has happened with Cleveland's "professional" football team since the Browns re-entered the NFL? So, while I don't want to say the Clippers are a cursed franchise, wow do they have bad luck. The latest bad fortune struck the team this week when star Blake Griffin went down with a knee injury. Only with the Clippers could it be good that Griffin will miss about two months with a sprained MCL; yes, that is much better than a torn ACL and 12 months on the sideline. Starting point guard Patrick Beverley is already out for the season and two other starters, guard Milos Teodosic and forward Danilo Gallinari, have been sidelined for extended periods. They each are expected out another 5-10 games. But the Griffin injury should officially put the Clippers on White Flag Watch for 2017-18 and a potential trade of DeAndre Jordan, who holds a player option for the 2018-19 season but surely will decline that.
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Suns at Celtics ( -12, 213)
1 p.m. ET tipoff. Phoenix is 1-2 on a six-game trip following a 131-107 loss in Detroit on Wednesday. Devin Booker led the Suns with 22 points and rookie Josh Jackson had a career-high 20. In a lineup switch, Tyson Chandler didn't play a second, while Greg Monroe went from a DNP-CD the previous game to starting. Boston bounced back from a double-digit home loss to Detroit with a 108-97 victory over Philly on Thursday. Kyrie Irving had 36 points, his fifth game of the season with at least 30. These teams split last year, each winning at home in a high-scoring game.
Key trends: The Celtics are 6-0 ATS in their past six vs. the Western Conference. The "over/under" is 7-2 in the Suns' past nine on the road.
Early lean: Celtics and over.
Clippers at Mavericks (-4.5, 205.5)
A 2 p.m. ET start time. The Clips lost their first game post-Griffin injury Thursday in a sign of things to come, 126-107 at home to Utah. Austin Rivers led L.A. with 25 points. The Clippers shot 54.3 percent, and normally you win hitting that many buckets. Dallas lost its second straight Wednesday, 109-104 at home to the Nets. Now, I do this for a living, but the Mavs' second-leading scorer in that game was some guy I've truly not heard of: Maxi Kleber. So, I looked him up: He's a German rookie who doesn't play much. L.A. beat visiting Dallas 119-98 on Nov. 1 - and then promptly went on a nine-game losing streak. Griffin had 20 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Gallinari was still healthy then and had a solid game. The Clippers outscored the Mavs 48-26 in the paint.
Key trends: The Clippers are 1-9 ATS in their past 10 after scoring at least 100 points in their previous game. The over is 7-2 in the past nine meetings in Dallas.
Early lean: Clippers (Mavs shouldn't be -4.5 vs. anyone) and under.
Hawks at Nets (-5, 219.5)
Final matinee of the day at 3 p.m. ET. These two play again Monday in Atlanta. The Hawks lost 121-114 at home to Cleveland on Thursday and saw good-looking rookie John Collins leave with a shoulder injury. He didn't travel to Brooklyn and is likely to miss a while pending MRI results. Brooklyn concluded a three-game trip at 2-1 with a 109-104 win in Dallas on Wednesday. DeMarre Carroll, who was questionable to play, had 22 points. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Allen Crabbe both sat out again with injuries and continue to be called day-to-day. Atlanta lost in Brooklyn on Oct. 22, 116-104. Crabbe had 20 points and D'Angelo Russell (still out a while) 16. Marco Belinelli had 19 points for Atlanta.
Key trends: The Hawks are 0-4 ATS in the past four meetings. The under is 8-0-1 in the previous nine.
Early lean: Hawks and under.
Grizzlies at Cavaliers (-10.5, 208)
Memphis hosted San Antonio on Friday with the Grizz on a nine-game skid. In the wake of Coach David Fizdale's firing, GM Chris Wallace said he has no plans of trading Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. But he wouldn't admit if he was shopping his two best players. Conley has been out since Nov. 13 with an Achilles injury and won't return for 2-3 weeks. Cleveland won its 10 th in a row Thursday, 121-114 over Atlanta. LeBron James had 24 points and 12 assists. The Cavs will be without guard Iman Shumpert (does little offensively but good defender) for up to two months as he was set for knee surgery on Friday. The Grizz and Cavs split last year, with Cleveland winning 103-86 at home behind 29 points and 13 rebounds from Kevin Love.
Key trends: The Grizzles have failed to cover their past four in the second of a back-to-back. The over is 13-2 in Cleveland's past 15 vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Cavs and over.
Pistons at 76ers (-5.5, 214.5)
Detroit was in Washington on Friday. Philadelphia has had the worst schedule of the week as this will be its fourth game since Monday and all against good teams. The Sixers were out of gas Thursday in a 108-97 loss in Boston. To no surprise, Joel Embiid sat out the second of a back-to-back. The 76ers got their first win of this season on Oct. 23 in Detroit, 97-86. Ben Simmons had the first of what should be many career triple-doubles with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Embiid chipped in 30 points as the Sixers never trailed. Andre Drummond had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Pistons.
Key trends: The Pistons are 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 5-0 in Philly's past five on Saturday.
Early lean: Sixers (assuming Embiid plays) and over.
Kings at Bucks (-11, 199.5)
Sacramento visited Chicago on Friday. Milwaukee completed a four-game West Coast trip at 3-1 Thursday with a 103-91 win in Portland. Khris Middleton had 26 points and Eric Bledsoe 25. Giannis Antetokounmpo added 20 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots. These teams played on Tuesday in Sacramento and the Bucks won 112-87 behind 32 points from the Greek Freak. Bledsoe had 21 points, five assists and five rebounds. The Bucks led by as many as 36. That was the second of a back-to-back as well for the Kings.
Key trends: The Kings are 0-4-1 ATS in their past five in the second of a back-to-back. The under is 4-1-1 in Milwaukee's past six at home following a road trip of at least seven days.
Early lean: Bucks and under.
Lakers at Nuggets (TBA)
The Lakers dropped their third straight Wednesday, but it was what you call a good loss: 127-123 in OT at home to the Warriors. You could see the makings of a good Lakers team in the not-too-distant future as Brandon Ingram had a career-high 32 points and Lonzo Ball 15 points and 10 assists. Another good-looking rookie, Kyle Kuzma, experienced back spasms during warmups and did not play. Denver beat Chicago 111-110 on a last-second bucket by Will Barton (37 points) on Thursday but may have lost star center Nikola Jokic for at least a few games. He went down with an ankle injury; the team is confident it's only a sprain. The Nuggets were ripped at the Lakers on Nov. 19, 127-109. Ball had his second career triple-double with 11 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and 11 assists. Julius Randle had 24 points. Denver coach Mike Malone and Jokic were ejected in the second quarter.
Key trends: The Lakers are 3-7 ATS in their past 10 in Denver. The over is 4-0 in the previous four meetings there.
Early lean: TBA on Jokic, although I'd call it a minor miracle if he plays. I like the Lakers if he doesn't. Kuzma is questionable.
Pelicans at Trail Blazers (-3.5, 207.5)
Totally different teams: New Orleans' stars are big men and Portland's are guards. New Orleans comes off a trip to Utah on Friday. Portland's three-game winning streak was snapped Thursday in a 12-point home loss to Milwaukee. Jusuf Nurkic led Portland with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Al-Farouq Aminu returned after missing 13 games with a right ankle injury. The Blazers hosted the Pelicans on Oct. 24 and won 103-93. CJ McCollum scored 16 of his 23 points in the final quarter. DeMarcus Cousins had 39 points and 13 rebounds in the loss. Anthony Davis left with a knee injury in the first quarter.
Key trends: The Pelicans are 1-6 ATS in their past seven in Portland. The under is 9-3-1 in the previous 13 meetings.
Early lean: Blazers and under.
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