Free NBA Picks: Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
If you watched Minnesota's overtime win over Denver on Wednesday night or saw highlights, then you probably thought what I did when Timberwolves point guard Jeff Teague went down with a knee injury: He's done for the season. Teague was hurt when Denver guard Gary Harris rolled into Teague's lower leg during a scrum for the ball. Minnesota got some good news on the big free-agent acquisition, however, as there were no torn ligaments in that left knee and only a sprained MCL. Teague is out probably a month, but that's still something the Wolves are happy about considering the alternative. He is averaging 13.4 points and 7.3 assists for the surging Timberwolves. Tyus Jones, a 2015 first-round pick out of Duke, probably will be a popular pickup in your fantasy NBA league this week as he will now get plenty of minutes. If you know Tom Thibodeau, he plays his starters a ton. When Teague missed four games at the end of November, Jones put up solid numbers in 38.5 minutes per night.
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Spurs at Pistons ( +6, 195)
The Spurs won a third straight Thursday (all by at least nine points), 119-107 over the visiting Knicks even though Kawhi Leonard was a late scratch for "return from injury management" and Rudy Gay left with a sore heel. Leonard should at least play here. Detroit had a two-game winning streak snapped in a bit of a trap game Thursday a bad Orlando team, 102-89. Ish Smith started at point guard with Reggie Jackson out perhaps two months with a sprained ankle and had 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists. San Antonio won the first meeting vs. Detroit, 96-93 on Dec. 4. The Pistons led by five midway through the fourth. Jackson led the Pistons with 27 points. Detroit also has dropped its past three at home in the series.
Key trends: The Spurs are 8-0-1 against the spread in their past nine playing on one day of rest. The "over/under" has gone under in 20 of Detroit's previous 27 following a loss.
Early lean: Spurs (as long as Leonard plays) and under.
Heat at Magic (+1, 208)
Miami hosted Brooklyn on Friday. It's possible that recently-returned Hassan Whiteside doesn't play the back end of the double. Dion Waiters has now been ruled out 2-3 weeks. Orlando welcomed Aaron Gordon back from injury and ended a nine-game losing streak Thursday, 102-89 vs. Detroit. He had 14 points and seven rebounds in just his second game since Dec. 8. The Magic were 17 of 17 from the free throw line, a franchise record for most free throws in a game without a miss. The Heat and Magic have split two meetings this season. Orlando has dropped eight of the last 13 meetings at home.
Key trends: The Heat are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 6-2 in the past eight.
Early lean: Magic and over.
Knicks at Pelicans (-8.5, 215)
Ah, the modern NBA. Where 7-footers like Kristaps Porzingis and Anthony Davis can post you up, lead a fast break or drain 3-pointers. Be fun to see those two guard one another. Presuming Davis doesn't get hurt (you can never presume that) Friday at home vs. Dallas. New York lost its fourth straight Thursday, 119-107 at San Antonio. Porzingis was 6-for-16 from the field and fouled out. New Orleans swept New York last year, each by double digits.
Key trends: The Knicks are 4-11 ATS in their past 15 on the road. The under is 5-0 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Knicks and under.
Trail Blazers at Hawks (TBA)
Atlanta was in Toronto on Friday. Portland won a second in a row Thursday, 114-110 over Philadelphia. CJ McCollum led all scorers with 34 for the Blazers, while Shabazz Napier added 23. He started for Damian Lillard, who missed his third straight with a hamstring injury but there's a good chance he returns for the opener of a three-game trip. The Blazers and Hawks split last year. Lillard and McCollum both averaged 24 points for Portland.
Key trends: The road team has covered four straight in the series. The under is 11-3 in the past 14 meetings.
Early lean: Blazers if Lillard plays.
Cavaliers at Jazz (+3, 207)
I warned you that the Cavs were due for a letdown game Wednesday in Sacramento off their big Christmas matchup at Golden State, and Cleveland was totally flat in a 109-95 loss. LeBron James had 16 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists for the Cavs, and Kevin Love scored 23 points but no one else much showed up. By the way, Isaiah Thomas is set to scrimmage with the Cavs on Friday and it's not impossible he makes his season debut here. More likely it will come early next week, though. Utah lost a third straight Wednesday, 126-101 at Golden State. The Jazz were outscored by 20 in the third. Rodney Hood led with 26 points off the bench. Utah lost in Cleveland on Dec. 16, 109-100. Donovan Mitchell finished with a team-best 26 points in the loss, while LeBron had a triple-double with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. The Jazz have won the past three meetings in Salt Lake City.
Key trends: The Jazz are 1-5 ATS in their past six. The under is 5-1 in Cleveland's previous six on the road.
Early lean: Cavs and under.
Grizzlies at Warriors (-13.5, 207)
This seems like a game where Steve Kerr would rest a Kevin Durant or Draymond Green, etc., as the Warriors were home to the Hornets on Friday. Kerr expects Stephen Curry to return from his sprained right ankle in this game; Curry didn't play Friday and the Dubs wouldn't let him play both ends of a back-to-back yet regardless. Memphis won at the Lakers on Wednesday, 109-99. Tyreke Evans had 32 points. He's playing his best basketball since being named 2010 Rookie of the Year. Frankly, the Grizzlies should trade him while his value his sky high. Evans won't be needed once Mike Conley returns. Last meeting of the season between Memphis and Golden State, with each holding a home victory.
Key trends: The Grizz are 1-5 ATS in their past six in Oakland. The under is 12-4 in the previous 16 meetings.
Early lean: Grizzlies and under.
76ers at Nuggets (TBA)
NBA TV game. Philly's slump continued with a 114-110 loss in Portland on Thursday. Joel Embiid finished with 29 points and nine rebounds, while Dario Saric had 25 points and nine rebounds. But guard Robert Covington left in the third quarter with an injured finger on his left hand. You will want to monitor his status and that of Embiid's because the big man isn't playing both this game and Sunday in Phoenix. Denver's three-game winning streak ended in a 128-125 OT loss at Minnesota on Wednesday. The Nugs had held their previous three opponents below 86 points, their longest such streak since 2012. Philly and Denver split last year, each winning on the road.
Key trends: The Sixers have covered just once in their past 11 after scoring at least 100 points in their previous game. The under is 9-1 in Denver's past 10 vs. teams with a losing road record.
Early lean: Wait on Embiid and Covington.
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