Free NBA Picks: Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Not like the Phoenix Suns were going anywhere this season, but perhaps you fade them a bit more over the next 2-3 weeks as they will be without leading scorer and their best young player, guard Devin Booker, due to a left adductor strain. Booker already has a 46-point game this season (had a 70-point one last year) and is averaging 24.3 points. This isn't the worst thing to happen to the franchise as the more losses the better to improve lottery chances next May (actually, Phoenix has a minus-6.8 net rating when Booker is on the court). Plus, it allows the Suns to move 2017 lottery pick Josh Jackson into the starting lineup. He's a terrific athlete and defender but can't shoot a lick. At least he'll get some attempts now to work on that. Ditto someone like Marquese Chriss. Booker was jacking up about 19 shots per night.
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Wizards at Clippers ( +3, 206.5)
A 3:30 p.m. ET game that lost all luster with All-Stars John Wall and Blake Griffin out injured, although Wall should be back sometime next week. These teams split last year and the Clippers have won the past nine in the series at home. Washington won its second straight Thursday, 109-99. Bradley Beal has blown up in those two games with 51 and 34 points. His 85 points in two games are the most by a Wizards player over a two-game span since Gilbert Arenas had 85 in games Dec. 22 and 26, 2006. L.A. dropped its fourth straight Wednesday, losing a second in a row to Minnesota, 113-107. Danilo Gallinari returned for Los Angeles and scored seven points on 2-for-13 shooting. He had been out since Nov. 5 due to a glute injury.
Key trends: The Clippers are 0-6 against the spread in their past six on Saturday. The under is 9-2 in Washington's past 11 on the road.
Early lean: Wizards and under.
Heat vs. Nets (+2.5, 212.5)
This game is in Mexico City and on NBA TV. It's Miami's first regular-season game outside the USA or Canada. Last season, the Heat were 3-0 vs. the Nets and have taken the past five in the series overall. Miami comes off a 12-point loss in San Antonio on Wednesday (so at least not far to travel). Tyler Johnson led Miami with 25 points, and Dion Waiters had 22. Hassan Whiteside missed his fourth straight game with a bruised left knee bone and he's not likely here. Could this be the Nets debut of Jahlil Okafor? He was acquired from the 76ers on Thursday (and a few other pieces) for Trevor Booker. That's a no-lose deal for Brooklyn as Okafor has talent as the former No. 3 overall pick. The Nets upset the Thunder in Mexico City on Thursday, 100-95. That was Brooklyn's 10th win, which it didn't reach last year until March 1.
Key trends: The Heat are 12-3-1 ATS in the past 16 meetings. The under is 4-0 in the previous four.
Early lean: Heat and under.
Lakers at Hornets (-7, 214)
Charlotte hosted Chicago on Friday. The Lakers ended a five-game skid with a 107-104 victory in Philadelphia on Thursday. Brandon Ingram scored 21 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds remaining. Lonzo Ball finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, including the assist on Ingram's shot. Charlotte swept the Lakers last season but by only a combined nine points.
Key trends: The Hornets are 3-7 ATS in their past 10 vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 6-2 in the Lakers' past eight road games.
Early lean: Lakers and under.
Magic at Hawks (-2, 215)
Interesting scheduling here as Orlando hosted Denver on Friday (without Evan Fournier, who won't play Saturday, either) but it's the second of a home-and-home for the Hawks against the Magic. On Wednesday, Atlanta lost 110-106 in overtime in Orlando. The Hawks led 96-93 with 15 seconds left in regulation after Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore made four straight free throws. Schroder led Atlanta with 26 points and seven assists. Dewayne Dedmon missed his fourth straight game with a leg injury, and John Collins missed his third straight with a shoulder strain. Atlanta has won 11 of its past 14 at home in this series.
Key trends: The Hawks are 6-2 in their past eight vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 21-5 in the previous 26 meetings in Atlanta.
Early lean: Hawks and under.
76ers at Cavaliers (-6, 220.5)
The Cavs were going for a franchise-record 14th straight win Friday in Indiana. Philadelphia should see the debut of Trevor Booker here after the Okafor trade with Brooklyn. The Sixers lost a second straight at home to a bad team on Thursday, 107-104 to the Lakers. Philly was down 16 in the second half and tied it late - only to allow a game-winning shot. Joel Embiid scored 33 points and Ben Simmons had a triple-double with 12 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists for Philadelphia. Some say that the rookie Simmons could be the next LeBron. Well, James showed who was boss in a 113-91 win over the Sixers on Nov. 27. LeBron had 30 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. Simmons had only 10 points before exiting in the fourth quarter with a right ankle sprain. Embiid had 30 points and 11 rebounds.
Key trends: The Cavs are 1-6 ATS in their past seven on Saturday. The over is 10-4 in Philly's past 14 road games.
Early lean: 76ers and over.
Knicks at Bulls (+3, 201)
Chicago was in Charlotte on Friday. New York ended a two-game losing streak Wednesday with a 99-88 win over Memphis. Courtney Lee scored 24 points, and Kristaps Porzingis had 18 after missing the previous two with an injury. The Knicks have ruled out Tim Hardaway Jr. for anywhere from 2-6 weeks with a left leg stress injury. He won't be re-evaluated for two. The Knicks swept the season series 3-0 last year, their first sweep of Chicago since the 1999-2000 season.
Key trends: The Knicks have covered five straight in the series. The under is 4-1 in the Knicks' past five.
Early lean: Knicks and under.
Jazz at Bucks (-5, 199.5)
Also an NBA TV game. Milwaukee is in the second of a back-to-back but at least didn't have to travel as it hosted Dallas on Friday. Utah lost a second in a row Thursday, 112-101 vs. Houston. Surging rookie Donovan Mitchell had 26 points for Utah. He has been a complete steal as the No. 13 overall pick in this year's draft. Rodney Hood missed his sixth straight game with an ankle issue and he won't play here. On Nov. 25, the Jazz beat the Bucks 121-108 by making a franchise-best 18 3-pointers. The Jazz shot 56.8 percent from the field. Utah has won seven straight overall in the series.
Key trends: The Bucks are 8-2-1 ATS in their past 11 in the second of a back-to-back. The under is 5-0 in Utah's past five vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Bucks and under.
Thunder at Grizzlies (TBA)
Memphis hosted Toronto on Friday. The Thunder saw their three-game winning streak end Thursday in Mexico City, 100-95 against the Nets. Russell Westbrook had 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists but did suffer a hip contusion. Oklahoma City played without Paul George (right calf contusion) and Jerami Grant (left hip contusion). What's with the hip contusions? Oklahoma City lost the first meeting to Memphis last year and won the final three.
Key trends: OKC is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 5-2 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Wait on George … and maybe Westbrook.
Spurs at Suns (TBA)
San Antonio hosted Boston on Friday with the possibility of Kawhi Leonard returning. Most reports I have read, though, are that it's more likely he debuts here. Perhaps because it's an easier opponent and Leonard won't feel the need to go 100 mph? You may see a few other Spurs somehow come down with mysterious injuries and sit this one out, however. Phoenix began life without Booker and lost by 10 at home to Washington on Thursday. Jackson did start and had 10 points, three rebounds and three assists but fouled out in just 24 minutes. San Antonio beat Phoenix 112-95 on Nov. 5. The Spurs started the second half on a 12-0 run and outscored the Suns 34-13 overall in the third quarter to lead 85-68 entering the fourth. San Antonio has won 10 of the past 11 overall against Phoenix.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 6-0 in San Antonio's past six on the road.
Early lean: Wait on Leonard.
Rockets at Trail Blazers (TBA)
Houston won its eighth straight Thursday, 112-101 in Utah. James Harden had 29 points, and Chris Paul 18 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds. The Rockets are 9-0 this season when Paul plays. Portland dropped a third consecutive Thursday, 106-92 vs. Washington. Damian Lillard finished with 30 points, eight rebounds and nine assists for the Blazers. Jusuf Nurkic left with a sprained ankle so he probably sits this one out. Houston won two of three vs. Portland last year. Harden averaged 31.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 9.3 assists. Lillard averaged 25.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 7.0 assists. Portland has taken four of the past six at home.
Key trends: The Rockets have covered 10 of their past 15 in Portland. The over is 9-3 in the past 12 there.
Early lean: Wait on Nurkic, although I expect a Houston win regardless.
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