Free NBA Picks: Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
The supposed experts around the NBA were ripping the Chicago Bulls for the return they received in sending All-Star guard Jimmy Butler to Minnesota this past offseason. The Bulls got guard Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine as well as the No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 draft for Butler and the No. 16 pick. While Butler remains a very good player, the Bulls might have won that trade in retrospect. Dunn looks nothing like the lost rookie he did in 2016-17. I'm not saying he will be an All-Star, but he's a quality starting point guard in the NBA and a plus defender. LaVine is getting close to making his Chicago debut off his torn ACL suffered last season. That No. 7 pick became Finnish 7-footer Lauri Markkanen, who might actually be a Dirk Nowitzki-Lite and has been a Top 5 rookie. It's an interesting time to be a Bulls fan because most want them to be competitive but lose every night to have the best shot at the No. 1 overall pick in the loaded 2018 draft. Yet, they've been winning too much since the season debut of Nikola Mirotic off his caved-in face courtesy of teammate Bobby Ports. Ideally for the Bulls, Mirotic continues to shine until at least Jan. 15, because he becomes eligible to be traded on that date. And he almost surely will be. Chicago would like to ship off Robin Lopez, too. Note: not totals available as of this writing (guess the sportsbooks take Christmas off too).
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Pacers at Pistons (-3)
Indiana won a second in a row Saturday, 123-119 in overtime over Brooklyn. Victor Oladipo, who absolutely should be an All-Star, had 38 points. The Pacers were down 19 at one point. Detroit has been off since beating the visiting Knicks 104-101 on Friday. The Pistons closed on a 9-2 run. Andre Drummond finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Last meeting of the season between these teams. Detroit leads 2-1 and won the most recent game, 104-98 in Indiana on Dec. 15.
Key trends: The Pacers are 7-2 against the spread in the past nine meetings. The "over/under" is 7-2 in those.
Early lean: Pistons.
Raptors at Mavericks (+5.5)
The Raptors won their sixth in a row Saturday, 102-86 over Philadelphia. DeMar DeRozan scored 29 points. C.J. Miles missed his third straight game after undergoing a dental procedure. The Dinos have lost just once this month. Dallas lost its second in a row Saturday, 112-107 in Atlanta. Harrison Barnes led with 22 points. Normally teams win a game if they shoot better than 50 percent from the field as the Mavs did (50.6 percent). Toronto has won four straight and seven of the last nine meetings against Dallas.
Key trends: The favorite is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 6-1 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Raptors.
Magic at Heat (TBA)
Orlando dropped an eighth straight Saturday and it was the worst of them all, 130-103 in Washington. The Magic, who have lost 19 of 22, were led by Elfrid Payton's career-high 30 points. Center Nikola Vucevic broke his left index finger with about seven minutes remaining in the first quarter and will be out indefinitely. That makes four Orlando starters who are now injured. Miami had a two-game winning streak snapped Saturday in a 109-94 loss to New Orleans. The Heat got Goran Dragic and James Johnson back from injuries, but Johnson left with another one. Dion Waiters sat with a sprained ankle. These teams opened the season against one another in Orlando, and the Magic won 116-109 back when they were playing well for a few weeks. Evan Fournier scored seven of his team-high 23 points in the final 2:27. Hassan Whiteside was unstoppable for the Heat with 26 points and 22 rebounds. Alas, both Fournier and Whiteside are hurt now.
Key trends: The Magic have covered four straight in the series. The over is 6-1 in the past seven.
Early lean: Wait on the bevy of injured guys.
Bulls at Bucks (TBA)
First NBA TV game. Chicago dropped a second straight Saturday, 117-92 in Boston. The Bulls were outscored by 20 in the third quarter. They had scored at least 100 points in eight consecutive games. Milwaukee fell in Charlotte on Saturday in the second of a home-and-home, 111-106. Giannis Antetokounmpo did not play because of right knee soreness, but he expects to go here. The Bucks lost the first meeting with the Bulls, 115-109 at home. Bobby Portis scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Eric Bledsoe and Rashad Vaughn each missed a 3-pointer for Milwaukee in the final minute.
Key trends: The road team is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The over is 13-2-1 in the Bucks' past 16 overall.
Early lean: Wait on the Freak.
Nets at Spurs (-12)
Brooklyn lost 123-119 in OT at Indiana on Saturday to start a five-game trip. The Nets blew a 19-point lead. DeMarre Carroll had his best game of the season in the loss with 20 points and 13 rebounds. San Antonio won in Sacramento on Saturday, 108-99. Pau Gasol had 14 points, 11 rebounds and a season-high 10 assists, his first triple-double in two years. Kawhi Leonard sat with a quad injury (i.e. rest). San Antonio destroyed Brooklyn in both meetings last year and has won 14 in a row at home in the series.
Key trends: The Nets are 7-1 ATS in their past eight vs. the West. The under is 17-5-1 in San Antonio's previous 23 vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Nets.
Jazz at Nuggets (-6)
The Jazz lost 103-89 at home to Oklahoma City on Saturday. Rookie Donovan Mitchell scored 29 points for the Jazz after missing the previous two games with a big toe contusion. The Nuggets have won back-to-back games for the first time since early November. They stunned the Warriors 96-81 in Oakland on Saturday. It was Golden State's lowest-scoring game of the season. Utah has won both meetings vs. Denver this year, scoring 106 points in each. Those were both at home; the Jazz have dropped their past two in the Mile High City.
Key trends: The home team is 6-0 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 6-0 in Denver's past six vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Jazz.
Grizzlies at Suns (-1)
Interesting scheduling here as these two just played in Phoenix last Thursday, a 97-95 Suns victory. Troy Daniels hit a 3-pointer with 17.6 seconds to play to give Phoenix the lead. The Suns followed that with a 115-106 home loss to Minnesota on Saturday, while the Grizzlies flew home and beat the Clippers on Saturday, 115-112, to snap a three-game losing streak. Phoenix expects leading scorer Devin Booker to return from his groin injury on Tuesday. He hasn't played since Dec. 5.
Key trends: The Grizzlies are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 6-1 in Phoenix's past seven vs. the West.
Early lean: Suns and under.
Kings at Clippers (-6)
Second NBA TV game. Sacramento's two-game winning run ended in a 108-99 home loss to San Antonio on Saturday. Buddy Hield had 24 points to lead Sacramento, while Willie Cauley-Stein added 22 points and 11 rebounds. De'Aaron Fox missed his second consecutive game with a partially torn right quadriceps and won't return until next month. The Clippers had a two-game winning streak end Saturday in Memphis, 115-112. Austin Rivers had a career-high 38 points and Lou Williams 36 but no other Clipper even had 10. The Kings lost at home to the Clippers on Nov. 25, 97-95. Currently injured Blake Griffin made a 10-foot jumper with 3.2 seconds remaining.
Key trends: The road team is 7-3 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The over is 5-1 in the Clippers' past six vs. the West.
Early lean: Kings.
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