Free NBA Picks: Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
I don't recommend betting on the Utah Jazz for the rest of 2017. The Jazz are struggling as it and just lost their best player, center Rudy Gobert, for about a month due to a sprained PCL in his left knee and a bruised tibia. He already had missed 11 games earlier due to a bone bruise in his right knee. Gobert is averaging 11.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks this season and is one of the three top difference-makers in the league on defense. Maybe No. 1. So you might also want to consider some over plays on Utah totals for a while, although it can't score much itself. I also think the schedule is going to wear the Jazz down for the rest of December at least. They just finished a monstrous tough trifecta with games in Boston (Gobert was hurt in that one), Cleveland and Houston. It's the conclusion of a six-game trip overall in OKC on Wednesday. Games remaining in December are vs. Spurs, vs. Thunder, at Nuggets (always a very tough place to play at elevation), at Warriors and vs. Cavaliers. Wouldn't surprise me if Utah didn't win another game until 2018.
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Raptors at Hornets ( +1, 210.5)
Toronto won a third straight Sunday, 108-93 over the visiting Kings. DeMar DeRozan scored 21 points, and Jonas Valanciunas had 13 points and a season-high 16 rebounds. The Raptors have just one home loss all season. Charlotte ended a three-game slide with a 109-91 home win over the Knicks on Monday. Frank Kaminsky was 10-for-13 for a season-high-tying 24 points. The Raptors beat the Hornets 126-113 in Toronto earlier this year. Kyle Lowry scored a season-high 36 points, while DeRozan had 30. Dwight Howard had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Hornets. Kemba Walker was out injured but is healthy now.
Key trends: The Raptors are 3-9 against the spread in their past 12 in Charlotte. The "over/under" has gone under in the Hornets' past four at home.
Early lean: Hornets and under.
Pacers at Hawks (+4, 212.5)
Indiana lost 112-111 at home to Boston on Monday in the final seconds. Bojan Bogdanovic panicked with 4.3 seconds left and threw a terrible pass that led to the game-winning Boston basket. If he had just stood still, Bogdanovic would have been fouled. Victor Oladipo continued his stellar season with 38 points. Atlanta ended a four-game losing streak with a 110-104 home win over Miami on Monday. Taurean Prince scored 24 points, and Dennis Schroder added 23. First meeting of the season between the teams. Indiana won two of three in 2016-17. Paul George's final regular-season game with the Pacers was vs. Atlanta.
Key trends: The home team is 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 5-0 in the previous five.
Early lean: Hawks and under.
Heat at Celtics (TBA)
Miami was missing nearly half its key players Monday and lost at terrible Atlanta, 110-104. Goran Dragic, James Johnson and Justise Winslow all sat, and Hassan Whiteside missed his 10th straight and doesn't appear close to a return. The Heat are now 0-12 this season when they are trailing entering the fourth. Boston stole one in Indiana on Monday, 112-111, as Terry Rozier stole a pass and dunked with 1.5 seconds left for the winning points. Boston was down five with 31 seconds to go. Already the final meeting between these two, the earliest the season series has concluded in the team's histories. They have split two games in Miami.
Key trends: The road team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 8-1 in the Heat's past nine playing on one day of rest.
Early lean: Wait on those Miami guys, mainly Dragic.
Kings at Nets (-6, 209.5)
Sacramento was in Philadelphia on Tuesday. The Nets lost a third in a row Sunday at home vs. Indiana, 109-97. Allen Crabbe led the team with 17 points, but they were all in the first half. Newly-acquired Jahlil Okafor was a DNP-coach's decision. He's basically not in game shape yet after wasting away on the Philly bench. Sacramento and Brooklyn split last year, each winning on the road.
Key trends: The Kings are 1-6 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 7-1 in the Nets' past eight.
Early lean: Nets and under.
Magic at Bulls (TBA)
The Magic lost a fifth consecutive Sunday, 114-110 in Detroit. Nikola Vucevic had 24 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in the loss. Arron Afflalo (back), Aaron Gordon (right calf), Evan Fournier (right ankle) and Terrance Ross (knee) were all out. Fournier and Gordon are not likely for this one. The Bulls are the first team ever to follow a 10-game losing streak by winning six in a row. They rallied for a 117-115 home win over the Sixers on Monday. All six wins have come since Nikola Mirotic (22 points) made his season debut. Chicago won big in Orlando on Nov. 3, 105-83. The Bulls shot 48.9 percent from three (14-for-29) to Orlando's 28.6 percent (10-for-35). At home, Chicago has won the past three meetings.
Key trends: The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 8-0 in the previous eight.
Early lean: Bulls will keep rolling.
Lakers at Rockets (-15.5, 224.5)
First NBA TV game. The Lakers retired Kobe Bryant's two jerseys on Monday and played valiantly in a 116-114 OT loss to the Warriors. Lonzo Ball had a shot blocked late in regulation to win it. Brook Lopez left with an ankle sprain, and he's not even going to Houston. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can't play in the team's next three road games outside of California due to a legal issue. The Rockets won a 14th straight Monday, 120-99 over Utah. Eric Gordon had a season-high 33 points. Clint Capela had 24 points and 20 rebounds. Houston has won 12 of the past 14 meetings vs. the Lakers, including 118-95 in L.A. on Dec. 3. James Harden had 36 points. The Rockets have also won a franchise-high tying four straight at home against the Lakers.
Key trends: The Lakers are 0-4 ATS in their past four in Houston. The over is 5-1 in the past six meetings.
Early lean: Lakers and over.
Jazz at Thunder (TBA)
Utah was blown out in Houston on Monday, 120-99. It was close until early in the fourth quarter. Rodney Hood had 26 points off the bench for the Jazz. In addition to Gobert, Derrick Favors and Raul Neto were out due to (less serious) injuries. The Thunder beat the visiting Nuggets on Monday, 95-94. Russell Westbrook scored 16 of his season-high 38 points in the fourth quarter, including the winning free throw. Paul George had just eight points and Carmelo Anthony four. Steven Adams missed a second straight in the concussion protocol. These two have split two meetings thus far; Utah has lost 13 in a row in OKC.
Key trends: The Jazz are 3-9-1 ATS in their past 12 in OKC. The under is 7-1 in the Thunder's past eight vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: This will be a low-scoring Thunder win whether Adams and/or Favors play or not.
Pistons at Mavericks (TBA)
The Pistons have followed a seven-game losing streak with three wins in a row. It was 114-110 over the visiting Magic on Sunday. Reggie Bullock scored a career-high 20 points, and the Pistons made 17 3-pointers. Avery Bradley sat with a right groin injury and won't be back this week. The Mavs lost a third in a row Monday, 97-91 vs. Phoenix. The Dallas reserves were outscored 55-28. Rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed his sixth straight game with a left hip strain. Detroit swept Dallas last year and has won its past three in Big D.
Key trends: The Pistons are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 5-0 in those.
Early lean: Honestly not sure why this is TBA.
Timberwolves at Nuggets (-3.5, 218.5)
The Wolves rallied for a 108-107 home win over Portland on Monday. Jimmy Butler hit the winning free throws and finished with 37 points - he was questionable to play with back spasms. Jamal Crawford added a season-high 23 points. Denver lost by a point in OKC on Monday. Gary Harris missed short on an off-balance 3-pointer as time expired. Denver led by 10 at one point in the fourth. Emmanuel Mudiay sat out with a sprained right ankle. First meeting of season between these teams. They split in 2016-17, and Minnesota has won three of its past five visits to the Pepsi Center.
Key trends: The Wolves are 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 5-0 in the previous five.
Early lean: Nuggets and under.
Spurs at Trail Blazers (+3.5, 198)
San Antonio won a second in a row Monday, 109-91 over the Clippers. That was Kawhi Leonard's first home game of the season, but he's still on a minutes limit and was held to seven points, ending his streak of 110 straight games scoring in double figures. Danny Green missed his second straight game with tightness in his left groin. Portland completed a five-game trip at 3-2 with a 108-107 last-second loss at Minnesota on Monday. Portland was up 10 midway through the fourth. Damian Lillard's 3-pointer at the buzzer missed. These teams split four games last year. Leonard averaged 28.3 points against Portland, while Lillard put up 26 points per game in two vs. the Blazers.
Key trends: The Spurs are 6-14 ATS in their past 20 in Portland. The over is 4-1 in the past five there.
Early lean: Blazers and over.
Grizzlies at Warriors (TBA)
Second NBA TV game. The Grizzlies have been off since a 102-93 home loss to Boston on Saturday. A 16-0 run by the Celtics to start the fourth was the difference. Marc Gasol led Memphis with 30 points and 10 rebounds. The Warriors won a ninth straight Monday, 116-114 in OT at the Lakers. Kevin Durant scored 36 points and hit a tiebreaking 22-foot jumper with 7.3 seconds left in overtime. Stephen Curry missed his fifth consecutive game with a sprained ankle, and Draymond Green sat out for the fourth time in five with right shoulder soreness. Golden State was surprised in Memphis on Oct. 21, 111-101. The Grizzlies always play the Dubs tough it seems.
Key trends: The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 11-4 in the previous 15.
Early lean: Wait on Curry & Green.
Suns at Clippers (TBA)
Phoenix has won two straight a couple times this year but never three in a row as it tries for here. The Suns won in Dallas on Monday, 97-91. Alex Len had 14 points and 14 rebounds with his team outscoring the Mavs 29-16 in the fourth. The Clippers dropped a third straight Monday, 109-91 in San Antonio. You know Blake Griffin is out months, but the team was also without Danilo Gallinari (left glute contusion), Wesley Johnson (sore left foot) and Lou Williams (sprained right foot). L.A. won its fifth straight in this series in a 130-88 home blowout on Oct. 21. That would be the last game for then-Suns coach Earl Watson.
Key trends: The Suns are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 4-1 in the previous five in L.A.
Early lean: Wait on those Clippers.
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