Free NBA Picks: Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
It's somewhat easy to root against Lonzo Ball simply because his ridiculous father is such a blowhard, but by all accounts Lonzo is a quiet guy and great teammate. The Lakers are much more interesting to watch when he's on the court. Alas, the rookie point guard missed the Christmas Night matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves and will miss at least a week with a left shoulder sprain. Ball said he the shoulder "pop, kind of" after he got tangled up with Portland's Jusuf Nurkic near the end of the first half of a loss to the Trail Blazers on Saturday. Ball won't win NBA Rookie of the Year - Philly's Ben Simmons should - but is putting up solid numbers at 10.0 points, 7.1 assists and 6.9 rebounds. He couldn't shoot jumpers to save his life at start the season but was up to 42.2 percent overall (30.4 in November) and 37.7 from long range (24.3 percent) this month. The earliest he returns is likely Jan. 3 vs. Oklahoma City, his first chance to go against Russell Westbrook.
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Celtics at Hornets ( +2, 205.5)
The Celtics lost for the third time in four games Monday, 111-103 at home vs. Washington. Boston is 11-8 since opening the season at 16-2. Marcus Morris returned from an eight-game knee injury absence and struggled - and now might be out a while again because he didn't feel right. Jaylen Brown left with an ankle issue and is uncertain for this one. Charlotte split a home-and-home over the weekend with the Bucks. Coach Steve Clifford remains sidelined with a personal issue. Charlotte lost in Boston on Nov. 10, 90-87, and has dropped five straight in the series overall as well as five in a row at home.
Key trends: The Celtics are 5-0 against the spread in their past five in Charlotte. The "over/under" is 13-3 in Boston's previous 10 playing on one day of rest.
Early lean: Hornets (Celtics maybe looking ahead to Thursday vs. Houston?) and over.
Mavericks at Pacers (-6.5, 207)
Indiana was in Detroit on Tuesday, while Dallas was home to Toronto. Dallas and Indiana split last year, each winning at home. The Pacers have won three straight, five of the last six and 17 of the past 24 at home in the series. Of course, Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle coached the Pacers for three seasons from 2003-07, all three resulting in playoff appearances.
Key trends: The Mavs are 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 4-0 in Dallas' past four vs. the East.
Early lean: Mavericks and over.
Wizards at Hawks (+6.5, 212)
Washington got some playoff payback in Boston on Christmas, 111-103. Bradley Beal scored 25 points, and John Wall had 21 points and 14 assists. Atlanta ended a two-game slide with a 112-107 home win over Dallas on Saturday. Dennis Schroder, who sat the previous game with an ankle injury, tied his career high with 33 points, including 27 in the second half. Atlanta is 4-1 when he scores 30 or more points. The team looks for its first back-to-back wins of the season. Washington beat the visiting Hawks in the first meeting, 113-94 on Nov. 11. The Wizards shot 54 percent from the floor and forced 24 turnovers.
Key trends: The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 11-4 in Atlanta's previous 15 at home.
Early lean: Wizards and over.
Knicks at Bulls (-2, 206)
Chicago visited Milwaukee on Tuesday. New York lost at home to Philly on Christmas, 105-98, despite a season-high 31 points and career-high-tying 22 rebounds from Enes Kanter - frankly, Kanter has been better than the guy he was traded for from OKC, Carmelo Anthony. Kanter joined Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Bob Lanier as the only players with a 30-20 game on Christmas. The Bulls beat the visiting Knicks on Dec. 9, 104-102. Chicago had three players reach double-digit points off the bench.
Key trends: The Knicks are 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 6-1 in the previous seven in Chicago.
Early lean: Knicks and over.
Nuggets at Timberwolves (-6, 214.5)
Denver hosted Utah on Tuesday. Minnesota won a fifth straight on Christmas, 121-104 at the Lakers. Jimmy Butler scored 23 points, and Karl-Anthony Towns had 21 points and 10 rebounds in the franchise's first-ever Dec. 25 victory. Minnesota won in Denver on Dec. 20, 112-104 as Butler scored eight of his 25 points in the final 90 seconds. The Wolves are on a three-game winning streak in the series.
Key trends: The Wolves are 4-1 ATS in their past five on Wednesday. The under is 5-1 in the past six meetings.
Early lean: Wolves and under.
Nets at Pelicans (-11.5, 221)
Brooklyn was in San Antonio on Tuesday. New Orleans won a second straight Saturday, 109-94 in Miami to complete a four-game trip. The Pels were 15-for-25 from long range. DeMarcus Cousins had 16 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. It was Cousins' first-ever win in Miami in seven ties and the first for teammate Jrue Holiday, who had been 0-14. Brooklyn and New Orleans split last year, each winning on the road. The Nets' 143 points on Jan. 20 were second-most scored by an opponent in New Orleans franchise history.
Key trends: The Pels are 6-1 ATS in their past seven home games following a road trip of at least seven days. The over is 11-2 in New Orleans' past 13.
Early lean: Pelicans and over.
Raptors at Thunder (-3, 212.5)
First NBA TV game. Toronto was in Dallas on Tuesday. The Thunder might be putting things together as they won a fifth straight game Monday, 112-107 over Houston. Russell Westbrook had 31 points and 11 assists, Paul George 24 points and Carmelo Anthony 20. Andre Roberson dislocated a finger on his left hand during the first quarter but was able to return to action. Not like he can shoot anyway. Toronto has won its past two visits to OKC.
Key trends: The Raptors are 5-1 ATS in their past six in the second of a back-to-back. The under is 8-0 in OKC's past eight vs. a team with a winning percentage above .600.
Early lean: Thunder and under.
Cavaliers at Kings (+8.5, 207.5)
Sacramento was at the Clippers on Tuesday. Could be a major letdown game for the Cavs off their 99-92 loss at the Warriors on Christmas. Kevin Love had 31 points and a season-best 18 rebounds, while LeBron James contributed 20 points, six rebounds and six assists. LeBron thought he was fouled on a late drive to the basket, but what else is new? The Cavs had scored at least 100 points in 26 straight games. Cleveland goes for the season sweep as it beat the Kings by six on Dec. 6. LeBron hit a key 3-pointer with 15 seconds left and was an assist shy of a triple-double.
Key trends: The Cavs are 3-14-1 ATS in their past 18 vs. teams with a losing record. The over is 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Kings and over.
Jazz at Warriors (TBA)
Second NBA TV game. Utah was in Denver on Tuesday. A trap game scenario for the Dubs too off that Christmas win over Cleveland. Kevin Durant finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots - one of those blocks on LeBron's late drive. Klay Thompson hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:33 left, and Draymond Green had a triple-double. The Cavs' 31.8 percent shooting was the lowest by a Warriors opponent in nearly four years. First meeting between these teams this season. The Warriors were 2-1 last regular season and then swept the Jazz in the conference semifinals.
Key trends: The road team is 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 5-1 in the Warriors' past six at home.
Early lean: I think Jazz will cover what should be a big number here - and recommend under regardless.
Grizzlies at Lakers (TBA)
Memphis visited Phoenix on Tuesday, so you probably won't see a guy or two in the second of a back-to-back. Sans Ball, the Lakers lost their third straight Monday, 121-104 at home to Minnesota. Kyle Kuzma scored 31 points, joining LeBron James in 2003 as the only rookies to score at least 30 points on Christmas Day in the last 30 seasons. Jordan Clarkson started for Ball and had 17 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Brandon Ingram missed his second game in a row with a quad injury. The Grizzlies have dropped their past three in L.A., including 107-102 on Nov. 5. Memphis nearly rallied from a 22-point second-half deficit.
Key trends: The home team has covered five straight in the series. The over is 4-0-1 in those.
Early lean: Wait on Ingram.
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