Free NBA Picks: Friday, April 6, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
You may not be aware of it, but we have some history in the NBA this season. On Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Clippers rallied to beat the San Antonio Spurs; it was L.A.'s 42nd win of the year, meaning it is guaranteed a winning record. The Clippers thus became the 10th team in the Western Conference (and last) assured of such. That number ties the record for number of plus-.500 clubs in one conference, set in 2000-01. The West was so deep then that the 45-37 Houston Rockets and 44-38 Seattle SuperSonics were left out of the playoff field. The Lakers beat Allen Iverson's 76ers in that year's Finals. There are 18 teams overall guaranteed to finish with winning records when including the East, and that ties a mark set in 2005. That year, the 42-40 Cavaliers and 44-38 Timberwolves missed the playoffs. Just for a point of comparison, two 41-41 teams made it last year (Bulls and Trail Blazers).
Mavericks at Pistons (TBA)
The Mavericks lost in Orlando on Wednesday, 105-100. You should have seen the lineups for that one. Scrub city. Dallas listed seven guys out with injuries, including Dirk Nowitzki, who missed only his second game this season. He is done for the season. Jalen Jones led Dallas with 15 points. Johnathan Motley added 14 points and eight rebounds in his first NBA start, and Kyle Collinsworth came off the bench for 14 points and nine rebounds. Pretty sure you don't know who those guys are. The Pistons lost 115-108 at home to Philly on Wednesday and were eliminated from playoff contention. Detroit's four-game winning streak in this series ended on Dec. 20 in Dallas, 110-93. The home team has taken the last two meetings between the two clubs, after the road team won the previous six.
Key trends: The Pistons are 7-0 against the spread in their past seven vs. teams with a losing record. The "over/under" has gone under in five of the Mavs' past seven.
Early lean: Wait on all those other Mavs.
Hornets at Magic (+4.5, 212)
The Hornets dropped their fourth straight Tuesday, 120-114 in Chicago. Dwight Howard had 23 points and 12 rebounds for his 50th double-double, and Malik Monk scored 21 points. The Magic are scuttling some tanking plans on a two-game winning streak. They beat the Mavericks 105-100 on Wednesday. Orlando tried not to win that game, but guys named Jamel Artis, Khem Birch and Rodney Purvis combined for 16 of Orlando's 28 points in the fourth quarter. Nikola Vucevic (rest), Jonathan Isaac (left ankle), Jonathon Simmons (right wrist) and Evan Fournier (left knee) did not play. Charlotte is 3-0 this season against Orlando and has taken 10 straight overall in the series.
Key trends: The Hornets are 7-1 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 5-1 in the Magic's past six overall.
Early lean: Magic and under.
Cavaliers at 76ers (TBA)
First of an NBA TV doubleheader. Cleveland hosted Washington on Thursday. The 76ers haven't missed Joel Embiid yet as they won a 12th straight game Wednesday, 115-108 in Detroit. J.J. Redick had 25 points, while Dario Saric sat out again with an elbow issue. A win here and the 76ers could steal the No. 3 seed from Cleveland. Cleveland leads the season series 2-1 but lost the most recent one at home on March 1.
Key trends: The home team is 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 10-2 in Philly's previous 12 vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Wait on Saric, if Cavs rest anyone.
Hawks at Wizards ( -12.5, 209)
Washington was in Cleveland on Thursday, so this looks like a potential letdown game - and I'm assuming John Wall won't play here. They Hawks were swept in a home-and-home by the Heat on Wednesday, falling 115-86 after nearly winning in Miami the night before. Taurean Prince led Atlanta with 20 points. Dewayne Dedmon played after missing Tuesday and had six points and eight rebounds. Washington is 2-1 vs. Atlanta this season. All three in the series have been decided by double-digits.
Key trends: The Hawks are 2-5 ATS in their past seven in Washington. The under is 6-1 in those.
Early lean: Hawks and under.
Bulls at Celtics (TBA)
The Bulls are ruining their chances at picking perhaps as high as sixth in the draft thanks to a three-game winning streak. I watched Tuesday's 120-114 win over Charlotte; Coach Fred Hoiberg tried to tank that one by resting most of his starters entering the fourth, but recent addition Sean Kilpatrick screwed things up by scoring 19 fourth-quarter points. The Bulls have ruled out Denzel Valentine for the season, joining Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. The Celtics don't have much to play for now after losing 96-78 in Toronto on Wednesday. Boston won't be catching the Raptors (barring a miracle) for the East's top seed. Boston leads Chicago 2-1 and has taken the past five at home in the series.
Key trends: The Bulls are 1-6 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 5-2 in those.
Early lean: I guess wait to see whom the Bulls rest as they play again Saturday. The Celtics might rest everyone of note.
Heat at Knicks (TBA)
The Heat have clinched a playoff spot and finished off a home-and-home sweep of the Hawks with a blowout in Atlanta on Wednesday even though Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and James Johnson all were rested. Erik Spoelstra, though, said he's not shutting down his starters before the playoffs. The Knicks lost a fourth straight Tuesday, 97-73 at home to Orlando. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 16 points and Kyle O'Quinn had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks, who tied a season low in points. Enes Kanter missed his second straight game due to a bruised tailbone. He's probably done. Miami leads the season series 2-1 but lost at the Garden.
Key trends: The Heat are 6-1 ATS in their past seven in New York. The under is 7-2-1 in the past 10 meetings.
Early lean: Which Heat will play?
Pacers at Raptors (-8, 211)
Tough back-to-back for Indiana after hosting Golden State on Thursday. The Pacers still have reason to play guys here as they chase home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Raptors might be flat here off Wednesday's big win over Boston that all but wrapped up the East's top seed. Toronto's next win, though, would set a franchise single-season record. Toronto leads Indiana 2-1 and has taken eight straight at home in the series.
Key trends: The Pacers are 7-3 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The over is 4-1 in the previous five in Toronto.
Early lean: Raptors and over.
Kings at Grizzlies (-3, 202.5)
The Kings have been the tanking winners of the week so far simply by losing at horrid Phoenix on Tuesday, 97-94. Bogdan Bogdanovic and Justin Jackson missed potential game-tying 3-pointers before the final buzzer. Bogdanovic led the Kings with 22 points and Jackson added 19 points and eight rebounds. Skal Labissiere did not play due to a sprained ankle. The Grizzlies lost their third in a row by double digits Wednesday, 123-95 in New Orleans. MarShon Brooks scored 25 points, and Ivan Rabb had 16 for the Grizzlies. Memphis goes for the three-game season sweep of Sacramento.
Key trends: The Kings are 2-8 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The under is 4-0 in the previous four in Memphis.
Early lean: Grizzlies and under.
Pelicans at Suns (TBA)
The Pelicans ended a season-high four-game losing streak with a home rout of the Grizzlies on Wednesday. E'Twaun Moore scored 30 points, and Anthony Davis had 28 points and 12 rebounds. However, top reserve Ian Clark left in the second quarter with an ankle injury and was to have an MRI on Thursday. That would be a major loss. The Suns ended a franchise-record 15-game skid on Tuesday, beating the Kings 97-94. Josh Jackson had 28 points. Devin Booker missed his ninth straight game with sprained right hand, and also out were T.J. Warren (knee) and Elfrid Payton (knee). Phoenix still will finish with the NBA's worst record unless it wins out. New Orleans is 2-0 vs. Phoenix and Davis had 53 points in the last meeting, the third highest point total scored by an opposing player in Suns history.
Key trends: The Pelicans are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 7-1 in the Suns' past eight overall.
Early lean: Wait on those Suns.
Timberwolves at Lakers (TBA)
Minnesota was in Denver on Thursday night, and Jimmy Butler was doubtful to return for that one. He was never going to play both ends of a back-to-back right away, so he could go here. Jeff Teague was questionable Thursday. The Lakers ended a three-game slide with a 122-112 OT win over the Spurs on Wednesday. Kyle Kuzma scored 30 points and became first rookie in NBA history with 1,200 points, 450 rebounds and 150 3-pointers in a season. Lonzo Ball (knee) and Brandon Ingram (concussion) were out. The Lakers swept the Spurs for the first time since 1997-98. Minnesota goes for the four-game season sweep of L.A.
Key trends: The home team is 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 9-2 in the previous 11.
Early lean: Wait on Butler, those Lakers.
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