Free NBA Picks: Friday, Feb. 2, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
I truly can't remember a newsier NBA week than this one other than right at the trade deadline. It has been mostly bad news for teams (DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Kevin Love - more on that Saturday), but it's potentially fantastic news for the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. They are set to welcome back Jabari Parker from his torn ACL. The former Duke star and No. 2 overall pick in 2014, has not played since tearing the ACL in his left knee for the second time on Feb. 8, 2017. He was having by far his best season last year, averaging 20.1 points and 6.2 rebounds. Needless to say, Parker's minutes will be restricted for a while, and he may not play both ends of a back-to-back all season. But if Parker is even 80 percent of his 2016-17 version the rest of the way, the Bucks are legit contenders in the wide-open East after adding Eric Bledsoe via trade earlier this season. Can they beat the Celtics? Probably not, but I see no reason why a trip to the conference finals isn't doable as long as Milwaukee is in the other half of the bracket. The Bucks might not be done trading, either. They are rumored to be in on Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, although the Clippers probably would ask for Parker as part of any package. There's also the possibility that Parker is never quite the same after two devastating knee injuries.
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Pacers at Hornets ( -3, 210.5)
Indiana won its third in a row Wednesday, all at home, 105-101 over Memphis. Myles Turner had his fourth double-double of the year with 15 points and 11 rebounds in a return to the starting lineup. Indiana coach Nate McMillan won't be with the team for this game because of personal reasons. Dwight Howard's return to Atlanta on Wednesday was a success as the Hornets ended a two-game skid with a 123-110 victory. He had 20 points and 12 rebounds. The real star was Kemba Walker with 38 points, including a franchise-record nine 3-pointers. Marvin Williams missed the game with a left ankle sprain. These teams just met for the first time this season on Monday in Indianapolis and the Pacers won 105-96. Charlotte has won the past three at home in the series, however.
Key trends: The Hornets are 6-0 against the spread in the past six meetings at home. The "over/under" has gone under in four straight in the series.
Early lean: Hornets and under.
Hawks at Celtics (TBA)
Atlanta lost by 13 at home to Charlotte on Wednesday and never led. Dennis Schroder injured his shoulder in the first half and did play through it with a wrap but looked rather uncomfortable, so monitor his status. The Celtics won a second straight Wednesday, trashing the Knicks 103-73 even with Kyrie Irving sitting due to a quad injury. Terry Rozier started in his place, and all he did was put up 17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists to become the second player in league history with a triple-double in his first career start - the other was Philly's Tony Wroten in 2013 (he's already out of the league). Marcus Morris left in the third quarter with a bruised left hip. Boston is 2-0 vs. Atlanta this year, winning both on the road and scoring 110 points in each. However, the Hawks won both last year in Beantown.
Key trends: The Hawks are 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 5-1 in Boston's past six at home.
Early lean: Wait on Irving.
Lakers at Nets (Pick'em, 215.5)
These teams made a big trade in the offseason, which landed the Nets D'Angelo Russell and the Lakers Brook Lopez and rookie Kyle Kuzma (via the No. 27 overall pick). On Nov. 3 in L.A., the Lakers beat the Nets 124-112 behind a season-high 34 points from Lopez and 21 points and 13 rebounds from Kuzma. Russell had 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. The Lakers dropped their second in a row Wednesday, 127-105 in Orlando. The Lakers, the worst 3-point shooting team (.327) in the NBA, went 4 of 20 from behind the arc. The Nets ended a four-game slide with a 116-108 upset of the 76ers on Wednesday. Russell had 22 points and rookie Jarrett Allen 16 points and 12 rebounds. Caris LeVert (left groin) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (right groin) both were out again.
Key trends: The Nets are 7-0 ATS in their past seven following a win. The over is 4-1 in the Lakers' past five.
Early lean: Nets and over.
Trail Blazers at Raptors (TBA)
The Raptors were in Washington on Thursday. Portland won a fourth straight Wednesday, 124-108 over the visiting Bulls behind an amazing performance from CJ McCollum as he had a career-high 50 points in just 29 minutes. With the Blazers way up, he didn't play in the fourth quarter. Alas, the team did have starting center Jusuf Nurkic out there in the fourth, and he left with a quad injury. Toronto won in Portland on Oct. 30, 99-85. The Blazers were outscored 25-6 in the second quarter. Kyle Lowry had 19 points and added 10 rebounds, while fellow All-Star Damian Lillard had 36 points. The Raptors have won their past two at home in this series as well.
Key trends: The Blazers are 6-0-1 ATS in their past seven. The under is 4-1 in Toronto's past five at home.
Early lean: Wait on Nurkic.
Heat at 76ers (-4.5, 206)
First ESPN game. Miami's two-game winning streak was snapped in a 91-89 loss in Cleveland on Wednesday. James Johnson couldn't get off a shot at the buzzer thanks to good defense from LeBron James. The Heat held the Cavs to 35 percent shooting but lost the game by going 14 of 25 from the free-throw line. Philadelphia lost its third in a row on Wednesday, 116-108 at home vs. Brooklyn to drop back to .500. Joel Embiid had 29 points and 14 rebounds and J.J. Redick 20 points in his return from a seven-game injury absence. It's the first meeting of the season between these teams. They split four last year, each winning both at home.
Key trends: The home team has covered four straight in the series. The under is 5-0 in Miami's past five overall.
Early lean: 76ers and under.
Knicks at Bucks (TBA)
I'm presuming the Bucks wanted Parker to debut at home to help with some buzz/ticket sales as Milwaukee was in Minnesota on Thursday. An easier opponent, too, in the Knicks. Parker is expected to be capped around 15 minutes. New York's two-game winning run ended in a 30-point loss in Boston on Wednesday in the second of a back-to-back. The Knicks shot just 32.2 percent (28 of 87) and had eight fourth-quarter points. Kristaps Porzingis had 16 points but was posterized by Jaylen Brown on a dunk. First meeting of the season between these teams. The Bucks won two of three last year (1-1 at home).
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 6-2 in the previous eight in Milwaukee.
Early lean: Wait on Eric Bledsoe (out Thursday).
Pelicans at Thunder (-8.5, 218)
Oklahoma City was in Denver on Thursday. The Pelicans are starting to feel the DeMarcus Cousins hangover as they were upset a second straight game at home Tuesday, 114-103 by Sacramento. The Pels were killed on the boards and outscored 26-0 in second-chance points. Anthony Davis had 23 points and 13 rebounds. New Orleans beat visiting OKC in the first meeting, 114-107 on Nov. 20. Davis led the Pelicans with 36 points and 15 rebounds. Paul George led the Thunder with 26 points and Russell Westbrook had 22 points, 16 rebounds and 12 assists.
Key trends: The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over has hit in four in a row.
Early lean: Thunder and over.
Jazz at Suns (+4.5, 206.5)
The Jazz won a third straight Tuesday, a stunning 129-99 home win over Golden State. Ricky Rubio had 23 points and 11 assists. The Jazz hit a season-high 58.2 percent of their shots from the field. Rodney Hood missed his fifth straight game due to a lower leg contusion. The Suns ended a five-game skid with a 102-88 home win over Dallas on Wednesday. Devin Booker was in question to play but did and had 15 points. However, the Suns lost backup point guard Isaiah Canaan to a gruesome broken ankle. In addition, the team has bought out big man Greg Monroe, who came over in the Eric Bledsoe trade. Utah lost in Phoenix on Oct. 25 in the first meeting, 97-88. TJ Warren led all scorers with 27 points for the Suns.
Key trends: The Jazz are 0-3-1 ATS in the past four meetings. The under is 5-2 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Letdown game for Utah - take Phoenix.
Warriors at Kings (+12.5, 218)
Second ESPN game. Golden State was caught in the definition of a letdown game on Tuesday as it was crushed 129-99 in Utah, with Steve Kerr ripping his guys after. It was not only the Warriors' worst loss of the year, but the 58.2 percent they allowed the Jazz to shoot was the highest ever under Kerr. The Kings completed a six-game road trip with a 114-103 upset in New Orleans on Tuesday. Zach Randolph scored 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Kosta Koufos had 17 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. Fellow big men Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere were out injured again. In their first meeting this season, the Kings pulled a 110-106 stunner in Oakland on Nov. 27, although the Dubs were Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. A win here would mark the first time since the 2012-13 season that Sacramento defeated Golden State in consecutive meetings.
Key trends: The Warriors are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 4-1 in those.
Early lean: Kings and under.
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