Free NBA Picks: Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
You might take a quick glance at Friday's NBA slate and see Clippers-Pistons and Timberwolves-Bulls and think those are two pretty mediocre-to-bad matchups. And maybe neither game will be close, but both are homecoming games for two big-time NBA stars. In Clippers-Pistons, it's Blake Griffin's first game against his former mates since that shocking trade to Detroit late last month. If you say you saw that coming, you are flat-out lying. Not even Griffin did as he expected to be a Clipper for life after signing that huge extension this past summer - why his agent didn't negotiate a no-trade clause, I don't know. So far, that deal has been win-win for both sides. Meanwhile, Timberwolves-Bulls is Jimmy Butler's first game back in Chicago since the big trade between those clubs on draft night 2017. That wasn't a shocker as Butler was expecting to be dealt when the Bulls declared their intentions for a full-blown rebuild. I believe that trade was a big win for both teams as Butler is playing like an MVP and Chicago got three core younger players out of it.
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Clippers at Pistons ( -2.5, 215.5)
First ESPN game - it wasn't originally on the network, but it smartly changed plans after the deal. As of this writing, both teams made minor trades Thursday but not even worth mentioning who. The Clips won their second straight Monday, 104-101 over Dallas. L.A. scored the game's final 13 points. Danilo Gallinari had 28 points, including the go-ahead free throws with 24 seconds left. Guard Austin Rivers has missed the past 18 games with an ankle injury but could return here. The Pistons won their fifth in a row Wednesday, 115-106 over Brooklyn. Griffin had 25 points and Andre Drummond 17 points and 27 rebounds. Detroit won in L.A. way back on Oct. 28, 95-87. Drummond had 15 points and 17 rebounds. Griffin was just 5-for-18 shooting for 19 points with 11 rebounds against his future club. The Pistons have dropped six of their past seven at home in the series.
Key trends: The home team is 5-1-1 against the spread in the past seven meetings. The "over/under" is 6-1 in Detroit's past seven overall.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
Pelicans at 76ers (-6, 221.5)
You don't think NBA games can be postponed? The Pelicans' home matchup vs. Indiana was on Wednesday because the Smoothie King Center roof was leaking. No makeup date has been set yet. The 76ers beat the visiting Wizards on Tuesday, 115-102. Joel Embiid had 27 points and 12 rebounds in a party-like atmosphere in a city still celebrating the Super Bowl. New Orleans beat Philadelphia on Dec. 10, 131-124. Jrue Holiday scored a game-high 34 points for the Pels. J.J. Redick led the Sixers with 28 points. Embiid missed the game.
Key trends: The 76ers have covered their past five at home. The over is 5-2 in the Pelicans' previous seven against teams with a winning record.
Early lean: 76ers and over.
Cavaliers at Hawks (TBA)
I'm half-surprised that Cavs coach Ty Lue wasn't fired after his team's complete second-half implosion Tuesday night at a bad Orlando team. If Cleveland loses this one against an even worse Hawks club playing the second of a back-to-back (in Orlando, ironically, on Thursday)? Cleveland ended an eight-game losing streak on national TV with a wild 140-138 overtime win over Minnesota on Wednesday on a LeBron James buzzer-beater. He finished with 37 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in 48 minutes. The Cavs made a whopping three trades on Thursday as of this writing (essentially everyone shipped out but LeBron, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson), but I'll go more into those tomorrow. Just know the team should be quite short-handed here as it will be tough for those guys to clear physicals and play by Friday. Last meeting of the season between these teams. The Hawks won the first and the Cavs the next two. All three were high-scoring.
Key trends: The Cavs are 0-5 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 5-1 in the previous six in Atlanta.
Early lean: Good spot to fade Cavs regardless with perhaps only 6-7 guys available.
Pacers at Celtics (-6, 206)
Boston was in Washington on Thursday with Greg Monroe expected to make his Boston debut. The team waited to officially sign him for salary-cap reasons that I won't even try to explain. Indiana got to spend a night in New Orleans doing nothing with Wednesday's game there postponed. Victor Oladipo was set to return from an illness so obviously he should be fine to go here. The Celtics are 2-0 vs. the Pacers this season and have won five straight in the series.
Key trends: The Pacers are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 4-0 in the previous four.
Early lean: Pacers and over.
Bucks at Heat (-1.5, 201)
The Bucks won their third straight Tuesday, 103-89 at the Knicks. Giannis Antetokounmpo had two noteworthy plays in that one. It was his ankle that Kristaps Porzingis landed on in the second quarter, tearing Porzingis' ACL. The Freak, who finished with 23 points, later jumped right over Tim Hardaway Jr. for a posterizing dunk. Milwaukee is now a season-high seven games over .500. The Heat lost their season-high fifth in a row Wednesday, 109-101 vs. the Rockets. Josh Richardson had 30 points but was largely torched by James Harden. Kelly Olynyk (left shoulder strain) and Wayne Ellington (right shoulder strain) each missed his first games of the season. Last meeting between Milwaukee and Miami, with the Heat leading 2-0.
Key trends: The Bucks are 0-4 ATS in the past four meetings. The under is 6-2 in Miami's previous eight playing on one day of rest.
Early lean: Heat and under.
Nuggets at Rockets (TBA)
The Nuggets won a third consecutive game Monday, 121-104 over Charlotte. Gary Harris scored 27 points, and Nikola Jokic had 15 points and 16 rebounds. Denver shot 56.8 percent. The Rockets won a sixth in a row Wednesday, 109-101 in Miami to complete a four-game road trip. James Harden had 41 points and Chris Paul added 24 points, seven assists, and seven rebounds. Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon were all out with injuries in the second of a back-to-back. Houston won the first meeting with Denver, 125-95 at home on Nov. 22. It was over after a quarter as the Rockets led by 19. They have won five straight in the series and three in a row at home.
Key trends: The underdog is 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under has hit in eight straight Houston games vs. the West.
Early lean: Wait on those injured Rockets.
Hornets at Jazz (-6, 209)
Charlotte was in Portland on Thursday. The Jazz won their seventh straight game Wednesday, 92-88 in Memphis. Ricky Rubio had 29 points and eight rebounds to lead Utah, while Rodney Hood scored 18 - Hood is headed to Cleveland. The Hornets beat the Jazz 99-88 on Jan. 12, but they have lost 10 consecutive games in Salt Lake City.
Key trends: The Hornets have covered just one of their past seven in the second of a back-to-back. The under is 5-1 in Utah's previous six vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Jazz and under.
Timberwolves at Bulls (+6, 217)
This originally wasn't on ESPN, either, but is now the second game of the doubleheader. Of course, it's also the return to Chicago of former Bull Taj Gibson, who was traded to Oklahoma City last season and then signed a free agent with Minnesota and ex-Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. In some ways, Gibson was more popular than Butler in the Windy City. New Bull Zach LaVine faces his former teammates as well. The Wolves lost a shootout in Cleveland on Wednesday, 140-138 in overtime. Butler had a last-second shot blocked by LeBron James, who then scored the winner at the buzzer over Butler, who had 35 points. The Bulls dropped their seventh in a row Monday, 104-98 in Sacramento. Lauri Markkanen missed his third straight game due to the birth of his child but is expected here. Kris Dunn remains out with a concussion. It's the first meeting of the season between the teams. The Wolves have won the past four.
Key trends: The Bulls are 0-6 ATS in their past six. The under is 7-2 in Minnesota's previous nine after a loss.
Early lean: Wolves and under.
Trail Blazers at Kings (+7, 208.5)
Portland hosted Charlotte on Thursday. The Kings, who have dealt away George Hill, have been off since beating Chicago on Monday, 104-98. They were down 28-9 after one quarter and were still down seven with 10 minutes left. Bogdan Bogdanovic made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 52 seconds remaining. These teams split a home-and-home set back in mid-November, each prevailing at home. A win for Sacramento would be the first time it has avoided losing the season series to Portland since 2012-13.
Key trends: The Blazers are 1-3-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 7-3 in the Kings' past 10 at home.
Early lean: Kings and over.
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