Free NBA Picks: Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
How close were the Boston Celtics to landing Jimmy Butler? Depends on which report you read, but there seemed to be little question that the Bulls and Celtics had talks about Butler all during last season and that those really heated up ahead of the 2017 draft. After Boston moved down from No. 1 to No. 3 back in June, the Bulls called and offered the Celtics Butler straight-up for the No. 3 overall pick. How do you not take that if you are Danny Ainge? Maybe Ainge had an inkling of how good his pick there, Jayson Tatum, would be. That said, Ainge gave up a lot more to get Cavaliers All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving (who is younger than Butler) later last summer. Everything did seem to work out for everyone. The Celtics might be the best team in the East with Irving and Tatum, the Bulls got a nice package of young players from Minnesota for Butler, and the Wolves are surging behind Butler and will finally return to the playoffs this spring. Butler makes his lone trip of the season to Beantown in Friday night's top game.
Pistons at 76ers (TBA)
Detroit was surprisingly without Andre Drummond on Wednesday and lost in Miami, 111-104. Drummond was scratched with bruised ribs, and Boban Marjanovic made his first start since the end of the 2015-16 season when he was with San Antonio. Consider Drummond day-to-day. The Pistons did get Avery Bradley back from a seven-game absence, and he had 15 points in 38 minutes. The 76ers won their third straight Wednesday, 112-106 over a short-handed Spurs team. Joel Embiid originally was ruled out with a sprained right hand but talked his way into playing and had 21 points and 11 rebounds. He was sore after so he could sit here. Philadelphia leads the season series 2-0 with Embiid averaging 27.5 points. The Pistons have won three of their past four in Philly.
Key trends: The 76ers are 1-5 against the spread in their past six at home. The "over/under" has gone under in four of the previous five meetings.
Early lean: Wait on Drummond/Embiid.
Timberwolves at Celtics (-5.5, 205.5)
First of an ESPN doubleheader. Could be a bit of a letdown game for Boston off Cleveland's visit on Friday and the C's playing again Saturday. The Celtics beat the Cavs 102-88 for a fourth win in a row. Terry Rozier had 20 points in 20 minutes. Kyrie Irving was double-teamed often and held to 11 points. Minnesota perhaps got caught looking ahead to this one as it was upset 98-97 in Brooklyn on Wednesday. Butler missed a shot at the buzzer but had 30 points. The Wolves are just 4-9 against the East. Boston swept last year and has won 11 straight at home in the series.
Key trends: The Celtics are 2-8 ATS in their past 10 after a win. The over is 12-3-1 in Minnesota's past 16 after a loss.
Early lean: Wolves and over.
Knicks at Heat (-5, 201.5)
The Knicks dropped a second straight Wednesday, 121-103 in Washington. Kristaps Porzingis was held to 16 points on 5-for-19 shooting and afterward admitted that he's feeling some wear and tear and is getting fatigued. So maybe he sits here. Miami beat the visiting Pistons, 111-104 on Wednesday behind 25 points and 13 rebounds from Kelly Olynyk and 24 points and 13 assists from Goran Dragic. The Heat shot 50 percent from long range. New York won the first meeting at home vs. Miami, 115-86 on Nov. 29. Enes Kanter had 22 points and 14 rebounds with the Heat missing big man Hassan Whiteside. Miami had won six straight at the Garden.
Key trends: The road team is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 7-2 in the Heat's past nine at home.
Early lean: Heat and under.
Raptors at Bucks (+1.5, 215)
The Raptors won a third consecutive game Wednesday in a place they hadn't won in a while: Chicago, by a 124-115 score. DeMar DeRozan had 35 points and Delon Wright set career highs with 25 points and 13 rebounds. Milwaukee routed Indiana on Wednesday, 122-101. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points and 10 rebounds before sitting out the fourth. The Bucks shot 58 percent. Toronto beat Milwaukee 131-127 in OT on New Year's Day behind DeRozan's team-record 52 points. The Raptors did lose their last visit to Milwaukee in 2016-17.
Key trends: The Raptors are 6-2 ATS in their past eight in Milwaukee. The under is 6-0 in the previous six there.
Early lean: Raptors and under.
Bulls at Mavericks ( -4.5, 210.5)
Two tanking teams - or at least trying to tank but winning a bit too much for management's liking. The Bulls are somewhat back in the swing of things as they dropped a third in a row Wednesday, 124-115 vs. Toronto. Justin Holiday led Chicago with 26 points, and Lauri Markkanen added 22 points and 12 rebounds. Dallas' four-game winning streak was snapped in a noble 125-122 home loss to Golden State on Wednesday. Wesley Matthews led the Mavericks with 22 points, including seven 3-pointers. Dallas has won four straight and seven of the past nine in this series. Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg and Mavs star Harrison Barnes both won the Iowa Mr. Basketball Award while playing at Ames High (years apart obviously).
Key trends: The Bulls are 7-1 ATS in their past eight on the road. The over is 6-2 in the Mavs' past eight.
Early lean: Bulls and over.
Suns at Spurs (-12.5, 210)
The Spurs were finishing a three-game trip and in the second of a back-to-back on Wednesday in Philadelphia so they rested some guys in a 112-106 loss. Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Rudy Gay all sat - that's frankly ridiculous and the team should be fined heavily. Wasn't the NBA supposed to fix that issue? Phoenix was routed 134-111 in Denver on Wednesday. Greg Monroe filled in for starting center Tyson Chandler (rest) and had 16 points and 10 rebounds. After a 41-point second quarter, the Suns scored only 44 in the second half. San Antonio has won both meetings this season and taken eight straight at home in the series.
Key trends: The Suns are 0-4 ATS in their past four in San Antonio. The under is 5-1 in the previous six meetings there.
Early lean: Suns and under.
Jazz at Nuggets (-7.5, 207.5)
The Jazz lost by 10 at home to New Orleans on Wednesday. Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 24 points, and Joe Johnson scored 20 off the bench. Utah was 7-for-32 from deep. Denver snapped a two-game skid with a 134-111 home win over Phoenix on Wednesday. Gary Harris had 36 points and Nikola Jokic added 14 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. The Nugs are 13-4 at home. Last meeting of the season between these two. Utah leads 2-1 (all decided by double digits) but has dropped its past three in Denver.
Key trends: The home team has covered seven straight in the series. The under is 11-1 in the previous 12 meetings in Denver.
Early lean: Nuggets and under.
Wizards at Grizzlies (+4, 206.5)
Second ESPN game. Washington won its third straight Wednesday, 121-103 over the Knicks. Marcin Gortat had a season-high 21 points, making 9 of 10 from the field, Bradley Beal scored 27 and John Wall had 25 points and nine assists. The Wiz are now a season-best six games over .500. The Grizzlies lost 113-105 at the Clippers on Tuesday. Tyreke Evans led Memphis with 18 points, six assists and five rebounds. Marc Gasol was 3-for-10 and held to 11 points. Chandler Parsons sat out with his usual knee issues. Memphis lost in D.C., 93-87 on Dec. 13. The Wizards nearly blew a 17-point third-quarter lead. The Grizzlies were without Evans and the Wiz Markieff Morris.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 4-0 in the Grizzlies' past four.
Early lean: Wizards and over.
Hawks at Trail Blazers (-8, 208.5)
Atlanta lost in Phoenix on Tuesday to start a five-game trip, 104-103. Atlanta was up 10 with 2:53 to go. That franchise had been 400-0 in the past 20 seasons with at least a 10-point lead in the final three minutes of a game. Portland completed a three-game trip with a 127-110 loss in Cleveland on Tuesday. Damian Lillard scored 25 for the Blazers after missing five games with a hamstring injury. The Hawks defeated the Trail Blazers in Atlanta on Dec. 30, 104-89. Dennis Schroder led the Hawks with 22 points and eight assists. Lillard was out injured. He averaged 24.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists in two games vs. the Hawks in 2016-17.
Key trends: The Hawks are 4-1 ATS in their past five in Portland. The under is 4-0 in the previous four meetings.
Early lean: Blazers and under.
Hornets at Lakers (+2, 215)
The Hornets torched the Kings in Sacramento on Tuesday, 131-111. Dwight Howard had 20 points and eight rebounds, and Kemba Walker added 12 points and 10 assists. The team made a season-high 15 3-pointers in scoring a season high in points. The Lakers dropped their eighth in a row Wednesday, 133-96 to the Thunder in tying the franchise's second-worst home loss ever. Brook Lopez was back after missing eight games with an ankle injury and had 10 points in 16 minutes. Lonzo Ball was out again but was expected to practice Thursday and thus could play here. Charlotte lost at home to L.A. on Dec. 9, 110-99. Jordan Clarkson led the Lakers with 22 points and six rebounds off the bench. Howard had a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds for Charlotte, which has won its past two at Staples Center.
Key trends: The Hornets have covered one of the past seven meetings. The over is 10-2 in the Lakers' past 12 overall.
Early lean: Lakers and over.
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