Free NBA Picks: Friday, March 16, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
The Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder are in action on Friday, and both have had success in hiring college head coaches - Brad Stevens and Billy Donovan, respectively. So, with the NCAA Tournament also going on, that got me thinking about which college coach might make the NBA jump this coming offseason. And I think the answer is crystal clear: Arizona's Sean Miller. Of course, we all know about that ESPN report of Miller reportedly talking about payment for one of his players. ESPN also has corrected that story twice, and now it doesn't seem so rock solid. But where there's smoke there's usually fire. Miller might want to get out of town before the hammer comes down, and I'd think he would have plenty of NBA suitors - especially if the Wildcats were to win it all. Miller's 2018 recruiting class was blown up in the wake of the ESPN report, with his two highest-ranked recruits decommitting (including Shaquille O'Neal's son, who decided on UCLA). The Phoenix Suns are going to have an opening, so that's a no-brainer phone call team management needs to make. Another current college coach has been linked to the Suns: Grand Canyon's Dan Majerle, maybe the most popular Suns player of all-time.
Celtics at Magic (TBA)
Severely short-handed Boston blew a 20-point lead and lost at home to Washington on Wednesday, 125-124 in double overtime. Jayson Tatum missed a 3-pointer just before the double-OT buzzer. Marcus Morris led Boston with 31 points and pulled down nine rebounds but made a stupid defensive play near the end of regulation that allowed Washington to tie it. Out were Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart - only Horford is expected to play Friday. The Magic snapped a five-game skid with a 126-117 upset of visiting Milwaukee on Wednesday. Jonathon Simmons scored a career-high 35 points, and D.J. Augustin added a season-high 32. Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier each missed a fourth straight game and likely won't play here. After sweeping Orlando 3-0 last season, the Celtics lead 2-1 this year. The Magic have split the past 14 meetings at home.
Key trends: The Celtics are 2-5 against the spread in their past seven in Orlando. The "over/under" has gone under in seven of the Magic's past eight following a loss.
Early lean: Wait on some of the injured guys (but I like Magic here as Celtics will be gassed from Wednesday).
Nets at 76ers (-11.5, 217.5)
Philadelphia was in New York on Thursday - remember, Joel Embiid usually plays both ends of a back-to-back these days. The Nets dropped their second in a row Tuesday, 116-102 to the Raptors. Weird game for D'Angelo Russell as he made his first seven shots and had 24 first-quarter points (most by a Net in the first since Vince Carter in 2005) but was just 3-for-14 the rest of the way and finished with 32. These teams have split two meetings this season in Brooklyn.
Key trends: The road team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 5-0 in Philly's past five in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: Nets and under.
Mavericks at Raptors (-12.5, 214.5)
Toronto was at Indiana on Thursday on a nine-game winning streak. Why does this feel like a letdown possibility? The Mavs are ruining their tanking plans by winning three of four. They routed fellow tanker New York on Tuesday at the Garden to start a four-game trip. Harrison Barnes had 30 points. It was the Mavs' first road win since Feb. 3. The Raptors were surprised in Dallas on Dec. 26, 98-93, to end a four-game winning streak in the series.
Key trends: The Mavs are 5-2 ATS in their past seven vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 12-3-1 in the Raptors' past 16 at home vs. teams with a losing road record.
Early lean: Mavericks and under.
Clippers at Thunder (TBA)
First NBA TV game. Los Angeles was in Houston on Thursday. The up-and-down Thunder are up right now on a four-game winning streak following a 119-107 victory in Atlanta on Tuesday. Russel Westbrook scored 32 points, dished out 12 assists and grabbed 12 rebounds for his 100th career triple-double, joining the triple-digit group of Oscar Robertson (181 triple-doubles), Magic Johnson (138) and Jason Kidd (107). However, Paul George left in the third quarter with a groin injury. George says he expects to play Friday. Center Steven Adams sat out the game with a left hip contusion. OKC has won two high-scoring games against the Clippers this season. George is averaging 36.5 ppg in them.
Key trends: The Clippers are 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 4-1 in the previous five.
Early lean: Wait on George.
Kings at Warriors (TBA)
More bad news for the really banged-up Warriors. All-Stars Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson all missed Wednesday's game vs. the Lakers, which Golden State won behind 26 points from Kevin Durant. Curry has been out a while with an ankle injury and won't even be re-evaluated until next week. Green is more of a maintenance thing, and it's questionable if he'll play here. Thompson is the new addition, and he reportedly fractured his thumb on Sunday and won't be re-evaluated until next Thursday. The Dubs had been very fortunate in terms of injuries the past three years - it might be catching up to them. The Kings upset the visiting Heat on Wednesday, 123-119 in overtime. De'Aaron Fox made a tying layup at the end of regulation as Sacramento improved to 3-0 in OT games this season. These teams have split two meetings this season. A win here would mark the first time since the 2012-13 season that the Kings did not drop the season series to Golden State.
Key trends: The Kings are 2-6-1 ATS in their past nine in Oakland. The under is 5-1 in the previous six meetings.
Early lean: Guess this is TBA to see if Green returns.
Heat at Lakers (TBA)
Second NBA TV game. The Heat are 0-2 on their three-game West Coast trip, falling in overtime in Sacramento on Wednesday. Miami had rallied from 16 down in the fourth to lead in the final seconds of regulation. Goran Dragic led the Heat with a season-high 33 points but missed a key shot late in OT and also had a bad turnover. Hassan Whiteside missed his third game in a row and Dwyane Wade his second. Seems doubtful either goes here. The Lakers had a two-game winning streak snapped Wednesday in a 117-106 loss at short-handed Golden State. Julius Randle had 22 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out late. Kyle Kuzma was out with a sprained ankle. L.A. snapped a nine-game losing streak in Miami on March 1 with a 131-113 victory. The Heat, meanwhile, are 8-21 all-time at the Lakers.
Key trends: The Lakers are 11-2 ATS in their past 13 at home. The over has hit in seven straight Heat road games.
Early lean: Wait on Heat duo/Kuzma.
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