Free NBA Picks: Friday, March 2, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Don't sleep on the Denver Nuggets going forward. They already have a really talented roster, but perhaps not an alpha male. That group got better Tuesday when former Atlanta Hawks All-Star forward Paul Millsap, Denver's big offseason acquisition, returned earlier than expected from wrist surgery. He had nine points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench in his first action since Nov. 19 as Millsap works into game shape. The Nuggets haven't made the playoffs since 2013 but should barring another major injury, and they are helped by major injuries to Minnesota (Jimmy Butler), San Antonio (Kawhi Leonard), New Orleans (DeMarcus Cousins) and the LA Clippers (Patrick Beverley, trade of Blake Griffin). Expect Millsap to return to the starting lineup in a couple of games. The Nuggets start a three-game road trip Friday night.
Pistons at Magic ( +2.5, 217)
The Pistons snapped a three-game skid with a 110-87 home blowout of the Bucks on Wednesday. The Pistons outscored Milwaukee 56-34 in the paint. Andre Drummond had 15 points and 16 rebounds, and Eric Moreland, a guy you probably have never heard of, had the game of his life with 10 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. The Magic lost a seventh in a row Wednesday, 117-104 vs. Toronto. Orlando managed 15 fourth-quarter points despite seven guys scoring in double figures. These teams have split two meetings this season, each winning at home. Detroit hadn't gotten Blake Griffin yet for either.
Key trends: The Pistons are 0-5 against the spread in the past five meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in 13 of the Magic's past 18 at home.
Early lean: Magic and under.
Hornets at 76ers (-5, 215)
Charlotte's five-game winning streak was stopped in the second of a back-to-back, 134-106 in Boston on Wednesday. The Hornets ran out of gas in the third quarter. Kemba Walker had 23 points. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (left hamstring) was out. Philadelphia was in Cleveland on Thursday looking to end a two-game losing streak. Somehow, it's the first of four meetings this season between these teams. Philly won the series 2-1 last year, taking the final two.
Key trends: The Hornets are 1-6 ATS in their past seven on the road. The under is 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: 76ers and under.
Warriors at Hawks (+13.5, 226.5)
This feels like one of those games the Warriors might slog through as it's the end of a trip and ahead of three days off - not to mention maybe rest a star or two. Golden State's second team could probably beat the Hawks' starters. The Dubs won a fourth in a row Wednesday, 109-101 in Washington. Kevin Durant scored 32 points and Stephen Curry added 25. Golden State is now 12-1 at Eastern Conference teams this season. The Hawks ended a four-game losing streak with a 107-102 home upset of Indiana on Wednesday. Dennis Schroder scored seven of Atlanta's final eight points to finish with 14. Golden State won both meetings vs. Atlanta last year, although they were relatively close. The Dubs have taken five straight in the series overall.
Key trends: The Hawks are 7-1 ATS in their past eight vs. the West. The under is 10-3 in the Warriors' previous 13 vs. the East.
Early lean: Hawks and under.
Raptors at Wizards (+4, 219)
First of an ESPN doubleheader. The Raptors won their second in a row Wednesday, 117-104 in Orlando, blowing open a close game midway through the fourth quarter. DeMar DeRozan scored 21 points and Kyle Lowry added 17 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. Rookie OG Anunoby sprained his ankle in the second quarter and didn't return. The Wizards lost by eight at home to the Warriors on Wednesday. Bradley Beal was held to eight points. Last regular-season meeting between the teams, with Washington leading 2-1.
Key trends: The underdog is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 7-3 in the previous 10.
Early lean: Wizards and under.
Mavericks at Bulls (+1.5, 213.5)
The Tankfest matchup of the night. About the only reason to watch this would be rookies Dennis Smith Jr. and Lauri Markkanen. The Mavs are off a 111-110 OT home loss to Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Dwight Powell hit a putback at the regulation buzzer, but Smith Jr. missed a jumper at the OT one. Nerlens Noel returned from a 42-game absence but didn't do much in 16 minutes. The Bulls dropped their fifth straight Tuesday, 118-103 in Charlotte. Zach LaVine led seven Bulls players in double digits with 21 points. Robin Lopez was again a DNP-CD. Chicago won the first meeting vs. Dallas on Jan. 5, 127-124. However, the Mavs have won four straight in the Windy City.
Key trends: The Mavs are 3-12-1 ATS in their past 16 Friday games. The over is 4-1 in the Bulls' past five.
Early lean: Can I pass? Bulls and over.
Nuggets at Grizzlies (TBA)
The Nuggets really blew one in Millsap's return Tuesday, falling 122-120 to the Clippers. Denver led by 19 in the third quarter. Gary Harris had 23 points to lead the Nuggets, who lost consecutive games at home for the first time this season. The Grizzlies lost an 11th straight Wednesday in a rare winnable game, 110-102 at home to Phoenix. Marc Gasol led the Grizzlies with 22 points and 13 rebounds. Tyreke Evans missed a third game in a row (ribs). The Grizz have lost their last four by an average of 17 points. Denver leads the season series 2-0, winning both at home.
Key trends: The road team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 11-1 in Denver's previous 12.
Early lean: Wait on Evans, but this shouldn't be close regardless.
Pacers at Bucks (TBA)
Indiana dropped its second in a row Wednesday on the road against a terrible team, 108-102 in Atlanta. The Pacers committed 24 turnovers. Bojan Bogdanovic led Indiana with 26 points. The Bucks lost their third straight Wednesday, 110-87 in Detroit - not showing up in the second of a back-to-back. Giannis Antetokounmpo left with 10:08 remaining in the game with an apparent injury around his right eye. Obviously, that needs to be monitored. The Freak says he's OK, though. These teams have split two meetings, each winning at home by double digits. Milwaukee has won the past three at home in the series.
Key trends: The home team has covered four straight in series. The under is 10-2 in the Bucks' past 12 vs. the East.
Early lean: Wait on the Freak.
Thunder at Suns (TBA)
The Suns ended a 10-game losing streak and avoided a winless February with a 110-102 win in Memphis on Wednesday. Devin Booker scored 34 points, and Josh Jackson added a career-best 29. T.J. Warren missed it. The game marked the sixth time in NBA history where two teams entered a game on double-digit losing streaks. OKC won its second straight Wednesday, 110-110 in OT in Dallas. Russell Westbrook had 30 points, including the go-ahead 3-point play with 38 seconds left. OKC is expect to add Corey Brewer, who was just dumped by the Lakers. Phoenix surprised OKC on Jan. 7, 114-100, and has won three in a row in the series.
Key trends: The Thunder are 0-6 ATS in their past six after a win. The over is 5-1 in the Suns' past six at home.
Early lean: This is one of those rare times I'm not sure why an opening TBA (I guess Warren?). Suns will be getting a good amount of points, and I like them to cover.
Timberwolves at Jazz (-6.5, 210)
Second ESPN game. Minnesota was in Portland on Thursday night. The Jazz lost to Houston on Monday, 96-85. Normally, you win holding the Rockets under 100, but Utah had 22 turnovers. The Jazz were also just 7-for-29 from long range. Minnesota is 2-0 in the season series, with Utah averaging only 97.5 points.
Key trends: The Wolves are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 4-1 in those.
Early lean: Jazz and under.
Knicks at Clippers (-8, 226.5)
The Knicks dropped their second in a row Monday, 125-111 to the Warriors. New York led at the half but was outscored 39-18 in the third. Emmanuel Mudiay scored 20 points and Trey Burke had 18 for the Knicks. The Clippers had a two-game winning streak snapped in a 105-92 home loss to Houston on Wednesday. It was over after one with the Rockets up 34-12. L.A. missed 16 of its first 19 shots. Tobias Harris led the Clippers with 24 points. Danilo Gallinari missed his third consecutive game with a bruised right hand. The Knicks snapped a 10-game skid in the series with a 107-85 home win on Nov. 21. They have lost their past five in L.A.
Key trends: The Knicks are 1-8 ATS in their past nine. The under is 4-1 in the Clippers' past four at home.
Early lean: Clippers and under.
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