Free NBA Picks: Friday, March 30, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
It's not an injury that will make big headlines around the NBA, but it certainly could affect what seed the Portland Trail Blazers get in the Western Conference playoffs and if they can advance past the first round. Small forward Moe Harkless had arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday to "remove a loose body" in his left knee and will be out anywhere from 2-6 weeks (the playoffs start in less than three). Harkless, who has been starting recently after a tumultuous first few months of the season, says he started feeling some discomfort recently. Over his last six games, Harkless was averaging 14.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks, while shooting 62 percent from three-point range. Damian Lillard has called him the Blazers' X-factor: "When he's doing the things he's doing," Lillard said, "it makes us a completely different team." Evan Turner slides into the starting lineup to replace Harkless, but that weakens the bench - and Turner simply isn't as good.
Bulls at Magic (TBA)
Chicago was in Miami on Thursday, so the Bulls could rest someone like Lauri Markkanen in the second of a B2B for tanking reasons. He was out Thursday as was Cristiano Felicio. Orlando lost at home to the Nets on Wednesday, 111-104. The Magic were outscored 17-2 to start the fourth quarter. Nikola Vucevic led Orlando with 24 points and 15 rebounds and Mario Hezonja had 23. How bad is Orlando? Chicago isn't exactly good and goes for the four-game season sweep.
Key trends: The Bulls are 5-2 against the spread in the past seven meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in 11 of the past 12.
Early lean: Wait on the tank management decisions.
76ers at Hawks (TBA)
The Sixers won their eighth in a row Wednesday, 118-101 over the Knicks. However, Joel Embiid left in the second quarter and was taken to a hospital for precautionary testing after a collision with teammate Markelle Fultz. As of now, Embiid isn't in the concussion protocol, but the team might play it cautious here against a bad opponent. Dario Saric had 26 points and 14 rebounds in the win. The Hawks completed a six-game trip at 1-5 following a 126-114 loss at Minnesota on Wednesday. Mike Muscala had a career-high 24 points off the bench for Atlanta. Dennis Schroder missed his second straight game with a left ankle sprain. These teams have played once and that was way back on Nov. 1 in Philly, a 119-109 Sixers win.
Key trends: The 76ers are 1-7 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 6-2 in those.
Early lean: Wait on Embiid.
Pelicans at Cavaliers (TBA)
First of an ESPN doubleheader. The Pelicans lost a second straight Tuesday, 107-103 to Portland. Anthony Davis had 36 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks. He did leave briefly after rolling his ankle but returned. Still, those can swell overnight, so monitor that. Rajon Rondo missed his second game in a row with a sprained right wrist. Off a bad loss in Miami, the Cavs bounced back 24 hours later and won easily in Charlotte on Wednesday. LeBron James had 41 points, tying Michael Jordan's NBA record streak of 866 consecutive double-digit scoring games. Kevin Love was out in the concussion protocol. New Orleans beat the visiting Cavs back on Oct. 28, 123-101, but is just 5-12 all-time in Cleveland.
Key trends: The Cavs are 7-18 ATS in their past 25 vs. the West. The over is 5-2 in the Pelicans' past seven vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Wait on Love.
Suns at Rockets (TBA)
Mismatch of the season? The Suns lost their 13th straight game Wednesday, 111-99 vs. the Clippers. The Suns were without four key injured players: guards Devin Booker and Elfrid Payton, center Alex Len and forward T.J. Warren. The team has now used 32 different starting lineups this season. The Rockets won their 10th in a row Tuesday, 118-86 over Chicago. Eric Gordon scored 31 points and tied a career high with eight 3-pointers, and Chris Paul 13 points and 10 assists after missing three games (hamstring). James Harden was given the night off. Houston has won all three meetings this season by double digits and seven straight overall in the series.
Key trends: The Suns are 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 7-2 in the previous nine.
Early lean: Have to wait on some of those Suns, but this line will be massive (maybe historic?) and I always take huge numbers. They are still professionals.
Nuggets at Thunder ( -5.5, 222)
Oklahoma City was in San Antonio on Thursday. The Nuggets complete a seven-game trip here and are 2-4 on it following a 114-110 loss in Toronto on Tuesday. Nikola Jokic had 29 points and 16 rebounds, and Paul Millsap scored 20 points in the loss. Leading scorer Gary Harris (right knee) missed his sixth straight game and isn't expected here. Denver leads the season series 2-1 but both wins were at home.
Key trends: The underdog has covered five straight in the series. The under is 4-1 in those.
Early lean: Thunder and under.
Timberwolves at Mavericks (+5, 217.5)
The Wolves ended a two-game skid with a 126-114 win over Atlanta on Wednesday. Karl-Anthony Towns had the game of his brilliant young career with a franchise record 56 points to go with 15 rebounds. Towns, who was 22 years, 133 days old on Wednesday, is the third-youngest player in NBA history to have a game with at least 50 points and 15 rebounds. The youngest to do it was Rick Barry (21 years, 261 days old) in 1965. The Mavericks lost at the Lakers on Wednesday in the second of a back-to-back, 103-93. Harrison Barnes led with 17 points. Minnesota goes for the four-game series sweep, and the Mavs haven't scored in triple digits yet.
Key trends: The favorite has covered 17 of the past 22 meetings. The under is 10-1-1 in the previous 12.
Early lean: Wolves and under.
Grizzlies at Jazz (-15, 199.5)
The Grizzlies have won two straight! They upset the visiting Blazers on Wednesday, 108-103. After just signing a 10-day contract, MarShon Brooks scored 14 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter in his first game with Memphis and first NBA game since the end of the 2014 season. Of Memphis' 21 victories this season, 11 have come against teams currently in playoff spots. The Jazz suffered a crushing home loss to Boston on Wednesday, 97-94, on a 3-point buzzer-beater. Utah didn't score in the final 2:25. Ricky Rubio tallied 14 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. Utah leads the season series 2-0, with Memphis averaging just 83 ppg.
Key trends: The Grizz are 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 5-1 in Utah's previous six at home.
Early lean: Grizzlies and under.
Bucks at Lakers (TBA)
Milwaukee was in Oakland on Thursday night. The Lakers, who have ruled Isaiah Thomas out for the season due to hip surgery, also saw Lonzo Ball leave Wednesday's 103-93 win over Dallas. Ball was set for a precautionary MRI on his knee Thursday. He says he's fine. Brandon Ingram had 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 23 minutes in his return after missing 12 games with a groin strain. The Bucks have won the past two in this series, including 98-90 on Nov. 11. Giannis Antetokounmpo led all scorers with 33 points and added 15 rebounds. The Bucks have won or tied their last eight season series against the Lakers, including this year's.
Key trends: The Lakers are 12-3 ATS in their past 15 at home. The under is 7-1 in the Bucks' previous eight in the second of a B2B.
Early lean: Wait on Ball.
Clippers at Trail Blazers (TBA)
Second ESPN game. The Clippers won their third in a row Wednesday, 111-99 in Phoenix. L.A. pulled away with an 18-0 fourth-quarter run. Tobias Harris scored 27 points. Milos Teodosic did not play due to left foot soreness. Neither did Danilo Gallinari (fracture in right hand), but he could return Friday after having missed 56 games with injuries this season. The Blazers had a two-game winning streak snapped in a 108-103 trap game loss in Memphis on Wednesday. CJ McCollum led Portland with 42 points. Damian Lillard wasn't with the team for the birth of his son but is expected Friday. Portland leads the season series 2-1. Lillard has averaged 25.3 points and McCollum 20.0 ppg.
Key trends: The road team has covered four straight in the series. The over is 7-3 in the Clippers' past 10 vs. the West.
Early lean: Make sure Lillard is back from daddy duties.
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