Free NBA Picks: Friday, March 9, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Why is Commissioner Adam Silver singling out the Chicago Bulls? Other teams have been tanking much more obviously this season, yet Silver recently warned the Bulls against tanking even though they have only the eighth-worst record. That came about because the front office coming out of the All-Star break announced that veterans Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday weren't going to be getting regular minutes going forward - if playing at all. Perhaps if the Bulls hadn't been so transparent about that, Silver wouldn't have found a need to warn the franchise. Here's what Bulls executive VP John Paxson said about his two veterans after hearing from the league office: "After healthy dialogue, the league determined that their situations fall into the 'player rest' policy. We respect the communication and cooperative dialogue with the league and will adhere to their recommendations going forward." Have you seen some of the lineups other tanking clubs have been rolling out there? Plus, neither Lopez nor Holiday have complained and have said they understood the Bulls looking at younger guys. If I'm the Bulls, start those guys to make Silver happy but make sure they aren't on the floor in the fourth quarter/crunch time. Hiding in plain sight type of thing.
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Bulls at Pistons ( -8.5, 212.5)
The Bulls beat the more-tanking Grizzlies on Wednesday, 119-110. Lauri Markkanen had 22 points. Holiday started but got only 17 minutes. Lopez was DNP-CD. Coach Fred Hoiberg said Holiday and Lopez will start at Detroit. The Pistons are about dead in the water after dropping a fourth straight Wednesday, 121-119 in OT to the Raptors. Reggie Bullock missed a 3-pointer with five seconds left in OT for Detroit, and that would lead to Toronto's winning basket. Stanley Johnson missed the game because of back spasms. Chicago won the lone meeting with Detroit this season, 107-105 on Jan. 13 at the United Center. The Bulls have dropped their past two in Motown, although this will be their first look at Detroit's new arena.
Key trends: The home team is 5-0 against the spread in the past five meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in seven of the Bulls' past 10 vs. the East.
Early lean: Bulls and under.
Hawks at Pacers (-9, 210)
The Hawks lost by 16 Toronto on Tuesday; Atlanta was outscored 30-13 in the fourth. The Hawks shot 6 for 18 in the quarter and committed eight turnovers. They gave it away 22 times overall. The Pacers had a three-game winning streak snapped in a 20-point home loss to Utah on Wednesday. Indiana hit just 38.6 percent from the floor. Myles Turner led with 24 points. Indiana leads the season series 2-1 but lost the most recent in Atlanta at the end of February.
Key trends: The Hawks are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The under has hit in eight straight.
Early lean: Pacers and under.
Rockets at Raptors (+1, 218.5)
Just a freaking shame this game between conference leaders isn't nationally televised - I will say that TV executives at ABC/ESPN would be devastated if this were the NBA Finals matchup. Basketball fans would find it interesting, but it wouldn't resonate outside that group like a Warriors-Cavaliers fourth matchup would. This is easily the best matchup the rest of the season with Houston on a 17-game winning streak and with the NBA's best overall and road record, and Toronto leading the East and with the league's best home mark. Both avoided look-ahead trap games Wednesday, with the Rockets winning 110-99 in Milwaukee (the 17-game run is now the league's longest this season) and the Raptors needing overtime to win in Detroit. Toronto goes for the season sweep as it won in Houston on Nov. 14, 129-113. James Harden had 38 points and made 19 of 19 foul shots in the loss. Chris Paul was out injured.
Key trends: The Rockets are 9-0 in their past nine road game vs. teams with a winning home record. The over is 4-1 in Toronto's previous six vs. teams with a winning road record.
Early lean: Raptors (Houston playing third game in four nights) and over.
Jazz at Grizzlies (+8, 200)
The surging Jazz won their fourth straight overall and ninth in a row on the road Wednesday, 104-84 at Indiana. Rudy Gobert had 23 points and 14 rebounds. It was the Jazz's 21st win of the season against a team with a winning record. The Grizzlies lost their 15th straight game Wednesday, 119-110 in Chicago. That's the longest skid of any team this season. Rookie Dillon Brooks was a bright spot with 29 points. Utah beat Memphis in the first meeting, 92-88 on the road on Feb. 7. Ricky Rubio had 29 points.
Key trends: The Jazz are 1-5 in the past six meetings. The under is 6-2 in the previous eight.
Early lean: Grizzlies (feels like a trap game for Utah) and under.
Knicks at Bucks (-9, 212)
The Knicks have totally given up and lost their fifth straight Tuesday, 111-87 in Portland - the closest defeat in the run is nine points. Enes Kanter had 18 points and 11 rebounds for his career-high 32nd double-double this season in the Portland loss. Courtney Lee was out for personal reasons. The Bucks dropped their second in a row Wednesday, 110-99 to Houston. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points. Tyler Zeller (back) missed a second straight game. Milwaukee is 2-0 vs. the Knicks this season with New York averaging 89.5 points in the two.
Key trends: The Knicks are 1-11 ATS in their past 12. The under is 5-1 in the previous six meetings.
Early lean: Bucks and under.
Wizards at Pelicans (TBA)
First of an NBA TV doubleheader. The Wizards snapped a three-game skid with a 117-113 OT win over Miami on Tuesday. Bradley Beal had 30 points on 12-for-16 shooting. The Wizards were a season-best 14-for-24 from deep. Otto Porter left the game with 8:29 remaining in regulation with a bruised hip. The Pelicans won a 10th in a row Wednesday, tying a franchise record, in Sacramento but Anthony Davis left with an ankle injury - such a talent but about 10 consecutive games is his limit before suffering an injury. I highly doubt he plays here. Washington beat New Orleans on Dec. 19, 116-106, back when John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins were healthy. Both had big games.
Key trends: The Wizards have covered four straight on the road. The over is 7-1 in New Orleans' previous eight.
Early lean: Wait on Davis. Take Washington if he's out.
Lakers at Nuggets (-6.5, 231)
The Lakers beat the visiting Magic by just a point Wednesday - told you to fade them without Brandon Ingram. Brook Lopez scored 27 points and hit two free throws with 0.6 seconds to play. Lonzo Ball had 16 points, six rebounds and five assists. The Nuggets dropped their second in a row Wednesday, 113-108 vs. Cleveland despite 36 points and 13 rebounds from Nikola Jokic. Jamal Murray hit his head late so monitor that for potentially the concussion protocol. These teams have split two blowouts, each winning at home back in 2017.
Key trends: The home team has covered four straight. The over is 9-2 in the previous 11 in Denver.
Early lean: Nuggets and over.
Warriors at Trail Blazers (+4.5, 226)
Golden State hosted San Antonio on Thursday. The Blazers won their eighth in a row Tuesday, 117-87 over the Knicks. Scorching-hot Damian Lillard had 37 points with eight three-pointers. The Blazers hit a season-high 20 3-pointers in 33 attempts (60 percent). They are now third in the West. Maurice Harkless missed a third straight game due to a knee injury. These teams have split two meetings, each winning on the road. Lillard has scored at least 30 points in six of his last nine games against the Warriors, reaching 40 three times.
Key trends: The Warriors are 1-4 ATS in their past five in the second of a back-to-back. The over is 9-1 in the previous 10 meetings in Portland.
Early lean: Blazers and over.
Magic at Kings (TBA)
Nothing to see here! The Magic are 0-2 on their five-game trip following a last-second loss at the Lakers on Wednesday. They had rallied from a nine-point hole in the final 1:30 to take a one-point lead. A clock malfunction robbed Orlando of a chance of a final shot. Aaron Gordon had 28 points. Evan Fournier left with a sprained knee. The Kings were 13-point home losers to the Pelicans on Wednesday. De'Aaron Fox left early in the first quarter with back stiffness. Sacramento is looking for the series sweep over Orlando as well as a second straight win at home in the series. The Kings won 105-99 on Jan. 23 in central Florida.
Key trends: The Kings have covered six in a row vs. the East. The under is 5-1 in the Magic's past six.
Early lean: Wait on Fournier (and I guess Fox).
Cavaliers at Clippers (Pick'em, 231.5)
Second NBA TV game. The Cavs were schooled at home by Denver last Saturday but got payback Wednesday to start a six-game trip, 113-108. LeBron James had 39 points and 10 assists. Larry Nance shone again as a starter with 13 points and 13 rebounds. The Clippers lost by five at home to the Pelicans on Tuesday. Tobias Harris and Lou Williams scored 27 points apiece. L.A. lost in Cleveland on Nov. 17, 118-113 in OT. LeBron had 39 points and 14 rebounds and Kevin Love 25 points and two big 3-pointers in OT. DeAndre Jordan had 20 points and 22 rebounds for Los Angeles.
Key trends: The Clippers are 10-1 ATS in their past 11 on Friday. The over is 9-4 in Cleveland's past 13 playing on one day of rest.
Early lean: Clippers and over.
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