Free NBA Picks: Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
The Cleveland Cavaliers were near locks to make some sort of trade by the Feb. 8 deadline, but the broken hand suffered by All-Star forward Kevin Love on Tuesday now essentially assures that. Love is expected to miss approximately eight weeks, which should see him return right near the end of the regular season. He gets a lot of grief and isn't exactly the world's best defender, but he is what you want in a stretch-four as Love is shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range while averaging 17.9 points and 9.4 rebounds. Guys like that don't grow on trees. Love missed 13 games last season due to knee surgery and Cleveland went 7-6 in his absence and badly missed his rebounding.
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Coach Tyronn Lue started Jae Crowder in Love's place on Wednesday but didn't commit to that every game going forward. That's a real small-ball lineup with Crowder at the 4 and Tristan Thompson at the 5. Crowder is a much better defender than Love but not near the scorer or rebounder. The Cavs are going to need Isaiah Thomas to make up some of Love's scoring. Ditto Channing Frye off the bench. What this injury surely does is mean the Cavs can't trade Love in any blockbuster by the deadline; reportedly the Pistons were going after Love if they didn't get Blake Griffin.
Bulls at Clippers ( -7, 220.5)
A 3:30 p.m. ET tip. Chicago started a three-game road trip on Wednesday by losing a fifth straight, 124-108 in Portland. Zach LaVine had a season-best 23 points in the lone bright spot. The Bulls were without Nikola Mirotic, Kris Dunn and rookie Lauri Markkanen. Mirotic was being held out until he was traded - and he was to New Orleans on Thursday. I'd tell you whom the Bulls got back player-wise, but it doesn't matter as that deal was only about a 2018 first-round pick. Dunn's probably not returning from a concussion until after the All-Star break. Markkanen is dealing with a personal matter and could join the team at any time. The Clippers had a two-game winning streak snapped Tuesday, 104-96 vs. those same Blazers in L.A.'s first game since the Griffin trade. Danilo Gallinari returned from a long injury absence and had 15 points. The three new Clippers, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris and Boban Marjanovic, didn't play but should debut here. It's the first meeting of the season between these teams. The Clippers have won the past three.
Key trends: The Clippers are 9-2-1 against the spread in their past 12 vs. teams with a losing record. The "over/under" is 8-2 in the Bulls' past 10 vs. the West.
Early lean: Clippers and over.
Heat at Pistons (-2.5, 199)
Miami was in Philadelphia on Friday. Because Love will miss the All-Star Game, Heat guard Goran Dragic has replaced him on Team LeBron. The Pistons won their second straight Thursday as Griffin made his debut and had 24 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a 104-102 victory over Memphis. The Pistons were plus-23 when Griffin was on the floor. Detroit and Miami have split two meetings this season; the Heat have won five of the past seven in Motown.
Key trends: The Heat are 1-6 ATS in their past seven in Detroit. The over is 5-1 in the previous six meetings.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
76ers at Pacers (TBA)
Philadelphia hosted Miami on Friday, so presumably Joel Embiid will either sit that one or this one out - even though he has claimed he's close to playing both ends of a back-to-back. Indiana was in Charlotte on Friday, and the Pacers don't really have any B2B concerns. The Sixers won the first meeting this season, 121-110 at home on Nov. 3, but the Pacers are on a seven-game winning streak at Bankers Life Fieldhouse vs. the 76ers.
Key trends: The favorite is 8-2 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The over is 5-1 in the previous six.
Early lean: Wait on Embiid (may as well have that on save/recall).
Wizards at Magic (TBA)
Orlando snapped a three-game losing streak with a 127-105 home win over the Lakers on Wednesday. The Magic hit a franchise-record nine 3-pointers in a 43-point third period, their highest-scoring quarter of the season. Aaron Gordon missed his second straight game with a strained left hip flexor, and the team is now 2-9 without him. The Wizards won their third straight without John Wall, 122-119 over Toronto on Thursday. Bradley Beal led seven Washington players in double-figure scoring with 27. Otto Porter chipped in 16 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. He's the clear No. 2 option with Wall out. Orlando is 0-2 vs. Washington this year and has dropped seven of the past eight at home in the series.
Key trends: The road team is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 4-0 in the previous four.
Early lean: Wait on Gordon.
Rockets at Cavaliers (TBA)
ABC prime-time game. The Cavs beat the visiting Heat on Wednesday, 91-89 to complete January at 6-8, losing by 24 or more points three times. Crowder, who has largely been a bust along with Thomas in that trade with Boston, made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:21 left. Crowder finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. Thomas, meanwhile, was 2-for-15 and looks nothing like the 2016-17 guy. The Rockets won their third in a row Thursday, 102-91 in San Antonio. James Harden had 28 points and 11 assists. Chris Paul surprisingly played through an injury and had 10 points in 30 minutes. Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon were out. Houston beat Cleveland on Nov. 9, 117-113. Harden had a triple-double of 35 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. LeBron James had 33 points. The Rockets have dropped their past two in The Land.
Key trends: The Cavs have covered just eight of their past 28 following a win. The over is 7-2 in the Rockets' past nine following a double-digit win.
Early lean: Wait on the two Rockets.
Pelicans at Timberwolves (-8.5, 220)
New Orleans was in Oklahoma City on Friday, so if Mirotic didn't debut then he should here. The Pelicans also reportedly are likely to win the free-agent derby for Greg Monroe, a New Orleans native who was just cut loose by Phoenix. Two good additions for really no cost this season. Doesn't quite make up for losing DeMarcus Cousins, but should be enough for the Pels to make the playoffs. The Timberwolves stopped a two-game slid with a 108-89 win over the visiting Bucks on Thursday. Jimmy Butler scored 28 points, and Karl-Anthony Towns had 24 points and 11 rebounds for his NBA-best 46th double-double. Minnesota goes for the four-game season sweep of New Orleans. Just one of the first three was close.
Key trends: The Pels are 3-7 ATS in their past 10 at Minnesota. The over is 8-2 in the previous 10 meetings overall.
Early lean: Timberwolves and over.
Jazz at Spurs (-6, 196.5)
Utah was in Phoenix on Friday. The Spurs had a two-game winning streak end Thursday as they were outclassed at home by the Rockets, 102-91. Danny Green had 22 points to lead San Antonio in scoring for the first time this season. The Jazz won the first meeting this season with the Spurs, 100-89 at home on Dec. 2. Rodney Hood, now out injured, led with 29 points.
Key trends: The Jazz have covered just six of their past 26 in San Antonio. The under is 5-1 in the Spurs' past six on Saturday.
Early lean: Spurs and under.
Warriors at Nuggets (+7, 228.5)
Golden State was in Sacramento on Friday, so I'd imagine that Steve Kerr sits at least one of his core guys here along with perhaps an Andre Iguodala or Shaun Livingston (he was out Friday for personal reasons so might be away regardless). The Nuggets stopped a two-game slide with a 127-124 win over the Thunder on Thursday on Gary Harris' first buzzer-beating winner of his NBA career. He finished with 25 points, and Nikola Jokic added his third triple-double of the season with 29 points, 13 rebounds and 14 assists - he had the assist on Harris' winning 3-pointer. Denver had missed a potential winner in each of the previous two games. This is the last regular-season meeting between the teams. Golden State leads 2-1 and won in Denver easily back in November.
Key trends: The Warriors have covered one of the past five meetings. The over has hit in seven straight in Denver.
Early lean: Nuggets and over.
Mavericks at Kings (+4, 203)
Sacramento hosted the Warriors on Friday; if the Kings win that, I'll be betting big on Dallas here in major Sacramento letdown game (frankly, it's probably one regardless). The Mavs lost their fifth straight Wednesday, 102-88 in Phoenix. Dennis Smith led with 17 points - be good theater to watch Smith and fellow rookie point guard De'Aaron Fox, two blurs with the ball, duel here. Dirk Nowitzki is 32 minutes shy of becoming the sixth player in NBA history to play 50,000 minutes in the regular season. The Kings have taken five of the last six meetings in the series, including three straight at home.
Key trends: The Mavs are 1-7 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 11-3 in the previous 14 meetings.
Early lean: Mavericks and under.
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