Free NBA Picks: Saturday, March 24, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
At this point, I'm waiting on one of the Doc's affiliated sportsbooks to post a prop on whether San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard will play again this season. Frankly, it's getting tiresome talking about it. There were reports that Leonard was going to return from his rather nebulous quad injury last Thursday, but of course he didn't. Just this week Manu Ginobili said of the two-time Defensive Player of the Year: "For me, he's not coming back, because it's not helping (to think that he is). We fell for it a week ago again." Now comes word the Spurs recently held a players-only meeting that got heated as Leonard's teammates implored him to return. Again, team doctors have cleared Leonard and he's working out - but Leonard hasn't been cleared by his own team of doctors even though he has been playing 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 at practices. If he's going to play this season, it has to be soon to be in full fitness for the playoffs (if the team makes it). Keep in mind that the Spurs can offer the forward a max contract extension worth more than $200 million over the summer. Will Leonard even sign it? The most bizarre thing to happen in the NBA this season is Sixers No.1 overall pick Markelle Fultz forgetting how to shoot and missing the entire season. This Leonard situation is a close No. 2.
Timberwolves at 76ers ( -5.5, 220.5)
Minnesota was in New York on Friday - but don't worry about the Wolves resting guys in the second of a B2B. Not Tom Thibodeau's style. The 76ers won their fifth in a row Thursday, 118-98 in Orlando. Joel Embiid had 17 points and nine rebounds in just 20 minutes (in the second of a back-to-back). The 76ers are 18-0 when holding opponents under 100 points this year. A win here clinches Philly's first winning season since (non-lockout version) 2004-05. Philadelphia won at Minnesota on Dec. 12, 118-112 in overtime. Embiid had 28 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high eight assists. The Sixers also have taken the past three at home in the series.
Key trends: The Wolves are 4-13 against the spread in their past 17 road games. The "over/under" is 4-1 in Philly's past five.
Early lean: 76ers and over.
Bulls at Pistons (TBA)
Chicago was home to Milwaukee on Friday without two of its best players in Zach LaVine (he's pretty much done) and Kris Dunn, but Lauri Markkanen is hoping to return. It's going to take a unique circumstance for me to recommend backing Chicago the rest of the season. The Pistons nearly pulled off an upset in Houston on Thursday to conclude a six-game trip but lost 100-96 in overtime. Detroit was just 6-for-38 from deep (Reggie Jackson 0-for-6). Blake Griffin had 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his first Pistons triple-double. These teams have split two meetings, each winning at home. Detroit has taken three straight in Motown vs. Chicago.
Key trends: The home team has covered six straight in the series. The under is 5-1 in those.
Early lean: Wait on Markkanen - good rookie but tells you how bad the Bulls are that a line for their game depends on him.
Suns at Magic (TBA)
Beautiful evening in the Orlando area in March … yeah, let's go watch Suns-Magic! Neither head coach likely will be back next season; we know Suns interim coach Jay Triano won't be. Phoenix was likely losing its 10th straight Friday in Cleveland perhaps again without Devin Booker and T.J. Warren. The Magic dropped a third in a row, 118-98 to the 76ers. Aaron Gordon, the only Orlando starter to score in double figures, had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Jonathan Isaac and Jonathon Simmons both sat with injuries. Orlando won in Phoenix on Nov. 10, 128-112. The Magic have won seven of the past 12 at home in the series as well.
Key trends: The Suns are 1-4 ATS in their past five in the second of a B2B. The under is 7-3 in the Magic's past 10.
Early lean: Wait on Suns duo.
Pelicans at Rockets (TBA)
NBA TV game. Because of Wednesday's makeup game vs. Indiana, this will be the Pelicans' sixth game in seven nights. That's brutal. That string started with a 107-101 home loss to Houston last Saturday. The Pels just finished a home back-to-back-to-back on Thursday at an impressive 3-0 with a 128-125 win over the Lakers. New Orleans rallied from 11 down in the fourth - just when you think the players' legs would be gone. Anthony Davis had 33 points and a late steal to seal it. Sans Chris Paul, Houston escaped at home in overtime vs. Detroit on Thursday, 100-96, for its seventh straight win. James Harden was just 2-for-16 in regulation but scored 10 of his team's 12 OT points. The Rockets lead the season series 2-1 (average score of 116.7-113.0) and have taken the past six at home vs. New Orleans.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five. The under is 4-1 in the previous five in Houston.
Early lean: Wait on Paul, who is likely out again.
Lakers at Grizzlies (+3, 219)
The Lakers dropped their fourth straight Thursday, 128-125 in New Orleans. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope tied a career high with eight 3s and finished with 28 points but for some reason never got the ball on the final few possessions - Lonzo Ball did and missed three times. Brandon Ingram was out again and probably sits here. Never seen a team not show up more than the Grizzlies in their 140-79 loss in Charlotte on Thursday. That's the sixth-biggest margin of victory in NBA history. Memphis became the first club in the 30-team NBA era to go winless on the road (0-15) against the Eastern Conference. The last time it happened in an 82-game season was by three clubs in 1988-89 but back then they played 12 times vs. the East. Memphis does lead this season series 2-1 vs. the Lakers and has won the past seven at home.
Key trends: The Grizzlies are 1-7 ATS in their past eight vs. teams with a losing record. The over is 8-2-1 in the Lakers' past 11 on the road.
Early lean: Lakers and over.
Hornets at Mavericks (TBA)
Dwight Howard comes off a historic 32-point, 30-rebound game on Wednesday vs. Brooklyn, just the second player over the last 25 years with at least 30 points and 30 rebounds in a game (Kevin Love in November 2010). Wilt Chamberlain had 124 such games in his career. The rest of the NBA has now had 32. However, Howard picked up his 16th technical foul of the season as well, meaning he sat out Charlotte's matchup vs. Memphis on Thursday due to a one-game suspension. Every two more, and he's suspended again. You could say the Hornets didn't miss them in their shocking 140-79 win over the Grizz. Kemba Walker scored 35 points in the first half, tying his own franchise record for the most points in any half. He finished with 46. The Hornets were up 55 after three, tying the shot-clock era for biggest lead at that point in a game. Nic Batum was out injured. The Mavs lost a fourth straight Thursday, 119-112 at home to Utah. Dirk Nowitzki passed Kevin Garnett for third place in minutes played in NBA history. Dennis Smith Jr. sat again but thinks he can play Saturday. Dallas won in Charlotte on Jan. 10, 115-111. The Mavs have dropped the past two at home in the series, however.
Key trends: The Mavs are 5-0 ATS in their past five at home vs. teams with a losing road record. The over is 7-2 in the Hornets' previous nine.
Early lean: Guess this is for Smith? Batum isn't going to be playing.
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