Free NBA Picks: Saturday, March 3, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
You have to like the Houston Rockets' confidence. A while back, young center Clint Capela said his team was better than the Golden State Warriors following a victory over the Dubs. But, Capela perhaps didn't know any better at age 23. James Harden, though, has been around the block. He's not backing down from any challenge, either, saying this week that: "This is the year. For sure," when asked what his expectations for the Rockets are for this season. "This is probably the best team I've ever been a part of, from top to bottom." Hard to argue with Harden right now as the Rockets bring a 14-game winning streak into Saturday's showdown with Boston, arguably the best regular-season matchup left on the 2017-18 NBA schedule considering the Celtics and Cavaliers are both done with the Warriors. It's a good warm-up act for March Madness, when the NBA is going to lose a lot of eyeballs and betting interest to college basketball for about a month.
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Grizzlies at Magic (TBA)
Look away! Not only are both of these teams terrible and in full tank mode, but it's also the second of a back-to-back for both with Orlando home to Detroit on Friday and Memphis hosting Denver with Tyreke Evans out and JaMychal Green iffy. This might be the worst display of basketball in the 2017-18 season. Here's guessing you can get tickets on StubHub for $1. Orlando has lost 10 of the last 13 meetings overall but did win in Memphis on Nov. 1, 101-99, to snap a nine-game road losing streak in the series. Aaron Gordon hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 51.7 seconds left.
Key trends: The Magic are 4-1 ATS their five vs. the West. The "over/under" is 10-3 in the Grizzlies past 13 on the road.
Early lean: Do you really want to bet on this game? I like Orlando to win comfortably regardless of those Grizzlies TBAs.
Nuggets at Cavaliers ( -6, 226)
Denver was in Memphis on Friday night. Cleveland never led at home Thursday in losing 108-97 to Philadelphia. LeBron James finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and eight assists against what could be his next team (doubt it, but the Sixers would be a juggernaut). Jordan Clarkson was ejected after throwing the ball off the back of Philly's Dario Saric - probably not suspension worthy, but you never know. J.R. Smith was suspended for the game for detrimental conduct but will be back here. It's the first meeting of the season between these teams - they play again next Wednesday. They split last year, each winning at home.
Key trends: The Cavs are 4-23 ATS in their past 27 at home vs. teams with a losing record. That's amazing. The over is 4-0 in the Nuggets' past four vs. the East.
Early lean: Nuggets and over.
Pistons at Heat (-6.5, 207)
Detroit was in Orlando on Friday - teams often do the Florida Swing on a back-to-back. Miami was upset at home by the Lakers on Thursday, 131-113. It was the most points allowed this season by the Heat. Dwyane Wade scored 25 points for Miami. Fellow guards Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington were both out with left quadriceps contusions. These teams have split two meetings this season. Andre Drummond is averaging 15.5 points and 18.5 rebounds in them.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 6-1 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Heat and over.
Celtics at Rockets (-6.5, 213.5)
ABC Saturday night prime-time game, meaning you know neither club played Friday night (or in this case, Thursday, either). The Rockets had three players score at least 20 points -- Harden with 25, Eric Gordon 22 and Capela 22 - in beating the Clippers on Wednesday, 105-92, to extend their winning streak to 14 games. Houston also had a 14-game winning streak earlier this season, from Nov. 16 to Dec. 18. The Rockets are the sixth team in NBA history with two winning streaks of at least 14 games in a season. Two of the previous five won the NBA title (last to do it, 2006-07 Suns, didn't). The Celtics won their fourth in a row Wednesday, spanking the Grizzlies, 134-106. Boston shot 62.1 percent, its best since Nov. 11, 2013 vs. Orlando. Kyrie Irving had 34 points on 13-for-18 shooting. The Celtics beat the Rockets on Dec. 28, 99-98. Harden was called for two huge offensive fouls late, one leading to Al Horford's go-ahead jumper with 3.9 seconds left. Boston's only lead of the game was on Horford's basket. The C's haven't swept the season series (of two games, so not counting lockout season) since 2007-08.
Key trends: The Rockets are 12-2 ATS in their past 14 vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 5-0 in Boston's previous five vs. teams with a winning percentage north of .600.
Early lean: Rockets and under.
Lakers at Spurs (TBA)
The Lakers look like a new team of late and won a fourth straight Thursday, 131-113. Isaiah Thomas scored a season-high 29 points, and Julius Randle added 25. The Lakers shot 59 percent and were 16 of 29 from 3-point range. The only negative was Brandon Ingram leaving with a leg injury, although the team doesn't think it's anything serious. The Spurs blew a 15-point lead Wednesday in a 121-116 home loss to New Orleans and lost LaMarcus Aldridge to a sprained ankle. Hard to see him playing here. Pau Gasol (bruised left knee bone) did not play and is questionable. L.A. won the first meeting this season, 93-81 on Jan. 11 in L.A. The Lakers were up as many as 19 in the second quarter and wouldn't trail after that. They scored 32 points off 20 Spurs turnovers. Ingram paced the Lakers with 26 points. San Antonio lost its most recent home matchup in the series late last season.
Key trends: The Spurs have failed to cover four straight at home. The over is 7-2 in the previous nine meetings.
Early lean: Wait on Aldridge/Ingram.
Thunder at Trail Blazers (-3.5, 214)
Oklahoma City was in Phoenix on Friday. Portland won a fifth in a row Thursday, 108-99 over the Timberwolves. Damian Lillard was probably the second-best player in the West behind Anthony Davis in February, and Lillard continued his hot streak with 35 points despite starting 0-for-7. The Blazers are now 10 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2014-15 season. Portland leads the season series 2-0 despite not having Lillard for one of the games. CJ McCollum has averaged 24.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in the two for the Blazers and Russell Westbrook 23.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 10.5 assists for OKC.
Key trends: The Thunder are 1-4 ATS in their past five in Portland. The over is 6-2 in the Blazers' past eight at home.
Early lean: Blazers and over.
Jazz at Kings (+6.5, 204)
Utah hosted Minnesota on Friday. The Kings snapped a five-game losing streak with a 116-111 OT home win over the Nets on Thursday. A loss would have given Sacramento the worst record in the NBA. De'Aaron Fox had 21 points, including the late tying bucket in regulation. Zach Randolph did not play for the second time in three games because of coach's decision. The Jazz beat the Kings in the first meeting, 120-105 on Jan. 17 in Sac-Town. Donovan Mitchell had 34 points on 14-for-19 shooting. Willie Cauley-Stein totaled a team-high 26 points to go with 10 rebounds for the Kings, who have lost four straight in the series at home.
Key trends: The road team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 4-0-1 in the Kings' previous five overall.
Early lean: Kings and over.
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