Free NBA Picks: Saturday, March 31, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
If you are a Charlotte Hornets fan, it can get confusing as to franchise records. Of course, the Hornets joined the NBA as an expansion franchise for the 1988-89 season but moved to New Orleans following the 2001-02 campaign and took the nickname with them. However, the NBA recognized what a good basketball market Charlotte was (not sure I agree NBA-wise, but collegiately there are none better) and gave the city an expansion team for the 2004-05 season. That club was nicknamed the Bobcats after then-owner Robert Johnson. When the New Orleans Hornets decided to change their nickname to Pelicans starting in 2013-14 (a much more appropriate nickname for that city), the Bobcats had to wait a year per league rules to then change their name back to Hornets. Got all that? Long story short, the franchise only kept all Charlotte records. That means, retroactively, the New Orleans Pelicans were an expansion franchise that began play in 2002. I mention all this because Kemba Walker became the all-time leading scorer in Charlotte history on Wednesday, passing Dell Curry. The only franchise with a scoring leader to have fewer total points than Walker? The Pelicans with Anthony Davis. OK, I'm dizzy now. (We'll talk about the Joel Embiid injury when his timetable to return is clear.)
Hornets at Wizards (TBA)
NBA TV game with an unusual 3 p.m. ET tip. Walker had 21 points Wednesday to pass Curry in a 118-105 home loss to Cleveland, which ended Charlotte's four-game winning streak. Walker now has 9,841 points and is one of seven active players to be his current franchise's all-time leading scorer, joining Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks), LeBron James (Cavs), Dwyane Wade (Heat), DeMar DeRozan (Raptors), Marc Gasol (Grizzlies) and Davis (Pelicans). Walker also established a team record with his 44th consecutive made free throw. The Wizards lost for the fourth time in five games Thursday, 103-92 in Detroit. Otto Porter Jr. had to be helped off the court early in the third quarter with a sprained right ankle. Might surprise you to know that Charlotte is 3-0 vs. Washington this season, scoring at least 122 points in each. Only one was close.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 against the spread in the past five meetings. The "over/under" is 6-0 in the previous six in Washington.
Early lean: TBA likely for John Wall (maybe a little for Porter) as it's sounding like he could return Saturday.
Pistons at Knicks (TBA)
A 5 p.m. ET tip from the Garden. Detroit kept its very slim playoff hopes alive by winning for the fifth time in six games Thursday, 103-92 over Washington. The Pistons ran their offense largely through Andre Drummond with Blake Griffin a surprising scratch and Drummond responded with 24 points and 23 rebounds. Griffin is dealing with an ankle contusion and is out at least a week. You can stick a fork in the Pistons now. The Knicks dropped their second in a row Wednesday, 118-101 in Philadelphia. Emmanuel Mudiay and Michael Beasley had 22 points apiece for the Knicks. Enes Kanter hurt his back and wrist falling after a dunk and is doubtful here. Detroit is 2-0 vs. New York this season with Drummond averaging 19.5 points and 13.5 rebounds.
Key trends: The home team is 7-2 ATS in the past nine meetings. The under is 10-3 in the Knicks' past 13 vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: No early line for Griffin, although news has since broken he won't play. I suppose Kanter matters too.
Raptors at Celtics (TBA)
NBA TV game - the ABC Saturday game remains on hiatus until next week with the NCAA Tournament ongoing. If Boston has any shot of catching Toronto for the East's top seed, the Celtics must win this one. These teams have split two meetings, each winning at home, so the victor here is guaranteed at least a split as the clubs meet again Wednesday in Toronto. The Raptors have alternated wins and losses over their past seven and beat the Nuggets, 114-110 on Tuesday. DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas, and Fred VanVleet each scored 15 points. Then Celtics completed a West Coast trip at 4-0 and have won five straight overall following a 97-94 win in Utah on Wednesday on Jaylen Brown's 3-pointer with under a second left. Marcus Morris and Al Horford both were out (Kyrie Irving too of course) so that's an even more impressive victory.
Key trends: The Raptors have failed to cover their past seven games. The under is 4-0 in the previous four between these two.
Early lean: Wait on the two Celtics.
Nets at Heat (-9.5, 212.5)
The Nets stopped a three-game losing streak with a 111-104 win in Orlando on Wednesday. D'Angelo Russell led the way for Brooklyn with 16 points and 12 assists. He was one of seven Nets with double-figure points. The Nets outscored the Magic 17-2 to start the fourth. The Heat won their eighth straight home game Thursday, 103-92 over the Bulls. Hassan Whiteside returned from a nine-game absence with a hip problem, scoring eight points and grabbing seven rebounds in just under 20 minutes, but Tyler Johnson left with a sprained ankle. Miami's magic number to clinch a playoff spot is one: A Pistons loss earlier Saturday would do it. Brooklyn leads the season series 2-1 but lost the one in Miami (the Heat win was in Mexico City).
Key trends: The Nets are 3-10-1 ATS in the past 14 meetings. The under has hit in seven straight.
Early lean: Heat and under.
Warriors at Kings (TBA)
The Warriors lost their third in a row, which is pretty big news in the Steve Kerr era, Thursday, 116-107 vs. Milwaukee. Kevin Durant and Draymond Green finally returned, but Durant was ejected late in the second quarter and is now two technical fouls from an automatic one-game suspension. Andre Iguodala exited the game with left knee soreness and likely won't play in this one. There's a chance Klay Thompson could return, but the Dubs really have nothing to play for at this point so I doubt it. Golden State also plays again Sunday at home. The Kings lost a third in a row Thursday, 106-103 to Indiana. Willie Cauley-Stein had 19 points and seven rebounds. Sacramento actually leads the season series 2-1, winning both in Oakland.
Key trends: The road team is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The under is 6-1 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Wait on which Warriors play.
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