Free NBA Picks: Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Look, I have no idea who will win Sunday night's All-Star Game from Los Angeles between Team LeBron and Team Stephen, although I do like the new roster setup by captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry drafting players. I guess I'd lean Team Stephen simply because LeBron's team has lost a handful of guys to injuries, led by DeMarcus Cousins and Kristaps Porzingis. Bovada also is offering props on some of the other events this weekend from Staples Center. For the Skills Competition, the Clippers' Lou Williams is the +350 favorite followed by Denver's Jamal Murray (+400). I have no opinion there, but I am glad Joel Embiid (+600) is in it.
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For the 3-Point Contest, Golden State's Klay Thompson is the +210 favorite, and he probably should be. Thompson won it two years ago in Toronto. The defending champion is Houston's Eric Gordon, and he's the +450 second-favorite. I think he's my choice simply as it's rather common to repeat in this contest. Bradley Beal might have the best value at +750, however. Finally, in the Slam Dunk Contest your competitors are Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. (+170), Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell (+220), the Cavs' Larry Nance Jr. (+265) and the Pacers' Victor Oladipo (+400). I don't watch a ton of Mavericks games, but Smith dropped some incredible dunks last year while at NC State. That guy's got hops. Of course, Nance's father is a former Dunk Champion. I'll go with Nance winning. Not that I'll be watching. Just a two-game schedule Thursday before the league goes dark until next Thursday.
Nuggets at Bucks (-4.5, 210.5)
The Nuggets won their second straight Tuesday, 117-109 over the Spurs. Nikola Jokic had his fourth triple-double of the season with 23 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. Murray was a game-time call with illness/injury but had 17 points in 38 minutes. The Spurs had won 15 of 16 against Denver, including the first two meetings this season. The Bucks are also on a modest two-game run following a 97-92 home win over Atlanta on Tuesday. Khris Middleton led with 21 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 15 points and 15 rebounds.
It's the first meeting this season between these teams. The Nuggets swept the 2016-17 season series with Jokic having a triple-double in each and Wilson Chandler averaging 18.0 points and 6.5 rebounds. Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon, last year's Rookie of the Year, was selected again to play in Friday's Rising Stars game, but he's potentially out until April with a torn left quadricep tendon.
Key trends: The Nuggets are 6-1 against the spread in their past seven overall. The Bucks are 2-7 ATS in their previous nine at home. The "over/under" is 4-0 in Denver's past four but the under has hit in five straight Bucks home games.
The pick: Bucks and under.
Lakers at Timberwolves (-9.5, 222.5)
The lone TNT game of the night, and the Lakers are the unluckiest team in the NBA schedule-wise. Not only do they have to play on the road in the final matchup before the All-Star Game but in the second of a back-to-back. L.A. was in New Orleans on Wednesday. Will we see Lonzo Ball once the second half resumes? The Lakers have been oddly quiet on Ball's knee injury as he hasn't played since Jan. 13. That ended any chance Ball had at Rookie of the Year, although he really didn't have much of one regardless before the injury. He had been a preseason favorite along with Philly's Ben Simmons. Of course, Ball's loudmouth dad had to make more news this week, saying Lonzo wouldn't re-sign with the Lakers after his rookie deal unless the team also got LiAngelo and LaMelo when they are eligible. First off, I'm better than LiAngelo, who isn't an NBA prospect whatsoever. LaMelo, a would-be high school junior, was considered a Top 50 collegiate prospect. Both boys are playing for Prienu Vytautas in the Lithuanian League (LKL).
The Timberwolves failed a bit of a test Tuesday, getting clobbered at home, 126-108, by Houston in a potential playoff preview. That ended Minnesota's 13-game home winning streak. Karl-Anthony Towns had 35 points and 12 rebounds, but Andrew Wiggins was terrible in going 2-for-14 for seven points and a minus-25 rating. Minnesota has won both meetings vs. L.A. this season easily and has taken the past four at home. The teams most recently played on New Year's Day in the Twin Cities and the Wolves prevailed 114-96. Jimmy Butler scored 28 points and Towns collected 16 points and 13 rebounds for Minnesota. Jordan Clarkson's 20 points led the Lakers, but he's now in Cleveland.
Key trends: The Lakers are 0-5 ATS in their past five in the second of a back-to-back. The Wolves are 1-4 ATS in their previous five vs. teams with a losing record. The home team is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 8-2 in the previous 10.
The pick: Wolves and over.
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