Free NBA Picks: Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
It's a misnomer to say the NBA's second half of the season begins Thursday night because the next game for some teams will be their 60th in the 82-game slate. That said, the various sportsbooks have released updated futures odds coming out of the All-Star break. BetOnline projects the Houston Rockets to win the most games in the NBA with 63 - Houston was given a total of 54.5 entering the season. The Warriors were at 67.5 but have been downgraded to 62.5. Two big movers have been the Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers for different reasons. The Grizzlies have barely had star guard Mike Conley this season (he's done), and they are now given a win total of just 27.5 compared to 38.5 back in October. The Indiana Pacers were supposed to be rebuilding this year after "losing" the trade that sent Paul George to Oklahoma City for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Except it looks as if Indiana won that deal thanks to Oladipo emerging into one of the East's best shooting guards. The Pacers have gone from a win total of 30.5 entering the season to 44.5 now. If you are wondering, the team with the lowest total is Phoenix with 24.
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Nets at Hornets (TBA)
Brooklyn still won't get back starters Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert from injury absences out of the break - Spencer Dinwiddie was the winner of the Skills Challenge at All-Star Weekend. Not sure what team is waiting for on RHJ, who practiced in full Wednesday. LeVert also was there but not in full. The Nets are now given a win total of 27 and the Hornets 36.5. This is the first meeting of the season between these clubs. Charlotte won three of four last year but did lose its final trip to Brooklyn.
Key trends: The Nets are 6-0 against the spread in the past six meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in five of those six.
Early lean: Honestly not sure why this opened TBA with the two Nets ruled out. Charlotte should roll.
Knicks at Magic (TBA)
New York enters the second half on the NBA's longest losing streak at eight and few teams will tank harder than the Knicks with Kristaps Porzingis out for the season. New York is given a win total of 30.5. Orlando comes in on a three-game skid but will get back its two best players in Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic from long injury absences - Vucevic hasn't played since December. So, the Magic could be sneaky good in the second half. They are given a win total of 28.5. Orlando is 2-0 vs. the Knicks this season and Porzingis missed both of those as well.
Key trends: The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 8-3 in the previous 11.
Early lean: Sportsbooks clearly waiting for Vucevic/Gordon confirmation but they are playing. I like Orlando here as a likely 5-6 point favorite.
Wizards at Cavaliers (-6.5, 220.5)
First of a TNT doubleheader. Washington has a win total of 45.5 as it continues life without John Wall. He reportedly is off crutches already but still at least a month away. Backup Tim Frazier will play here after missing the final game before the break due to nasal fracture surgery. The rejuvenated Cavs are on a four-game winning streak - three of those coming after those big trades on Feb. 8. LeBron James sure looked like a new guy with his younger, more athletic new teammates. Perhaps James winning All-Star Game MVP honors again is an indication of how good he will be the rest of the way. The Cavs have a win total set at 50. They are 2-0 vs. Washington this season.
Key trends: The Wizards are 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 4-0 in Cleveland's past four.
Early lean: Cavaliers and over.
76ers at Bulls (+6, 214)
Chicago, with a new win total of 28, has embraced the tank as the team will remove two effective veterans, guard Justin Holiday and center Robin Lopez, from the starting lineup going forward and start youngsters David Nwaba and Cristiano Felicio, respectively. Might as well. The 76ers have an updated win total of 45.5 and enter the second half on a five-game winning streak. These teams have split two meetings, each winning at home. This is their finale.
Key trends: The Bulls are 1-9 ATS in their past 10 games. The under is 5-2 in the Sixers' past seven.
Early lean: 76ers and under.
Thunder at Kings (+8, 213)
OKC has a win total of 47 and enters having alternated losses and wins over its past six. Russell Westbrook is playing at an MVP level again and Paul George has been great, but Carmelo Anthony looks well past his prime. Sacramento is in full tank mode and has the second-fewest win total at 24.5. The Kings would be my choice to finish with the worst overall record. They have split with the Thunder this season, each winning at home.
Key trends: The Thunder are 3-8 ATS in the past 11 meetings. The over is 8-3 in the Kings' previous 11 at home.
Early lean: Thunder and over.
Clippers at Warriors (-10.5, 232.5)
Second TNT game. Interestingly, the Clippers' win total of 42.5 back in October hasn't changed despite the Blake Griffin trade. L.A. has looked more like a "team" without Griffin. The club caught a nice break with the week off because it split up a five-game road trip that ends in Oakland. Will the Warriors go all out the rest of the way to ensure home-court advantage over Houston? I doubt they care. The Dubs have gone just 4-4 in their past eight but were surely a little bored. Golden State blew out the Clippers the first two meetings this season but were upset in the last matchup at home on Jan. 10.
Key trends: The Clippers are 2-6 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over has hit six straight in this series.
Early lean: Warriors and over.
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