Free NBA Picks: Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
It's not often we get matinee NBA action on a weekday that's not a holiday, but that's the case Thursday as Boston and Philadelphia will tip off at 3 p.m. ET from the O2 Arena in London as part of The Association's efforts at global sports dominance - and the NBA is way ahead in that regard compared to the NFL (most of the world doesn't play American football), NHL and Major League Baseball. The 76ers are one of the most international teams in the NBA as their three-best players are from outside the USA: Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Ben Simmons (Australia) and Dario Saric (Croatia). The Celtics don't have quite that type of international flavor among their stars, although Al Horford is from the Dominican Republic. It's the NBA's eighth regular-season game in London and perhaps the best matchup of them all. Boston did play a preseason game there against Minnesota in 2007. The 76ers played a preseason game in Manchester in 2013 against the Thunder. Needless to say, both teams got a few days off ahead of this trip and will after as well.
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Celtics "at" 76ers ( +2, 208)
NBA TV game. Boston last played Saturday and won a sixth straight, 87-85 in Brooklyn. Rookie Jayson Tatum filled the box score with 14 points, six rebounds, three steals and six blocks. Of course, Tatum could be a 76er right now, but they opted for still-injured Markelle Fultz at No. 1 overall last summer. Horford was out with a sore left knee but says he's playing on Thursday. Philadelphia won its fourth in a row Friday, 114-78 over Detroit to get back to .500. Embiid had 23 points and nine rebounds and Simmons 19 points and nine assists. The Sixers opened the game on a 15-2 run and were never threatened. The Celtics are 2-0 vs. the 76ers this year - it was Philly which gave up a home game (but will be duly compensated). Embiid has a swollen hand but says he's playing Thursday.
Key trends: The underdog is 5-1 against the spread in the past six meetings. The "over/under" is 5-2 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Celtics and over.
Cavaliers at Raptors (TBA)
First of a TNT doubleheader. Cleveland looked largely disinterested at Minnesota on Monday night in being blown out 127-99. LeBron James might as well have taken the night off as he was 4-for-8 for 10 points - which led all Cleveland starters -- and a career-worst minus-39. The Cavs were down by as many as 41. I guess the lone bright side was that no key player got heavy minutes. Toronto played without All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry on Tuesday and lost to Miami, 90-89, to end a franchise record-tying 12-game home winning streak. The Raptors allowed a layup with less than a second remaining. Lowry is considered day-to-day with a bruised tailbone. The Raptors surely won't have Serge Ibaka here as he was ejected after trading punches with Miami's James Johnson. First meeting of the season between Cleveland and Toronto. The Raptors have been bounced from the past two postseasons by the Cavaliers. The Dinos have lost their past two at home in the regular-season series.
Key trends: The Cavs are 4-0-1 ATS in their past five in Toronto. The over is 5-2 in the previous seven meetings overall.
Early lean: Wait on Lowry & Ibaka.
Clippers at Kings (TBA)
Second of a back-to-back for Los Angeles as it visited Golden State on Wednesday with Blake Griffin expected out again due to a concussion and Milos Teodosic questionable with a foot injury. Sacramento lost 99-86 at the Lakers on Tuesday in the second of a back-to-back. The Kings shot a season-worst 34.5 percent from the field. George Hill missed his third straight game to be with his wife, who is pregnant. The Kings are looking to dump him. The Clippers are 2-0 vs. the Kings this year, holding Sacramento to 95 points both times (one close, one a blowout). L.A. has won its past 10 in California's capital city.
Key trends: The Kings are 1-7 ATS in their past eight vs. the West. The over is 9-4 in the previous 13 meetings.
Early lean: Wait on Griffin.
Spurs at Lakers (TBA)
Second TNT game. San Antonio won in Sacramento on Monday, 107-100, without Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Manu Ginobili. LaMarcus Aldridge had 31 points and 12 rebounds, and unknown Latvian big man Davis Bertans scored a career-high 28. Tony Parker tweaked his ankle and didn't return. Leonard is dealing with a partial tear in his left shoulder. That sounds terrible, but he could play as soon as Thursday. Then again, these are the Spurs so he might sit until the All-Star break. Green is dealing with a groin injury. Manu is just old and gets games off. Los Angeles has followed a nine-game skid with back-to-back wins. It was 99-86 over the visiting Kings on Tuesday. Julius Randle had 22 points and 14 rebounds, and Lonzo Ball added 11 rebounds and 11 assists. It's the first meeting between the teams. The Spurs won three of four last year and have taken seven straight at the Lakers.
Key trends: The Lakers are 1-4 ATS in their past five vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 7-1 in the previous eight meetings.
Early lean: Why do I even bother previewing Spurs games? They are always TBA because you never have any idea who is playing.
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