Free NBA Picks: Thursday, March 8, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
The Charlotte Hornets haven't done much right in recent years other than drafting Kemba Walker at No. 9 overall in 2011. The next year, they lost out on the draft lottery despite by far the worst record in the NBA and had to settle for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist instead of Anthony Davis. In 2013, they took Cody Zeller at No. 4 overall. It was Noah Vonleh at No. 9 in 2014, Frank Kaminsky at No. 9 in 2015, Malachi Richardson at No. 22 in 2016 and Malik Monk at No. 11 this past season - when the Hornets could have had Donovan Mitchell or even Bam Adebayo, Jarrett Allen or Kyle Kuzma. No wonder this franchise is looking for a new general manager (Former Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak remains a front-runner to receive an offer to replace Rich Cho.). Monk has been a total non-factor this season, usually getting DNP-CDs. But Hornets fans should see more of him the rest of the way with the team set to miss the playoffs again and it looking like Michael Carter-Williams could have season-ending shoulder surgery. That would open up time in the rotation for Monk - not sure why the rookie wasn't playing over MCW in the first place.
Nets at Hornets ( -7.5, 218)
Brooklyn dropped its fourth straight Tuesday at the Warriors but did just barely cover (as I projected) in the 114-101 defeat. D'Angelo Russell had 22 points for the Nets, who were right there for three quarters. Charlotte also lost a fourth in a row Tuesday, 128-114 vs. Philadelphia. Dwight Howard had a season-high 30 points and grabbed six rebounds. Kidd-Gilchrist was ejected in the second quarter after picking up a second technical foul, and Walker had just five points. Charlotte won the first meeting of the season vs. Brooklyn on Feb. 22, 111-96 behind 31 points from Walker, and has taken five straight at home in the series.
Key trends: The Nets are 6-1 against the spread in the past seven meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in four of the past five.
Early lean: Nets and under.
76ers at Heat (+1, 207.5)
The Sixers won by 14 in Charlotte on Tuesday. They had 35 assists and were 16-for-33 from long range. Ben Simmons had 16 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds. The Heat had a two-game winning streak stopped Tuesday in Washington, 117-113 in overtime. Both Dwyane Wade and Kelly Olynyk missed last-second shots before the Wiz added two free throws to clinch. Wayne Ellington (thigh bruise) was out for a fourth consecutive game but worked out pregame. Last meeting of the season between the teams with Philly leading 2-1 - winning both at home.
Key trends: The home team is 5-1-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 7-2 in Miami's past nine.
Early lean: Heat and over.
Celtics at Timberwolves (TBA)
First of a TNT doubleheader. The Celtics avoided a letdown game Monday in Chicago after a close loss in Boston on Saturday as Boston crushed the Bulls 105-89 (wasn't that close) despite Kyrie Irving sitting out with a bruised quad. Irving is likely to miss all week. The Wolves have been off since losing 116-108 in Utah on Friday. Minnesota was destroyed on the boards and finished with just two offensive rebounds. Jeff Teague had 25 points before getting ejected for a flagrant foul on Ricky Rubio in the Timberwolves' second straight loss. I'm moderately surprised Teague didn't get a one-game suspension for that. Minnesota lost its 12th straight game in Boston on Jan. 5, 91-84. Irving flirted with a triple-double (16 points, nine rebounds, eight assists). Karl-Anthony Towns led Minnesota with 25 points and a career-high 23 rebounds.
Key trends: The Wolves are 2-8 ATS in their past 10. The over is 6-1-1 in the Celtics' past eight.
Early lean: Presumably, the books are waiting on official word on Irving. I like Minnesota to win if he's out.
Suns at Thunder (-11, 226.5)
The Suns' only win since the end of January was vs. awful Memphis. Phoenix lost its third straight Monday in Miami, 125-103, and was mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Devin Booker had 31 in the loss. Could be bit of a letdown game for the Thunder after losing at home to red-hot Houston on Tuesday, 122-112. Russell Westbrook had 32 points but nine turnovers. Paul George was held to 17. Final meeting between these two and they've split two in Phoenix, most recently last Friday with OKC winning 124-116 behind 43 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and the go-ahead 3-pointer from Westbrook.
Key trends: The Thunder are 1-5 ATS in their past six at home. The over is 17-7 in Phoenix's past 24 vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Suns and over.
Spurs at Warriors (-11.5, 218)
Second TNT game. The Spurs snapped a two-game slid by barely beating the sickly Grizzlies on Monday, 100-98. Tony Parker had a season-high 23 points. LaMarcus Aldridge was back after missing a game with an ankle but had only seven points. The Warriors won their sixth consecutive game Tuesday, 114-104 over Brooklyn, pulling away in the fourth. Steph Curry had 34 points and became the seventh player in Warriors history to make 5,000 career field goals. Rookie Jordan Bell, who just got back from an ankle injury, suffered another one. Golden State leads the season series vs. San Antonio 2-0, winning both by at least 17 points.
Key trends: The Spurs are 0-5 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 5-0 in the previous five in Oakland.
Early lean: Warriors and over.
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