Free NBA Picks: Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Could be tough for the Minnesota Timberwolves to finish third or fourth in the Western Conference and earn home-court advantage in a first-round playoff series now that All-Star guard Jimmy Butler is going to miss 4-6 weeks following surgery Sunday on his injured meniscus. Butler suffered the noncontact injury in the third quarter of the Timberwolves' loss in Houston (at least it wasn't an ACL) on Friday. Seems especially cruel for Butler because he decided not to play in the All-Star Game so he could get more rest. Any Chicago Bulls fan can tell you that former coach Tom Thibodeau, now leading the Wolves, plays his top guys a little too much. Butler is second in the NBA in averaging 37.1 minutes per game. Butler was averaging 22.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game and believes he will be ready for the postseason. The schedule is about to get much harder for Minnesota as after Monday's game against the Kings, the Wolves have eight straight games against teams with a winning record.
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Bulls at Hornets (TBA)
Chicago visited Brooklyn on Monday having lost three in a row. The team has announced that Zach LaVine will not play both ends of a back-to-back at all this season off his ACL recovery so keep that in mind. Charlotte is making a last-ditch playoff push on a four-game winning streak. It beat the visiting Pistons on Sunday, 114-98. Dwight Howard, who is quietly having a pretty good season, had 17 points and 12 rebounds. Chicago is 2-0 vs. the Hornets this season, both high-scoring close games (one went to overtime). The Bulls have won their past two in Charlotte as well.
Key trends: The Hornets are 4-0 against the spread in their past four at home vs. teams with a losing road record. The "over/under" is 4-0 in the past four meetings.
Early lean: Wait on LaVine.
Nets at Cavaliers (-11.5, 222.5)
Cleveland can win twice here in a way. First, there's the actual victory by, you know, scoring more points than the Nets. But also keep in mind that the Cavs own Brooklyn's 2018 first-round pick so the more the Nets lose and increase the chances to win the lottery, the better for Cleveland's long-term future - whether it includes LeBron James or not. The Cavs were outclassed at home by San Antonio on Sunday, 110-94. LeBron had 33 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists and whined about the officiating after. The Nets hosted the Bulls on Monday with both Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert expected back from injuries (but might not play the second of a B2B). These teams have split two meetings this season, each winning at home. Brooklyn has dropped its past nine in Cleveland.
Key trends: The Nets are 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The under is 7-2-1 in the previous 10.
Early lean: Cavs and over.
76ers at Heat (Pick'em, 206.5)
The Sixers had their seven-game winning streak snapped Sunday, 109-94 at Washington. Joel Embiid had 25 points and 10 rebounds. The Heat snapped a three-game losing streak with a 115-89 home blowout of the Grizzlies on Saturday. Tyler Johnson scored 23 points to lead six players in double figures. Miami had rather amazingly played 17 straight games prior to that decided by single digits, three shy of a league record. It was the Heat's largest margin of victory this season. The 76ers lead the season series 2-0, winning both at home and by a combined eight points.
Key trends: The home team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings and the over is 5-1 in them.
Early lean: 76ers and over.
Wizards at Bucks ( -4, 210.5)
First of a TNT doubleheader. The Wizards slowed the red-hot 76ers on Sunday, 109-94. Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. combined to score 47 points, and the Wizards shot 54 percent from the field while holding the 76ers to 36 percent. Sunday marked the first of 13 consecutive games against teams that entered the day in the current playoff field. The Bucks lost in overtime at home to the Pelicans on Sunday, 123-121. Milwaukee led by as many as 18 early in the second half. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 20 points but missed a late jumper in OT. It's the last meeting of the regular season between these teams. The Bucks lead 2-1, winning both on the road.
Key trends: The road team has covered four straight in the series. The under is 5-0 in the previous five.
Early lean: Bucks and under.
Kings at Trail Blazers (-11, 210.5)
Sacramento hosted Minnesota on Monday. The Blazers, who might be in position to steal the Northwest Division title from the Wolves due to Butler's injury, won their third game in a row Saturday, 106-104 in Phoenix - that looked to be a huge letdown game following Portland ending the Jazz's 11-game winning streak the night before. Damian Lillard had 40 points vs. the Suns, including the game-winning layup with just under a second remaining. It's the last meeting of the season between these teams. Portland leads 2-1 and has won the past three at home vs. the Kings.
Key trends: The Blazers are 6-1 ATS in their past seven at home. The over is 11-5 in their past 16 vs. the West.
Early lean: Blazers and over.
Clippers at Nuggets (-4, 229)
Second TNT game. The Clippers have been off since a 128-117 win in Phoenix on Friday. Lou Williams had 35 points, including 23 in the second quarter. L.A. had 79 first-half points, the franchise's highest-scoring half since the San Diego Clippers scored 87 against Utah 34 years ago. However, Avery Bradley has now been ruled out 1-3 weeks with a groin injury and Danilo Gallinari is hurt again, albeit listed as day-to-day with a hand problem. The Nuggets had a four-game winning streak snapped in a 119-114 home loss to Houston on Sunday despite 21 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists from Nikola Jokic. Gary Harris was just 2-for-12 for six points. The Clippers won the first meeting with Denver, 109-104 in L.A. on Jan. 17. Blake Griffin was still around then and had 20 points and 12 boards.
Key trends: The home team has covered six in a row in the series. The under is 5-1 in the past six in Denver.
Early lean: Nuggets and under.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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