Free NBA Picks: Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Granted, we haven't even hit the All-Star break yet and there are a little more than two months remaining in the regular season, but it's never too early to start thinking about playoff tiebreakers. That brings me to one of the top games of Tuesday night with Boston visiting Toronto. With the mess the Cleveland Cavaliers are in, it's pretty evident that either the Celtics or Raptors will get the East's top seed. I don't think LeBron James needs home-court advantage to make the NBA Finals, which he has proven before, but I do believe either the Celtics or Raptors would. Toronto, for example, has the East's best home record but is so-so away from home. If Boston wins Tuesday night, it is guaranteed to not lose the season series (and thus a head-to-head tiebreaker) as it would lead 2-0 with games to come March 31 (Boston) and April 4 (in Toronto). Again, with a win Tuesday, Boston would need just one victory in one of those two to earn the tiebreaker. Just something to think about.
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Cavaliers at Magic (TBA)
The Cavs were embarrassed at home on national television Saturday night, 120-88 by Houston - LeBron James said after his team doesn't deserve to be on national TV. Frankly, he deserves some blame for that showing as James didn't look very interested in scoring just 11 points. The Magic were in Miami on Monday night with Aaron Gordon out. He had missed the past two entering that one; he thought he would return from the strained hip flexor Saturday but apparently didn't feel quite right. It's the final meeting of the season between these teams. The Cavs lead 2-1.
Key trends: The Cavs are 8-2 against the spread in their past 10 in Orlando. The "over/under" is 8-2 in those.
Early lean: Wait on Gordon, although it sounds as if he's not playing and also out of the Dunk Contest - if Cavs lose this game, Ty Lue might be fired immediately.
Celtics at Raptors (TBA)
The Celtics won their fourth in a row Sunday, 97-96 over Portland. Al Horford made a 15-foot fadeaway jumper at the buzzer. He finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Kyrie Irving sat a third game in a row with a bruised quad. Boston also won the Greg Monroe free-agent derby over the weekend. Good chance he debuts here. The Raptors won their second in a row Sunday, 101-86 over Memphis. Toronto outscored Memphis 52-19 in bench points. As noted above, Boston won the first meeting with Toronto - 95-94 at home on Nov. 12. Horford was 8-for-9 from the field for 21 points. Irving was out injured. DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points to lead the Raptors. Toronto has won the past four at home in this series.
Key trends: The Celtics are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 6-1 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Wait on Kyrie.
Grizzlies at Hawks ( -3.5, 203.5)
The Grizzlies dropped their third consecutive game Sunday, 101-86 in Toronto. Tyreke Evans missed his third straight, and he's not expected to suit up for the team again as it tries to trade him ahead of this week's deadline. The Hawks won at the Knicks on Sunday, 99-96. Kent Bazemore hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 6.7 seconds left. He led the team with 19 points. Memphis goes for the season sweep as it beat visiting Atlanta on Dec. 15, 96-94. Evans scored 22 points, including the go-ahead layup with 1:03 left. The Hawks attempted three shots in the final 3.5 seconds and all missed.
Key trends: The road team has covered five straight in series. The under is 4-0 in the previous four.
Early lean: Hawks and under.
Rockets at Nets (+10, 218.5)
The Rockets won their fourth in a row Saturday, a 120-88 rout in Cleveland. Chris Paul had 22 points and 11 assists, while James Harden was held to 16. Eric Gordon sat out for a second straight game due to lower back stiffness, but Coach Mike D'Antoni expects him to play here. The Nets dropped their second in a row Sunday, 109-94 to Milwaukee. D'Angelo Russell had just three points and fouled out. Houston beat Brooklyn on Nov. 27, 117-103. It was basically over after one when the Rockets led by 17 and Harden had 20 of his 37 points. Houston has won three in a row in the series.
Key trends: The Rockets are 4-9-1 ATS in their past 14 vs. the East. The under is 5-1 in the Nets' past six.
Early lean: Nets and over.
Bucks at Knicks (TBA)
The Bucks won a second straight Sunday, 109-94 in Brooklyn. Eric Bledsoe scored 28 points, and John Henson had season highs with 19 points and 18 rebounds. However, Giannis Antetokounmpo left in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury and is questionable for Tuesday. Backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova also hurt his ankle. The Knicks lost their third in a row Sunday, 99-96 at home to Atlanta. New York was up six with just over two minutes left. Tim Hardaway Jr. missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. The Bucks won the first game of the season series over the Knicks, 92-90, in Milwaukee on Feb. 2. Antetokounmpo scored a game-high 29 points and hit the winning layup with 1.9 seconds remaining.
Key trends: The Bucks are 3-7 ATS in their past 10 at the Knicks. The under is 4-1 in the previous five meetings.
Early lean: Wait on the Freak.
Wizards at 76ers (-6, 211.5)
First TNT game. Hard to imagine the Wizards are better without All-Star guard John Wall, but they had won four straight without him entering Monday's visit to Indiana. Philadelphia dropped its second in a row Saturday, 100-92 at Indiana. The big story there was Joel Embiid playing the second of a back-to-back for the first time in his career and finishing with 24 points and 10 rebounds. These teams have split two high-scoring games this season, each winning at home.
Key trends: The Wizards are 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 4-1 in the previous five.
Early lean: 76ers and over.
Thunder at Warriors (-10, 227.5)
Second TNT game. The Thunder have lost four straight following an eight-game winning streak. No excuse, really, for losing at home to the Lakers as they did Sunday. Russell Westbrook had 36 points and Paul George 26, but the team was just 7-for-25 from long range. The Warriors were upset in Denver on Saturday in the second of a back-to-back, 115-108. Kevin Durant scored 31 points and Stephen Curry had 24 for Golden State, which did play all its starters. Oklahoma City won the first meeting, 108-91 on Nov. 22. Westbrook was clearly amped up to face Durant again and had 34 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists - the Warriors had swept OKC last season by an average of nearly 20 points.
Key trends: The Thunder have failed to cover five straight in Oakland. The under is 6-1 in the previous seven meetings.
Early lean: Warriors and under.
Suns at Lakers (TBA)
The Suns lost home to Charlotte on Sunday, 115-110, and saw leading scorer Devin Booker leave with a hip pointer. Marquese Chriss was suspended for the game due to an argument with an assistant coach. The Lakers won their second in a row Sunday, 108-104 in Oklahoma City even though leading scorer Kyle Kuzma had just two points. Josh Hart, who is playing more with Lonzo Ball out, had 14 points and 11 rebounds. The road team has won all three meetings in the season series between these two.
Key trends: The road team has covered four straight in series. The over is 7-1 in the previous eight meetings.
Early lean: Wait on Booker.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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