Free NBA Picks: Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Two bad teams have very different motivations for the rest of this NBA season. The Brooklyn Nets don't hold their first-round pick - it goes to Cleveland via Boston - so the Nets aren't going to be tanking any games. They want to build a winning culture and see what guys are going to be part of the future. The Sacramento Kings are on the complete other side of the spectrum. Now that the Nets seem to have a good coach and GM in place and a path to respectability, the Kings have to be called the worst-run organization in the NBA. They haven't finished with a winning record since 2006, which was also the last time they made the playoffs. It's a shame because those fans in California's capital city are very loyal - to be fair, there's nothing else to do in that town. The Kings do hold their first-round pick in the 2018 draft, which looks absolutely loaded in the Top 5 or so. It's vital the Kings get their franchise player next summer because their unprotected first-rounder in 2019 goes to either Philadelphia or Boston via the ghastly Nik Stauskas trade a few years ago. Don't be shocked if the Kings start making wink-wink moves (phantom injuries, trades etc.) to ensure the most ping-pong balls possible. At the same time, they don't want to make any moves that would make the 2018-19 team terrible.
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Heat at Raptors ( -7.5, 207.5)
Toronto was in Brooklyn on Monday. Miami won its fourth straight Sunday, 103-102 over Utah. Josh Richardson hit the go-ahead layup with 5.1 seconds left. All four wins in this run are by single digits, Miami's longest stretch of such victories since November 2012. Somehow, it's the first meeting of the season between these teams. The Raptors won three of four last year and have taken five straight in the series at home. Toronto has won 12 in a row at Air Canada Centre, tying the franchise record for longest home winning streak.
Key trends: The home team is 6-2 against the spread in the past eight meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in four straight.
Early lean: Raptors and under.
Trail Blazers at Thunder (TBA)
First of an NBA TV doubleheader. Portland won a second in a row Sunday, 111-110 over San Antonio. CJ McCollum hit the go-ahead floater with 5.9 seconds left. Damian Lillard was back on the bench with a strained right calf. Oklahoma City was upset in Phoenix on Sunday, 114-100. Russell Westbrook had his 14th triple-double of the season and second in a row with 26 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, but OKC's reserves were outscored 48-21 by Phoenix's. Portland won the first meeting with OKC at home on Nov. 5, 103-99. Lillard had 36 points and a season-high 13 assists. Westbrook had 25 points and nine assists for the Thunder, who were without Carmelo Anthony for much of the second half after he was ejected for a flagrant 2 foul. The Trail Blazers have defeated the Thunder in six of the last eight meetings overall.
Key trends: The Blazers are 1-4 ATS in their past five in OKC. The over is 5-2 in Oklahoma City's previous seven after a loss.
Early lean: Wait on Lillard.
Magic at Mavericks (-6.5, 214)
The Magic dropped their fourth straight Saturday, 131-127 at home to Cleveland, although they nearly rallied from 20 down in the fourth. Aaron Gordon had 30 in the loss. Jonathan Simmons missed the game with a back injury and is day-to-day. Dallas lost a third in a row Sunday, 100-96 to the Knicks. The Mavs were down 13 with 4:48 left and were able to tie but never take the lead. Orlando and Dallas split last year. The Mavs have won nine of the past 11 overall in the series and 15 of the past 18 at home.
Key trends: The team has covered four in a row in the series. The under is 7-0 in the Mavs' past seven on Tuesday.
Early lean: Mavericks and under.
Kings at Lakers (TBA)
Second NBA TV game. Sacramento hosted San Antonio on Monday. Los Angeles ended a nine-game skid with a 132-113 home win over the crappy Hawks on Sunday. Brandon Ingram had 20 points and seven assists, while Lonzo Ball finished with 13 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. The Lakers had 13 steals and scored 42 fast-break points, tying a franchise record. The Kings beat the visiting Lakers in the first meeting, 113-102 on Nov. 22. That, of course, was the first pro meeting of college rivals De'Aaron Fox and Lonzo Ball. Fox had 13 points and three assists and Ball 11 points and 11 assists. Zach Randolph had 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists to lead Sacramento (he's a trade candidate).
Key trends: The favorite is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 6-1 in those.
Early lean: I guess it's TBA for Randolph (oral surgery) and George Hill (personal) missing the last game. Like the Lakers in a rout regardless.
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