Free NBA Picks: Tuesday, March 20, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Always fun to wonder "what if" when it comes to NBA trades. The Boston Celtics are no doubt thrilled with landing Kyrie Irving from Cleveland, and the C's clearly won that deal in retrospect. The Oklahoma City Thunder seemingly gave up little to land Paul George from Indiana, and the Thunder and Pacers both won that deal (at least for this season). I mention this because Oklahoma City is in Boston on Tuesday, and the Celtics originally had targeted George as their primary offseason trade goal. Reports are the Pacers turned down a deal from Boston of three first-round picks and two starters in exchange for George at the 2017 NBA draft and then something similar this offseason. One starter apparently was Jae Crowder. It should be noted Boston, which also pursued George at last season's trade deadline, did not include the unprotected 2018 Nets first-round pick or the 2018 Los Angeles Lakers/2019 Sacramento Kings first-round selections. The Nets pick would end up in the Irving package along with Isaiah Thomas and Crowder. My guess is that Indiana would have jumped at the deal if the Nets pick was involved.
Raptors at Magic (TBA)
The Raptors' 11-game winning streak was snapped Sunday in a 132-125 home loss to the Thunder. It was only Toronto's sixth home loss this season. DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka and coach Dwane Casey were all ejected in the final minute for complaining to the officials. The game was tied at 123 with 1:41 to go. The Magic have been off since a 92-83 home loss to Boston on Friday. Boston had just one field goal in the final 7:33, but Orlando was an ugly 5-for-28 from deep. Aaron Gordon missed his fifth straight game with a concussion. The Raptors won the lone meeting between these teams on Feb. 28 in Toronto, 117-104. The Magic also have dropped eight of the last 10 meetings at home
Key trends: The Magic are 15-5 against the spread in their past 20 after a loss. The "over/under" has gone under in seven of the past 10 meetings.
Early lean: Wait on Gordon.
Thunder at Celtics (TBA)
First TNT game. The Thunder won a sixth in a row Sunday, 132-125 in Toronto. Russell Westbrook had 37 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds for his fifth straight triple-double. Carmelo Anthony passed Reggie Miller for 19th on the all-time scoring list. The injury-ravaged Celtics lost for the third time in four games Sunday, 108-89 in New Orleans. Irving and Jaylen Brown were both out again. Seems as if Irving is much closer to a return. Oklahoma City has won three straight games in Boston but lost at home to the Celtics on Nov. 3, 101-94. Irving scored 22 of his 25 points in the second half.
Key trends: The Celtics are 2-5 ATS in their past seven at home. The over is 8-2 in OKC's previous 10 vs. the East.
Early lean: Wait on Irving.
Clippers at Timberwolves (-3.5, 227)
The Clippers dropped their third in a row Sunday, 122-109 to Portland. Lou Williams had 30 points but no starter had more than 15. This begins a crucial four-game road trip. The Timberwolves lost a second straight Sunday, 129-120 vs. Houston. Minnesota has now dropped to eighth in the West as Jimmy Butler can't get back soon enough. Alas, it won't be this month. Minnesota goes for the four-game season sweep of L.A. and has won five straight in the series overall. The Wolves have swept the Clippers only twice (1997-98 and 2003-04).
Key trends: The Clippers have covered 13 of their past 17 at Minnesota. The over is 7-1 in the Wolves' past eight at home.
Early lean: Wolves and over.
Mavericks at Pelicans (-9, 221)
The Mavericks dropped a second straight Saturday, 114-106 in Brooklyn. Rookie Dennis Smith Jr. had 21 points but left in the third quarter with an ankle injury. X-rays were negative, but he's going to miss multiple games. The Pelicans beat the visiting Celtics on Sunday, 108-89. Anthony Davis had 34 points and 11 rebounds. Solomon Hill made his season debut after recovering from surgery in August to repair a torn hamstring. Decent bench guy. Last meeting between the teams with New Orleans leading 2-1, winning both in Dallas. A total of 11 of the last 15 regular-season matchups have been decided by single digits
Key trends: The road team has covered four straight meetings. The over is 6-1 in the past seven meetings in New Orleans.
Early lean: Pelicans and over.
Hawks at Jazz (-14.5, 206.5)
The Hawks dropped their sixth in a row Saturday, 122-117 at Milwaukee. Dennis Schroder fouled out with 2:46 left, and that's when the Bucks took charge. Taurean Prince tied a career high with 38 points in the loss. Rookie John Collins left in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle. The Jazz won a ninth straight Saturday, 103-97 over the Kings. Donovan Mitchell had 28 points and Rudy Gobert 22 points and 13 rebounds. The Jazz have won their last 16 games when Gobert records a double-double. Utah lost in Atlanta on Jan. 22, 104-90. The Jazz had a season-low four made 3-pointers.
Key trends: The Hawks are 8-3 ATS in their past 11 vs. the West. The under is 7-0 in the Jazz's previous seven vs. the East.
Early lean: Jazz and under.
Pistons at Suns (TBA)
The free-falling Pistons brought a 12-game road losing streak into Sacramento on Monday. The Suns lost their eighth in a row Saturday, 124-109 to the Warriors. Rookie Josh Jackson had a career-high 36 points. Devin Booker missed it with a right hand sprain. He did warm up, so it doesn't sound too serious; Booker has missed 17 games this season. Detroit beat the Suns 131-107 on Nov. 29. The Pistons shot 57.3 percent from the field.
Key trends: The Suns are 1-6 ATS in their past seven at home. The over is 8-1 in the past nine there.
Early lean: Wait on Booker.
Rockets at Trail Blazers (+4, 214)
The Rockets won for the 26th in 28 games Sunday, 129-120 in Minnesota. James Harden had 34 points and 12 assists. There was a bit of a scuffle late but nothing that should result in any suspensions. The Blazers won their 13th in a row, taking a quick one-game trip to L.A. and beating the Clippers 122-109 on Sunday - the team record is 16 straight victories. Damian Lillard had 23 points. Houston is 2-0 vs. Portland this season. Lillard has averaged 30.5 points and 7.5 assists in his last four games against the Rockets. Harden has scored at least 30 points in 10 of his last 12 games against Portland, averaging 37.3 points.
Key trends: The favorite is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 4-1 in the previous five in Portland.
Early lean: Rockets and over.
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