Free NBA Picks: Tuesday, March 6, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Unless Celtics coach Brad Stevens is outright lying to the media, Boston will not get back big free-agent acquisition Gordon Hayward this season. Of course, the former Utah Jazz All-Star swingman gruesomely broke his ankle on opening night. Hayward has been working out, sparking speculation he could return near the end of the regular season, but Stevens over the weekend said: "He's not playing this year. I don't know what else to say." The Players' Tribune posted a video Friday of Hayward working on some dribbling and shooting with his trainer, so naturally that sent reporters scurrying to ask Stevens about it. I don't happen to think the Celtics are good enough offensively to win the East without Hayward. Boston is +300 to win the conference, behind Cleveland (+150) and Toronto (+220). The Raptors and Celtics are fighting for the top seed in the conference.
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76ers at Hornets ( +1, 214)
The 76ers had a two-game win streak snapped Sunday in Milwaukee, 118-110. Philly led by 14 early in the third quarter. Joel Embiid had 19 points; he also banged his left knee in a scramble late in the first quarter, and that's scary for all Sixers fans, but he returned to start the second. The Hornets dropped their third in a row Sunday, 103-98 in Toronto. Charlotte's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored the game's opening basket, but the Hornets never led again. These teams met for the first time on March 2 in Philadelphia and the Sixers won 110-99.
Key trends: The 76ers are 4-1 against the spread in the past five meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in five of the previous six.
Early lean: Hornets and under.
Hawks at Raptors (-14, 215.5)
The Hawks come off a 113-112 home win over Phoenix on Sunday. Taurean Prince hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 7.6 seconds left and finished with 22 points. Dennis Schroder had 21 but left late with a leg injury. He says he's fine. Kent Bazemore, usually a starter, was a DNP-CD (i.e. tanking). The Raptors won their fourth in a row Sunday, 103-98 over Charlotte. DeMar DeRozan scored 19 points, and Jonas Valanciunas had 18 points and 13 rebounds. OG Anunoby (sprained right ankle) missed his second straight game. Toronto looks for the four-game season sweep of Atlanta.
Key trends: The Hawks are 4-11 ATS in the past 15 meetings. The under is 4-0 in the Raptors' past four.
Early lean: Hawks and under.
Heat at Wizards (-5, 205.5)
Miami hosted (and presumably will beat) Phoenix on Monday. Washington perhaps is starting to miss John Wall as it lost a third straight Sunday, 98-95 vs. Indiana. Bradley Beal had 27 points but was 8-for-27 with a few crucial turnovers late. He's shooting just 30.2 percent during the slide. Kelly Oubre sat out with a sore left foot. These teams have split two meetings, each winning on the road.
Key trends: The underdog has covered six straight in the series. The under is 4-1 in the past five in D.C.
Early lean: Wizards and under.
Rockets at Thunder (+3.5, 218.5)
First of a TNT doubleheader. The Rockets are simply amazing as they beat the Celtics on Saturday, 123-120 for a 15th straight victory. Eric Gordon scored 29 points off the bench, and James Harden had 26 points and 10 assists. The streak ties the second-longest in franchise (history 22 in 2007-08). Ryan Anderson missed his third straight game with a sore left hip but is getting closer. The inconsistent Thunder lost Saturday in Portland, 108-100. Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 30 points and 11 rebounds. Carmelo Anthony got the night off. Houston is just 4-11 in its past 15 trips to Oklahoma City and lost there on Christmas, 112-107. Westbrook had 31 points and 11 assists. Chris Paul was out injured.
Key trends: The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 5-2 in OKC's past seven vs. the West.
Early lean: Thunder and over.
Nuggets at Mavericks (+4.5, 219)
The Nuggets won their second in a row Saturday, 126-117 in Cleveland. Gary Harris had 32 points and Denver hit 19 3-pointers. The Nugs have won nine of 12 overall. The Mavs dropped a third in a row Sunday, 126-109 vs. New Orleans. Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-high 23 points for the Mavericks, passing Elvin Hayes for eighth all-time in field goals with 10,980. Wesley Matthews sat out with a left hip injury. Last meeting between the teams. Denver leads 2-1, winning both at home.
Key trends: The Nuggets have covered just one of the past seven meetings. The under is 4-1 in the previous five.
Early lean: Nuggets and under.
Knicks at Trail Blazers (-9, 216)
Portland was at the Lakers on Monday. The Knicks lost their fourth in a row Sunday, 102-99 in Sacramento. They managed to tie it after trailing 92-73 early in the fourth. Trey Burke's desperation 3-pointer was off. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 24 points for New York. The Blazers beat the Knicks on Nov. 27, 103-91. Wasn't really that close as New York outscored Portland 27-13 in fourth-quarter garbage time. Lillard had 32 points and is averaging 28.6 in his past five vs. New York. Portland has won nine of the last 11 meetings overall.
Key trends: The Knicks are 1-10 ATS in their past 11. The over is 4-1 in Portland's past five vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Blazers and over.
Nets at Warriors (-14.5, 230.5)
The Nets lost a third in a row Sunday, 123-120 at the Clippers. It was Brooklyn's eighth consecutive road loss. Caris LeVert had 27 points off the bench. The Warriors won a fifth straight Friday, 114-109 in Atlanta. Steph Curry turned his right ankle but played through it and had 28 points. Coach Steve Kerr did take him out for good in the third quarter. Curry became the first player in NBA history with at least 200 3s in six seasons. Golden State won 118-111 in Brooklyn on Nov. 19 in the second of a back-to-back. Curry had 39 points 11 rebounds and seven assists despite fouling out. Kevin Durant sat out. The Warriors have won the past five overall in the series as well as five straight at home vs. Brooklyn.
Key trends: The Warriors are 1-5 ATS in their past six vs. the East. The under is 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Nets and under.
Pelicans at Clippers (-3, 236)
Second TNT game. The Pelicans won their eighth in a row Sunday, 126-109 in Dallas. Jrue Holiday had 30 points and Rajon Rondo was a rebound shy of a triple-double. New Orleans has averaged 127 points during its streak. The Clippers won their second in a row Sunday, 123-120 over Brooklyn. Austin Rivers scored 14 of his 27 points in the fourth. He hit the go-ahead 3 with 33.5 seconds to go. These teams have split two meetings this season, both in New Orleans. Anthony Davis is averaging 25.0 points, 13.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.5 blocks in the two.
Key trends: The Pels are 2-6 ATS in their past eight in L.A. The over is 4-1 in the previous five there.
Early lean: Clippers and over.
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