Free NBA Picks: Wednesday, April 11, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
It's not always the good teams that end up being the best against the spread bet in an NBA season. Last year, for example, the Philadelphia 76ers stunk but they managed to lose inside the number more often than not and led the league in ATS cover percentage with a 49-33 mark. This year, your betting king is the Boston Celtics, who are a good team. They have just 29 ATS losses as of Tuesday and 12 on the road. The worst bet this season has been Cleveland because the sportsbooks always overvalue LeBron James. On the total, the New Orleans Pelicans have the most games going "over," while the Indiana Pacers have the fewest. Wednesday is the end of the 2017-18 NBA regular season. I'll still be here the first few rounds of the playoffs while there are multiple games each day. I hope you found some betting success with these early looks at opening lines. Lot of TBAs on Wednesday as expected because we don't know in some cases whether playoff-bound teams will try.
Nets at Celtics (-5.5, 210.5)
Completely meaningless game with Boston coming off a trip to Washington on Tuesday. I'd be stunned if all the Celtics starters play much (maybe a little for all those home fans who buy tickets) if at all here. Brooklyn doesn't hold its first-round pick, which goes to Cleveland, so the Nets have no reason to tank. Or try. Boston has won eight straight in this series and five in a row in Brooklyn. The Nets won their season-high third straight Monday, 114-105 over Chicago, behind a career-high 41 points from Allen Crabbe.
Key trends: The Nets have covered four straight in Boston. The "over/under" is 5-2 in the previous seven there.
Early lean: Nets and over.
Knicks at Cavaliers (TBA)
These two played at the Garden on Monday and the Cavs won 123-109 behind 26 points and 11 assists That clinched the Central Division title for Cleveland and no worse than the fourth seed in the East. It's James' 10th straight division title -- he won two in the Central with the Cavs in 2009-10 then four straight Southeast Division titles with the Miami Heat. I do think you will see LeBron at least start here as, rather amazingly, James has never played all 82 regular-season games in a season. I'm presuming this will be the final game as Knicks coach for Jeff Hornacek.
Key trends: The Knicks are 5-2 ATS in their past seven in Cleveland. The under is 5-0-1 in the past six there.
Early lean: If Cavs want third seed, they must win here and Sixers must lose one of final two. Do Cavs really care, though?
Raptors at Heat (TBA)
Both are in the playoffs, although Miami hasn't been locked into a spot yet. The Heat lost 115-93 at home to Oklahoma City on Monday, outscored by 27 in the fourth quarter. It was the third-worst scoring margin for any quarter in Heat history, and the worst ever in a game at Miami. If the Heat win Wednesday, the clinch at least the No. 7 seed and the Southeast Division title. If the Heat lose, they could slip to No. 8 and a first-round series with the Raptors. These teams have split two very close games in Toronto this season.
Key trends: The road team has covered four straight in the series. The under is 5-1 in the past six.
Early lean: Heat could be locked in by end of Tuesday night.
Wizards at Magic (TBA)
Washington hosted Boston on Tuesday, so expect John Wall to sit out the second of a back-to-back. Potentially other guys too if Washington has been locked into a seeding by Tuesday night (which as far as I can tell that will not be the case). As usual, the Magic are lottery-bound and this could be it for Coach Frank Vogel. Washington is 3-0 vs. Orlando this year and has taken eight of the past nine in Florida.
Key trends: The Wizards have covered four straight in Orlando. The over is 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Wait on motivation/if Wall plays.
Bucks at 76ers (TBA)
First ESPN game. Philadelphia tried for a franchise-record 15th straight win Tuesday as it visited Atlanta. The 76ers are still battling Cleveland for the No. 3 seed. The Bucks won their second straight Monday, 102-86 over the Magic, in the final regular-season game at the Bradley Center as the team will move to a new arena next year. The Bucks currently sit sixth in the East and can't rise but could fall. Milwaukee is 2-1 this season vs. Philadelphia.
Key trends: The Bucks are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 14-2 in Milwaukee's past 16 overall.
Early lean: Sixers finish third in East with win Tuesday and here. But, Bucks might not have any reason to play.
Pistons at Bulls (TBA)
Nothing to see here as both are lottery-bound. It could help the Bulls pick as high as sixth with a loss. The Pistons have to give up their first-round pick to the Clippers unless Detroit jumps way up in the lottery. This might be it in some capacity for Pistons coach/VP Stan Van Gundy. Chicago got a crucial loss Monday in Brooklyn and now looks likely to finish with the seventh-worst record in the NBA instead of perhaps the ninth. Detroit leads the season series 2-1 but has dropped three in a row in the Windy City.
Key trends: The home team has covered seven straight in the series. The under is 8-3 in the Pistons' past 11 on the road.
Early lean: I expect Bulls to rest anyone you have heard of.
Nuggets at Timberwolves ( -4, 217.5)
This is the biggest game of the night. The winner claims the West's final playoff spot (not necessarily No. 8, though) and the loser is out. Denver won its sixth straight Monday, 88-82 over Portland - a loss would have eliminated the Nuggets from playoff contention and they were down 11 in the third. Gary Harris finally returned from injury but came off the bench as Mike Malone didn't want to mess with good chemistry. The Wolves won their second in a row Monday, 113-94 over Memphis. Karl-Anthony Towns had 24 points and 18 rebounds. Taj Gibson left in the first quarter with a neck injury. Minnesota is 2-1 vs. Denver this season.
Key trends: The Wolves are 1-5 ATS in their past six after a win. The under is 6-2 in the previous eight meetings.
Early lean: Timberwolves (this is why they got Jimmy Butler) and under.
Spurs at Pelicans (-3, 215)
Another game with meaning. Both won Monday to clinch playoff spots, the 21 st straight season of extra basketball for Gregg Popovich's Spurs. The Pelicans are in for the first time since 2015 and now officially give up their 2018 first-round pick to the Bulls from the Nikola Mirotic deal. If San Antonio wins this game - it has dropped seven straight on the road - then it will be fourth or fifth in the West depending on what happens elsewhere. But it could slip all the way to No. 8 with a loss. A Pelicans victory gives them either the No. 4 seed or the No. 5 seed going into the playoffs. A loss would send the Pels to No. 8 and in a first-round matchup against Houston. New Orleans leads the season series 2-1 against San Antonio.
Key trends: The Spurs are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 4-1 in the previous five in the Big Easy.
Early lean: Pelicans and under.
Grizzlies at Thunder (TBA)
Oklahoma City obliterated Miami in the fourth quarter on Monday to win 115-93 and clinch a playoff spot - but the Thunder still have to care here in terms of perhaps getting as high as fourth in the West. In addition, Russell Westbrook had 18 rebounds vs. Miami and needs 16 here to average a triple-double again, which is frankly amazing. Memphis was destroyed by injuries this year but I think will be pretty darn good in 2018-19, especially if the Grizzlies land the right draft pick. The Grizz need to lose to ensure the second-most ping-pong balls in the draft lottery behind Phoenix. OKC goes for the four-game season sweep of Memphis.
Key trends: The Grizz are 0-7 ATS in the past seven in OKC. The over is 5-0 in the previous five meetings.
Early lean: Thunder's motivations partially depend on Tuesday. I'd bet anything that Westbrook gets his 16 rebounds, though.
Lakers at Clippers (TBA)
No postseason basketball in the City of Angels. The Lakers hosted Houston on Tuesday; would they still take Lonzo Ball at No. 2 overall in the 2017 draft? I think the answer is clearly no. Could this be the final game as Clippers coach for Doc Rivers and in a Clips uniform for DeAndre Jordan? He's going to opt out of his contract this summer and many think he wants to go back to Texas, where he's from. Remember, he had agreed to sign with the Mavs a few years ago but was talked out of it by some teammates and Rivers. The Clippers have won six in a row in this series overall and 11 straight at "home."
Key trends: The favorite is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 10-4 in the previous 14.
Early lean: Lakers have a few questionable players (Ball among them).
Jazz at Trail Blazers (-2, 203)
Second ESPN game. Utah hosted Golden State on Tuesday as the Jazz fight for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. I would not want to play Utah in the postseason. As of Tuesday, Portland leads the Jazz by a half game for the third seed and Northwest Division title. The Blazers are trending down, however, dropping a fourth straight game Monday. Utah is 2-1 vs. Portland in 2017-18.
Key trends: The home team is 8-2 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The over is 12-3 in the previous 15 in Portland.
Early lean: Blazers and over.
Rockets at Kings (TBA)
Houston likely rests its guys here off a trip to the Lakers on Tuesday. Presumably, James Harden will be the reigning league MVP the next time he takes the court in a regular-season game. Will LeBron be one of his Houston teammates then? The Kings as usual are a dumpster fire and back in the lottery. Houston goes for the three-game season sweep and has won seven consecutive in the series.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 5-0 in the Kings' past five.
Early lean: Wait on Rockets' rest decision.
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