Free NBA Picks: Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
It literally makes my skin crawl to even mention the clown LaVar Ball's name. But yet again that loudmouth is in the news. For whatever reason, ESPN.com thinks the guy is newsworthy and sent a reporter to Lithuania to hang around the Ball family; of course, he sent his two youngest sons over there to play professionally instead of getting a free education and playing at a marquee program like UCLA. Anyways, Ball told the writer that he thought Coach Luke Walton had lost the Lakers locker room. It's almost like he's trying to make life harder for his oldest boy, Lonzo Ball. The rookie already has a giant bulls-eye on his back because of LaVar. Now he has to deal with this in his own locker room? ESPN and other entities naturally had to run stories asking whether Walton could be in trouble. The answer is a resounding no. Yes, the Lakers have been worse than expected, but Walton is widely regarded as one of the NBA's rising young coaches - not to mention he's a Laker legacy, which boss Magic Johnson appreciates. If Magic is going to fire anyone, it needs to be LaVar Ball.
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Mavericks at Hornets ( -8.5, 210)
Dallas hosted Orlando on Tuesday. Charlotte has won back-to-back games for the first time since Thanksgiving following a 108-94 victory at the Lakers on Friday to complete a four-game West Coast trip. Kemba Walker had 19 points and seven assists, and Dwight Howard had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Charlotte won both against Dallas last season, each by at least eight points.
Key trends: The Mavs are 9-2 against the spread in their past 11 in Charlotte. The "over/under" has gone under in eight of the Hornets' past 11 at home.
Early lean: Hornets and under.
Heat at Pacers (-4.5, 207)
Miami was in Toronto on Tuesday. The Pacers have followed a five-game skid with back-to-back double-digit victories, and it's not a coincidence those wins coincided with the return of Victor Oladipo from injury. Indiana led the Bucks by 21 after one quarter Monday and never looked back in a 109-96 victory. Domantas Sabonis finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Pacers. Oladipo had 15 but didn't have to play heavy minutes. Indiana lost 112-108 in south Florida on Oct. 21 but has taken 10 straight at home in the series.
Key trends: The Heat are 1-5 ATS in their past six at Indiana. The under is 8-3 in the previous 11 meetings there.
Early lean: Pacers and under.
Jazz at Wizards (TBA)
The Jazz dropped a third straight Sunday, 103-102 in Miami. Stud rookie Donovan Mitchell missed a jumper for Utah at the buzzer. He had 27 points as the Jazz fell to 3-17 away from home. The Wizards' four-game winning streak was snapped Saturday at home by the Bucks, 110-103. A flagrant foul by Matthew Dellavedova (he was ejected) on Bradley Beal midway through the fourth quarter seemed to rattle the Wizards as they blew a lead. Beal finished with 20 points, and John Wall added 16 points and 16 rebounds. Otto Porter sat with a right hip strain and is day-to-day. Utah slaughtered Washington on Dec. 4, 116-69. The Jazz shot 56.8 percent from the field and knocked down 16 3-pointers while holding the Wizards to just 28.7 percent shooting. It was one point shy of matching the largest margin of victory in Jazz history.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 5-0 in the previous five in Washington.
Early lean: The only reason I can think this is TBA is the outside chance Beal is suspended for his dust-up with Dellavedova, but that's unlikely.
Pistons at Nets (+2.5, 209)
The Pistons started a three-game trip with a 112-109 loss in New Orleans on Monday. Andre Drummond, who missed two of Detroit's previous three games, had 16 points and 14 rebounds. Stanley Johnson missed his fifth straight game with an injured right hip flexor. The Nets have dropped their past two by a combined three points. It was 114-113 in OT at home vs. Detroit on Monday. Spencer Dinwiddie scored a career-high 31 points for the Nets, who have played a franchise-record five straight games decided by three or fewer points, the first NBA team to do that since San Antonio late in the 2012-13 season. DeMarre Carroll was out with a minor knee injury. First meeting of season between these teams. Brooklyn has won the past two at home vs. Detroit.
Key trends: The Pistons are 0-6 ATS in their past six in Brooklyn. The under is 6-1 in the Nets' previous seven at home.
Early lean: Nets and under.
Bulls at Knicks (TBA)
The Bulls are back in tank mode as they have lost five of six. It was 116-107 at home to Houston on Monday. Bobby Portis led the Bulls with 22 points. He was more of a factor because Nikola Mirotic sat due to illness. Consider him questionable here. The Knicks ended a three-game slide with a 100-96 win in Dallas on Sunday. Kristaps Porzingis scored 29 points and Jarrett Jack had the tiebreaking bucket late. Courtney Lee was 4-for-4 from the free-throw line and has made 43 straight. Chicago has won both meetings this season with the Knicks but has dropped its past four at Madison Square Garden.
Key trends: The Bulls are 0-4 ATS in their past four in New York. The under is 3-1-1 in the past five meetings there.
Early lean: Presumably TBA for Mirotic and Michael Beasley (questionable).
Trail Blazers at Rockets (TBA)
Portland was in Oklahoma City on Tuesday with Damian Lillard out due to a calf injury, so he's highly questionable here. Houston stopped a two-game skid with a 116-107 win in Chicago on Monday despite blowing a 21-ponit lead. Eric Gordon and Chris Paul each had 24 points and nine assists, while Gerald Green scored 22 off the bench. The Rockets won the first meeting with the Blazers, 124-117 despite trailing 98-84 entering the fourth. James Harden, still out injured, had 48 points and Lillard 35.
Key trends: The Blazers are 7-3 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The over is 7-0 in Houston's past seven at home.
Early lean: Wait on Lillard.
Pelicans at Grizzlies (TBA)
It's been about a week since we've mentioned an Anthony Davis injury, so he was overdue. He left Monday's 112-109 win over the Pistons with a sprained ankle. X-rays were negative, but knowing Davis he'll miss at least a few games. He had 30 points and 10 rebounds in just 27 minutes. Rajon Rondo had 12 points and 15 assists. The Grizz have been off since a 102-100 home loss to Washington on Friday. Marc Gasol finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Memphis won the first meeting very early on, 103-91, behind a big game from currently injured Mike Conley. An interesting tidbit: New Orleans is 9-0 all-time against Memphis when the Pels score 110 or more points
Key trends: The Pels are 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 4-1 in the previous five.
Early lean: Wait on Davis, but he's not likely.
Magic at Bucks (-9.5, 216)
Orlando was in Dallas on Tuesday. The Bucks lost 109-96 at Indiana on Monday, falling behind by 29 in the second quarter. Khris Middleton led Milwaukee with 19 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo had 17. On the bright side, the Bucks have made at least 45 percent of their shots in 17 straight games, the longest streak in the NBA this season. First meeting between these teams. The Magic have won 20 of the last 22 meetings at home, but lost eight of the last nine at the Bradley Center.
Key trends: The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 9-1-1 in the Bucks' past 11 at home.
Early lean: Bucks and over.
Thunder at Timberwolves (-3, 210.5)
First ESPN game. Oklahoma City hosted Portland on Tuesday. The Wolves played perhaps their best game of the season Monday, routing Cleveland 127-99. They were up as many as 41. Karl-Anthony Towns (19 points, 12 rebounds) and Taj Gibson (16 points, 13 rebounds) dominated down low for the Timberwolves, who outrebounded the Cavs 56-37, their largest advantage of the season. Last meeting between these two, although a playoff matchup is quite possible. The Wolves won the first two games and the Thunder the last. All were high-scoring.
Key trends: The Thunder are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 5-2 in Minnesota's previous seven against the West.
Early lean: Wolves and over.
Hawks at Nuggets (-10, 215)
The Hawks are 0-4 on their trip out west following a 108-107 defeat at the Clippers on Monday on a late 3-pointer. Taurean Prince missed a 15-foot jumper with three seconds remaining. He led the team with 20 points after being listed as a game-time call. The Nuggets lost 124-114 at the Warriors on Monday. Nikola Jokic had his first triple-double of the season with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists as four players scored 20 points or more for Denver. Normally you win that way. Denver goes for the season sweep as it won in Atlanta on Oct. 27, 105-100. The Nugs have dropped the past two in the series at home.
Key trends: The Hawks have covered five straight in the series. The under is 11-2 in Denver's previous 13 home games vs. teams with a losing road record.
Early lean: Nuggets and under.
Clippers at Warriors (TBA)
Second ESPN game. Two big stars in question here. The Clippers stopped a two-game slide with a 108-107 home win over Atlanta on Monday. C.J. Williams hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with nine seconds; Lou Williams, who led the team with 34 points, had missed a 3-pointer but it was rebounded by Wesley Johnson, who fed C.J. Williams. Blake Griffin sat with a concussion suffered Saturday. The Dubs played a third in a row without Kevin Durant (strained calf) but beat Denver on Monday, 124-114 for a fifth straight win. Steph Curry continued his hot streak with 32 points and nine assists. The Warriors have beaten the daylights out of the Clippers lately, winning 12 straight in the series and usually by a big margin. Both this year by at least 16 points.
Key trends: The Clips are 1-6 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 5-0 in the previous five.
Early lean: Wait on Griffin & Durant, although the Warriors should win easily regardless.
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