Free NBA Picks: Wednesday, March 7, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
The Lakers have been a pleasant surprise for weeks, but they might be a decent fade candidate the rest of this week. That's because emerging second-year star Brandon Ingram is dealing with a left groin strain and won't even be re-evaluated for week. Want more proof that positions largely don't matter in the modern-day NBA? Ingram is in reality a small forward, but last month while starting at point guard for an injured Lonzo Ball (sprained left MCL; he's back now), Ingram averaged 18.6 points, 5.6 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while shooting 54.5 percent from the field. The Lakers aren't going to make the playoffs this season, so there's obviously no reason to rush Ingram back. The future is very bright for the purple and gold with a base of Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Ball and whatever big-ticket free agent they land either this or next summer. After Wednesday's game vs. Orlando, Ingram will miss a trip to Denver on Friday and nationally televised home game vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday.
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Jazz at Pacers ( -2, 204)
The Jazz won a third in a row Monday, 94-80 over Orlando. Rudy Gobert had 21 points and 17 rebounds. Derrick Favors was a late scratch because of neck spasms in pregame warmups. The Pacers also won a third straight Monday, 92-89 over Milwaukee. Bojan Bogdanovic tied his career high with 29 points. Victor Oladipo had an odd line: 14 points, five assists, five rebounds and 10 turnovers. Indiana won the first meeting vs. Utah on Jan. 15, 109-94. Oladipo led all scorers with 28 points. Utah lost last year in Indianapolis.
Key trends: The Jazz are 1-5 against the spread in their past six following a win. The "over/under" has gone under on four straight Pacers games.
Early lean: Pacers and under.
Raptors at Pistons (+5, 215)
First of an ESPN doubleheader. Toronto hosted Atlanta on Tuesday. The Pistons' free-fall continued Monday in a 22-point loss in Cleveland. Blake Griffin scored 25 to lead Detroit, which has lost nine straight away from home. The Pistons are 6-9 since landing Griffin. No way Stan Van Gundy deserves to survive this. Toronto has won four straight in the series, both this season at home.
Key trends: The Raptors are 8-2 ATS in their past 10 in Detroit. The under is 3-1-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Pistons and under.
Grizzlies at Bulls (TBA)
The Grizzlies lost their 14th straight game Monday, 100-98 in San Antonio. Marc Gasol was questionable but played and finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds. You almost have to feel sorry for him. The Bulls were manhandled at home by Boston on Monday. Chicago was down 19 after one, and that was that. Zach LaVine was 1-for-11 and finished with four points. First meeting of the season between the tanking teams. They have split in each of the past four.
Key trends: The Grizzlies are 1-5 ATS in their past six vs. the East. The under is 7-3 in the Bulls' past 10 at home.
Early lean: Memphis has a few banged up TBA guys, led by Tyreke Evans.
Rockets at Bucks (+6, 214.5)
Houston was in Oklahoma City on Tuesday trying to win a 16th straight. So this could be a major trap game either way. The Bucks lost by three at Indiana on Monday. Giannis Antetokounmpo's 3-pointer from the wing hit the front of the rim as time expired. The Freak had 18 points and 12 rebounds. The Rockets won the first meeting with the Bucks this season on Dec. 16, 115-111. However, Milwaukee has won the past two in the series at home.
Key trends: The Rockets are 3-8 ATS in their past 11 in the second of a back-to-back. The under is 7-3 in the Bucks' past 10 at home.
Early lean: Bucks and under.
Pelicans at Kings (TBA)
New Orleans was at the Clippers on Tuesday having won eight in a row and with Emeka Okafor iffy. The Kings won for the second time in three games Sunday, 102-99 over the Knicks. Skal Labissiere hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left. He had 14 points and six rebounds. Willie Cauley-Stein (lower back strain) missed his second consecutive game. The next victory will be the 200th in Coach Dave Joerger's career. Last meeting between the teams. Sacramento leads 2-1, winning both on the road.
Key trends: The Kings are 7-3 ATS in their past 10. The over is 7-3-1 in their past 11.
Early lean: I'd take the points here regardless.
Cavaliers at Nuggets (-3, 230)
Second ESPN game. Denver was in Dallas on Tuesday. The Cavs ended a two-game slide with a 112-90 win over the Pistons on Monday. With Tristan Thompson out perhaps two weeks, Larry Nance Jr. moved into the starting lineup and had career highs of 22 points and 15 rebounds. Coach Ty Lue was so impressed he said Nance might stay a starter even when Thompson is back. These teams just played in Cleveland on Saturday and the Nuggets won 126-117.
Key trends: The Cavs are 2-9 ATS in their past 11 road games vs. teams with a winning home record. The over has hit in Denver's previous five at home.
Early lean: Nuggets and over.
Magic at Lakers (-6, 226)
The Magic had a rare two-game winning streak snapped in a 14-point loss in Utah on Monday to start a five-game trip. Orlando hit just 34 percent from the field. No player scored more than 15 points. The Lakers clearly missed Ingram on Monday as they had a five-game winning streak snapped in a 108-103 home loss to Portland. L.A. was up 11 with about five minutes left. Julius Randle had 21 points and nine rebounds in his team's first home loss since Jan. 5. Orlando won the first meeting on Jan. 31, 127-105. The Magic shot 54.3 percent.
Key trends: The Lakers are 9-1 ATS in their past 10 at home. The under is 11-2 in the Magic's previous 13 vs. the West.
Early lean: Lakers and under.
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