Free NBA Picks: Saturday, March 23, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Everyone assumes that Duke superstar freshman Zion Williamson will go No. 1 overall in the 2019 draft (wouldn’t it be great if he returned to Duke?). That’s probably going to happen. However, there might be one team that could think twice and actually might be somewhat relieved to be picking No. 2 instead of No. 1: the Phoenix Suns.
That’s because most believe Williamson and last year’s No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton wouldn’t really work together because they essentially take up the same space in the post. The Suns also have a promising player at Williamson’s position in Mikal Bridges, who was the No. 10 overall pick in 2018. What the Suns BADLY need is a point guard, so Ja Morant (who had a spectacular triple-double in Murray State’s NCAA Tournament opener) would actually fit them much better. Would any GM, though, dare take someone instead of the electric Williamson? Be fascinating to see the Suns win the lottery again and what they might do. They could trade that pick for a fortune and perhaps still get Morant or RJ Barrett.
Celtics at Hornets (+3, 220.5)
The Celtics couldn’t finish the season sweep of the rival Sixers, losing 118-115 in Philly on Wednesday. Marcus Smart was ejected for a push on Joel Embiid but it doesn’t seem suspension-worthy. The Celtics already were short-handed without Gordon Hayward (concussion) and Aron Baynes (left ankle). Kyrie Irving had 36 points. The Hornets snapped a two-game skid with a 113-106 win over Minnesota on Thursday. Kemba Walker had 31 points and rookie Miles Bridges 11 points and 12 points for his first career double-double on his 21st birthday. Hornets coach James Borrego made some lineup changes to spark his struggling squad. Boston leads this season series 2-1 but did lose in Charlotte.
Key trends: The home team is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings and the “over/under” is 4-0.
Early lean: Hornets and over.
Heat at Wizards (pick’em, 221)
The Heat were in Milwaukee on Friday looking to get to .500 for the first time since 24-24. Washington’s playoff hopes, slim as they were, are over on a three-game losing streak. The Wiz were 113-108 home losers to Denver on Thursday. Bradley Beal had 25 points. Rookie Troy Brown Jr. made his first NBA start in place of Trevor Ariza, who sat after straining his groin Wednesday. Last meeting between division rivals, with the Heat leading 2-1 – all three have been close.
Key trends: The underdog has covered nine of the past 11 in the series. The over has hit in five straight.
Early lean: Wizards and over.
76ers at Hawks (+8.5, 235)
First of an NBA TV doubleheader. Feels like a letdown game here for the Sixers as they beat Boston on Wednesday to win their sixth straight and avoid the season sweep to their rivals in a game with playoff-type atmosphere. Joel Embiid dominated with 37 points and 22 rebounds and had a key late block of Kyrie Irving. You can all but lock Philly into the No. 3 seed in the East at this point. Atlanta snapped a three-game slide with a 117-114 home upset of Utah on Thursday. Trae Young scored 23 points, including a go-ahead three-point play. These teams have split two meetings in Philadelphia.
Key trends: The favorite is 10-2 ATS in the past 12 meetings. The over is 4-1 in the previous five in Atlanta.
Early lean: Hawks and over.
Jazz at Bulls (TBA)
The Jazz might be running on fumes as they had a five-game winning streak snapped in a 117-114 upset in Atlanta on Thursday in the second of a back-to-back and third road game already this week. Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 34 points. The Bulls are blowing their tanking by winning back-to-back games. It was 126-120 in OT over Washington on Wednesday even though both Zach LaVine and Otto Porter got the night off. Kris Dunn scored a season-high 26 points -- including eight in overtime -- to go with 13 assists. Utah won the first meeting, 110-102, but has lost its past three in Chicago.
Key trends: The Jazz are 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 5-1 in Chicago’s past six overall.
Early lean: Wait on LaVine (although I love the Bulls in this spot).
Timberwolves at Grizzlies (TBA)
Minnesota lost its fifth in a row Thursday, 113-106 in Charlotte, and the team has shut down Robert Covington, Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague for the season. Smart – lose as much as possible at this point. Karl-Anthony Towns passed Kevin Love (6,989 points) to move into fourth place on the franchise's career scoring list. Memphis was in Orlando on Friday. The Grizzlies have won two of three in the series and four straight at home.
Key trends: The Wolves are 1-7 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 5-1 in the previous six.
Early lean: TBA likely because Memphis may rest Conley in the second of a B2B.
Mavericks at Warriors (-16.5, 227.5)
The Mavericks are free-falling and lost their third in a row Thursday, 116-100 in Sacramento. Luka Doncic was just 4-for-19 for 13 points. He may have hit a brick wall at this point in the long season. Former King Justin Jackson got his first start in Dallas and had 19 points. Dallas has ruled Tim Hardaway Jr. out for the season. The Warriors won a second straight Thursday, spanking the Pacers 112-89. DeMarcus Cousins returned after missing two games with a sore right ankle and had 19 points and 11 rebounds. Golden State leads this season series 2-1 and has won the past 12 in Oakland.
Key trends: The home team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over has hit in all of them.
Early lean: Mavs and over.
Pistons at Trail Blazers (-4.5, 218)
The Pistons avoided a trap game in Phoenix on Thursday, rolling 118-98. Blake Griffin was just 4-for-17 but Wayne Ellington had 23 points and Andre Drummond 16 points and 19 rebounds. Portland won its second in a row Wednesday, 126-118 over Dallas. Damian Lillard had 33 points and 12 assists. Enes Kanter added 14 points and 10 rebounds off the bench for his first double-double since joining the Blazers. CJ McCollum remains out (knee). First meeting of season, with Detroit winning five of the past six in the series.
Key trends: The Pistons are 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 5-1 in the previous six in Portland.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
Suns at Kings (-10.5, 230.5)
Sacramento leads the season series 2-1. Believe it or not, each team’s team’s stellar rookie, Marvin Bagley of the Kings and Ayton of the Suns (the top two picks of the 2018 draft), were teammates at Arizona’s Hillcrest Prep during 2015-16. Alas, only for 12 games after Bagley’s father (who had been an assistant) took his son out of the program. Ayton had 20 points in Thursday’s 20-point loss to the Pistons. Kelly Oubre Jr. missed his second straight game with a left thumb sprain and Tyler Johnson missed his fourth straight game with a sore right knee. Bagley had his 14th double-double of the season (22 points and 12 rebounds) in Thursday’s 16-point win over Dallas. Harry Giles, another good-looking rookie, bruised his left thigh in the first half and did not return.
Key trends: The home team is 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 5-1 in the Suns’ past six overall.
Early lean: Kings and under.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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