Free NBA Picks: Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
We're here to look at Friday's schedule, but be aware that Saturday is one of the first major transactional dates on the annual NBA schedule. That's because Dec. 15 is the first time players who signed with teams as free agents this past offseason are eligible to be dealt per collective bargaining agreement rules. So, for example, the sorry Bulls could try and dump Jabari Parker on someone. I can almost promise you that Phoenix will trade Trevor Ariza almost immediately, as he has been a disinterested bust after signing a one-year, $15 million deal. Ariza was a major contributor to the Rockets last year as a starter but chased that big-money, one-year deal. Houston would love to have him back, but that can't happen barring a three-way deal (free agents who leave a team can't go back for a year barring some trade gymnastics). The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly the biggest suitors for Ariza. It's also finally when Houston can trade Carmelo Anthony, although good luck there. One great thing about Friday: No second of a back-to-back for any team.
Hawks at Celtics ( -13, 221.5)
Boston won the first meeting with the Hawks this year, 114-96 in Atlanta on Nov. 23 thanks in large part to a 45-point first quarter. That's the Celtics' highest-scoring quarter of the season. Atlanta is off a 114-107 loss in Dallas on Wednesday. Trae Young had 24 points, 10 assists and, perhaps more important, only two turnovers. Boston won its seventh in a row Wednesday, 130-125 in OT over Washington. Kyrie Irving had 38 points, including the Celtics' final 12. Al Horford, Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown were all out. The latter two probably play here but not Horford due to a knee problem.
Key trends: The Celtics are 7-0 against the spread in their past seven after scoring at least 100 points in the previous game. The "over/under" is 5-1-1 in the past seven meetings.
Early lean: Hawks and over.
Knicks at Hornets (-10.5, 225.5)
New York lost its fifth in a row Wednesday, 113-106 at Cleveland. Coach David Fizdale finally put promising rookie Kevin Knox in the starting five, and he had 19 points. Probably won't see much of former starter Mario Hezonja the rest of the way barring injury. The Hornets for the third straight game Wednesday held their opponent to 107 points - and won again. They scored 108 vs. Detroit with Jeremy Lamb hitting the winning jumper with less than a second to go. Kemba Walker led with 31 points. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did not play for personal reasons. Charlotte won in New York 119-107 last Sunday behind 25 points from the Bronx native Walker, and the Hornets are also on an eight-game home winning streak in the series.
Key trends: The Knicks are 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 14-3 in the Hornets' past 17 vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Knicks and over.
Wizards at Nets (pick'em, 223.5)
Washington is back in fade mode as the Wiz dropped a third straight Wednesday, 130-125 in OT vs. Boston. John Wall was back after missing a game and had 34 points and 13 assists but couldn't stop Kyrie Irving. Brooklyn has followed an eight-game skid with three wins in a row. It was 127-124 in Philly on Wednesday, one of the season's bigger upsets. Spencer Dinwiddie had a career-high 39 off the bench. These teams have split two games in Washington this season, each decided by at least 11 points. The Nets won both at home last year.
Key trends: The Nets have covered the past four at home in the series. The under is 4-1 in the previous five.
Early lean: Wizards and under.
Bucks at Cavaliers (+11.5, 220)
Clubs just played Monday in Cleveland and Milwaukee won easily 108-92 despite playing without Giannis Antetokounmpo. Cleveland's Tristan Thompson, one of numerous guys the team would love to deal, injured his foot in that one and could miss a month. Milwaukee lost 113-97 at Indiana on Wednesday. The Freak was back but didn't look 100 percent as he was a team-worst minus-31. The Cavs were 113-106 home winners over the Knicks on Wednesday behind 28 points from Jordan Clarkson off the bench.
Key trends: The Bucks are 1-5 in their past six on one day of rest. The over is 4-0 in the Cavs' past four at home.
Early lean: Cavs and under.
Pacers at 76ers (TBA)
First of an ESPN doubleheader. Philadelphia was without Jimmy Butler on Wednesday (and probably will be here due to a strained groin) and was upset 127-124 at home by the Nets. Joel Embiid had 33 points and 17 rebounds. Indiana welcomed back All-Star guard Victor Oladipo on Wednesday and won a fifth in a row, 113-97 over the Bucks. Thaddeus Young scored a season-high 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Oladipo had 12 points in 29 minutes. The Sixers won at Indiana on Nov. 7, 100-94, to end an eight-game road losing streak in the series.
Key trends: The Pacers are 5-2 ATS in their past seven in Philly. The over is 6-1 in those.
Early lean: Wait on Butler
Heat at Grizzlies (TBA)
Miami is 2-2 on a six-game trip following Wednesday's 111-84 embarrassment in Utah on Wednesday. Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic both sat. It's believed the Heat are disciplining Whiteside but that he will play here. Dragic is going to miss occasional games with a bothersome knee. The Grizzlies beat visiting Portland on Wednesday, 92-83. Mike Conley was questionable with left hamstring soreness but played and had 23 points. He didn't look close to 100 percent at times, though. Miami easily swept Memphis last year, with the Grizz not topping 89 points in either.
Key trends: The Grizzlies are 12-4 in their past 16 at home. The under is 6-1 in Miami's past seven.
Early lean: Wait on two Heat guys and potentially Conley.
Thunder at Nuggets (+2.5, 216)
Second ESPN game. Oklahoma City fell 118-114 in New Orleans on Wednesday. Paul George had 25 points and 11 rebounds, and Dennis Schroder scored 24 points. Alex Abrines missed a potential game-winning 3. Why is Alex Abrines taking that shot? The Nuggets snapped a two-game skid Monday with a 105-89 win over Memphis. Nikola Jokic had 27 points and 12 boards for Denver, which was without Gary Harris and Paul Millsap - he is now expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Denver won in OKC on Nov. 24, 105-98, and has also taken the past two at home in the series.
Key trends: The Thunder have failed to cover the past six in the series. The over is 6-2 in the previous eight in Denver.
Early lean: Nuggets and over.
Raptors at Trail Blazers (TBA)
Stunned that the Raptors crushed the Warriors in Oakland on Wednesday in the second of a back-to-back with no Kawhi Leonard, who apparently is actually hurt. He's dealing with a hip injury. Kyle Lowry had 23 points and 12 assists. Leonard can't be hurt that bad because he was only scratched right before game-time. Portland lost its second in a row Wednesday, 92-83 in Memphis. Damian Lillard was held to 14 as his team shot an ugly 36.2 percent in its lowest-scoring game of the year. The Grizzlies will do that. Toronto swept Portland last year - despite Lillard averaging 34.0 points -- and has taken the past six in the series.
Key trends: The Raptors are 1-4 ATS in their past five after a win. The under is 5-0 in the Blazers' past five.
Early lean: Wait on Kawhi.
Warriors at Kings (+9, 237)
Not sure if I think this is a letdown game for Golden State off Wednesday's shocking loss to the Raptors or if now the Dubs play really pissed off. They didn't have Andre Iguodala vs. Toronto and Shaun Livingston left in the fourth quarter, but still no excuse for a 20-point home loss. The fast-paced Kings beat the Timberwolves 141-130 on Wednesday. They hit a franchise-record 19 3-pointers. Golden State beat the visiting Kings 117-116 on Nov. 24 as Sacramento missed two late chances to win. Kevin Durant had 44 points, and the Dubs were without Steph Curry and Draymond Green. The Warriors also have won the past two at the Kings.
Key trends: The road team has covered the past six in the series. The under is 7-2 in the previous nine.
Early lean: Kings and under.
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