Free NBA Picks: Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
On Thursday's Opening Line Report, we mentioned how there was an unusual schedule that night as 11 of the 12 teams who played on Christmas were back in action because the league was off on Christmas Eve and those clubs who played Dec. 25 weren't allowed to play Dec. 26 because of the new back-to-back rule around marquee national TV games. So, again, because most of the rest of the league was off Christmas, played Wednesday and had to be off Thursday (to allow all the Xmas teams to get back in action), we are going to have a lot of tired clubs on Saturday with a bunch of them playing a third game in four nights. The NBA has largely cut way down on those scenarios, but to get things back on track with the weird scheduling during the holidays it had no choice. Long story short: It's usually wise to hugely back a home team when both clubs are playing for a third time in four nights, and tired legs generally mean less defense.
Nets at Bucks (-10, 225)
A 5 p.m. ET start and I'll be betting big against Brooklyn here. The Nets played a double-OT draining game Wednesday and were in Charlotte on Friday. Then you have this unusual start time a few hours early. I'll be shocked if the Nets aren't crushed. Milwaukee completed a home-and-home sweep of the Knicks on Thursday with a 112-96 victory. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points and 14 rebounds, about the same line as on Christmas vs. New York. The Bucks are a season-high 14 games over .500. First meeting of season between teams. Bucks won 2-1 last year. The lone Nets victory snapped Milwaukee's 10-game winning streak vs. Nets.
Key trends: The Nets are 2-7 against the spread in their past nine in the second of a back-to-back. The "over/under" has gone under in nine of the Bucks' past 10 vs. the East.
Early lean: Bucks and over.
Hornets at Wizards (-1.5, 228)
Same scenario for Charlotte as it lost in Brooklyn on Wednesday and had to play the Nets Friday at home. At least the Hornets were home on Friday unlike Brooklyn. Washington hosted Chicago on Friday. First meeting between these teams. Charlotte won three of four last year, including both at home - they were each very high scoring.
Key trends: The home team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 4-1 in the previous four.
Early lean: Wizards and over.
Rockets at Pelicans (-1, 227.5)
First NBA TV game. New Orleans hosted Dallas on Friday, and you know it's always risky assuming that Anthony Davis plays both ends of a back-to-back as he tweaks something seemingly every other game. Houston listed James Harden questionable for Thursday's game vs. Boston, but he played and had 45 points in a 127-113 victory. It was Harden's sixth game in a row with at least 35 points, the NBA's longest such streak since April 2013 (Carmelo Anthony). The Pels won the first meeting with the Rockets this year 131-112 on Oct. 17 in Houston as New Orleans never trailed. Davis had 32 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks. Harden had 18 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds.
Key trends: The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 7-1 in the Pels' past eight in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: Rockets and over.
Cavaliers at Hawks (-3, 218.5)
Cleveland was in Miami on Friday and Atlanta in Minnesota. Two good-looking rookie point guards - but very different styles and body types - in 6-foot-2 Cavalier Collin Sexton and 6-foot (maybe - forget his listed height of 6-2) Trae Young of the Hawks. The clubs split two early-season high-scoring blowouts, each winning at home. Young had 35 points and 11 assists in the Cleveland win in arguably his best game.
Key trends: The Cavs are 2-6 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 6-0 in Atlanta's previous six vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Hawks and over.
Celtics at Grizzlies (+3.5, 200)
Memphis on more rest than any team Saturday, having last played Wednesday and beating Cleveland, 95-87, for a second straight win. It was 21-9 after a quarter and essentially over. Marc Gasol had 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists. All five Memphis starters reached double-figure points, the fourth time in the last five games. Boston's two-game winning streak ended in a 127-113 loss in Houston on Thursday. The C's were killed on the boards and Marcus Morris was ejected in the fourth, but it shouldn't be suspension-worthy. First meeting between the clubs. Boston has won the past four. Both were by at least nine a season ago.
Key trends: The Celts are 3-11 ATS in their past 14 vs. the West. The under has hit in five straight Grizzlies games.
Early lean: Grizzlies and under.
Knicks at Jazz (TBA)
New York dropped its sixth in a row and second straight to Milwaukee on Thursday, 112-96. Leading scorer Tim Hardaway Jr. sat with an illness - something seems to be going around both the NBA and NHL. Enes Kanter was ejected but shouldn't be suspended. Utah lost 114-97 at home to Philadelphia on Thursday with a chance to get to .500. The Jazz hit just 38 percent and generally aren't good enough offensively to win games where they allow at least 110 points. First meeting between teams. The Knicks surprisingly swept two close games a season ago. Utah had won the previous three at home.
Key trends: The Knicks have covered 14 of their past 16 in Salt Lake City. The under is 6-0 in Utah's previous six at home.
Early lean: Wait on Hardaway.
Nuggets at Suns (+3, 216)
Both these clubs playing a third in four nights. Denver hosted San Antonio on Friday, and Phoenix hosted Oklahoma City. Obviously, advantage Suns not having to travel. Denver won the first meeting this season at home, 119-91 on Oct. 20. Nikola Jokic had a triple-double of 35 points, 11 assists, 11 rebounds and was 11-for-11 from the field. Good luck having a better game than that. Jokic joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to post a triple-double with 30 or more points without missing a field goal. Chamberlain did it twice, in 1966 and '67. Denver has won its past four in Phoenix.
Key trends: The Nuggets are 9-1 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The over is 6-2 in the previous eight.
Early lean: Suns and over.
Warriors at Trail Blazers (+4.5, 226.5)
Second NBA TV game and second of a home-and-home as Portland stunned the Warriors 110-109 in OT in Oakland Thursday. Oakland native Damian Lillard hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 6.3 seconds to go in OT. Kevin Durant then missed his potential winner on the other end. He did have 26 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for his second triple-double of the year. Klay Thompson's shooting woes continued as he was 6-for-19. Something is amiss with Golden State right now. It's the Warriors' first visit of the season to Portland and they lost both there last year.
Key trends: The Warriors are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 13-3 in the previous 16 in Portland.
Early lean: Warriors (no way back-to-back losses to same team!?) and over.
Spurs at Clippers (-4, 225.5)
Third game in four nights situation for both here. San Antonio was in the thin air of Denver on Friday so could really be gassed here. Highly doubt that Gregg Popovich plays all his key guys Saturday. L.A. was "at" the Lakers on Friday. Teams have split two meetings, with Clippers winning close at home and getting blown out on the road.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 6-2 in the previous eight in L.A.
Early lean: Clippers (in a big way!) and over.
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