Free NBA Picks: Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Any teams that have finished their season series against Golden State - like Toronto will on Wednesday night in a potential NBA Finals preview - should be thankful they got the Warriors early in the 2018-19 season. That's because they will soon be adding All-Star DeMarcus Cousins to their four other All-Stars, and I frankly don't know how they can be beaten at that point other than a lack of interest on occasional nights. Cousins has progressed in his rehab from a torn Achilles' tendon to the point where he was assigned to the franchise's G League affiliate on Monday. He won't be making his Warriors debut this week or likely even next, but that's coming. Perhaps for the Christmas showcase game vs. LeBron James' Lakers? It's our last Raptors-Warriors game Wednesday barring a Finals matchup. Both are favored to reach the Finals from their respective conferences.
Pistons at Hornets ( -4.5, 218)
Charlotte last played Sunday and won at the Knicks 119-107 behind 25 points from Kemba Walker. This is the fifth time the Hornets have won two straight games this year. They have yet to make it three. Detroit has started its fade as it rested Blake Griffin on Monday and lost 116-102 in Philly, the Pistons' fifth straight defeat. I don't understand resting Griffin in that spot considering he was averaging 39.7 points vs. the Sixers this year and his team was slumping. The Hornets won the first meeting this season with the Pistons, 113-103 on Nov. 11 in Motown. Griffin was ejected in the fourth quarter. Walker and Tony Parker each had 24 points. Detroit also has dropped four of its past five in Charlotte.
Key trends: The Pistons are 1-5 against the spread in their past six in Charlotte. The "over/under" is 4-1 in the Hornets' past five.
Early lean: Hornets and over.
Knicks at Cavaliers (+2.5, 213)
First meeting of season between these lousy teams. The Knicks lost a fourth straight Sunday, 119-107 vs. Charlotte. One bright spot was rookie Kevin Knox tying a season high with 26 points and setting a career high with 15 rebounds. Allonzo Trier was out with a strained left hamstring. Cleveland lost 108-92 in Milwaukee on Monday. Tristan Thompson left in the third quarter with a foot injury and is out 2-4 weeks. Matthew Dellavedova scored 11 points in 16 minutes in making his debut in his second stint with Cleveland following the trade with the Bucks.
Key trends: The Knicks are 6-2 ATS in their past eight in Cleveland. The over is 7-2 in New York's past nine on the road.
Early lean: Knicks and over.
Bucks at Pacers (TBA)
The Pacers had a three-game winning streak over Milwaukee come to an end in a 118-101 road loss on Oct. 19. Indiana has won three straight home games over the Bucks, though. Milwaukee won its second straight Monday, 108-92 over Cleveland. Eric Bledsoe had 20 points and 12 rebounds. Giannis Antetokounmpo was a last-minute scratch with neck soreness. Indiana won its fourth in a row Monday, 109-101 over Washington. Myles Turner had probably the game of his career with 26 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks.
Key trends: The team is 6-1 ATS in the past seven and the under is 5-2 in those.
Early lean: Wait on the Freak.
Nets at 76ers (TBA)
Brooklyn has followed an eight-game skid with back-to-back wins. It was 112-104 at the Knicks on Saturday. Spencer Dinwiddie scored 25 points, 10 in the fourth. Philadelphia completed a home-and-home sweep of Detroit on Monday with a 116-102 win. After sitting out over the weekend, Joel Embiid was back and had 24 points. Jimmy Butler left in the first half with a strained groin and didn't return. The Nets and Sixers have split two meetings in Brooklyn this year. The Nets lost both in Philly a season ago.
Key trends: The Nets are 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 6-2-1 in the previous nine in Philadelphia.
Early lean: TBA for Butler
Celtics at Wizards (TBA)
First meeting of the season between rivals. Washington took three of four last season. Boston is starting to roll, winning a sixth in a row Monday, 113-100 over New Orleans despite playing without Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford. The latter is in the worst shape with patellar tendinitis and probably misses more games. Washington dropped its second in a row Monday, 109-101 in Indiana. Bradley Beal had 30 points, while John Wall sat out with bone spurs in his heel. Probably going to miss a bit.
Key trends: The home team is 12-3 ATS in the past 15 meetings. The over has hit in five straight Wizards games vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Wait on all those Celtics and Wall.
Trail Blazers at Grizzlies (-3, 206)
Second of a back-to-back for Portland as it visited Houston on Tuesday. Memphis lost a second in a row Monday, 105-99 in Denver even though the Nuggets were down a few regulars. Grizz point guard Mike Conley started despite a dislocated finger and briefly left in the third quarter with a hamstring that tightened up on him. First meeting between these teams. They split four a season ago. CJ McCollum averaged 30 points in them for Portland.
Key trends: The underdog is 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 4-1 in Memphis' previous five at home.
Early lean: Grizzlies and under.
Thunder at Pelicans (+2.5, 233)
First of an ESPN doubleheader. OKC won the first meeting of the season, 122-116 at home on Nov. 5 even though Russell Westbrook left with a sprained ankle after playing 25 minutes. The Thunder bounced back from a shocking loss in Chicago with a 122-113 home win over Utah on Monday. Paul George had 31 points and Westbrook a triple-double of 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. The Thunder are 14-1 this season against sub-.500 opponents. That loss was to the Bulls. New Orleans dropped under .500 with Monday's loss at short-handed Boston. Anthony Davis scored 41 points and Julius Randle had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Pels, who were in the second of a back-to-back.
Key trends: The Thunder are 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 5-2 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Thunder and under.
Hawks at Mavericks (-10, 224.5)
Our last chance this season to see Trae Young and Luka Doncic duel - of course, they were traded for each other on draft night, a deal Dallas is winning handily right now. The Mavs lost in Atlanta on Oct. 24, 111-104, blowing a 26-point first-half lead. Young scored 12 of his 17 in the fourth quarter, while Kent Bazemore had a career-high 32. Doncic finished with 21 points. It was Atlanta's 10th straight win in the series.
Key trends: The Mavs have covered five straight vs. the East. The over is 5-2 in Atlanta's past seven.
Early lean: Mavs and over.
Heat at Jazz (TBA)
Utah lost in Miami on Dec. 2, 102-100. Dwyane Wade hit two free throws with 3.2 seconds left, and Hassan Whiteside got the better of Rudy Gobert with 23 points and 20 rebounds. Utah has won four of its past seven at home in the series. Miami is off a 108-105 loss at the Lakers on Monday in presumably the last-ever matchup between buddies Wade and LeBron James. Wade missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Whiteside missed his third straight game for personal reasons. Utah is on a two-game skid after Monday's 122-113 loss in Oklahoma City. Rudy Gobert recorded his 23rd double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds.
Key trends: The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five. The under is 5-1 in the Heat's previous six.
Early lean: Wait on Whiteside.
Timberwolves at Kings (+2.5, 228.5)
Minnesota's 57 all-time wins vs. the Kings are the team's most against any franchise. However, the Kings won the first this season, 121-110 at home on Nov. 9. Eleven of the teams' past 20 meetings have been decided by six points or less. The Wolves lost 116-108 at Golden State on Monday. Karl Anthony-Towns had 31 points and 11 rebounds. The Kings won 108-89 at Chicago on Monday, outscoring the Bulls 63-33 in the second half. De'Aaron Fox scored 23 of his 25 after intermission.
Key trends: The Wolves are 8-3 ATS in their past 11 in Sac-Town. The over is 4-1 in the previous five meetings.
Early lean: Kings and over.
Raptors at Warriors (TBA)
Game of the week and the second ESPN game. The Warriors had won eight straight vs. Toronto but lost there 131-128 in overtime on Nov. 29 in one of the most entertaining games of the year thus far. Without Steph Curry or Draymond Green, Kevin Durant nearly won the game himself with 51 points. Kawhi Leonard was nearly as good with 37. Will Leonard play here? He has yet to play both ends of a back-to-back this season and the Raptors were at the Clippers on Tuesday. The Dubs on Monday were finally at full strength again (not counting Cousins) as they welcomed back Green and beat Minnesota 116-108 for a fourth straight victory. Curry had 38 points. Golden State has won the past 13 at home in this series.
Key trends: The Raptors have covered seven straight in the second of a back-to-back. They are 2-11 ATS in their past 13 in Oakland. The over is 6-1 in the previous seven meetings.
Early lean: Wait on Kawhi.
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