Free NBA Picks: Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
We told you over the weekend that trades were likely to start happening once the Dec. 15 deadline passed for when guys who signed as free agents over the summer could be dealt. It was reported that the Lakers were hot and heavy over Trevor Ariza, but the Suns traded him to Washington, one of his former teams, for Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers (who reportedly will be released). Only after a three-team deal that also included Memphis fell apart because the Suns thought they were getting Dillon Brooks, who has a promising future, while the Grizzlies insisted they were dealing MarShon Brooks, who is a 29-year-old scrub. Not sure I've ever seen a trade fall apart because of mistaken identity like that. Had the Suns gotten Dillon Brooks, that would have been a nice trade for them. Oubre and Rivers are meh, although at least Oubre has some upside. Ariza will help the Wizards, but not like they are going anywhere. Much ado about nothing.
Cavaliers at Hornets ( -11.5, 215)
Cleveland in the second of a back-to-back after visiting Indiana on Tuesday. Charlotte lost a second in a row Saturday, 128-100 at home to the Lakers. The Hornets were housed in the third quarter by a score of 40-17. Kemba Walker was held to a season-low four points and is shooting just 32.3 percent in his past six. These teams have two blowouts against one another this season, each winning at home.
Key trends: The Cavs are 8-2-1 against the spread in the past 11 meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in the previous four.
Early lean: Hornets and under.
Spurs at Magic (pick'em, 209)
San Antonio completed a six-game homestand at 5-1 (somehow losing to the Bulls) with a 123-96 rout of Philadelphia on Monday to get over .500. LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points and 10 rebounds as the Spurs held a fifth straight team under 100 points. Orlando went 2-0 in Mexico City over the weekend, giving up two home games for marketing purposes. Orlando won for just the sixth time in franchise history in San Antonio on Nov. 4, 117-110. The Magic were up by as many as 26.
Key trends: The Spurs are 1-8 ATS in their past nine vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 7-1 in the past eight meetings.
Early lean: Magic and under.
Knicks at 76ers (TBA)
New York was blown out at home by Phoenix on Monday, which shouldn't happen even as bad as the Knicks are. Emmanuel Mudiay had 32 points, six rebounds and six assists in a losing effort. Leading scorer Tim Hardaway Jr. was out with a sore right heel. Philly was blown out in San Antonio on Monday in the second of a back-to-back. Joel Embiid had just 13 points and Jimmy Butler six. Philly has won five straight in this series, including 117-91 on Nov. 28 in leading wire-to-wire.
Key trends: The Knicks have failed to cover their past five in Philly. The under is 4-1 in the previous five meetings.
Early lean: Wait on Hardaway, although I don't expect this to be close regardless.
Suns at Celtics (+12, 217)
First of an NBA TV doubleheader. The Celtics had an eight-game winning streak snapped in a 113-104 loss in Detroit on Saturday in the second of a back-to-back. Al Horford (knee) was out again and likely won't be returning here. Jaylen Brown (hand) is questionable. Break up the Suns! They won a third in a row Monday, 128-110 in New York. Devin Booker had 38 points. It's the first three-game run for Phoenix since March 2-5, 2017. Oubre wasn't with the team yet but should debut here. Boston rallied from 22 down in Phoenix on Nov. 8 and won 116-109 in overtime behind 39 points from Kyrie Irving. Booker had 38 in a loss; you may remember he had a 70-point game in Boston in March 2017 - the most ever against the Celtics.
Key trends: The Celtics are 8-1 ATS in their past nine. The over is 9-3 in the Suns' past 12 following a double-digit win.
Early lean: Suns and over.
Pacers at Raptors (TBA)
Indiana hosted Cleveland on Tuesday with Tyreke Evans a game-time call (knee). The Raptors lost their second straight Sunday, 95-86 in Denver, to complete a four-game trip through the West at 2-2. Kyle Lowry (thigh), Pascal Siakam (back) and Fred VanVleet (back) all sat, and Jonas Valanciunas (thumb) will miss at least a month with his injury. Toronto was 3-1 vs. Indiana last year and has won the past nine at home vs. the Pacers.
Key trends: The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 4-1 in the previous five.
Early lean: Wait on Lowry.
Nets at Bulls (+2, 214)
Brooklyn hosted the Lakers on Sunday on a season-high five game winning streak. Chicago lost 121-96 in Oklahoma City on Monday and still hasn't won back-to-back games yet. Lauri Markkanen had 16 points and 15 rebounds. Jabari Parker was out with an illness, but he has fallen out of the rotation anyways and probably will be traded sooner rather than later. Nice $20 million signing. First meeting between these teams. Brooklyn has won the past three.
Key trends: The Nets are 1-7 ATS in their past eight in the second of a B2B. The under is 7-0 in the Bulls' previous seven vs. the East.
Early lean: Bulls and under.
Wizards at Rockets (-9.5, 228)
Washington was in Atlanta on Tuesday. The Rockets had Ariza last year and loved him but apparently couldn't work out a three-way deal to get him back. Houston won its fourth in a row Monday to get back over .500, 102-97 over Utah. James Harden had 47 points and has been going nuts of late. James Ennis missed a third game in a row with a strained hamstring and he won't be back this week. Washington beat Houston 135-131 in OT on Nov. 26. Harden had 54 points.
Key trends: The Wiz are 5-22 ATS in their past 27 road games. The over is 4-1-1 in the past six meetings.
Early lean: Rockets and over.
Pelicans at Bucks (TBA)
New Orleans lost home to Miami on Sunday, 102-96. Anthony Davis had 27 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and three steals, but the Pelicans bench was outscored by 38. Julius Randle left after rolling his ankle. Nikola Mirotic missed his second straight game with a right ankle injury. The Bucks won their second in a row Monday, 107-104 in Detroit. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points and 12 rebounds. Malcolm Brogdon (hamstring) and Ersan Ilyasova (nose) were out. MVP candidates Davis and Antetokounmpo face off here. New Orleans was 2-0 vs. Milwaukee last year. Davis averaged 26.0 points and 11.5 rebounds. Antetokounmpo averaged 26.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.5 steals.
Key trends: The Pels are 6-2 ATS in their past eight in Milwaukee. The over has hit in the past four meetings.
Early lean: Wait on Randle and Mirotic.
Pistons at Timberwolves (-5.5, 220)
Once 13-7, the Pistons are now 14-14 after a 107-104 home loss to the Bucks on Monday. Blake Griffin finished with 19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, but he also had 10 turnovers and missed two late three-pointers. Minnesota ended a four-game slide with a 132-105 home win over Sacramento on Monday. Karl-Anthony Towns had 14 points and 14 assists in just 21 minutes. Jeff Teague sat with ankle inflammation. Minnesota looks to end a six-game losing streak in the series.
Key trends: The favorite is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 4-1 in the previous five.
Early lean: Wolves and over.
Grizzlies at Trail Blazers (TBA)
The Grizzlies dropped their third in a row Monday, 110-93 at Golden State. Kyle Anderson returned after missing a game with a sprained ankle but Mike Conley was out with left hamstring soreness. Portland won 131-127 at the Clippers on Monday behind 39 points from Damian Lillard. Memphis won the first meeting with Portland, 92-83, last week. CJ McCollum had 40 points.
Key trends: The Grizz are 4-1 ATS in the previous five meetings. The under is 5-1 in Portland's past six vs. the West.
Early lean: Wait on Conley.
Thunder at Kings (+4.5, 234)
Second NBA TV game. The Thunder were easy home winners vs. the Bulls on Monday as Paul George had 24 points and Russell Westbrook had 13 points, 16 rebounds and 11 steals for his 111th career triple-double and league-high seventh this season. The Kings were routed in Minnesota on Monday in the second of a back-to-back. Coach Dave Joerger didn't play any of his starters after halftime. The Kings have won two high-scoring games vs. OKC this season. A three-game win streak would mark the longest against the franchise since Sacramento won five straight against Seattle from Dec. 10, 2005 to Feb. 10, 2007.
Key trends: The Kings have covered six straight in series. The over is 6-1 in the past seven in Sacramento.
Early lean: Kings and over.
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