Free NBA Picks: Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Looking at the updated Bovada futures odds heading into the start of the NBA season - I say start because most people don't consider that the NBA campaign truly begins until Christmas (I'm one of them) - there's really not a ton that's interesting. Same cast of characters are favored, etc. One thing did catch my eye: Odds to win the Southeast Division, which might go down as one of the worst divisions in league history and could have a team with a losing record win it. The Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat are tied atop it at 16-16, with the Hornets as +130 favorites and Heat at +300. I'd probably try my luck on the Wizards at +410 as they clearly have the most talent in the division led by John Wall and Bradley Beal. In theory, a Southeast Division champion could miss the playoffs entirely if it has a lousy enough record - although in the East, that's not likely. Perhaps a division winner missing out would be the final straw for Commissioner Adam Silver to dump divisions entirely, which he needs to do and has talked about previously. So let's all root for it to happen.
Wizards at Pistons ( -5, 221.5)
Washington entered the break having lost seven of nine - still don't understand why Coach Scott Brooks has a job. The Wiz managed just 89 points in a blowout loss Sunday at Indiana in the second of a back-to-back. They shot a season-low 36.8 percent. The Pistons have started their annual fade, losing nine of 11. They inexcusably lost at home to the Hawks on Sunday, 98-95. Down one, Blake Griffin missed two free throws late. It's the first meeting between these teams. Washington won three of four a season ago.
Key trends: The Wizards are 8-3 against the spread in the past 11 meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in 10 of Detroit's past 13 overall.
Early lean: Pistons and under.
Suns at Magic (-4, 213)
Phoenix has followed an unlikely four-game winning streak with back-to-back losses - it dropped an epic triple-OT game in Washington on Saturday and then had little left in the tank Sunday in Brooklyn. Orlando lost its third straight - all by double digits - Sunday vs. Miami, 115-91. On Nov. 30, Orlando won in Phoenix, 99-85. Nikola Vucevic had 25 points and 15 rebounds. The Suns were without Devin Booker and T.J. Warren.
Key trends: The road team is 11-1 ATS in the past 12 meetings. The under is 5-1 in the past six meetings.
Early lean: Suns and under.
Pacers at Hawks (TBA)
Indiana beat Washington 105-89 on Sunday. Myles Turner had 18 points and a career-high 17 rebounds four his fourth straight double-double - he had never had more than two in a row. Tyreke Evans missed his second consecutive game with a bruised right knee. The Pacers are the only team in 2018 not to lose more than two games in a row. Atlanta won in Detroit on Sunday for its unlikely third win in a row. Alex Len had 15 points and a season-high 17 rebounds. Leading scorer John Collins was out with an ankle injury. Indiana beat visiting Atlanta 97-89 on Nov. 17 and has won four straight and six of the past seven at home in the series.
Key trends: The Pacers are 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 16-5 in the previous 21.
Early lean: Presume the TBA for Collins. Won't matter - go Indy.
Hornets at Nets (pick'em, 219)
Charlotte had a two-game winning streak snapped in a 119-103 loss in Boston on Sunday. That was over about midway through the second quarter. Boston's starters outscored Charlotte's 70-49. Brooklyn beat the Suns on Sunday, 111-103, behind 24 points from Spencer Dinwiddie. Allen Crabbe (sore right knee) sat again but could return for this one. First meeting between these teams (play again Friday in Charlotte). The Hornets took two of three last season.
Key trends: The Hornets are 2-7 ATS in the past nine meetings. The under is 4-1 in the previous five.
Early lean: Nets and under.
Raptors at Heat (TBA)
NBA TV game. Toronto was clobbered 126-101 in Philly on Saturday and its 5-6 in its past 11 games. Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka both sat for that game, Leonard for rest. Ibaka missed his third in a row with a sore knee. Kyle Lowry did return after missing the previous four. Miami is on a season-high five-game winning streak after a 115-91 rout in Orlando on Sunday. Tyler Johnson, who has really picked it up with Goran Dragic out, had 25 points. Miami lost 125-115 in Toronto on Nov. 25 but has taken 13 of the past 16 at home in the series.
Key trends: The Raptors are 0-5 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 5-0 in Miami's past five at home.
Early lean: Guess the TBA for Ibaka (Leonard should play) - like Heat and under regardless.
Timberwolves at Bulls (TBA)
Minnesota was an upset winner in Oklahoma City on Sunday, 114-112. Andrew Wiggins had 30 points, including the go-ahead layup with 14 seconds left. It was Minnesota's first road win against a Western Conference team this season. Derrick Rose sat out with a sore left ankle and so did Jeff Teague. Chicago is on its first two-game winning streak of the season following a 112-92 win in Cleveland on Sunday. Lauri Markkanen had 31 points. The Wolves have won six of the past seven meetings in this series, including 111-96 on Nov. 24 behind 35 points and 23 rebounds from Karl-Anthony Towns.
Key trends: The Wolves are 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 12-3-1 in Chicago's previous 16 at home.
Early lean: Not sure why this is TBA - Rose isn't deserving himself and Teague is out.
Cavaliers at Grizzlies (-9.5, 198)
Cleveland dropped its third straight Sunday, 112-92 vs. the Bulls. The Cavs had just 33 second-half points. Rookie point guard Collin Sexton was 3 of 16 from the field and scored six points. David Nwaba left with a sprained ankle. The Grizzlies snapped a five-game losing streak with a 107-99 upset at the Lakers on Sunday. Rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. had 27 points - that guy's going to be a star. Memphis was swept by the Cavs last year.
Key trends: The Grizz have covered eight of their past nine following a road trip of at least seven days. The under is 4-1 in the Cavs' past five on the road.
Early lean: Cavs and under.
Pelicans at Mavericks (-1.5, 227.5)
New Orleans lost its fourth in a row Sunday, 122-117 in Sacramento. The Pels were outscored by 15 in the fourth. Anthony Davis had 26 points and 17 rebounds for the Pelicans. Jrue Holiday added 27 points, six assists and seven rebounds. Nikola Mirotic missed his fifth consecutive game because of a sore right ankle. Dallas lost a sixth straight Sunday, 121-118 in OT in Portland. Luka Doncic had 23 points, including the game-tying 3 at the regulation buzzer, and 11 rebounds. Dennis Smith Jr. was out again with a strained right wrist. New Orleans beat Dallas 132-106 on Dec. 5. Those were the most points scored by either team in the history of this series. These teams play again Friday in New Orleans.
Key trends: The Pels are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 4-0 in the previous four.
Early lean: Mavs and over.
Nuggets at Spurs (-4, 214)
Denver had a four-game winning streak snapped in a 132-111 loss at the Clippers on Saturday. It was the Nugs' worst defeat of the year. Nikola Jokic was ejected in the third quarter for yelling at an official. The Spurs' three-game winning streak ended in a 108-101 loss in Houston on Saturday. DeMar DeRozan led San Antonio with 28 points and eight assists. The Spurs fell to 1-8 when being outrebounded by an opponent on the road. First meeting between these teams. They split last year, and San Antonio has won the past 11 at home vs. Denver.
Key trends: The favorite is 8-2 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The over is 6-2 in the previous eight.
Early lean: Spurs and over.
Kings at Clippers (-6.5, 237.5)
The Kings won their second in a row Sunday, 122-117 over the Pelicans. Willie Cauley-Stein had 22 points and a career-high 17 rebounds, Buddy Hield scored 28 and Sacramento rallied from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter. The Kings also became the first team since the 2010 Indiana Pacers to trail by at least 19 and win in consecutive games. The Clippers were 129-127 losers at Golden State on Sunday on a last-second Steph Curry layup. L.A. shot 81.2 percent from 3-point range in the first half (13 for 16), setting an NBA record for highest 3-point percentage in a half (minimum 13 made). It finished 18-for-23. The Kings lost at home to the Clippers on Nov. 29, 133-121. L.A. has won the past six in the series.
Key trends: The Kings have failed to cover the past four in the series. The over is 4-0 in those.
Early lean: Clippers and over.
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