Free NBA Picks: Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Really not much to see regarding MyBookie's updated MVP and Rookie of the Year odds entering the post-All-Star break portion of the 2018-19 NBA season. For a while there, Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo was the MVP betting favorite, but then Houston lost both Chris Paul and Clint Capela to injury and James Harden started going historically nuts with 30-point games (or 40 or 50 or 60 in some cases). Harden is the -250 favorite to win a second straight MVP with the Greek Freak at +270. No one else realistically has a shot with so few games remaining. This year's rookie race is so over in favor of the Mavs' Luka Doncic that MyBookie actually has rookie odds for NEXT season. Duke superstar freshman Zion Williamson is the +300 favorite, followed by freshman teammate RJ Barrett and Murray State super-freshman Ja Morant, both at +600. Zion is going first in the 2019 draft and then probably Barrett and Morant. It's pretty clearly a top-three heavy class.
Wizards at Hornets (-3.5, 230)
Charlotte comes off the break seventh in the East but just half-game ahead of No. 9 Miami. Washington isn't going to be a playoff team. The second of four meetings between these clubs, with Washington winning the first 130-126 on Dec. 29. Kemba Walker had 47 points in a losing effort. Charlotte has won the past three in the series at home.
Key trends: The home team is 6-1 against the spread in the past seven meetings. The "over/under" is 5-1 in the previous six.
Early lean: Hornets and over.
Pelicans at Pacers (-6.5, 222)
I'm presuming Anthony Davis will play even though he left the team's final game with a shoulder injury. Davis did play in the All-Star Game, albeit only five minutes. The NBA needs to allow the Pelicans to just sit him the rest of the way because this whole situation is getting ridiculous. Davis clearly doesn't want to be there and doesn't give a crap. It's also the first Pelicans game since GM Dell Demps was fired. The final straw for him was when Davis literally walked out of the arena during last Thursday's game after he left injured. The Pacers are looking to sweep their regular season series over New Orleans for the sixth time in the last eight seasons. They won in New Orleans on Feb. 4, 109-107. Davis was out injured. Indiana's Myles Turner is questionable here and Tyreke Evans likely out.
Key trends: New Orleans has covered six straight in the series. The under is 6-1 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Pacers and under.
Bulls at Magic (-8, 215.5)
Chicago is 2-2 since trading for Otto Porter, who is playing terrific basketball. Too well, in fact, as it's hurting the Bulls' tanking efforts. Apparently, we aren't close to seeing Markelle Fultz make his Magic debut following his trade from Philadelphia. The Magic are 2-1 vs. Chicago this season but this is the only matchup in Orlando because one Magic "home" game against the Bulls was in Mexico City.
Key trends: The Magic have covered four in a row at home. The over is 5-1 in Chicago's past six.
Early lean: Bulls and over.
Spurs at Raptors (-10, 231.5)
First ESPN game and clearly the biggest story line of the night as DeMar DeRozan returns to Toronto for the first time since being traded to San Antonio in a stunning July deal for Kawhi Leonard. DeRozan holds several Raptors franchise records and should be warmly received because he never wanted to leave. Unlike, say, Leonard, who was booed all night Jan. 3 in his return to San Antonio. DeRozan got the last laugh in a 125-107 win as he had the first triple-double of his career. Toronto enters the second half on a six-game winning streak.
Key trends: The Spurs have failed to cover their past eight overall. The over is 10-1 in their previous 11.
Early lean: Raptors and over.
Pistons at Hawks (+3.5, 224.5)
Detroit is tied for the East's final playoff spot but wins the tiebreaker over Miami. Think we all would like to see the Pistons get that because at least they have Blake Griffin and the Heat are one of the most boring teams in the league - sorry, Dwyane Wade. These teams have split two meetings and this wraps things up.
Key trends: The road team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 6-1 in the previous seven in Atlanta.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
Timberwolves at Knicks (+6.5, 222)
The Knicks ended their franchise-record 18-game losing streak with a 106-96 victory in Atlanta last Thursday. It was New York's first win since Jan. 4 at the Lakers. However, the Knicks haven't won a home game since Dec. 1 vs. Milwaukee. It's the first meeting between these clubs. Minnesota swept last year. Five of the past seven meetings have been decided by five points or fewer.
Key trends: The Knicks are 3-14 ATS in their past 17 at home. The over is 11-3 in the Wolves' previous 14 on the road.
Early lean: Knicks and over.
Clippers at Grizzlies (+4, 212)
L.A. holds down the West's final spot, but tend to think the Clippers won't keep that after trading Tobias Harris. Either the Kings or Lakers (or both) should pass them. Memphis is in full tank mode. The Clippers and Grizzlies have split two meetings, each winning at home months ago.
Key trends: The favorite is 4-0-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 7-2 in the previous nine.
Early lean: Clippers and under.
Nuggets at Mavericks (+5, 220)
Denver led the West for a while before the break, but I'm guessing that opportunity is gone now as the Warriors should be engaged the rest of the regular season. Dallas is the only team in the NBA with a zero point differential - it averages 108.7 ppg and allows that much. The Mavs lost in Denver on Dec. 18 and the home team has won the past five meetings overall.
Key trends: The Nugs are 1-6-1 ATS in their past eight in Dallas. The over is 4-1 in the previous five there.
Early lean: Mavs and over.
Jazz at Thunder (-4, 224)
Second ESPN game. Were the Western Conference playoffs to start Thursday, this would be a first-round matchup - just like it was a season ago. OKC's Paul George is the only other player below +1000 on the MVP odds (+900). Russell Westbrook brings an NBA-record streak of 11 straight triple-doubles into this one. The Thunder and Jazz have split two meetings, with Utah dropping its past 15 in OKC.
Key trends: The Jazz are 0-4 ATS in the past four meetings. The over is 13-5 in the Thunder's previous 18.
Early lean: Thunder and under.
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