Free NBA Picks: Friday, Feb. 8, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
The marquee matchup on Friday is clearly Denver at Philadelphia, perhaps the second-best team in each's respective conference. I don't think there's much doubt that when the Nuggets are fully healthy - which sadly isn't all that often - that they are No. 2 in the West behind Golden State. I wouldn't have considered the 76ers the second-best team in the East until perhaps Wednesday when they mortgaged some of their future to land the Clippers' best player in Tobias Harris. Even before that deal, Philly was the only team in the league with four guys averaging at least 17 points: Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons and J.J. Redick. Adding Harris give the Sixers the No. 2 starting five in the NBA behind the Warriors, but they have absolutely no depth now (although they did trade Markelle Fultz to Orlando for Jonathan Simmons and picks). That could cost them come the postseason. This is also a fabulous matchup of the two best but very different centers in the NBA in All-Stars Nikola Jokic and Embiid. Assuming they both play, that is.
Knicks at Pistons (-8.5, 205.5)
Detroit traded away both Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson this week. Meh. Worth taking a risk on Milwaukee's Thon Maker in the Johnson deal. These teams just met Tuesday and Pistons handed Knicks their 14th straight loss, 105-92. Blake Griffin scored 29 points and Andre Drummond finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds. New York set a team record with a 15th consecutive home defeat. Newcomer Dennis Smith Jr. scored 25 points and added six assists. Detroit has won five in a row in series overall and past five at home. The teams close the regular season at the Garden on April 10.
Key trends: The road team is 5-0 against the spread in the past five meetings. The "over/under" is 4-1 in those.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
Nuggets at 76ers (TBA)
First ESPN game and presumably Harris' debut. Denver dropped its second in a row Wednesday, 135-130, despite the 10th triple-double of the season from Jokic (25 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists). Gary Harris and Paul Millsap remained out injured, but Jamal Murray was back after missing six games and had 19 points and 11 assists. Philly was largely dominated at home in a loss to Toronto on Tuesday - perhaps the impetus for the Harris deal. Redick sat due to illness but should play here. Sadly, the 76ers rested Embiid when they visited Denver on Jan. 26, a 126-110 Nuggets victory. Butler didn't play, either. Jokic had a triple-double of 32 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists.
Key trends: The Nuggets are 1-6 ATS in their past seven on the road. The under has hit in Philly's past four.
Early lean: TBA likely for Harris (reportedly out) and Millsap (questionable).
Cavaliers at Wizards (-10.5, 220)
Washington was able to dump Otto Porter's contract on Chicago. The Cavs made a few minor deals to save money and get draft picks. Cleveland is off a seven-point home loss to Boston on Tuesday, which is basically a victory for how bad this team is. Collin Sexton had 27 points. It's possible Kevin Love could return Thursday. Washington was routed in Milwaukee on Wednesday and also traded Markieff Morris to New Orleans. The tank is on! Last meeting of season between these wayward franchises, with Cleveland leading 2-1 but blown out in the lone game in D.C.
Key trends: The underdog is 7-1 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 5-1 in Washington's past six.
Early lean: Cavs and over.
Bulls at Nets (-8, 224)
Interesting that the Bulls took on Porter's contract from Washington, although giving up Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker meant nothing. Chicago lost at home Wednesday to short-handed New Orleans, 125-120, despite 30 points and 10 rebounds from Lauri Markkanen. The Nets snapped a three-game skid with a 135-130 upset of Denver on Wednesday, surpassing last season's win total. D'Angelo Russell had 27 points and 11 assists. This closes the season series with Brooklyn up 3-0 and having won past four at home vs. Chicago.
Key trends: The Bulls are 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 7-3 in the previous 10.
Early lean: Nets and under.
Bucks at Mavericks (+7, 223)
The Bucks won their fifth in a row Wednesday, putting up a season-high 148 points in blowing out the Wizards. They had 50 in the first quarter and 85 at the break (two shy of franchise record). Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 43 points, and Eric Bledsoe had 22 points and 11 assists. Dallas has embraced the tank by trading Harrison Barnes to Sacramento. He started Wednesday's win over Charlotte, was pulled from the game when the deal was done yet hung around on the bench until the game was over. It was both cool and odd. Luka Doncic had his third triple-double. The home team has won the last three meetings between Milwaukee and Dallas. It was 116-106 in Beer Town on Jan. 21 despite Doncic's first career triple-double.
Key trends: The Mavs are 7-0-1 ATS in their past eight overall. The under is 10-3 in the Bucks' past 13 road games vs. teams with a winning home record.
Early lean: Mavs and under.
Warriors at Suns (TBA)
The Warriors destroyed the visiting Spurs by 39 on Wednesday. In the middle two quarters, Golden State outscored San Antonio 82-52. The Dubs made 24 of 25 field goals in one stretch spanning halftime. Kevin Durant had 23 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Atrocious Phoenix lost its 12 th straight Wednesday, 116-88 vs. Utah. The Suns were outscored by 20 in the fourth. Devin Booker was sidelined by right hamstring tightness even though he said he would play. Rather amazingly, Golden State is on a 17-game winning streak in series. Neither has been close so far in 2018-19.
Key trends: The Warriors are 7-1 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 7-2 in their past nine on the road.
Early lean: Suns (letdown game for Dubs) regardless. TBA for Booker. Wouldn't shock me if Warriors rested a key guy or two.
Timberwolves at Pelicans (TBA)
Minnesota was in Orlando on Thursday. Anthony Davis apparently is ready to return from his finger injury; now the question is whether the Pelicans let him or just shelve him the rest of the season. They didn't let him play in a 125-120 minor upset in Chicago on Wednesday. Julius Randle had 31 points, while Nikola Mirotic missed his seventh in a row with a calf injury and then was traded to Milwaukee. The Wolves are 2-1 this year vs. the Pels and have taken six of the past seven overall.
Key trends: The Wolves are 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 8-1 in the previous nine in New Orleans.
Early lean: TBA for Davis as he wasn't traded.
Heat at Kings (-2.5, 219)
Love what the Kings did this week in landing Harrison Barnes from Dallas and Alec Burks from Cleveland. They didn't give up much to get either. Miami dumped Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington on Phoenix for salary reasons. The Heat snapped a three-game skid with a 118-108 upset in Portland on Tuesday. Hassan Whiteside had 28 points and 11 rebounds. The Kings' three-game winning streak was snapped in a 26-point home loss to Houston on Wednesday. Buddy Hield had 20 points and 10 rebounds. The Kings have won past three in this series, including 123-113 in Miami on Oct. 29. Sacramento has won four in a row in series just once in franchise history (Jan. 1994-Dec. 1995).
Key trends: The Kings are 8-1 ATS in their past nine at home. The under is 6-2 in the Heat's past eight on the road.
Early lean: Kings and under.
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