Free NBA Picks: Friday, March 1, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
With Friday being the first day of March - already the final full month of the NBA's regular season - let's take an updated look at Bovada's futures odds to see if anything stands out. There's not much. The site essentially assumes that five of the six division races are over, and I'd tend to agree. The only one up for grabs is the sorry Southeast, which now seems nearly a lock to make history by having a winner with a losing record. Charlotte is the +140 favorite with Orlando at +150 and Miami at +220. I might actually take the Magic there as they probably have the best overall roster in pure talent (although a gaping hole at point guard). The Hornets just have the best player in Kemba Walker. The Heat are meh and can't win at home, as we talked about earlier this week (although of course they did Wednesday). The site also offers will or won't they make the playoffs odds for all three - one of them has to with the way the standings currently sit. Charlotte is +130 to make and -170 to miss, Orlando is -120/-120 and Miami is +300/-500.
Bulls at Hawks (-3, 231.5)
Chicago needs to lose this game to stay "ahead" of Atlanta in the tanking standings - the Hawks are really the only team with a chance to overtake the Bulls for the league's fourth-worst record. Teams have split two meetings, each winning on the road. Chicago on a three-game road winning streak in series. Both come in off wins. The Bulls prevailed 109-107 in Memphis on Wednesday behind 30 points from Zach LaVine. Otto Porter was back after missing a couple of games and had 20. The Hawks were 131-123 OT home winners over Minnesota behind 36 points and 10 assists from Trae Young. He's averaging 30 points and 9.2 apg over the past five.
Key trends: The Bulls are 4-1 against the spread in the past five meetings. The "over/under" is 4-1 in those five.
Early lean: Hawks and over.
Hornets at Nets (-3, 231)
The Hornets lost a third straight on Wednesday, 118-113 to Houston. They led by four entering the fourth. Walker had 35 points but no one else more than 18. Fairly typical. The Nets had a two-game winning streak end in a 125-116 home upset to Washington. D'Angelo Russell had 28 points, with the Nets hitting just 8-for-35 from deep. Charlotte leads the season series 2-1 but lost its only trip to Brooklyn in a completely wild one.
Key trends: The Hornets are 1-4 ATS in their past five in Brooklyn. The over is 6-2 in the Nets' previous eight overall.
Early lean: Nets and over.
Trail Blazers at Raptors (-5, 229)
First ESPN game. The Blazers won their fifth straight Wednesday and improved to 4-0 on a season-high seven-game road trip with a 97-92 upset in Boston. Damian Lillard scored 33 points, Maurice Harkless had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Portland improved to 18-4 against the East this season. Evan Turner sat out again due to injury. Enes Kanter will not travel to Toronto with the team due to visa issues. The Raptors routed those Celtics on Tuesday, 118-95, behind 25 points from Pascal Siakam and 21 from Kawhi Leonard. Toronto lost in Portland on Dec. 14, 128-122, without Kyle Lowry. The Dinos have taken the past three at home in the series.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 7-3 in the Raptors' previous 10 at home.
Early lean: Raptors and under.
Wizards at Celtics (-9.5, 232.5)
Washington was a 125-116 upset winner in Brooklyn on Wednesday to end a four-game slide. Bradley Beal scored 31 points, and Trevor Ariza had 23 points and 10 rebounds. Beal finished February averaging a career-high 30.9 points while shooting 52.2 percent from the field. The Celtics look broken right now on a four-game slide, losing 97-92 at home to Portland on Wednesday. Kyrie Irving had 31 points, while backup Terry Rozier was out injured. Just one meeting thus far between these two, with Boston taking a 130-125 OT decision at home on Dec. 12. Irving scored the Celtics' final 12 points to finish with 38. John Wall was still healthy back then and had 34 points and 13 assists.
Key trends: The Wizards are 1-10 ATS in their past 11 in Boston. The over is 6-0 in the previous six there.
Early lean: Wizards and over.
Pelicans at Suns (+4, 239)
Matchup of former No. 1 overall picks and big men in the Pels' Anthony Davis and Suns' Deandre Ayton - assuming Davis plays, that is. New Orleans won the first meeting, 119-99, at home and has taken seven straight in the series. The Pels were 125-119 losers at the Lakers on Wednesday. Julius Randle had 35 points against his former team and Davis 22 points and eight rebounds. Phoenix has been off since snapping a team-record 17-game losing streak with a 124-121 upset in Miami on Monday to end a long trip. The Suns scored 40 points in the fourth quarter on 78 percent shooting. They snapped a 42-game losing streak in road games when trailing entering the final period.
Key trends: The Pels have covered five in a row in the series. The under is 5-2 in the Suns' past seven at home.
Early lean: Suns and under.
Clippers at Kings (-3.5, 242.5)
Potentially big one between teams battling for the West's final couple of playoff spots. Los Angeles already has clinched the season series by winning the first three and is on a 12-game winning streak in Sacramento. Both lost Wednesday. L.A. fell 111-105 in Utah, shooting just 39.4 percent overall and 5-for-26 from deep. The Kings were 141-140 OT home losers to the Bucks, their fourth defeat in the past five games - but one of the toughest five-game stretches for any team in the NBA this season. To make matters worse, excellent rookie Marvin Bagley III left with a knee strain that seems sure to sideline him for at least a bit.
Key trends: The Clippers have covered six straight in the series. The over is 5-0-1 in those six.
Early lean: Kings and over.
Bucks at Lakers (+4, 237)
Second ESPN game. It's a "rematch" of the All-Star Game between team captains Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James - Team LeBron won that game in Charlotte. Quite sure the Greek Freak doesn't care. It's the first meeting between the teams, with the Bucks having won the past three in the series and previous two in L.A. No LeBron then, of course. The Bucks won their sixth in a row Wednesday, 141-140 in OT at Sacramento. After getting Monday off, Antetokounmpo was limited to 24 minutes simply for workload management. I highly doubt he's limited that way vs. LeBron. The Lakers got a must-win at home Wednesday, 125-119 over New Orleans. LeBron had 33 points and 10 rebounds.
Key trends: The Lakers have covered just six of their past 25 vs. the East. The under is 15-7 in the Bucks' past 22 overall.
Early lean: Bucks and under.
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