Free NBA Picks: Friday, March 22, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
With the Nets visiting the Lakers on Friday night, it's a perfect time to look back at the trade in the summer of 2017 between the two franchises. The Lakers dealt D'Angelo Russell, the former No. 2 overall pick, and the salary of Timofey Mozgov to Brooklyn for Brook Lopez and the No. 27 overall pick in the 2017 draft - which L.A. used on Kyle Kuzma. The Lakers did that basically for salary reasons with Russell the sweetener for the Nets to take Mozgov's stupid contract. L.A. wanted to clear cap space in the summer of 2018 to sign two max free agents: LeBron James and someone else. Interesting where the franchises are now as Russell has blossomed into an All-Star and the Nets are going to make the playoffs. The Lakers got LeBron but no one else and will miss the postseason. Would the Lakers be in a better place with Russell and LeBron as their core? Plus, if they had kept Russell they wouldn't have had to select point guard Lonzo Ball at No. 2 overall in 2017 - Ball is starting to look like a bust. Then again, maybe Russell never would have become the player he has under the pressure of Los Angeles. For now, though, the Nets clearly won that trade.
Grizzlies at Magic (-6.5, 209.5)
The Grizzlies upset the Rockets on Wednesday, 126-125 in OT. Mike Conley scored 35 points and Jonas Valanciunas had a career-best 33, including the game-winning free throw with less than a second left. Shouldn't have gone to OT, but Memphis was outscored by 19 in the fourth. Orlando won its third in a row Wednesday, 119-96 over New Orleans. Evan Fournier scored 22 points and Aaron Gordon had 20. The Magic have won six of the last nine matchups at home in this series but lost in Memphis on March 10, 105-97. Orlando led 95-88 with 3:06 left but then Conley took over. He finished with 26 points, 14 in the fourth.
Key trends: The home team is 6-1 against the spread in the past seven meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in four of the previous five.
Early lean: Magic and under.
Clippers at Cavaliers (TBA)
The Clippers won their third in a row Tuesday, 115-109 over Indiana. Danilo Gallinari scored 24 points, and Montrezl Harrell had 20 points and 12 rebounds. L.A. hadn't won at home in the series since 2014. The Cavs won a second in a row Wednesday, upsetting Milwaukee 107-102. Collin Sexton scored 25 points and became the first NBA rookie to score at least 23 in seven straight games since 1998 (Tim Duncan). Kevin Love left in the third quarter with an apparent head injury. First meeting between these teams. They split last year, each winning at home.
Key trends: The Cavs have covered just one of their past 11 on Friday. The over has hit in six straight Clippers games vs. the East.
Early lean: TBA for Love.
Nuggets at Knicks (+11.5, 218)
Denver was in Washington on Thursday. New York was a 137-116 home loser to Utah on Wednesday. Kevin Knox scored 27 points and Mario Hezonja had 23 for the Knicks, who lost for the 10th time in 11 games. Dennis Smith Jr. and Noah Vonleh sat again. The Nuggets look for the sweep as they were 115-108 home winners on New Year's Day behind a triple-double from Nikola Jokic. It was Denver's 11th straight home win in the series.
Key trends: The Nuggets are 1-7 ATS in their past eight on the road against teams with a home winning percentage below .400. The over is 5-0 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Knicks and over.
Thunder at Raptors (TBA)
NBA TV game. The teams just played Wednesday in OKC and the Raptors won 123-114 in OT to end a three-game skid in the series. Pascal Siakam had 33 points and 13 rebounds, and Fred VanVleet added 23 points and six assists. VanVleet got plenty of playing time with Kyle Lowry out with a sprained ankle. Russell Westbrook had 42 points, 11 rebounds and six assists for Oklahoma City, which has lost four straight games. OKC has won its past three in Toronto, though.
Key trends: The Raptors are 2-9 ATS in their past 11 following a win. The under is 10-4 in the Thunder's previous 14.
Early lean: TBA for Lowry, but he's not playing. Like Thunder as it's very tough to sweep a home-and-home.
Spurs at Rockets (-8, 222)
Potential first-round playoff preview out West. San Antonio's season-high nine-game winning streak ended in a home upset to Miami on Wednesday, 110-105. The Spurs had six players in double figures, but only two starters. They were flat after beating the Warriors on Monday. Houston's three-game winning streak was snapped in a 126-125 OT loss in Memphis on Wednesday in the second of a back-to-back. James Harden had 57 points, his second game with exactly that many vs. the Grizzlies this season. He became the second player in NBA history to record a 50-point game in five straight months, joining Wilt Chamberlain. Eric Gordon was given the night off, and Kenneth Faried sat out with left knee soreness. It's the last regular-season matchup with Houston leading 2-1 and having won the past three at home.
Key trends: The favorite is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under has hit in six of those.
Early lean: Rockets and under.
Heat at Bucks (TBA)
Potential first-round playoff preview in the East. The Heat won a third straight Wednesday, stunning the Spurs 110-105 in San Antonio. Goran Dragic had 22 points. Justise Winslow missed the game with a bruised right thigh. The Bucks got some bad news in ruling out Nikola Mirotic for 2-4 weeks as he joins Malcolm Brogdon on the sidelines. Team is a bit vulnerable right now and that showed in a 107-102 loss in Cleveland on Wednesday. Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out his second straight. Khris Middleton scored 26 points and Eric Bledsoe 24 for the Bucks, who couldn't wrap up their first division title since 2001. Milwaukee leads this season series 2-1, with both its wins as blowouts.
Key trends: The home team is 8-3 ATS in the past 11 meetings. The under is 11-4 in the Heat's past 15 vs. the East.
Early lean: Wait on the Freak.
Nets at Lakers (TBA)
Russell was spectacular on Tuesday with 44 points as the Nets rallied from down 25 in the fourth quarter to win in Sacramento, 123-121 and end a three-game slide. Russell had 27 of his career-high total in the fourth. The Nets became just the fourth team in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55) to overcome a 25-point fourth-quarter deficit. They had been 0-178 over the past 20 seasons when trailing by at least 25 points at any point in a game. The Lakers concluded a five-game trip at 1-4 with a 115-101 loss in Milwaukee on Tuesday in which LeBron sat out with a sore groin (i.e. tanking). The Nets beat the Lakers on Dec. 18, 115-110, behind 22 points and 13 assists from Russell. LeBron had 36 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. The Lakers have taken the past three at home in series.
Key trends: The Lakers are 3-13 ATS in their past 16. The under is 7-2 in the Nets' past nine.
Early lean: Wait on LeBron (feels like a major letdown game for Nets, though).
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