Free NBA Picks: Friday, March 8, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
It's ridiculous to read too much into one loss in the long NBA regular season. For example, the greatest single-season team in league history, the 72-win 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, lost a game to 21-win expansion Toronto that year. However, we almost have to address what happened to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night vs. Boston ahead of another big test for them Friday vs. Denver. I watched that entire Celtics game, a 129-85 stunner. True, the Dubs were missing Klay Thompson again, but they just didn't look engaged at all. It was not just the worst loss ever under Steve Kerr but worst for the franchise at home since also losing by 33 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 28, 2009. It was Golden State's first wire-to-wire loss of this season and first such at home since March 27, 2006 vs. Washington. Does that make the Dubs any less favored to win another NBA title? It does not, and in fact I'm guessing they play pretty pissed off against the Nuggets.
Wizards at Hornets (-5.5, 234)
Washington won for the third time in four games Wednesday, 132-123 over Dallas. Bradley Beal had 30 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and one of the best dunks of the season. Not really what Beal is known for. Beal scored at least 20 points for the 18th game in a row. Charlotte's playoff hopes are taking a hit with nine losses in their past 12. It was 91-84 at home to Miami on Wednesday. Kemba Walker and Frank Kaminsky each scored 20 points for the Hornets. These teams have split two high-scoring meetings, each winning at home - Hornets have won the past four in Charlotte.
Key trends: The home team is 7-1 against the spread in the past eight meetings. The "over/under" is 7-1 in those.
Early lean: Hornets and over.
Mavericks at Magic (-6.5, 213)
The Mavs lost for the eighth time in the past nine Wednesday, 132-123 in Washington. Luka Doncic had 31 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Dwight Powell had a career-high 26 points along with 10 rebounds. Orlando dropped its second in a row Tuesday, 114-106 in Philadelphia. Evan Fournier led the Magic with 25 points and Aaron Gordon had 24. The home team has won each of the last eight meetings between these teams. Dallas rolled 101-76 on Dec. 10, leading wire-to-wire.
Key trends: The Mavs are 1-8 ATS in their past nine. The home team is 7-0 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 8-3 in the Magic's past 11 at home vs. teams with a losing road record.
Early lean: Magic and over.
Cavaliers at Heat (-9.5, 214)
Cleveland was a 113-107 loser in Brooklyn on Wednesday, outscored by 11 in the fourth. Kevin Love had 24 points and 16 rebounds and David Nwaba a career-high 22 points. Miami won its third in a row Wednesday, 91-84 over Charlotte to temporarily take control of the East's final playoff spot. Kelly Olynyk had 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Hassan Whiteside added 18 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. Miami goes for the four-game season sweep and has won a franchise-record 15 in a row at home in the series.
Key trends: The Cavs are 1-7 ATS in their past eight in Miami. The under is 7-2 in the Heat's previous nine after a win.
Early lean: Cavs and under.
Pistons at Bulls (+3.5, 220)
The Pistons got over .500 for the first time since they were 15-14 with a 131-114 win over Minnesota on Wednesday. Blake Griffin struggled with nine points, but the Pistons got 31 points and 15 rebounds from Andre Drummond (16th straight double-double) and 70 points from their bench. Zaza Pachulia missed the game with a sore Achilles tendon. Detroit has been the East's best team since the break. Chicago beat the 76ers, 108-107, on Wednesday behind Zach LaVine's 39 points; he also had the winning layup in the final seconds. Detroit has won both meetings this season and eight of the past nine overall.
Key trends: The home team is 9-1 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The over is 9-1 in the Pistons' past 10 overall.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
76ers at Rockets (TBA)
First of an ESPN doubleheader. Will Joel Embiid play? There's a "chance" he will travel with the 76ers to Houston after missing a seventh straight game Wednesday, a 108-107 loss in Chicago in which Embiid wasn't even present. The Sixers actually got two chances to win with under a second left because of a clock screw up. It was an odd situation. They blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead. Houston is surging up the standings on a six-game winning streak, off very impressive wins in Boston and Toronto by double digits. James Harden had 35 on Tuesday in Toronto when the Rockets outscored the Raptors by 14 in the fourth. Philly is looking to win a season series vs. Houston for the first time since 2010-11 after winning 121-93 on Jan. 21. Embiid had 32 points and 14 rebounds. Harden had 37 but didn't play the fourth with it a rout.
Key trends: The Sixers are 5-2 ATS in their past seven after a loss. The over is 7-0 in Houston's previous seven on Friday.
Early lean: Wait on Embiid.
Jazz at Grizzlies (+7, 214)
I'll be shocked if this isn't easily the lowest-scoring game of the night. After losing the front end of a home-and-home to the Pelicans on Monday, the Jazz won in the Big Easy on Wednesday, 114-104. Derrick Favors scored 25 points, and Rudy Gobert added 22 points and 13 rebounds. Utah tied a season high with 70 points in the paint. Memphis upset Portland Tuesday, 120-111, behind a career-high 40 points from Mike Conley. Delon Wright matched his career high with 25 points. The Grizzlies lead the season series 2-1 but lost the one in Memphis. All three were early in the season.
Key trends: The road team has covered five straight in the series. The under is 16-7 in the past 23 meetings.
Early lean: Grizzlies and under.
Raptors at Pelicans (+4, 233)
The Raptors lost a second in a row Tuesday, 107-95 to Houston, falling apart in the fourth quarter. Kyle Lowry wasn't good, going 4-for-16 for eight points and five turnovers. New Orleans lost the second of a home-and-home to Utah on Wednesday, 114-104, to snap a three-game winning streak. Anthony Davis scored 16 points and blocked two shots in 21 minutes. Toronto played one of its worst home games of the season on Nov. 12, losing 126-110 to the Pelicans. Davis had 25 points and 20 rebounds back when he played all four quarters. Jrue Holiday had 29 points and 14 assists. The Dinos have won their past three in the Big Easy.
Key trends: The Raptors are 1-8 ATS in their past nine. The over is 4-0 in the Pels' past four after a loss.
Early lean: Raptors and over.
Nuggets at Warriors (TBA)
Second ESPN game. Still not clear if Thompson will return from his sore knee after missing the past two. Sorry, but he alone doesn't change Tuesday's result, although you could see the Celtics defenders leaving some of Thompson's replacements with open three-pointers to help in the lane. You can't leave Klay open. That loss dropped the Warriors to 0-7 this season when scoring 99 points or fewer. Denver snapped a three-game skid and won 115-99 at the Lakers on Wednesday. Will Barton scored 23 points, Gary Harris added 19. These teams have split two meetings, both in Denver. Golden State has won six of the past seven at home in the series.
Key trends: The Nuggets are 5-0-1 ATS in their past six at the Warriors. The over is 12-3 in the previous 15 meetings.
Early lean: Wait on Thompson.
Thunder at Clippers (+3, 237)
Oklahoma City has the misfortune of being the only team on the second of a back-to-back, visiting Portland on Thursday. One wonders if the team will let Paul George play both ends since he's just back from a shoulder injury. The Clips are well-rested after winning a third straight Monday, 113-105 "at" the Lakers. Danilo Gallinari scored 23 points, and Lou Williams added 21. This wraps up the season series, with OKC leading 2-1 by winning both at home. All were back in 2018.
Key trends: The home team is 7-2 ATS in the past nine meetings. The under is 7-2 in the previous nine in L.A.
Early lean: Clippers and under.
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