Free NBA Picks: Saturday, April 20, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Because I think the Milwaukee Bucks will sweep the Detroit Pistons on Monday before we resume our Opening Line Report stories for Tuesday's playoff games, let's take a look at what the offseason is potentially looking like for Detroit. Obviously, Coach Dwane Casey is 100 percent safe. Unfortunately for the Pistons, it looks like they are going to be stuck in mediocrity again because they are way over the cap for the 2019-20 season. Between them, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond have a cap figure of nearly $58 million. I'm not sure either is tradeable - Griffin is a fine player but so clearly overpaid at this point and a bit injury prone. Drummond simply plays a style that isn't suited for the modern-day NBA, and you can't trust him late in games because he can't shoot free throws. I'm sure the Pistons would love to trade guard Reggie Jackson and his nearly $17 million salary, but good luck with that. So, barring something shocking, the Pistons will simply be adding some bench depth this offseason and look largely the same. Frankly, the team might have been better off missing the playoffs and earning a long-shot chance at winning the lottery. Here's a look at Saturday's four playoff games.
Game 4: No. 3 76ers at No. 6 Nets (+2, 233)
A 3 p.m. ET tip on TNT. Well, we're going to have to speculate on our pick for this one because it seems likely that 76ers star Joel Embiid will be a game-time decision. I said earlier this week that I don't believe Philadelphia can win the East because Embiid clearly isn't 100 percent with his right knee soreness - frankly, with his injury history will he ever be 100 percent by the end of any regular season? Still, I thought he would tough it out. However, the Sixers sat Embiid for Game 3 on Thursday. That dropped the line generally a couple of points at the Doc's-affiliated sportsbooks.
Turned out to be a great decision for the Sixers as they still won 131-115 to take a 2-1 lead. Greg Monroe started in Embiid's place and had nine points and 13 rebounds, and Boban Marjanovic had 14 points and eight rebounds off the bench. Ben Simmons (31 points) and Tobias Harris (29 points) both really stepped up their games. I'll be very curious what the 76ers do for Saturday. If it's me, Embiid is sitting again since the Sixers are assured no worse than 2-2 heading back home. The Nets blew their chance to win this series, in my opinion. They shot only 41.1 percent and once again only D'Angelo Russell (26 points) did much among the starters.
Key trends: The 76ers are 2-5 against the spread in their past seven following a win. The Nets are 9-4 ATS in their previous 13 following a double-digit loss. The "over/under" is 5-1 in the past six meetings.
Early lean: Nets and over.
Game 4: No. 2 Nuggets at No. 7 Spurs (-3.5, 211)
TNT has this one as well at 5:30 p.m. ET. San Antonio could easily be up 3-0 but leads 2-1 following a 118-108 home win on Thursday. Somehow, the Spurs tend to find these terrific point guards out of nowhere (Tony Parker, Patty Mills, etc.) and Derrick White is the latest one. The No. 29 overall pick out of Colorado in 2017 was the best player on the floor in Game 3 with a career-high 36 points along with five assists and a plus-30 rating. DeMar DeRozan had 25 points and LaMarcus Aldridge 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Jamal Murray has been a huge disappointment this series other than the fourth quarter of Game 2 for Denver. He was just 2-for-6 for six points on Thursday and was roasted on defense by White. Will Barton needs to be pulled from the starting lineup. He had four points and is averaging 7.3 in the series on 27.8 percent shooting. Denver didn't play well in the final couple of weeks of the regular season and has carried that over to the playoffs. The Nuggets are in big trouble.
Key trends: The Nuggets are 2-5 ATS in their past seven on the road. The favorite is 12-5 in the previous 17 meetings. The under is 5-2 in the past seven meetings.
Early lean: Spurs and under.
Game 3: No. 1 Bucks at No. 8 Pistons (+8.5, 217)
ESPN game at 8 p.m. ET. Griffin was never close to playing in Game 1 with his knee injury and actually did some shootaround work before Game 2 and was listed as questionable, which seemed like better news. He still didn't play and it would still be an upset if he did in this series. The Pistons have to know they have no chance and they can't ruin Griffin's long-term future. To Griffin's credit, he doesn't seem to care about that and has been lobbying Casey to let him play. (Oddly, Griffin has gotten two technicals in the series). Former Buck Thon Maker has started both blowout losses for Griffin and been invisible.
The Bucks have had one of the most dominant first two games of an NBA series in league history, winning by 35 in Game 1 and then 120-99 in Game 2 on Wednesday. Milwaukee blew the latter one open by outscoring the Pistons 35-17 in the third. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 13 of his 26 points in that quarter and chipped in 12 rebounds. Eric Bledsoe had a team-high 27 points, and Khris Middleton 24. The Bucks won both games in Detroit during the season.
Key trends: The Pistons are 11-3 ATS in their past 14 at home. The over is 7-2 in the Bucks' past nine.
Early lean: Pistons (although presuming still without Griffin - they will show heart for one game but not win) and over.
Game 3: No. 4 Rockets at No. 5 Jazz (-3, 215.5)
ESPN game following Bucks-Pistons. Houston has James Harden. Utah doesn't. Really that simple for why the Rockets have opened with back-to-back blowout wins - I expected Houston to win this series in five, maybe six, games but thought it at least would be competitive. Not yet. Harden had a near triple-double in Game 1 and then put up 32 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in the 118-98 Game 2 win. In doing so the "Beard" became the sixth player in NBA postseason history to record multiple 30-point triple-doubles in his career.
Utah simply doesn't have someone like a Patrick Beverley to at least give Harden some fits. In addition, the Rockets are able to hide Harden on defense. On the flip side, Donovan Mitchell was a breakout star for the Jazz as a rookie in last year's playoffs. He has not been good in this series as the Rockets focus on him. Mitchell was 7-for-18 in Game 1 and just 5-for-19 in Game 2 for 11 points. The Jazz don't have a second scorer to take some of the heat off Mitchell. The Jazz and Rockets split two games in Salt Lake City during the regular season. I can promise the Jazz won't lose by 20 again.
Key trends: The Rockets are 5-1 ATS in their past six in Utah and the under is 5-1 in those.
Early lean: Rockets and under.
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