Free NBA Picks: Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Most star players are booed in opposing arenas because fans obviously want their teams to win and perhaps are a bit jealous of said star player, wishing he was on their team. LeBron James has been booed plenty in his career, especially when he first left Cleveland for Miami to form a largely reviled super-team. However, now James has reached such a level – think Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson to name two – that he is respected and even cheered at times in every arena in the NBA. That said, I will be very curious how the fans in New Orleans treat LeBron on Saturday because it’s the Lakers’ first visit of the season to the Big Easy and thus his first time there since trying to orchestrate Anthony Davis’ exit from the Pelicans to Los Angeles in a trade. Everyone knows LeBron was behind the trade request. I’m sure he and Davis talked plenty about the situation at the All-Star Game – it’s not tampering when a couple of players are chatting privately. Will Davis even play Saturday? Good question. Interim Pelicans GM Danny Ferry has asked the NBA to back off its demand that Davis plays. The league has threatened to fine the team $100,000 for each game it sits a healthy Davis. It’s better for everyone at this point if Davis simply goes away for good until he is traded this summer (to Boston).
Trail Blazers at 76ers (-3, 230)
A 1 p.m. ET matinee, and Philly remains without its best player in All-Star center Joel Embiid due to a sore knee. The Sixers beat the visiting Heat without him, 106-102, on Thursday. Cult hero Boban Marjanovic, the heaviest player in the NBA, started for Embiid and had 19 points and 12 rebounds. The Blazers won in Brooklyn on Thursday, 113-99. Enes Kanter had 18 points and nine rebounds in his team debut. Damian Lillard was questionable but played and had 13 points on 5-for-21 shooting. Portland won the first meeting, 129-95, on Dec. 30, thanks to 70 first-half points. CJ McCollum had 35 points. Embiid sat that out but averaged 28.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in two games against Portland during the 2017-18 season.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 against the spread in the past five meetings. The “over/under” has gone under in seven of Philly’s past nine overall.
Early lean: Blazers and under.
Suns at Hawks (-3.5, 234)
Atlanta hosted Detroit on Friday. Phoenix dropped its franchise-record 16th in a row Thursday, 111-98 in Cleveland. T.J. Warren (sore right ankle) missed his 11th straight game. The Suns have allowed at least 110 points in each game of the losing streak. The Hawks won the first meeting this season, 118-112, ending a seven-game winning streak by the home team in the series. Trae Young had 17 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter. John Collins had 35 points and 16 boards.
Key trends: The Hawks are 1-8 ATS in their past nine in the second of a B2B. The over is 5-2 in Phoenix’s previous seven road games vs. teams with a losing home record.
Early lean: Suns end losing streak and over (two god-awful defensive teams).
Nets at Hornets (-3, 229)
Charlotte hosted Washington on Friday. Brooklyn lost for the seventh time in the past 10 Thursday, 113-99 vs. Portland. All-Star guard D'Angelo Russell shot only 4-for-16, finishing with 14 points and eight assists. Jared Dudley returned after missing 16 games with a strained left hamstring but was a non-factor. These clubs have split two meetings, the Nets winning a wild shootout at home and the Hornets winning a low-scoring game easily in Charlotte just two days later.
Key trends: The favorite is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 7-1 in the Hornets’ past eight on Saturday.
Early lean: Hornets and over.
Grizzlies at Cavaliers (TBA)
Memphis hosted the Clippers on Friday with stud rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. questionable. Cleveland won for the second time in three games Thursday, 111-98 over Phoenix. The Cavs shouldn’t be beating anyone by double digits, which tells you about the Suns. Kevin Love had 16 points and 11 rebounds in his third game back from injury. The Grizzlies won the first meeting, 95-87, on Dec. 26. Memphis jumped out to a 13-1 lead and led wire-to-wire despite shooting just 5-for-22 from deep. Marc Gasol had 20 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four blocks, but he’s now in Toronto.
Key trends: The Grizz are 2-11 ATS in their past 13 in the second of a B2B. The under is 4-1 in the previous five meetings.
Early lean: TBA presumably for Jackson and the better-than-average chance Mike Conley doesn’t play both ends of the B2B.
Pacers at Wizards (TBA)
Washington was in Charlotte on Friday and Indiana hosted New Orleans. This closes the season series between clubs that have each lost All-Star guards (Victor Oladipo, John Wall) for the season. Indiana leads 2-1, winning both at home. The Pacers have lost two straight and four of their last five road games at Washington, though.
Key trends: The favorite has covered four straight in the series, and the under has hit in four of the past five.
Early lean: TBA for Indiana’s Myles Turner, who was questionable Friday, and Tyreke Evans, likely out both.
Lakers at Pelicans (TBA)
New Orleans was in Indiana on Friday with Davis set to play, but it’s iffy that he’ll go in the second of a back-to-back because the Pels then would have a legitimate excuse to sit him. The Lakers rallied from 19 down in the third to beat Houston on Thursday, 111-106. LeBron had 29 points in L.A.’s biggest comeback win of the year. Mike Muscala missed the game due to a sprained right ankle. Los Angeles won the first meeting of the season, 112-104 at home on Dec. 21. The Lakers are 18-9 all-time against New Orleans at Staples Center.
Key trends: The favorite has covered seven in a row in the series. The over is 6-2 in the Lakers’ past eight on the road.
Early lean: Wait on Davis (get used to that).
Pistons at Heat (-5.5, 208)
Detroit was in Atlanta on Friday. Miami covered but lost in Philadelphia on Thursday, 106-102. The Heat led by a point with just under two minutes left. Dwyane Wade had 19 points. Goran Dragic remained inactive, but he’s on the verge of returning from December knee surgery. James Johnson left with an apparent left shoulder injury with 8:31 left in the first half and didn't return. These teams have split two games in Detroit, each decided by five points. The Heat have won three straight and 11 of the past 14 at home in the series.
Key trends: The Pistons are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 6-0 in Miami’s previous six vs. the East.
Early lean: Heat and under.
Celtics at Bulls (+9, 222.5)
Chicago was in Orlando on Friday. Boston was a 98-97 loser in Milwaukee on Thursday when Kyrie Irving missed a tough left-handed floater in traffic at the buzzer. He took a whopping 27 shots, making nine for 22 points. Gordon Hayward did not play after spraining his right ankle during a workout on Tuesday. Seems like he’s just never going to be the same guy. The Celtics have trashed the Bulls twice this season and are on a five-game winning streak in the series.
Key trends: The Celtics have covered five straight in the series. The under is 7-0 in Boston’s previous seven road games.
Early lean: Celtics and under.
Kings at Thunder (-7.5, 238)
Oklahoma City hosted Utah on Friday. Sacramento was swept in the four-game series by Golden State on Thursday, 125-123, but lost those four by a combined 12 points. Buddy Hield, who had rallied the Kings from down 123-117 with 25.5 seconds left to within two, shot an airball as time expired. Marvin Bagley III had 28 points and 14 rebounds. This wraps up the season series, with the Kings leading 2-1. A victory here would give Sacramento three wins against the Thunder franchise for the first time since moving from Seattle.
Key trends: The Kings are 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings, and the over is 4-1 in the previous five.
Early lean: Kings and over.
Timberwolves at Bucks (TBA)
Minnesota was at the Knicks on Friday. The Bucks might be due a letdown here after a big one-point home win over Boston on Thursday. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 30 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, and Khris Middleton hit a clutch late 3-pointer. Nikola Mirotic made his team debut and had eight points off the bench. Milwaukee has won seven of the past nine in this series, including 125-95 in the Twin Cities on Oct. 26. It was the Wolves’ biggest home loss since 2011.
Key trends: The Wolves are 4-1 ATS in their past five in the second of a B2B. The under is 6-1 in the Bucks’ past seven at home.
Early lean: Some late news that Karl-Anthony Towns reportedly was in a car accident on Thursday and was questionable for Friday. Thus, no line here until his status is clear.
Rockets at Warriors (-8, 237.5)
ABC primetime game. Houston blew a 19-point third-quarter lead at the Lakers on Thursday and lost 111-106. James Harden had 30 points to extend his 30-point streak to 32 in a row, now solo second in league history, but fouled out late. Chris Paul also fouled out but had 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Clint Capela played for the first time in weeks (thumb surgery) and had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Rockets seemed to get jobbed by the refs. Golden State edged the Kings on Thursday, 125-123, behind 36 points from Steph Curry and Kevin Durant’s 28 points, nine rebounds and career-high-tying seven blocks. Could be Houston’s last trip ever to Oakland barring a playoff matchup. Rockets lead the season series 2-0, winning a 135-134 overtime thriller at Golden State on Jan. 3 on a Harden 3-pointer through a double team with just a few seconds left. Might have been the game of the year.
Key trends: The Rockets are 2-8 ATS in their past 10 on the road. The under is 6-1 in the previous seven meetings.
Early lean: Warriors and under.
Mavericks at Jazz (-10, 215.5)
Dallas hosted Denver on Friday and Utah was in Oklahoma City. The Mavs have dropped their past five in Salt Lake City but won the last meeting this season, a 118-68 destruction on Nov. 14. It was the third time in franchise history that Dallas won a game by 50-plus points (team record is 53) and it was the Jazz’s worst loss since moving to Utah. Odd that these clubs played three times in the first three weeks or so of the 2018-19 campaign and then not again for months later.
Key trends: The home team is 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings and the over is the same.
Early lean: Jazz and over.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
Get all of Today's NBA Picks
Get all of Today's Guaranteed Expert NBA Picks