Free NBA Picks: Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
You need at least one star to win an NBA title. That has been definitely proven (OK, maybe a couple of exceptions but that's it). Thus, most teams trip over themselves trying to acquire a star via trade if possible - look at the Raptors with Kawhi Leonard and 76ers with Jimmy Butler as recent examples. Teams don't get better AFTER trading a star. Usually. Yet, the Los Angeles Clippers appear to have hugely won their deal that sent superstar Blake Griffin to Detroit last January for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic and a first-round pick that in 2018 became good-looking rookie point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. It also assured that the Clippers would have a ton of cap space in the summer of 2019 … which could help lure a star like Leonard or Kevin Durant. On Saturday afternoon, Griffin visits his former team for the first time. Griffin is a fine player, but the Pistons are still stuck in mediocrity (if that).
Pistons at Clippers ( -8, 221)
Unique 3:30 p.m. ET start - good for Rams fans to watch Saturday night's game. Griffin did face the Clippers not long after last year's trade, but that was in Detroit. And Griffin also returned to Los Angeles for the first time on Wednesday in a loss to the Lakers, but I'm sure this will still have special meaning because Clippers fans aren't also Lakers fans. No doubt there will be some sort of video tribute, etc. These teams split last year, each winning on the road. Detroit has been arguably the NBA's worst bet since it was 13-7. The Pistons are now 17-23 after Thursday's 112-102 loss in Sacramento. Griffin got the night off in the second of a back-to-back, but I promise he's playing here. The Clippers had a three-game winning streak snapped in a 21-point loss in Denver on Thursday.
Key trends: The Pistons are 1-6 against the spread in their past seven on the road. The "over/under" is 7-2 in the Clippers' past nine at home.
Early lean: Clippers and over.
Grizzlies at Heat (-5, 199.5)
Memphis snapped a six-game skid with Wednesday's 96-86 upset of the Spurs. Marc Gasol had 26 points and 14 rebounds. He had been pretty lousy during the losing streak. The Grizz announced that Dillon Brooks, who looked pretty good last year as a rookie, is done for this season because of toe surgery. Miami ended a two-game losing streak with a 115-99 home upset of Boston on Thursday. The Heat hit a season-high 18 three-pointers. Miami has won three straight in this series, including 100-97 in Memphis on Dec. 14. The Heat made 15 of 39 from deep compared to just 8-for-29 for the Grizz.
Key trends: The Grizz have failed to cover their past six vs. the East. The under is 10-3 in Miami's past 13 vs. the West.
Early lean: Love under … take Heat.
Celtics at Magic (+5.5, 214)
Boston's four-game winning streak ended in a 115-99 loss in Miami on Thursday in the second of a back-to-back. The Celtics might have been out on South Beach or something late night as they scored a season-high 135 on Wednesday. Orlando concluded a six-game trip at 1-5 with a 106-93 loss in Utah on Wednesday. The Magic led by as many as 21 in the first half. Rookie Mo Bamba was not in uniform because of a sore left foot. Orlando has lost seven of the last nine meetings against Boston but won in Beantown 93-90 on Oct. 22. The Magic led wire-to-wire.
Key trends: The road team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 5-1 in those.
Early lean: Celtics and under.
Pelicans at Timberwolves (-4.5, 233.5)
Minnesota hosted Dallas on Friday. New Orleans won its third in a row Wednesday, 140-124 over Cleveland. Anthony Davis had 38 points and 13 rebounds. The Pels scored a whopping 81 second-half points when they shot 67.6 percent. Nikola Mirotic finally returned from injury and had 17 points in 22 minutes. These teams have split two meetings this season, each winning at home. Davis missed the win. Karl-Anthony Towns has averaged 26.5 points, 16.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.5 blocks in the two.
Key trends: The Pels are 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 11-1 in Minnesota's previous 12.
Early lean: Wolves and over.
Spurs at Thunder (TBA)
NBA TV game. Second of a home-and-home as the teams played Thursday in San Antonio and it was epic. The Spurs won 154-147 in double overtime. LaMarcus Aldridge had a career-high 56 points. San Antonio made its first 14 three-pointers and finished 16 of 19 (84.2 percent is NBA record for teams that attempted at least 15). Aldridge didn't attempt one of them - first player since Shaq to score 50 without attempting a three-pointer. Russell Westbrook had 24 points, 24 assists and 13 rebounds - no player had ever had that line before. The Spurs lost both in Oklahoma City last season.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 6-2 (clearly not Thursday) in the past eight.
Early lean: Couple of reasons why this might be TBA; some talk Aldridge might get it off, and Steven Adams tweaked his ankle Thursday.
Nuggets at Suns (TBA)
The Nuggets are probably the NBA's best home team this season and showed that Thursday in a 121-100 win over the Clippers. Nikola Jokic finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists for his 21st career triple-double in the Nugs' 11th straight victory at the Pepsi Center. They're now 17-3 at home. Phoenix lost 104-94 in Dallas on Wednesday. Devin Booker sat again with back spasms. Darn good player but can't stay on the court. Denver is 2-0 vs. Phoenix this season, but Suns have taken 17 of past 25 at home.
Key trends: The Nuggets are 9-2 ATS in the past 11 meetings. The over is 4-0 in the previous four in Phoenix.
Early lean: Wait on Booker.
Bulls at Jazz (-10, 206)
Utah hosted the Lakers on Friday, but the Jazz generally aren't the type of team to rest guys in the second of a back-to-back. Chicago was surely getting crushed in Golden State on Friday, and the Bulls don't rest players, either. There's some talk the Jazz are interested in trading for Chicago's Jabari Parker, who no longer plays. Wouldn't cost much. These teams split last year, with the Bulls losing by a cool 30 in Salt Lake City.
Key trends: The Bulls are 0-4 ATS in their past four in the second of a B2B. The under is 7-1 in Utah's previous eight at home.
Early lean: Jazz and under.
Hornets at Kings (-4, 235.5)
Charlotte was in Portland on Friday. Sacramento beat the visiting Pistons by 10 on Thursday. Buddy Hield had 18 points and Willie Cauley-Stein 14 points and 14 boards. The Kings are 9-3 vs. the East this season. First meeting between these teams. Charlotte has won the past three overall and past three in Sacramento.
Key trends: The Kings have covered 11 straight vs. the Southeast Division (odd). The over is 7-3 in the Hornets' past 10 in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: Kings and over.
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