Free NBA Picks: Saturday, March 2, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
I do wager on NBA first- and third-quarter spreads occasionally. It's pretty easy to track which teams generally get off to fast starts as well as those who come out of halftime like gangbusters. Not a surprise that those are usually the teams that are the most well-coached. Can't say I remember ever doing any betting on a fourth-quarter spread, but I might start against the New Orleans Pelicans. Because the NBA won't let the team simply sit superstar Anthony Davis even though he doesn't want to be there, the Pelicans are playing him around seven minutes for each of the first three quarters and then not at all in the fourth. Needless to say, this club isn't the same in that quarter without its franchise player. This move serves a few purposes for the Pelicans. First, it keeps the league off their back. Second, it limits Davis' minutes to lower the risk of injury. Third, it increases the chances of the team losing, which is exactly what management wants in order to improve its draft pick this summer.
Pistons at Cavaliers (+5.5, 216.5)
Unique 5 p.m. ET start time. Detroit had a chance to reach .500 on Wednesday, but its three-game winning streak ended in a 105-93 loss in San Antonio on Wednesday. The Pistons were limited to seven free throws and shot 36 percent from the field. Cleveland won for the third time in four games Thursday, 125-118 in New York. The Cavs rallied from down 14 in the fourth and still down nine with just nine four minutes left. Kevin Love led the Cavs with 26 points. Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton each had 22. The Pistons lead the season series 2-0 but both were at home.
Key trends: The Pistons are 0-5 ATS in their past five in Cleveland. The "over/under" is 5-1 in the Cavs' past six overall.
Early lean: Cavs and over.
Magic at Pacers (-4.5, 211)
If Orlando makes the playoffs by one game, circle Thursday's incredibly unlikely win over the Warriors. The Magic were down 11 in the fourth quarter but ended an 11-game skid in the series with a 103-96 victory. Aaron Gordon had 22 points and 15 rebounds. Indiana snapped a two-game slide with a 122-115 win over Minnesota on Thursday. Bojan Bogdanovic scored a season-high 35 points. Indiana played without Domantas Sabonis (sprained left ankle) and Tyreke Evans (food poisoning). The Magic snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Pacers on Jan. 31 with a 107-100 home victory. Orlando has lost 10 of its past 11 in Indianapolis.
Key trends: The Magic are 2-7 ATS in their past nine at Indiana. The under is 9-2 in the Pacers' previous 11 vs. the East.
Early lean: Pacers and under.
Nets at Heat (-4, 220.5)
Brooklyn hosted Charlotte on Friday with Spencer Dinwiddie to return from thumb surgery (and apparently play B2Bs right away). Miami took a one-game trip to Houston on Thursday and lost 121-118 in the second of a back-to-back. The Heat blew a 21-point third-quarter lead. Kelly Olynyk and Goran Dragic each had 21 points for Miami. James Johnson (shoulder sprain) and Hassan Whiteside (hip strain) did not play. These teams have split two meetings, each winning by double digits on the road back in November.
Key trends: The Nets are 4-1 in the past five meetings, and the under is 4-1 in the previous five in Miami.
Early lean: Heat and under.
Warriors at 76ers (TBA)
ABC primetime game, but definitely loses luster with Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid still sidelined with his sore knee. Seems like something always goes wrong for these ABC games in terms of the stars always playing. Last week, James Harden sat with a tummy ache (we think he was protesting a fine). Golden State led Orlando by 11 at the start of the fourth quarter before the Magic rallied to a 103-96 victory on Thursday. The Warriors had won 53 straight games when leading by double digits entering the fourth quarter. Didn't help that Kevin Durant got the night off simply for rest in the second of a B2B. Philly caught a break Thursday in Oklahoma City as the Thunder sat Paul George, and the Sixers won 108-104 behind 32 points from Tobias Harris and a triple-double from Ben Simmons. Golden State had won 10 straight in this series but lost at home on Jan. 31, 113-104, thanks to a huge game from Embiid.
Key trends: The Sixers have failed to cover their past five on Saturday. The under is 4-1 in the Warriors' past five vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Tad perplexed why this is TBA unless Embiid makes a shocking return. I think Warriors lay a beatdown. They have a memory of last loss.
Grizzlies at Mavericks (-5, 212)
The Grizzlies were 109-107 home losers to the Bulls on Wednesday. Avery Bradley led Memphis with 23 points and seven assists, while Mike Conley added 21 points and six assists. Ivan Rabb missed the game with right heel soreness. This is the front end of a B2B for Memphis, so Conley could sit. The Mavs snapped a five-game slide with a 110-101 home win over Indiana on Wednesday. Luke Doncic had 26 points and 10 rebounds in his final game as a teenager - he turned 20 Thursday. Dallas had three 20-point scorers in the same game for the second straight game after failing to do that in the first 59 contests of the season. Dallas lost the first meeting of the season by 10 in Memphis back in November but has taken the past three at home.
Key trends: The Grizzlies are 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings and the total has gone over in five of those.
Early lean: Mavs and over.
Thunder at Spurs (TBA)
Without Paul George (shoulder) on Thursday, the Thunder lost their third in a row, 108-104, vs. Philadelphia. OKC had won 19 consecutive games in the series. Russell Westbrook posted his 25th triple-double of the season with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists but was 1-for-9 from deep. After a horrible Rodeo Road Trip, the Spurs were 105-93 home winners over Detroit on Wednesday. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 24 points, and DeMar DeRozan had 17 points and 13 points. San Antonio has won seven straight at home in this series, including a wild 154-147 double-overtime game on Jan. 10. The Spurs set an NBA record by shooting 84.2 percent from behind the arc (minimum of 10 makes).
Key trends: The Thunder are 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 12-3 in the Spurs' past 15 overall.
Early lean: Wait on George.
Pelicans at Nuggets (-13, 234.5)
I would say there's a great chance that Davis doesn't play at all here because it's the second of a back-to-back with the Pels in Phoenix on Friday. New Orleans could justify that to the NBA, and Davis did sit out the second of a B2B last weekend. Still like my fourth-quarter recommendation as the Pels surely will be gassed in the fourth in the thin air of Denver. The Nuggets were upset at home by Utah on Thursday, 111-104, ending a nine-game winning streak at the Pepsi Center. Nikola Jokic dealt with foul trouble but still finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. Denver leads this season series 2-1 and has won past four at home.
Key trends: The home team is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 5-2 in the Pels' past seven on the road.
Early lean: Nuggets and over.
Lakers at Suns (+6.5, 233)
Los Angeles hosted Milwaukee on Friday, while Phoenix hosted New Orleans. Advantage Suns there. Should the Lakers upset the Bucks, they would seem destined for a huge letdown game here, although they can't afford any of those. I promise you the lead to SportsCenter on Sunday morning will be LeBron James potentially missing the playoffs were the Lakers to lose this one at a horrible team. This closes the season series, with the Lakers winning the first three all by double digits.
Key trends: The Lakers have failed to cover their past four on the road. The under is 5-2 in the Suns' past seven at home.
Early lean: Suns and under.
Bucks at Jazz (TBA)
Could be a bit of a letdown game for Milwaukee, as all players get amped to play at the Lakers, which the Bucks did on Friday. Might the Greek Freak get the second of a B2B off? Utah was a 111-104 upset winner in Denver on Thursday in the second of a B2B. That's so rare to do. Donovan Mitchell had 24 points. Guards Ricky Rubio and Raul Neto were both out with left hamstring tightness. The Jazz lost in Milwaukee on Jan. 7, 114-102. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 30 points. Utah lost Rubio less than five minutes in due to injury but still led by three entering the fourth.
Key trends: The Jazz are 6-1 ATS in their past seven overall. The under is 4-1 in the Bucks' past five in the second of a B2B.
Early lean: Like Jazz regardless.
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