Free NBA Picks: Saturday, March 9, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Let's be clear here: Any club in the NBA would love to have Kyrie Irving on its team. He's probably the best ball-handler in the league and a clutch scorer - just look at Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. However, he seems to rub teammates the wrong way at times and wear out his welcome. The always opinionated and always entertaining Charles Barkley said this about Irving this week: "He's got to be one of the most miserable people I've ever seen." If you have seen Irving in any post-game interviews, Barkley's right. It was Irving who forced his way out of Cleveland, and it's starting to feel like he won't return to Boston next season as a free agent. Remember, the C's reached the East Finals without an injured Irving last season and have won its past seven games without Irving this season (10-2 overall) following Wednesday's victory. We think he's back in there, though, on Saturday in the night's marquee matchup at former teammate LeBron James and the Lakers.
Kings at Knicks (+5, 229.5)
Unusual noon ET start - not a holiday or anything that I know of. Sacramento's playoff drought, the longest in the NBA, is going to continue with the team's sixth loss in eight games on Wednesday against the Celtics, 111-109. Harrison Barnes had 24 points but missed a 3 at the buzzer. Really a game I thought the Kings would win with Boston off an emotional victory 24 hours earlier at Golden State. Hasn't helped the Kings have been without good-looking rookie Marvin Bagley III the past three with a knee injury and he's reportedly not very close. The Knicks are on a four-game skid and lost in Sacramento last Monday, 115-108. Barnes had 22 points and 10 rebounds, and Buddy Hield scored 28. Allonzo Trier led the Knicks with 29. New York has won the past two at home in the series.
Key trends: The Kings are 15-5 against the spread in their past 20 vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 14-6 in the Knicks' past 20 overall.
Early lean: Knicks and under.
Nets at Hawks (+4.5, 235)
The Nets won their second in a row Wednesday, 113-107 over Cleveland. They outscored the Cavs by 11 in the fourth. Spencer Dinwiddie scored 12 of his 28 points in the final quarter, and his 14th 20-point game off the bench set a Nets single-season record. The Hawks were 111-104 home losers to the Spurs on Wednesday. Trae Young led the Hawks with 24 points but made only eight of 24 shots, going 1-for-7 from beyond the arc. John Collins was back after missing the past three with the flu. Center Dewayne Dedmon sat with a bruised right knee. Brooklyn goes for the three-game season sweep and fourth straight win in Atlanta.
Key trends: The Nets have covered their past four in Atlanta. The over is 4-1 in the Hawks' past five overall.
Early lean: Hawks and over.
Wizards at Timberwolves (-7, 242)
Washington was in Charlotte on Friday. Minnesota lost for the fourth time in five games Wednesday, 131-114 in Detroit. The Wolves led by 16 early. Karl-Anthony Towns scored 24 points before fouling out. Minnesota allowed 24 points off turnovers and scored only two. Rather amazingly, these teams have alternated wins in their last 19 meetings. Washington won at home last Sunday, 135-121.
Key trends: The Wolves have covered four straight at home. The over is 5-1 in the previous six meetings.
Early lean: Wolves and over.
Celtics at Lakers (TBA)
Boston avoided a trap in Sacramento on Wednesday, 111-109, on Gordon Hayward's game-winner on the baseline with two seconds left. He had just 12 points but was 6-for-10 shooting and the C's are 19-2 this season when he hits at least 50 percent of his shots and 17-22 when he does not. Irving got the night off as mentioned above (I speculated he would). The Lakers' playoff hopes are now over following their fourth straight loss Wednesday, 115-99 to Denver. LeBron James did pass Michael Jordan to become the league's No. 4 all-time scorer. Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram both were out; Kuzma is likely to miss a few more, while Ingram is day-to-day. The Lakers were upset winners in Boston on Feb. 7, 129-128, on Rajon Rondo's 20-foot jumper at the buzzer. The Lakers are 12-7 all-time against the Celtics at Staples Center in the regular season.
Key trends: The Lakers are 3-7-1 ATS in their past 11 at home. The under has hit in six straight Celtics games.
Early lean: Wait on Kuzma and Ingram.
Hornets at Bucks (-11.5, 230.5)
Could be a first-round playoff preview of 1 vs. 8. Charlotte hosted Washington on Friday. The Bucks snapped their first two-game losing streak of the season with a 117-98 win over the visiting Pacers on Thursday. A 13-0 run, fueled by a tech on the Greek Freak, in the third blew it open. Antetokounmpo scored 29 points and Khris Middleton added 27. Milwaukee leads this season series 2-1 and has won the past four at home.
Key trends: The home team is 6-1-1 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under has hit in six straight Bucks games vs. the East.
Early lean: Bucks and under.
Suns at Trail Blazers (-12, 229.5)
Phoenix enters on a season-high three-game winning streak, beating the Knicks 107-96 on Wednesday behind a season-high 41 points from Devin Booker. Kelly Oubre Jr. added 18, while Deandre Ayton was in foul trouble and played just 25 minutes. The Blazers lost their second straight Thursday, 129-121 in OT vs. Oklahoma City. Damian Lillard had a season-high 51 points for the Blazers, while Jusuf Nurkic added 13 points and 17 rebounds before he was ejected with his second technical with under a minute to go in regulation. Evan Turner was out due to personal reasons. Portland leads Phoenix 2-0 and has won nine straight in the series.
Key trends: The Suns are 1-5 ATS in their past six on the road. The over is 4-1 in the previous five meetings in Portland.
Early lean: Suns and over.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
Get all of Today's NBA Picks
Get all of Today's Guaranteed Expert NBA Picks