Free NBA Picks: Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Thursday is the last day of NBA action for a week as the league goes on its extended All-Star break - something that Commissioner Adam Silver gave to the players a few years ago when a group led by LeBron James requested it. Think it's a fine idea because teams have played more than two-thirds of their schedule by this point and are wearing down both emotionally and physically. Good to get away from your teammates for a while.
If I happen to be home on Saturday night, I'll probably be flipping between the Kentucky-Tennessee SEC showdown or even perhaps a little bit of the AAF game between Arizona and Memphis. I mention this because I could care less about the All-Star events on Saturday night in Charlotte: Skills Challenge, Three-Point Contest and Slam Dunk Contest. However, those do draw a pretty solid betting action, so let's address them quickly here.
The Bovada favorite to win the Skills Challenge, which I have literally never seen, is second-year Kings guard De'Aaron Fox at +250, followed by stellar Mavs rookie Luka Doncic at +325. Speed and ball-handling are huge parts of this, so no surprise those two are favored. Defending champion Spencer Dinwiddie of the Nets is out injured. For the Three-Point Contest, Steph Curry is the heavy +175 favorite as he's only the greatest three-point shooter ever. He and little brother Seth (+550) grew up in Charlotte. Seth actually leads the NBA in three-point percentage.
The Dunk Contest has been rather star-less of late, and that continues as the four competitors are new Knick Dennis Smith Jr. (+200), who was third last year, the Hawks' John Collins (+225), Hornets rookie Miles Bridges (+225) and Thunder scrub rookie Hamidou Diallo. Meh.
Hornets at Magic (-3, 215.5)
I realize the Magic haven't been very good for a while, but it's not like the Hornets have been all that great. Yet Charlotte has won 13 straight in the series, including two this season. Two guys from this game will be in the All-Star Game on Sunday: Charlotte's Kemba Walker and Orlando's Nikola Vucevic (both on Team Giannis). Walker is also in the Three-Point Contest and Vucevic the Skills Challenge. Charlotte lost in Indiana on Monday, 99-90, despite 34 points from Walker. After slumping a bit, Walker has scored at least 30 points in five consecutive games. Orlando won its fourth in a row Tuesday, 118-88 at New Orleans. Vucevic had 25 points and 17 rebounds in dominating Anthony Davis.
Key trends: The favorite is 10-1 against the spread in the past 11 meetings. The "over/under" is 8-3 in the previous 11 in Orlando.
Early lean: Magic and over.
Knicks at Hawks (-6.5, 225.5)
Neither team has an All-Star, although Hawks rookie Trae Young is +375 to win the Skills Challenge, and Collins and Smith are in the Dunk Contest. New York probably was losing its 18th consecutive game on Wednesday night as it hosted Philadelphia. Atlanta snapped a three-game skid with a 117-113 upset of the Lakers on Tuesday. Young had 22 points and 14 assists and Collins 22 points. Hawks lead this season series 2-1 but they haven't played in months.
Key trends: The Hawks have failed to cover seven straight Thursday games. The over is 13-6 in the past 19 meetings.
Early lean: Hawks and over.
Thunder at Pelicans (+4.5, 238.5)
Russell Westbrook and Paul George are All-Stars for Team Giannis, while Anthony Davis is an All-Star for Team LeBron. Because, of course, James would take Davis. OKC is 2-1 vs. the Pelicans this season, winning both at home. All three were high-scoring. Oklahoma City won its fourth straight Monday, 120-111 over Portland, behind triple-doubles from both their All-Stars. It was the NBA-record 10th straight for Westbrook, who had 21 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists. It was just the third career for George, who had 47 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. He's playing out of his mind right now and making an MVP push. It was just the ninth time in league history that teammates had a triple-double in the same game. Not sure I've seen a team simply lie down like the Pelicans did Tuesday in losing by 30 at home to Orlando. Davis has totally quit on this club and had just three points - yet had the audacity afterward to call out some of his teammates' effort (and his own, to be fair). What a hypocritical punk.
Key trends: OKC is 11-5 ATS in its pat 16 in New Orleans. The over is 6-2 in the previous eight there.
Early lean: Thunder and over.
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