Free NBA Picks: Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
It's one of the better TNT Thursday doubleheaders of the season this week, with the opener featuring a potential Eastern Conference Finals preview between the Bucks and Raptors from Toronto, and the nightcap a possible NBA Finals preview between the 76ers and Warriors from Oakland. Not sure I see Philadelphia getting through the East, so we'll focus on the early game and the fact it's vital because it's the last time the conference's two top teams face off this season. Milwaukee leads 2-1, so a victory on Thursday gives the Bucks a potentially huge home-court advantage tiebreaker, and both clubs are nearly unbeatable at home this season. A Raptors victory would slide us to tiebreaker No. 3 because both clubs are going to win their respective division (that's No. 2): Record inside the conference. Right now, the Bucks have a slight edge there but a long way to go. Hard to see the Pacers (without Victor Oladipo no chance), 76ers or Celtics catching either the Bucks or Raptors atop the East barring major injury.
Mavericks at Pistons (-3, 209)
Dallas was at the Knicks on Wednesday. Detroit lost a second in a row Tuesday, 115-105 to Milwaukee. Reggie Jackson matched a season high with 25 points and Andre Drummond had 20 points and 13 rebounds. I've read some potential trade rumors between these teams because the Pistons could use a point guard and the Mavericks have made Dennis Smith Jr. available. Detroit lost in Dallas last week, 106-101. Luka Doncic had 32 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. The Mavs have lost their past two in Motown.
Key trends: The favorite is 4-0-1 against the spread in the past five meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in Detroit's previous seven vs. the West.
Early lean: Pistons and under.
Pacers at Magic (pick'em, 213.5)
Indiana was in Washington on Wednesday. Orlando lost its fourth in a row on Tuesday, 126-117 to the Thunder. The Magic were outscored by 12 in the fourth. Nikola Vucevic led Orlando with 27 points and 11 rebounds. His team has lost four straight home games and is 12-15 at home overall. The Magic have lost eight straight meetings with the Pacers (one this season) and 15 of the last 16 overall.
Key trends: The Pacers have covered their past eight in Orlando. The over is 7-2 in the Magic's past nine.
Early lean: Magic and over.
Bucks at Raptors (-3, 233.5)
Milwaukee improved to 13-0 after a loss this season with a 115-105 win in Detroit on Tuesday. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 21 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. No other team in the league has avoided B2B losses in 2018-19. Malcolm Brogdon (bruised sternum) was out. The Raptors have been off since winning by three in Dallas on Sunday to end a two-game skid. Kawhi Leonard had 33 points to extend his career-best streak of at least 20 points to 22 in a row. Toronto is on a two-game home losing streak in this series but enters on a 10-game home winning streak overall. The Raptors' last loss at home was Dec. 9 vs. Milwaukee, but they are winning by more than 11 points per game there since.
Key trends: The underdog has covered the past six in the series. The over is 5-1 in those.
Early lean: Raptors and over.
Nets at Spurs (TBA)
Brooklyn had the potential to be in a trap game Tuesday down a handful of guys and off a loss in Boston on Monday but beat the visiting Bulls 122-117. D'Angelo Russell had 30 points, 24 in the second half, as the Nets won their ninth in a row at home and matched last season's overall win total with their 28th. San Antonio won its third straight Tuesday, 126-124 as Rudy Gay hit the winning deep two-pointer at the buzzer. LaMarcus Aldridge had 29 points and 14 rebounds for the Spurs, again without DeMar DeRozan. First meeting between these clubs. San Antonio has won the past 15 at home in series and is a crazy 41-1 at home all-time vs. the Nets, with that .911 winning percentage the Spurs' highest at home against any team.
Key trends: Nets have failed to cover their past six in San Antonio. The over is 6-1 in the Spurs' past seven vs. the East.
Early lean: Wait on DeRozan.
76ers at Warriors (-10, 240)
Philadelphia easily covered at the short-handed Lakers on Tuesday, 121-105. Joel Embiid was back after a game off and had 28 points and 11 rebounds, and Jimmy Butler returned after missing three and had 20 points and six assists. Are the Warriors peaking too early? They are on an NBA-high 11-game winning streak and generally have been trashing people during that run. They won by 32 at Indiana on Monday to close a five-game trip. DeMarcus Cousins had a season-high 22 points. Draymond Green got the night off to rest. Of course, the Warriors were in Philadelphia, moved to San Francisco in 1962 and then fully to Oakland in 1971 and will go back to San Francisco next season. First meeting between the franchises this season with the Dubs having won the past 10. Both were very high scoring in 2017-18.
Key trends: The Warriors have covered just three of their past 13 at home. The over is 9-3 in Philly's past 12 following a win.
Early lean: Sixers (not to win) and over.
Lakers at Clippers (TBA)
The Lakers are hopeful LeBron James will finally return from his groin injury suffered on Christmas - he will be a game-day decision. They were blown out without him and Kyle Kuzma (and Lonzo Ball, but we aren't going to keep mentioning him since out a month) on Tuesday by the 76ers, 121-105. Brandon Ingram had a career-high 36 points for the Lakers. The Clips had a three-game winning streak snapped in a surprising home loss to Atlanta on Monday in the second of a back-to-back. Tobias Harris had 30 in the loss. Danilo Gallinari (lower back spasms) sat out his sixth straight game. It's the second of four meetings between these co-Staples Center tenants, with the Clippers winning "on the road" on Dec. 28, 118-107 with James out. The Clips have taken 22 of the past 25 in the series.
Key trends: The Lakers are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 11-4-1 in the previous 16.
Early lean: Wait on LeBron (& Kuzma).
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