Free NBA Picks: Tuesday, April 9, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Loyalty obviously is hugely important in personal relationships, but being overly loyal to a lousy employee who is charge can be destructive in sports. I give you the usually dysfunctional Washington Wizards as Exhibit A. For some reason, Ernie Grunfeld, finally fired last week, held his job as team president or the like for 16 years even though the Wizards compiled a 568-724 record and never reached a conference final under him. Shoot, the Wiz never won 50 games in a season. The team is in salary-cap hell next season and for a while because of the silly contract Grunfeld gave to John Wall, who might not even play in 2019-20 because of an Achilles injury suffered on top of surgery for a heel issue. This team is Bradley Beal and a bunch of junk. Washington closes its season Tuesday, and one would assume a new team president would want to hire his own head coach. So Tuesday should be it for Scott Brooks. Right!? Right? In typical befuddling Wizards fashion, Brooks reportedly is safe for next year. Perhaps billionaire owner Ted Leonsis doesn't want to eat the last two seasons of Brooks' deal and will allow him one more season while the Wizards tank. A team is only as good as its owner sometimes.
Hornets at Cavaliers (+7, 220.5)
Means everything for Charlotte, which currently sits ninth in the East and needs to win its final two to have a shot at the postseason. The Hornets are on a three-game winning streak, coming off a 104-91 victory in Detroit on Sunday. Kemba Walker had 31 points and Frank Kaminsky a season-high 24 - all coming on three-pointers. Forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist missed the game for personal reasons and forward Marvin Williams was out for a third straight game because of his injured right foot. The Cavs close the season here and try to avoid a 10-game skid. Cleveland has won the past eight at home in this series.
Key trends: The Hornets are 3-12-1 against the spread in the past 16 meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in the previous five.
Early lean: Hornets and under.
Grizzlies at Pistons (TBA)
Detroit holds the final playoff spot in the East but picked a bad time for a four-game losing streak. Didn't even look like the Pistons cared much in Sunday's 104-91 home loss to Charlotte. Blake Griffin is clearly bothered by a knee issue and was just 5-for-18 from the field. Andre Drummond broke his own single-season franchise record with his 67th double-double and leads the league in the category. Memphis split a home-and-home over the weekend with Dallas. The Grizz lost by eight in Detroit in early January but have taken seven of the past nine at home in this series.
Key trends: The Pistons are 11-2 ATS in their past 13 at home. The underdog has covered 11 straight in this series. The over is 9-3 in the Grizzlies' past 12.
Early lean: Pistons roll.
Celtics at Wizards (TBA)
First TNT game. Also a meaningless one. Boston will finish as the East's No. 4 seed and host Indiana to open the playoffs despite coming off a 116-108 home loss to Orlando on Sunday. The Celtics knew they had clinched the No. 4 before taking the court and that surely played a role in their effort. Kyrie Irving had 23 points. Jayson Tatum limped off the court in the first quarter with a left shin contusion and did not return, and Marcus Smart left in the third with an oblique bruise. Coach Brad Stevens has admitted he might not play any of his starters here, and very little if he does. Washington enters on a three-game losing streak and is 0-2 vs. Boston this season.
Key trends: The Celtics are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 6-1 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Wizards.
76ers at Heat (TBA)
Could be the last home game in the Hall of Fame career of Miami's Dwyane Wade, so I'm sure the team will do something rather grand. The Heat sit 10 th in the East and have to win here and Wednesday for any chance. They enter on a four-game skid following an overtime home loss to the Raptors on Sunday. There was some confusion on the inbounds play regarding the officials at the end of regulation. Bam Adebayo would hit a layup that would have won it but it came after the buzzer. Wade had 21 points. No point for Philly to play anyone of note as it is locked into the third seed. The Sixers lead the season series 2-0.
Key trends: The road team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The under has hit in six straight Heat home games.
Early lean: Heat.
Knicks at Bulls (-2.5, 219)
Garbage game of the night No. 1. The Knicks will finish with the NBA's worst record, while the Bulls the fourth-worst. That means New York has a 14 percent chance of winning the draft lottery and the Bulls 12.5. These teams have split two meetings this season in New York. Chicago has won the past two at home in the series.
Key trends: The home team is 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings and the over is the same in the past eight in Chicago.
Early lean: Bulls and over.
Raptors at Timberwolves (+7.5, 231)
Toronto coach Nick Nurse claims he has no plans to rest his starters, but I don't believe him with the Raptors locked into the second seed. Plus, watching Danny Green tweak an ankle in Sunday's overtime win in Miami may have changed Nurse's mind. The Raptors, I guess, do have the carrot of potentially finishing with the NBA's second-best record, which could matter in a Finals matchup against Golden State. It's the home finale for the Wolves, who have lost 15 straight games in Toronto but taken the past three at home in the series.
Key trends: The Wolves have covered four straight in this series. The over is 6-2 in the previous eight.
Early lean: Wolves and over.
Warriors at Pelicans (TBA)
Steve Kerr seems likely to rest his key guys here after the Dubs won their fifth in a row Sunday, 131-104 over the Clippers to clinch the top seed in the Western Conference in their final regular-season home game in Oakland. Andre Iguodala sat out with a sore left toe. Can't imagine the Pelicans suit up Anthony Davis in their final game as the fans surely wouldn't be kind to him. He hasn't played since March 24 and obviously will be wearing a different uniform come October. Golden State looks for the three-game series sweep and has won its past five in the Big Easy.
Key trends: The Pelicans are 3-12 ATS in their past 15 games. The under is 11-2 in the Warriors' previous 13 vs. the West.
Early lean: Pelicans.
Suns at Mavericks (TBA)
Garbage game of the night No. 2. Both teams could be quite interesting next year, though, if the Suns get the point guard they so badly need in this year's draft (Ja Morant) or trade/free agency, and if Kristaps Porzingis comes back healthy for Dallas after missing all of this season. He and Luka Doncic could really be something. Not clear if Doncic will play after missing the past two and four of the past five with a variety of injuries. The Suns lead the season series 2-1 but lost the game in Big D.
Key trends: The Suns are 5-0 ATS in their past five in Dallas. The under is 6-1 in the previous seven there.
Early lean: Pass.
Nuggets at Jazz (TBA)
Both teams still have reason to care. The Nuggets are trying to hold off Houston for the West's No. 2 seed, while Utah sits No. 5 but has an outside shot of catching Portland for the No. 4 and home-court advantage in their first-round series. Denver is off a seven-point loss in Portland on Sunday in the second of a home-and home. Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap and Jamal Murray all sat out. Utah's seven-game winning streak was snapped in a 113-109 loss at the Lakers on Sunday. Rudy Gobert led Utah with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Ricky Rubio missed the game with a bruised left quad sustained during Friday's win over Sacramento. Nuggets lead this season series 2-1 but have dropped their past eight in Salt Lake City.
Key trends: The home team is 10-1 ATS in the past 11 meetings. The under is 7-2 in the previous nine in Utah.
Early lean: Jazz.
Rockets at Thunder (TBA)
Second TNT game. As noted above, Houston still has a chance to get the West's No. 2 seed ahead of Denver. The Rockets won their sixth in a row Sunday, 149-113, setting an NBA record by making 27 three-pointers. James Harden had 30 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists despite sitting the fourth quarter. Harden has scored at least 20 points in 56 straight games. Oklahoma City is in the playoffs but will finish anywhere from sixth to eighth in the West so this could be a first-round preview. The Thunder lead this season series 2-1.
Key trends: The Rockets are 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 2-5 in those.
Early lean: Thunder.
Trail Blazers at Lakers (TBA)
Portland's magic number to clinch the fourth seed over Utah is one. The Blazers are off a 115-108 home win over Denver on Sunday that saw the return of CJ McCollum from injury. He had nine points in 25 minutes. Damian Lillard had 30. The Lakers end their hugely disappointing season and it should be an interesting offseason. Los Angeles is 2-1 vs. Portland this year. Lillard is averaging 29.7 points.
Key trends: The Blazers are 11-4 ATS in their past 15 on the road. The under is 7-1 in the past eight meetings in L.A.
Early lean: Blazers.
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