Free NBA Picks: Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
One interesting team to watch ahead of Thursday's trade deadline is Charlotte. We know owner Michael Jordan is a semi-competitive guy (sarcasm). How important is it for Jordan simply to make the playoffs only to get swept in the first round by Milwaukee or Toronto? The answer to that question likely will determine whether the Hornets hang on to star point guard Kemba Walker or not as Walker is set for free agency this summer. Walker is having a great year and is way underpaid at $12 million, but is he really worth paying a max contract this summer? He is eligible to sign a maximum five-year, $188 million contract next summer and reportedly wants to stay. Even without Walker on the books, the Hornets already are closing in on the projected luxury-tax threshold for the 2019-20 season. What the Hornets might have to do is attach some bad contract to any Walker deal. They could always turn around and bring Walker back this summer.
Clippers at Hornets (TBA)
Los Angeles was an 18-point loser in Toronto on Sunday in the second of a back-to-back. Clippers Canadian rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 19 points; he was actually drafted by the Hornets but then immediately traded to the Clippers. Danilo Gallinari (back spasms) missed his ninth straight game. Charlotte beat visiting Chicago on Saturday, 125-118. Walker had 37 points and 10 assists. The Hornets are back at .500 for the first time since Jan 2. The Hornets have lost the past two in this series, including 128-109 in L.A. on Jan. 8. Lou Williams led L.A. with 27 points.
Key trends: The favorite is 5-2 against the spread in the past seven meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in 11 of the Clippers' past 12 on the road.
Early lean: TBA likely for Gallinari and Tobias Harris, who was clearly limited with a shoulder injury on Sunday.
Celtics at Cavaliers (TBA)
Boston won its fourth in a row Sunday, 134-129 over Oklahoma City. Kyrie Irving had 30 points and 11 assists. It was his season-high ninth straight game with at least 20 points. Reserve big man Aron Baynes was out with a foot injury. Cleveland tried to win three straight games for the first time this season but failed Saturday, falling 111-98 vs. Dallas. Cavs forward Cedi Osman left in the first half with a right ankle injury and did not return. David Nwaba returned after missing 18 games with a sprained left ankle. The Celtics have blown out the Cavs twice this season, both in Boston.
Key trends: The home team is 8-1 ATS in the past nine meetings. The over is 10-4-1 in the Cavs' past 15 at home.
Early lean: TBA because it appears that Kyrie Irving is sitting for rest. I actually like the Cavs here regardless as the Celtics may be looking ahead to Thursday vs. the Lakers.
Lakers at Pacers (TBA)
Will LeBron James play here? He was a surprise scratch for Saturday's big game at the Warriors, a 115-101 Lakers loss. Perhaps Coach Luke Walton shouldn't have played LeBron 40 minutes in his return from a groin injury the previous game? Sounds like LeBron will play Tuesday, though. Tyson Chandler got Saturday off for rest. Indiana's four-game slid ended with a 95-88 win at Miami on Saturday. Bojan Bogdanovic had 31 points. The Pacers forced 24 turnovers and scored 31 points off them. Tyreke Evans returned after missing three games with lower back soreness. The Lakers are looking to sweep the season series over the Pacers for the first time since the 2009-10 season, but Indiana has taken past five at home.
Key trends: The home team has covered four straight in series and under is 4-0 in those.
Early lean: Wait on LeBron.
Pistons at Knicks (+3.5, 207)
Detroit was a 111-101 home loser to the Clippers on Saturday, blowing a 25-point lead. The Pistons were outscored 35-14 in the fourth. Blake Griffin had 24 points and 11 rebounds against his former team, and Reggie Jackson added 29 points. You might see Jackson dealt at the deadline for a potential upgrade like Mike Conley. New York lost its 13th straight Sunday, 96-84 vs. Memphis. DeAndre Jordan had 12 points and 12 rebounds in his first game as a Knick and Dennis Smith Jr. had just eight. The third newcomer, Wesley Matthews, had five points. The Knicks lost in Detroit on Nov. 27, 115-108. The Pistons have taken eight of past nine in series overall.
Key trends: The road team has covered the past four in series and over is 4-0 in those.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
Raptors at 76ers (-5, 229.5)
First of a TNT doubleheader. Toronto bounced back from a shockingly one-sided home loss to Milwaukee with an 18-point home win over the Clippers on Sunday. Serge Ibaka had 16 points and 12 boards, his sixth straight double-double. That's the longest streak for a Raptor this decade. Kyle Lowry sat out with back troubles, which have been an issue all season. Told readers I absolutely loved the Kings to upset the Sixers on Saturday as Philly was likely going to be a bit flat off a huge win at the Warriors on Thursday. The 76ers did lose, 115-108. J.J. Redick got the night off and Wilson Chandler was out with a quad injury that will cost him 2-3 weeks. This closes the season series between these two and Toronto has dropped its past two in Philadelphia.
Key trends: The home team has covered five in a row in series. The over is 10-3 in the previous 13.
Early lean: Sixers and over.
Timberwolves at Grizzlies (+1, 207.5)
Minnesota was a one-point home loser to Denver on Saturday. Karl-Anthony Towns had 31 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, and Derrick Rose eight points in 20 minutes after missing three games. The Grizzlies snapped a three-game slide with a 96-84 win at the Knicks on Sunday. Mike Conley scored 25 points, and Marc Gasol had 24 as Memphis snapped a nine-game road losing streak. These teams have split two low-scoring games in Minneapolis this season. Grizz have taken past three at home in series.
Key trends: The Wolves are 1-6 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under has hit in past five.
Early lean: Grizzlies and under.
Magic at Thunder (-10.5, 223)
Orlando won its second in a row Saturday, 102-89 over the visiting Nets. All-Star Nikola Vucevic, who might be dealt by Thursday because he's set for free agency, had 24 points and 12 rebounds. Rookie big man Mo Bamba, who in theory makes Vucevic expendable, was out with a sore left leg. Oklahoma City's seven-game winning streak ended Sunday in a 134-129 loss in Boston despite 37 points from Paul George and 22 points, 16 assists and 12 rebounds from Russell Westbrook. It was Westbrook's sixth straight triple-double. Orlando lost at home to OKC by nine last Tuesday and has dropped eight of past 10 at the Thunder.
Key trends: Orlando has covered its past six in OKC. The over is 6-0 in the Thunder's past six on Tuesday.
Early lean: Thunder and over.
Heat at Trail Blazers (TBA)
Second TNT game. Miami lost its third in a row Saturday, 95-88 to Indiana. The Heat coughed it up 24 times vs. the Pacers in being swept on the season. The Heat are now 2-13 this season when scoring less than triple digits. Portland has oddly been off since last Wednesday when it torched Utah behind 36 points from Damian Lillard and 30 from CJ McCollum. Jusuf Nurkic sat with a knee injury. Portland made a trade on Sunday, landing Rodney Hood from the Cavs. Only cost Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin IV, and second-round picks in 2021 and 2023. The Blazers lost in Miami on Oct. 27, 120-111.
Key trends: The Heat have covered just one of their past 11 on Tuesday. The over is 5-0-1 in Portland's previous six at home.
Early lean: I guess TBA for Nurkic.
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