Free NBA Picks: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Probably still too early to tell which team won the mid-November trade that sent Jimmy Butler from Minnesota (along with throw-in Justin Patton) to Philadelphia for Jerryd Bayless, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and a 2022 second-round draft pick. Obviously, Butler is clearly the best player of that group but also easily the most expensive, set for free agency this summer and can be a major, major headache/diva. For sure, one individual is the big loser from all that: Former Wolves coach and team president Tom Thibodeau, who was fired not long ago partly because of the Butler saga. Thibs stubbornly wanted to hang on to Butler to try and make the playoffs again, but Butler ruined team chemistry and the Wolves got off to a horrible start they may not be able to climb out of. That was more proof that no coach should also be in charge of personnel. Butler faces his former teammates for the first time Tuesday (Sixers in Minneapolis on March 30).
Suns at Pacers (TBA)
Phoenix upset the visiting Nuggets 102-93 on Saturday. Kelly Oubre tied his career high with 26 points - that Trevor Ariza deal keeps getting better - and Deandre Ayton had 23 points and 13 rebounds. Devin Booker sat again with back spasms. Phoenix is 3-10 without Booker this season. The Pacers have been off since a 121-106 win in New York on Friday. Domantas Sabonis had 22 points and 15 rebounds. Myles Turner sat with a sore right shoulder again. Indiana is looking to sweep the regular season series over Phoenix for the third time in four years. Pacers won 109-104 in the desert on Nov. 27.
Key trends: The Pacers are 4-0 against the spread in the past four meetings. The "over/under" is 8-0 in their previous eight overall.
Early lean: Wait on Booker.
Timberwolves at 76ers (-6, 231.5)
NBA TV game. Minnesota beat the visiting Pelicans on Saturday, 110-106. Karl-Anthony Towns had 27 points and a career-high 27 rebounds, most of any player this season. Jeff Teague left with an injury and Derrick Rose sat again, so it could be Tyus Jones starting at the point here. Butler and Joel Embiid were both questionable Sunday at the Knicks but played in a 108-105 win. Embiid had 26 points and eight rebounds, while Ben Simmons had 20 points, a whopping 22 boards and nine assists. Philadelphia has won the past three in this series and four in a row at home.
Key trends: The Wolves are 1-7 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 4-1 in Philly's past five at home overall.
Early lean: Sixers and over.
Thunder at Hawks (+7.5, 232)
Oklahoma City ended a three-game losing streak with a 122-112 home win over the Spurs on Saturday. Russell Westbrook had 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, and Dennis Schroder, acquired from Atlanta this offseason in the Carmelo Anthony deal, had all 19 points in the second half. Atlanta was a 133-114 home loser to the Bucks on Sunday. Taurean Prince, the team's third-leading scorer, returned after missing the last 18 games with a left ankle sprain. However, Kent Bazemore missed his eighth in a row. OKC beat the Hawks on Nov. 30, 124-109, and has won its past two in Atlanta.
Key trends: The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 5-2 in Atlanta's previous seven vs. the West.
Early lean: Thunder and over.
Heat at Bucks (TBA)
Miami won its second in a row Saturday, 112-108 over Memphis. Justise Winslow had 26 points and Dwyane Wade made a crucial block in the final seconds. Hassan Whiteside (ill) missed the game. Milwaukee was a 19-point winner in Atlanta on Sunday in Coach Mike Budenholzer's first game back in the city he used to coach. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points, and Eric Bledsoe added 24 points and 10 assists. Milwaukee is 12-0 following a defeat and the league's only team not to drop consecutive games. Miami has won the past six in this series, including 94-87 at home on Dec. 22.
Key trends: The Heat have covered the past six meetings. The under is 4-1 in the previous five.
Early lean: Guess the TBA is for Winslow. Like the under no matter the number.
Warriors at Nuggets (+2.5, 227.5)
It's obviously still very early, but every Nuggets win head-to-head in this series increases Denver's chances of getting the West's top seed. Denver can clinch no worse than a tie in the season series with a victory here as it beat the visiting Warriors 100-98 on Oct. 21. Juancho Hernangomez blocked a potential tying layup of Damian Jones (now out for season) in the final seconds. The Nuggets are 21-7 at home against the Warriors since 2003-04. Denver is off a three-point home win over Portland on Sunday. Nikola Jokic had a season-high 40 and was two assists shy of a triple-double. Gary Harris missed a fourth straight game with left hamstring tightness. The Dubs won their fourth straight Sunday, 119-114 in Dallas. Steph Curry had 48 points and made 11 three-pointers.
Key trends: The Warriors are 0-3-1 ATS in the past four meetings. The over is 11-3 in the previous 14.
Early lean: Nuggets and over.
Bulls at Lakers (-7.5, 213.5)
Second NBA TV game. Chicago lost its seventh in a row Saturday, 110-102 in Utah. Zach LaVine scored 21 points and Lauri Markkanen added 16. The Lakers were embarrassed at home by sorry Cleveland on Sunday, 101-95. Kyle Kuzma had 29 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who were just 7-for-34 from deep. LeBron James sat yet again and won't play here. The Lakers swept the Bulls last season and have taken the past two in L.A.
Key trends: The Lakers are 7-2 ATS in their past nine on Tuesday. The over has hit in five straight Bulls games.
Early lean: Lakers and over.
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