Free NBA Picks: Tuesday, March 5, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Not counting "return" games like LeBron James back to Cleveland, Kawhi Leonard back to San Antonio, etc., or factoring intraconference games (Warriors-Lakers, Celtics-76ers), the two matchups this writer circled as the biggest on the NBA's 2018-19 regular-season slate entering this season were Celtics-Warriors. They were the two betting conference favorites, and of course nothing has changed for the machine that is Golden State. Boston, meanwhile, has definitely underachieved even though it actually has the deeper roster by far than the Warriors. All of a sudden, Celtics coach Brad Stevens isn't the greatest thing since sliced bread (what has Stevens ever won exactly?). Still, we expect the C's to put forth their best effort on Tuesday night in what could still be an NBA Finals matchup when they visit Oakland for perhaps the last-ever time. Should also be one of the most-wagered games of the season at the Doc's-affiliated sportsbooks.
Bulls at Pacers (-8, 220)
Chicago split a home-and-home with the Hawks over the weekend, losing at home Sunday, 123-118. Lauri Markkanen led Chicago with 19 points, though he shot just 6 of 21. Otto Porter got the night off. The Pacers were upset at home by Orlando on Saturday, 117-112. Bojan Bogadnovic scored 25 points and Darren Collison finished with 23 points and 10 assists for the Pacers, who shot 53 percent. Domantas Sabonis missed his third straight game because of a sprained left ankle and isn't likely here. Indiana is looking to earn its first four-game sweep over Chicago for the first time since the 2001-02 season.
Key trends: The Bulls are 3-8 against the spread in their past 11 at Indiana. The "over/under" has gone under in nine of the Pacers' past 12 vs. the East.
Early lean: Bulls and under.
Magic at 76ers (TBA)
Orlando is playing much better of late but did have a puzzling loss in Cleveland on Sunday, 107-93. The Magic may have been gassed in the second of a back-to-back as they were outscored 40-21 in the fourth. Nikola Vucevic scored 28 points for Orlando. He was 13 of 16 from the field and had 13 rebounds. Philadelphia lost by three at home to Golden State on Saturday again without Joel Embiid. Ben Simmons had his second straight triple-double and 22nd of his two-year career with 25 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists. These teams have split two meetings, each winning close at home.
Key trends: The Magic are 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 6-1 in those.
Early lean: TBA with the possibility of Embiid returning.
Rockets at Raptors (-3.5, 228.5)
Not a bad TNT opener with the individual scoring phenomenon that is James Harden against perhaps the league's best perimeter defender in Kawhi Leonard. Houston won its fifth in a row Sunday, 115-104 in Boston. James Harden had 42 points, his 24th 40-point game of the season. Eric Gordon added 32 points and had eight 3-pointers. Toronto was a 112-107 OT loser in Detroit on Sunday as Leonard got the game off. Kyle Lowry scored a season-high 35 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had five assists. Leonard should play Tuesday. The Rockets beat the Raptors on Jan. 25, 121-119. Harden had 35 points and Leonard 32. Houston has lost nine of its past 11 in Toronto, though.
Key trends: The Rockets have failed to cover nine straight following an ATS win. The over is 5-2 in the Raptors' past seven overall.
Early lean: Raptors and over.
Trail Blazers at Grizzlies (TBA)
This wraps a seven-game trip for Portland, which is 5-1 on it after winning 118-108 in Charlotte on Sunday. Rodney Hood blew up with a season-high 27 points, while Jusuf Nurkic added 26 points and 15 rebounds. Behind Nurkic, the Blazers dominated the Hornets in the paint, outscoring them 58-38. Memphis was a four-point loser in Oklahoma City on Sunday in the second of a B2B. The Grizz were up 13 with about seven minutes left. Avery Bradley scored 27 points, Delon Wright had 17 and Jonas Valanciunas added 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Grizzlies. Mike Conley got the game off. These teams have split two low-scoring meetings.
Key trends: The Grizz are 6-2 ATS in their past eight at home. The under is 4-1 in the previous five meetings in Memphis.
Early lean: I guess TBA for Conley.
Thunder at Timberwolves (TBA)
OKC ended a four-game slide with a 99-95 win over Memphis on Sunday, rallying from down 13 about midway through the fourth and without Paul George (shoulder) a third game in a row. Russell Westbrook scored 12 of his 22 points in the fourth. Dennis Schroder added 17 points and a career-high 11 rebounds, and Steven Adams had 13 points and 22 boards for the Thunder. Minnesota lost a third straight game Sunday, 135-121 in Washington. Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves with 28 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. The Wolves were 4-for-27 from deep. Minnesota is 4-24 when trailing after three quarters. The Timberwolves are 2-0 vs. the Thunder this season, winning both in OKC by two points.
Key trends: The Thunder have failed to cover six straight in the series. The over is 5-1 in them.
Early lean: Wait on George.
Celtics at Warriors (TBA)
Second TNT game. Boston lost for the fifth time in six games Sunday, 115-104 at home to Houston. The C's were 8-for-28 from deep. Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Aron Baynes was back after missing 11 games with a foot injury. He's a key reserve. Golden State completed a 2-2 road trip Saturday with a 120-117 win in Philadelphia. Kevin Durant had 34 points and Steph Curry 28. Klay Thompson was out with a sore knee. Boston lost a terrific game to the Dubs on Jan. 26, 115-111. There were 21 lead changes. Durant had 33 points and nine rebounds, Curry scored 24 points and Thompson had 21. Steve Kerr became the fastest coach in league history to 300 wins. Irving scored 32 points with 10 assists and Al Horford had 22 points and 13 rebounds for Boston, which entered on a 10-game home winning streak.
Key trends: The Warriors are 1-9 ATS in their past 10. The under is 8-1 in the Celtics' past nine on the road.
Early lean: TBA presumably for Thompson. I'd bet he plays.
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