Free NBA Picks: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
There's no question that Pat Riley is one of the most influential people in NBA history, from his time as a coach with the Showtime Lakers (not so much with the Knicks) to his career running the Miami Heat from the front office. However, has the game somewhat passed Riley by? Since LeBron James shocked Riley by leaving Miami to return to Cleveland, the Heat have been largely irrelevant, and they are again this season. They will be totally anonymous after this season when Dwyane Wade retires. I lived in Miami for a while - the worst thing you can be in the entertainment business down there is boring. Riley has made some horrible decisions over the past few years, including giving Hassan Whiteside a crazy deal, leaving the Heat well over the salary cap. That's going to be the case next season, too. It's now clear that free agents aren't going to join the team simply because they love south Florida. LeBron and Chris Bosh only went there because of Wade. Riley was recently asked on the series premier of ESPN's "The Art Of Conversation With Dan Le Batard" whether he has pondered retirement, and the 74-year-old Riley scoffed at that. Not like owner Micky Arison is going to push him out, either, for all that Riley has done. Enjoy mediocrity, Heat fans. Oh, and you lost your unprotected 2021 first-round pick in the Goran Dragic trade.
Rockets at Hornets (+4.5, 228)
Houston avoided a trap Monday in Atlanta off a big win at Golden State on Saturday as the Rockets welcomed back James Harden from a one-game absence in a 119-111 win. However, Harden's streak of consecutive games with at least 30 points ended at 32. He finished with 28 and was 0-for-10 from deep. During the streak, he scored 50 or more points four times. Charlotte hosted the Warriors on Monday and lost 121-110. Cody Zeller had arguably the game of his career in shooting 13-for-14 for 28 points and nine rebounds. First meeting between the teams with the Rockets having taken the past four in the series. Charlotte has only scored 100+ points twice over the past 17 meetings.
Key trends: The Rockets are 1-8 against the spread in their past nine vs. teams with a losing record. The "over/under" has gone under in 14 of the Hornets' past 17 vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Hornets and under.
Timberwolves at Hawks (+5, 236.5)
The Timberwolves welcomed back Karl-Anthony Towns from a two-game absence on Monday and he had 34 points and 21 rebounds in a 112-105 win over the Kings. It was the seventh 30-point, 20-rebound, five-assist game in franchise history, the second by Towns. The Hawks were 119-113 home losers to Houston on Monday despite 36 points from Trae Young. Fellow rookie Kevin Huerter had seven points in his return after missing the last two games with a sprained left ankle. Atlanta won at Minnesota on Dec. 28, 123-120 in OT. The Wolves had won the past three at home in the series. They have just seven all-time wins in Atlanta.
Key trends: The Wolves have covered six straight overall. The over is 4-0 in the Hawks' past four vs. Northwest Division teams.
Early lean: Wolves and over.
Wizards at Nets (-5.5, 237)
Washington lost its fourth in a row Saturday, 119-112 to Indiana. Bradley Beal had 35 and Thomas Bryant 23 points and 12 boards, but this is just a horrible defensive team. The Wizards have now allowed at least 119 in eight of their last nine games (seven losses). Brooklyn won its second straight Monday, 101-85 over the Spurs. D'Angelo Russell had 23 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. The Nets put up a whopping 50 3-pointers, making 19. Last meeting between these teams, with Nets leading 2-1 and having won past three at home.
Key trends: The Wizards have failed to cover five straight in Brooklyn. The over is 5-2 in the previous seven meetings.
Early lean: Nets and over.
Warriors at Heat (+11, 223)
Golden State bounced back from a home loss to Houston on Saturday with a 121-110 win in Charlotte on Monday despite an off night from Steph Curry (5-for-18) in his hometown. DeMarcus Cousins had 24 points and 11 rebounds but will be most remembered for throwing the shoe of Jeremy Lamb into the crowd and getting a T. The Heat lost their third in a row Monday, 124-121 at home to Phoenix - which simply isn't acceptable. The Suns had lost 17 straight games. Amazingly, it was Miami's sixth straight loss at home, the second time that has happened this year. Maybe Riley should quit now. Miami blew a big lead in Oakland on Feb. 10 and lost 120-118. The Dubs have won three straight in the series overall.
Key trends: The Heat have failed to cover their past six at home. The under is 4-1 in the previous five meetings.
Early lean: Heat and under.
Bulls at Grizzlies (-2.5, 215.5)
Bulls have taken past three in this series, including 122-110 in Chicago on Feb. 13 behind 37 points and 10 rebounds from Otto Porter, but he's out injured now. Without Porter and Kris Dunn (migraine), the Bulls were 117-106 home losers to the Bucks on Monday to end a three-game winning streak. Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez each scored 26 for Chicago. The Grizzlies snapped a four-game slide with a 110-105 home upset of the Lakers on Monday. Mike Conley had 30 points and Jonas Valanciunas finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Kyle Anderson both were out again and don't seem to be close.
Key trends: The Bulls are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings and the over is 4-1 in those.
Early lean: Bulls and over.
Trail Blazers at Celtics (-4, 227.5)
First of an ESPN doubleheader. Boston was in Toronto on Tuesday, and I have my doubts that Kyrie Irving plays both ends. The Blazers won a fourth in a row Monday, 123-110 in Cleveland. CJ McCollum, an Ohio native, scored 35 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. Evan Turner (left knee) missed his second game in a row. Portland beat the visiting Celtics on Nov. 11, 100-94.
Key trends: The underdog is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 5-1 in the Celtics' past six in the second of a B2B.
Early lean: Blazers and over.
Pistons at Spurs (-5, 221.5)
The Pistons could get back to .500 here as they have won three straight and seven of eight following Monday's 113-109 victory over Indiana. Andre Drummond had 26 points and 16 rebounds, and Blake Griffin had a triple-double of 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. The Spurs finished their Rodeo Road Trip at 1-7 - worst in team history - with Monday's 101-85 loss in Brooklyn. The NBA's best 3-point shooting team was 4-for-24 from deep. LaMarcus Aldridge (26) and DeMar DeRozan (23) had zero help. Detroit lost at home to the Spurs on Jan. 7, 119-107, and has lost seven of its past eight in San Antonio.
Key trends: The Spurs are 1-10 ATS in their past 11. The under is 5-1 in the previous six meetings.
Early lean: Spurs and under.
Pacers at Mavericks (TBA)
The Pacers were 113-109 losers in Detroit on Monday. Myles Turner was back after missing two games but had just seven points. Domantas Sabonis scored 23 for Indiana, but he left with a sprained ankle with just over a minute remaining. The Mavs lost a fifth in a row Monday, 121-112 at the Clippers. Rookie Luka Doncic returned after missing two games and had 28 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his fourth triple-double. Indiana ended a three-game losing streak against Dallas with its 111-99 home win in the first meeting on Jan. 19.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 12-3 in the Mavs' previous 15 vs. the East.
Early lean: TBA presumably for Sabonis (yep he's been that good this year).
Clippers at Jazz (-9.5, 228)
The Clippers were 121-112 home winners over Dallas on Monday in the second of a B2B. Montrezl Harrell scored a career-high 32 points, and Lou Williams added 21 and 10 assists. The Jazz snapped a two-game slide with a 125-109 victory over Dallas on Saturday. They had just seven turnovers. Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell each scored 25 points. Utah is on a four-game winning streak vs. Clippers, including 129-109 in L.A. on Jan. 16.
Key trends: The Clippers are 0-4 ATS in the past four meetings. The over is 4-0 in those.
Early lean: Clips and under.
Bucks at Kings (TBA)
The Bucks won their fifth straight Monday despite playing without Giannis Antetokounmpo (sore knee), 117-106 in Chicago. I'm sure the Freak could have played, but the Bucks knew they wouldn't need him to win. Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon each scored 22 points. The Kings concluded a very tough four-game trip at 1-3 with a seven-points loss at Minnesota on Monday. Marvin Bagley III had 25 points and 11 rebounds. Buddy Hield was benched for the final 5:42 by Coach Dave Joerger even though they game was still in doubt. Milwaukee has taken past five vs. Kings, and it was a 144-109 destruction on Nov. 4.
Key trends: The Kings are 10-1 ATS in their past 11 at home. The over is 14-3 in the previous 17 meetings.
Early lean: Wait on the Freak, although I expect him to play.
Pelicans at Lakers (-6, 240.5)
Second ESPN game. The next time Anthony Davis sees the Lakers at Staples Center after this one, he could be in their uniform. He should play on Wednesday as it's not part of a back-to-back. Davis was back in there Monday but limited to 21 minutes in a one-point home loss to Philadelphia. E'Twaun Moore took a bad shot at the buzzer for the Pels. The Lakers had an unacceptable 110-105 loss at short-handed and tanking Memphis on Monday. Just can't lose that one while desperately chasing a playoff spot. LeBron had another triple-double, and Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma combined for 54 points, but that was about it. The bench was atrocious. These teams have split two meetings, with Pels winning 128-115 at home on Saturday despite Davis sitting.
Key trends: The favorite is 7-1 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 4-1 in the previous five.
Early lean: Lakers and over.
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