Free NBA Picks: Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
True, we are barely past the halfway point of the NBA's regular season, but
it's never too early to start thinking about playoff tiebreakers. The game
of the night in The Association is Toronto at Boston, the third meeting of
four between the Eastern Conference powers. I don't really see any team in
the East beating the Raptors in a seven-game series if they have home-court
advantage and would say the same about Boston. Thus, winning the season
series could be crucial. That won't be decided on Wednesday because the
clubs split the first two meetings, but at least Wednesday's winner knows
it won't lose that tiebreaker. The regular-season series between the two
concludes in Toronto on Feb. 26.
Magic at Pistons ( -4.5, 206.5)
Orlando upset visiting Houston 116-109 on Sunday a night after knocking off Boston. The Magic outscored the Rockets 14-4 in the final four minutes. Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon each had 22 points. Detroit completed a four-game trip through the West at 1-3 with a 100-94 loss in Utah on Monday. The Pistons got just 16 free-throw attempts to the Jazz's 36. Home cooking! These teams have split two meetings, each in Orlando. The Magic's Evan Fournier made a game-winning floater from just outside the elbow as time expired in the most recent one.
Key trends: The Magic are 7-1 against the spread in the past eight meetings. The "over/under" is 5-2 in the previous seven in Detroit.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
Raptors at Celtics (TBA)
First of an ESPN doubleheader, and the home team has won the past nine in this series. Toronto won a fifth straight on Sunday, 140-138 in double overtime in Washington. Kawhi Leonard had a season-high 41 points and is averaging 30.2 over his past 19. Pascal Siakam scored 24 and had a career-high 19 rebounds. Crazy how much better that guy has been this season. Boston lost its third straight, all on the road, 109-102 in Brooklyn on Monday. Both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart sat, but it's thought both will play here.
Key trends: The home team has covered seven straight in series. The over is 5-2 in Boston's past seven at home.
Early lean: Celtics as long as Irving plays.
Nets at Rockets (-3.5, 220.5)
Brooklyn ended a 10-game losing streak to Boston with a 109-102 win Monday behind 34 points from D'Angelo Russell. He had 18 in the third when the Nets outscored the C's 44-21. The Nets also won for the first time in five games this season on a Monday. Houston began life without the injured Clint Capela (4-6 weeks) with a 112-94 home win over Memphis behind a season-high 57 points from James Harden. It was his 17th straight game with at least 30, the longest such streak since Wilt Chamberlain had 20 straight games of at least 30 points in 1964. The win was the 600th of Coach Mike D'Antoni's career. Houston has taken past five in this series, including 119-111 on Nov. 2. Carmelo Anthony was actually good back then with 28 points for the Rockets.
Key trends: The Nets have covered their previous six on Wednesday. The over is 10-2 in Houston's past 12 vs. the East.
Early lean: Nets and over.
Bucks at Grizzlies (TBA)
Milwaukee hosted Miami on Tuesday. Memphis was an 18-point loser in Houston on Monday as it couldn't slow James Harden. Garrett Temple and Mike Conley scored 14 each for the Grizzlies, who lost for the eighth time in nine games. Kyle Anderson missed the game after spraining his left ankle Saturday and could miss 2-4 weeks. The Grizz were 116-113 upset winners in Milwaukee on Nov. 14. Marc Gasol and Conley combined for 55 points. Memphis had lost the past four in the series.
Key trends: The favorite is 4-1 in the past five meetings, and the over is 4-0-1 in those.
Early lean: TBA because Giannis Antetokounmpo was (hip, quad) probable for Tuesday. I could see the Bucks giving him the second of a B2B off so wait on the Freak.
Spurs at Mavericks (+1, 219)
San Antonio was upset at home by Charlotte on Monday, 108-93, in Tony Parker's return. LaMarcus Aldridge led the Spurs with 28 points and 10 rebounds as their seven-game home winning streak ended. Rudy Gay missed his fifth straight game. Dallas had a two-game run end in a five-point home loss to Golden State on Sunday. The Mavs, without Dennis Smith Jr., missed their final eight shots. In addition, backup Dallas point guard JJ Barea is done for the season. Nine of the last 10 regular-season meetings between the Mavericks and Spurs have been decided by seven points or fewer, with San Antonio winning eight. That includes 113-108 in OT at home on Oct. 29.
Key trends: The Spurs are 0-5 ATS in the past five meetings and the under is 4-1 in the previous five in Dallas.
Early lean: Mavs and under.
Cavaliers at Trail Blazers (-13, 216.5)
Cleveland ended a 12-game skid with a 101-95 upset at the LeBron-less Lakers on Sunday. Cedi Osman scored 20 points, and rookie Collin Sexton added 17. Portland lost in Sacramento on Monday, 115-107, as the Blazers' bench was dominated by the Kings' reserves. Damian Lillard scored 35 points to become the fastest player in Portland history to reach 12,000 for his career, but CJ McCollum was just 2-for-14. These teams split last season. Lillard averaged 24.5 points and McCollum 24.
Key trends: The Cavs are 0-5 ATS in their past five in Portland. The over is 7-1-1 in the Blazers' previous nine vs. the East.
Early lean: Blazers and over.
Pelicans at Warriors (-9, 241)
Second ESPN game. Golden State had a big one in Denver on Tuesday. New Orleans won for the fourth time in its past five Monday, 121-117 at the Clippers. Anthony Davis had 46 points and 16 rebounds and Julius Randle 27 points. The Pels did have to rally late after blowing a 20-point lead. Golden State has won 20 of the past 22 in the regular season vs. New Orleans. It was 131-121 in Oakland on Halloween - this will be Pels' last-ever game in Oakland barring a playoff matchup.
Key trends: The Dubs have failed to cover their past four in the second of a B2B. The over is 4-1 in the past five meetings in Oakland.
Early lean: Pelicans and over.
Jazz at Clippers (-2, 222.5)
Utah won its fourth in a row Monday, all at home, 100-94 over Detroit. Donovan Mitchell had 28 points and Rudy Gobert tied a career high with 25 rebounds. Ricky Rubio (hamstring), Dante Exum (ankle) and Raul Neto (groin) were out with injuries again as the Jazz essentially are playing without a point guard right now. The Clippers dropped their third straight Monday, 121-117 vs. New Orleans. Montrezl Harrell led the Clippers with 26 points and 10 rebounds. First meeting of season between these two. Utah won the final three last year after dropping the first.
Key trends: The Jazz are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings, and the over is 4-1 in those.
Early lean: Jazz and over.
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