Free NBA Picks: Wednesday, March 20, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
No question the matchup of the night around the NBA is Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers as they close the regular-season series. I promise you that privately NBA commissioner Adam Silver is hoping the 76ers and Celtics don't finish fourth and fifth in the Eastern Conference standings in whatever order. Why would Silver care? With LeBron James in the Western Conference, the Celtics and Sixers are clearly the two marquee franchises in the East right now and the worst possible scenario for the NBA would be for those two to meet in the first round instead of the conference semifinals or finals. I do tend to think both the Sixers and Celtics will finish ahead of the Pacers, who should land in fifth. That would make Silver and the league's TV partners very happy.
Bucks at Cavaliers (TBA)
Milwaukee hosted the Lakers on Tuesday with Giannis Antetokounmpo out due to an alleged right ankle sprain. Cleveland snapped at three-game slide with a 126-119 home victory over Detroit on Monday. Rookie Collin Sexton had 27 points, including the go-ahead three-pointer. The Cavs shot 58.2 percent from the field despite Kevin Love sitting out with a sore back. The Bucks have won both games vs. the Cavs this season by double digits.
Key trends: The Cavs are 4-1 against the spread in their past five at home vs. teams with a winning road record. The "over/under" is 5-2 in the past seven meetings in Cleveland.
Early lean: Wait on the Freak & Love.
Pelicans at Magic (-6, 228)
New Orleans snapped a six-game slide with a 129-125 OT victory in Dallas on Monday. Elfrid Payton had his fifth straight triple-double and Julius Randle scored 30 points. The Magic won their second in a row Sunday, 101-91 over Atlanta. Nikola Vucevic had 27 points and 20 rebounds. The Magic have won four of the last five matchups at home in this series and won in New Orleans on Feb. 12, 118-88. Four Magic players scored 20-or-more points. Anthony Davis was disinterested with three points on 1-for-9 shooting. That wasn't long after the trade deadline, so he was moping.
Key trends: The Magic are 7-2 ATS in their past nine at home. The over is 5-2 in the Pels' past seven on the road.
Early lean: Magic and over.
Celtics at 76ers (-4, 225.5)
First of an ESPN doubleheader. Philadelphia was in Charlotte on Tuesday. The Celtics lost at home to Denver on Monday, 114-105. Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 30 points. Al Horford finished with 20 points, six rebounds and six assists. Gordon Hayward was out in the concussion protocol. Boston looks for the four-game sweep, although two of the first three could have gone the other way.
Key trends: The Celtics have covered four straight in the series. The under is 4-1 in the previous five in Philly.
Early lean: Sixers and under.
Jazz at Knicks (+10, 212.5)
The Jazz won their fourth in a row Monday, 116-95 in Washington. Rudy Gobert, named Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday, had 14 points and 14 rebounds for his 55th double-double of the season and Donovan Mitchell scored 19. The Knicks were no match in the second of a back-to-back Monday in Toronto, losing by 36. Dennis Smith Jr. missed his third straight game because of a sore lower back, and Noah Vonleh missed his second straight because of a sprained right ankle. New York was routed 129-97 in Utah on Dec. 29. The Jazz were up as many as 46, marking the largest deficit for the Knicks in any game this season.
Key trends: The Jazz are 8-2 ATS in their past 10 vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 5-1 in the Knicks' past six vs. the West.
Early lean: Knicks and under.
Wizards at Bulls (pick'em, 236.5)
Washington completed a five-game homestand Monday at 3-2 with a 116-95 loss to Utah. Bradley Beal was hounded all night and finished 4-for-12 for 15 points. The Bulls won a game they really shouldn't have from a tanking perspective on Monday, 116-101 in Phoenix to snap a five-game losing streak. Robin Lopez was 11-for-14 from the field for 24 points. Why are the Bulls even playing the free-agent-to-be? These teams have split two meetings, each winning on the road.
Key trends: The road team is 7-1 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 10-1 in the Bulls' past 11 following a double-digit win.
Early lean: Wizards and over.
Rockets at Grizzlies (+7, 213)
Houston was in Atlanta on Wednesday, so we may see Chris Paul sit this one out (or Tuesday). The Grizzlies lost their second in a row Saturday, 135-128 in Washington. Mike Conley had 28 points and 12 assists for Memphis. It was the first time in franchise history the Grizzlies and their opponent each scored at least 100 points through the first three quarters. The Rockets are looking to sweep the series from the Grizzlies for the first time since 2009-10.
Key trends: The Rockets have covered six straight in the series. The under is 5-2 in the previous seven.
Early lean: Grizzlies and under.
Heat at Spurs (-5.5, 209)
The Heat started a four-game trip with a 116-107 upset in Oklahoma City on Monday. Goran Dragic had 26 points and 11 assists and Dwyane Wade 25 points. Justise Winslow missed his second straight game with a right thigh injury. The Spurs won a season-high ninth straight game Monday, 111-105 over Golden State. DeMar DeRozan had 26 points and LaMarcus Aldridge 23 points and 13 rebounds. San Antonio is on an 11-game run at home. Miami looks for the season sweep for the first time since 2012-13. It won 95-88 on Nov. 7 but is just 3-27 all-time in regular-season games in San Antonio.
Key trends: The Spurs have covered their past six games. The over is 5-0 in the Heat's previous five against the West.
Early lean: Spurs and over.
Raptors at Thunder (TBA)
Second ESPN game. Toronto rested Kawhi Leonard in the second of a back-to-back Monday but still blew out New York. Kyle Lowry returned after two games with a sore ankle … and then injured the other one so he's probably sitting for a bit. Serge Ibaka served the finale of his three-game suspension Monday. Of course, he began his career in Oklahoma City. The Thunder lost their third in a row Monday, 116-107 to Miami. Russell Westbrook sat because he had accumulated too many technical this season. Every two more he gets, he'll sit again. First meeting between the teams - they play again Friday. OKC has won three straight in the series.
Key trends: The Raptors are 1-9 ATS in their past 10 following a win. The under is 5-1 in OKC's previous six.
Early lean: Wait on Lowry.
Mavericks at Trail Blazers (-11, 217.5)
The Mavs were 129-125 OT home losers to New Orleans on Monday. Dirk Nowitzki passed Wilt Chamberlain for sixth on the all-time NBA scoring list. That will be as high as Dirk goes if he does retire as expected. Rookie Luka Doncic had another triple-double of 29 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. The Blazers beat the visiting Pacers on Monday, 106-98. Damian Lillard had 30 points and 15 assists. CJ McCollum sat with a knee injury and is going to miss at least a week, but the team avoided disaster. Dallas leads the season series 2-1, winning both at home. Eight of the last nine meetings have been decided by single digits.
Key trends: The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 10-1-1 in Portland's previous 12 at home.
Early lean: Blazers and over.
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