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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (April 30th)

Santiago Giraldo decided to pull out of the tournament this week, but that didn't stop the picks from having a positive start to the week. However, I am trying to keep as close a eye as possible on the motivation of players that may be thinking of heading to Madrid earlier in the hope of qualifying for the tournament there.

Motivation is always a factor that needs to be considered when making picks on a daily basis, especially on the tennis courts where a player even at 10% lower than his/her normal level would be defeated fairly comfortably.

In all honesty, the next two weeks are far more important in terms of Ranking points, but that mostly applies to the players that are already qualified for the big events. For others, these weeks are the good times to try and pick up a title, but it can be a minefield trying to determine who is interested in doing what.

That has also shown up in the number of seeds that have already lost in both tournaments before the middle of the week with players perhaps already looking ahead to the big month of May.

Daniel Gimeno-Traver - 3.5 games v Rui Machado: I mentioned yesterday that I am not a big fan of backing Daniel Gimeno-Traver to cover too many spreads simply because of the weakness of the serve, but he came through his First Round with so much confidence that I am going back to the well one more time this week.

His opponent, Rui Machado, had it even easier with a double bagel of Dmitry Tursunov, but I don't think he will be given such an easy day in the office this time.

Firstly, the Spaniard is very happy on the clay courts compared with someone like Tursunov and Gimeno-Traver has been playing at a higher level than Machado over the last couple of years. The home support will help Machado, but replicating the performance from yesterday may be too much to ask and I like Gimeno-Traver to come through with a 64, 64 win.

Kaia Kanepi - 3.5 games v Irina-Camelia Begu: I wouldn't associate the clay courts with Kaia Kanepi usually, but she has actually done pretty well on the surface over the last couple of years including winning a title and reaching the Semi Final here in 2013.

I am expecting her to be too strong for the qualifier from Romania despite the relative success that Irina-Camelia Begu has had on the clay courts.

Winning matches does breed confidence, even if the titles have come on the level below the main WTA Tour, but that won't matter to Begu who will feel she can't lose. However, she has generally found herself coming up short against the better players once she hits the higher level and Kanepi is definitely capable of proving too good.

It might be a little closer than I originally imagined simply because of all the wins Begu has had this season, but Kanepi to come through 75, 63 is my call.

MY PICKS: Daniel Gimeno-Traver - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Kaia Kanepi - 3.5 Games @ 1.75 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 2-1, + 1.4 Units (6 Units Staked, + 23.33% Yield)

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Midweek Football Picks 2014 (April 29-May 1)

The 2013/14 season is fast drawing to a close with less than a month before the Champions League Final in Lisbon, but that also means the World Cup is not too far away.

The Premier League has been fascinating for the neutral, not so much for a Manchester United fan, through the course of the season and Sunday provided another twist in the title race that could come down to goal difference for the second time in three seasons.

Even the relegation scrap is far from over with two games left to play for the majority of teams in the struggle to avoid the drop, but the Champions League places were all but secured by the current top four after Arsenal beat Newcastle United convincingly on Monday night.

I had written down a few thoughts on the David Moyes situation prior to the Manchester United win over Norwich City which can be read here.

It has been a strange few days in the footballing world which saw the sad passing of Tito Vilanova after his battle against throat cancer and then, during Barcelona's next League game, Dani Alves was being racially abused by the fans in Villarreal but responded by eating a banana thrown in his direction.

Alves made a point of mentioning it was that extra energy that helped him create two more goals for Barcelona who came from 2-0 down to beat Villarreal 2-3 and I applaud him for the way he dealt with yet another ridiculous incident in Spanish football.

He has made a point of saying that all foreigners are abused in Spain and that alone is not good enough, but this is a country that has had issues keeping their racial element off the stands going as far back as November 2004 when the England national team had many of their players abused simply for being black.

That is not to say that was the start of the racial problems, but that was a high-profile incident and it is clear that nothing has changed in ten years.

I understand the reaction of some players to post pictures of themselves eating bananas since as they support Alves, but I don't believe that is going to get anything to change.

It's a nice gesture, but a gesture is all it is- for a real response, the authorities have to really make a stand against racism from the stands, but they have always failed to make anything stick and it said it all that UEFA fined players more for advertising slogans or fining clubs for flares being let off in the stands than they did for racist chanting.

The players can also make a bigger impact than a simple selfie- walking off the pitch, refusing to sign for clubs with these kinds of issues are some things they can do, but I do think it is mainly up to those in charge to try and stamp down on these ugly incidents.

Hopefully it will be the action on the field that makes the headlines after the next few days when the Champions League Final and the Europa League Final will be set for the 2014 season. The Semi Finals of the Champions League had plenty of intrigue involved, but they weren't the best matches I have seen with the Europa League participants being involved in a couple of games that had more chances in one match than the Champions League had in both matches combined.

There will be more tension this week with every mistake likely to be fatal for teams, but goals will certainly change the feel of the two Champions League Semi Finals and could provoke more open games than the fans initially feel.

I am expecting the majority of the attacking football to come in Munich, but I am also very interested to see what tactics Jose Mourinho employs in a game at Stamford Bridge having shown a real defensive solidarity over the last seven days in two tough away venues.

Bayern Munich v Real Madrid Pick: The first of the two Semi Finals in the Champions League has the defending Champions, Bayern Munich, trying to overcome their 1-0 deficit from the First Leg against Real Madrid.

You have to say that Real Madrid are probably a little disappointed that they are not up by a couple of goals at least with Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria missing big chances in the Spanish capital last week. The side also restricted Bayern Munich in terms of chances with the best falling to Mario Gotze late in the game, but a 1-0 lead is not decisive.

However, the tactics employed by Real Madrid seem to call for a much more direct attacking threat and I can't see Bayern Munich keeping a clean sheet in this one (famous last words). The pace of Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, who is expected to start, is going to cause panic at the back for Bayern Munich and also makes Real Madrid the favourite to progress.

For all of Bayern Munich's success under Pep Guardiola, they haven't looked that good in the last month since winning the Bundesliga and struggled to beat Manchester United. Even against Arsenal, they looked vulnerable before Wojciech Szczesny was sent off and the slow, possession based football doesn't fit with the pieces that Bayern Munich have in their squad as far as I am concerned.

If Real Madrid do score, Bayern Munich may have to resort to the attacking play that made them so good last season on their way to winning the Champions League and I think they could potentially be caught on the counter-attack and finished off by this Real Madrid side. Bayern Munich don't lose many home games, but Borussia Dortmund beat them 0-3 here earlier this month and I think we could see something similar to the Semi Final between Bayern and Barcelona last season, albeit with a different result.

Last season it was the two German teams that made it through to the Final in their Semi Final clashes against the Spanish teams, but I think Real Madrid have to be backed for a small interest to beat Bayern Munich for the second time in less than seven days.

Chelsea v Atletico Madrid Pick: It wasn't the most entertaining Semi Final First Leg in Madrid last week, but Jose Mourinho set his team up with the task of being in this Second Leg in front of his own fans. With a goalless draw secured in Spain, Chelsea will feel confident of making their third Final in the last seven seasons, although they have to snap their run of two Semi Final defeats under Mourinho.

Mourinho has also seen his team beaten in three Semi Finals in a row with Real Madrid since last winning the trophy as manager of Inter Milan in 2010, and he has to be aware of the dangers of failing to score an away goal in Madrid last week.

Chelsea are not playing a team that will be overawed about coming to Stamford Bridge, despite the lack of experience in the Champions League in recent seasons. However, they have won the Europa League twice in the last three seasons so Atletico Madrid certainly know how to play knock out ties.

Defensively they are very sound and they have played at Barcelona and Real Madrid during the course of the season and have only once conceded more than one goal in four away games. Atletico Madrid remain the only unbeaten team in the Champions League after Bayern Munich were beaten last week, while they have won three of the five away games they have played in the competition and scored in every game.

While Atletico have won at Real Madrid, winning at Chelsea will not be easy as the Blues have kept four straight clean sheets at home, but the Spanish Champions elect are capable of breaking that sequence which may be enough to move through to the Final in Lisbon. Both teams should score in this Second Leg which will make it a very tense finish and that could also mean someone pushing for a goal, which could also lead to a higher scoring game than the layers are expecting.

Juventus v Benfica Pick: If Juventus had been a little more clinical in front of goal last week, they would have returned to Italy with a lead let alone a one goal deficit. However, they have earned the away goal which should be vital when it comes to deciding which of these teams makes it through to the Final that is being played later in the month.

A goal for Juventus will certainly change the way the game is being approached by Benfica, although it sounds like the Portuguese Champions may initially begin with an approach to control the home team.

If Juventus do go in front, Benfica might find themselves being a little vulnerable to the counter-attack and it would be a surprise if Juventus are not looking for at least two goals to move through to the Final.

The likely Serie A Champions have won a lot of games in this Stadium over the last few months and I believe they are the more likely winner in this one. With the chances they were creating last week, I would expect Juventus can score at least twice in this one and I think the chance of the home side scoring either two or three goals is decent value in the market.

That is being offered at 2.20 by Ladbrokes and may be the best way to back Juventus who I believe are going to make it through to the Final.

MY PICKS: Real Madrid @ 4.50 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Chelsea-Atletico Madrid Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.70 Bodog (2 Units)
Juventus Goal Bands: 2-3 Goals @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

April Update14-17, - 6.57 Units (55 Units Staked, - 11.95% Yield)

March Final26-22, + 13.94 Units (83 Units Staked, + 16.80% Yield)
February Final12-28, - 16.74 Units (61 Units Staked, - 27.44% Yield)
January Final17-24, - 3.18 Units (62 Units Staked, - 5.13% Yield)
December Final19-16-2, + 13.34 Units (66 Units Staked, + 20.21% Yield)
November Final17-19-1, + 0.50 Units (56 Units Staked, + 0.09% Yield)
October Final20-16-1, + 12.94 Units (51 Units Staked, + 25.37% Yield)
September Final13-12, + 1.24 Units (39 Units Staked, + 3.18% Yield)
August Final13-26, - 12.13 Units (54 Units Staked, - 22.46% Yield)

Season 2013/14137-153-3, + 9.91 Units (472 Units Staked, + 2.10% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Tennis Picks 2014 (April 29th)

This has usually been the time of the season where Rafael Nadal racks up the points that helps him sit high in the World Rankings, but there have been a couple of upsets before the big month of May.

With two Masters in Madrid and Rome, and also the Grand Slam event at Roland Garros, Nadal's position as a strong favourite must have loosened with his defeats over the last couple of weeks. The defeat to David Ferrer was disappointing, but you could chalk that up to a bad day in the office, but then being defeated by Nicolas Almagro in Barcelona was a huge shock.

Nadal may have reached the Final in Miami and won a tournament during the South American Golden Swing in February, but I don't think it is too far fetched to think he hasn't been the same since his back injury cost him the Australian Open Final.

Of course it is too early to consider Nadal anything but the favourite to win the next three clay court tournaments, but the draw is going to be that much more important as he may be vulnerable to a surprise result.

If that is the case, who is the most likely player to take advantage of that and win the next Grand Slam tournament? In past years, Novak Djokovic looked the most likely and perhaps should have won the event last season, but his wrist injury has to be a concern for his backers.

Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka are likely next in the market leaders and both Swiss players will feel they can perhaps add to their own Grand Slam successes after contesting the Final in Monte Carlo. Tomas Berdych and Andy Murray both are vulnerable on the clay courts, while David Ferrer has to grind through too many matches to think he could beat two or three of the big names to win his maiden Grand Slam title.

The one thing the Nadal losses have done is make the French Open as intriguing as it has been for a number of years in terms of contenders for the title there.

There are a couple of tournaments being played this week but there was too much uncertainty for me to make outright picks when I am not comfortable that every player has the right motivation. In Portugal, the top two seeds, Tomas Berdych and Milos Raonic, should go close, but both have lost silly matches on the clay courts and I couldn't trust either.

In Munich, Tommy Haas was one of the leading contenders, but there are doubts about his right shoulder, while other players might be focusing on having to play the qualifiers for the Masters tournament in Madrid next week.

Let's face facts- the next month is the important time for most of the top players on the Tour with the two Masters events back to back and then a short rest before the French Open begins. Therefore, this week may see some more strange results as has been the case during the clay court season to this point.

Feliciano Lopez v Jan-Lennard Struff: Feliciano Lopez has not had the best start to his clay court season with a retirement and an early surprising loss to his name and he could have his hands full against Jan-Lennard Struff who had to come through qualifiers.

That should give Struff confidence in front of a crowd that will offer him plenty of support, but he hasn't really progresses on the Tour as he may have expected, although he certainly has the tools to win as the underdog in this First Round match.

However, I believe Lopez can put some pressure on the German if he is serving well and he does seem to use the scoreboard to build the pressure to the point that Struff could end up snapping.

The concern comes from the recent Lopez form and the retirement, but I think he is being given a generous price to win this one.

Thomaz Bellucci v Ivan Dodig: Another qualifier in Munich will play his First Round match on Tuesday, but this time I am backing Thomaz Bellucci to find a win against Ivan Dodig.

The clay courts are definitely favoured more by Bellucci than the are by Dodig whose serve and attacking the net game are better suited to the faster surfaces.

It has been a fall from the upper reaches of the men's game for Bellucci who has suffered from a loss of form and injuries, but coming through three qualifiers should inspire him to look for more from the tournament.

Bellucci is expected to be in the qualifiers for the Madrid Masters next week which is a distraction, but he has the better clay court pedigree of these two players and I expect he can find a win in the match, even if it takes three sets.

Daniel Gimeno-Traver - 2.5 games v Alejandro Gonzalez: Daniel Gimeno-Traver is at his most comfortable on the clay courts, but he is not normally a player that I would like backing as his serve can be a real weakness. I especially don't like backing him as a favourite because of that initial issue, but he has won three qualifiers here and I expect that to give the Spaniard the confidence to beat Alejandro Gonzalez.

Gonzalez hasn't played since Houston and he hasn't really been able to take the form he has shown in the level below the main ATP Tour into tournaments like this.

However, he will also have some confidence in facing a player like Gimeno-Traver who is at the level that Gonzalez would see more often. The problem is that I still think there is too much experience and clay court nous and that will help Gimeno-Traver come through with a 75, 64 win.

Santiago Giraldo v Albert Montanes: I will never forget the way Santiago Giraldo announced himself at the main Tour level with a crushing of Juan Carlos Ferrero a few years ago, but he has never really hit those heights since.

However, Giraldo may point to a couple of strong tournaments over the last three weeks to show the confidence he is in and I like his chances to beat Albert Montanes as long as last week in Barcelona hasn't taken too much out of the Colombian.

Giraldo reached the Final last week before finding Kei Nishikori far too strong, but Montanes is not as good as the Japanese star and I expect it could be a tough day for him. Montanes has had a few surprising results, but the veteran is wearing down and he has struggled against Giraldo.

They have met five times previously and it is the Colombian who has won four times, including twice earlier this season. That includes a win on the clay courts and I am surprised he has been picked as the underdog in this one unless Barcelona has taken its toll. Still, I have to back him at odds against to beat the veteran and move through to the Second Round.

MY PICKS: Feliciano Lopez @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Thomaz Bellucci @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Daniel Gimeno-Traver - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Santiago Giraldo @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Picks Final4-4, + 0.10 Units (16 Units Staked, + 1% Yield)

Season 2014+ 36.11 Units (561 Units Staked, + 6.44% Yield)

Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)
Season 2011+ 82.02 Units

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (April 26-28)

There are only three weekends until the end of the Premier League and I am getting ready to bury my head in the sand for a few weeks if Liverpool do go on and win the title as I am expecting them to do in the next couple of weeks.

Thankfully the World Cup will be beginning soon enough to at least erase some of the memories of how this season has gone, although the thought of calling them the 'Champions' for a whole season is not something I am looking forward to.

It was also a big week for my own club Manchester United as David Moyes' painful time as manager came to an end. I have written a few thoughts on the week which can be read here.

April has been a pretty poor month over the last couple of weeks, but there are still two more round of matches to go to turn it around and keep the season finishing on a high. Hopefully the twists and turns will still keep things interesting at the top and bottom of the Premier League table for next weekend, but I have a feeling the bottom end of the Division will be the only real interest on the final day of the season.

We will also see Ryan Giggs first team picked as manager of Manchester United this weekend. Everyone is trying to second guess what Giggs will do in the wake of the departure of David Moyes and my guess will be this team:

De Gea, Jones, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Young, Fletcher, Carrick, Mata and Rooney.

Fulham v Hull City Pick: This is probably the game that will decide whether Fulham are going to be playing in the Premier League next season or not- the likes of Sunderland and Cardiff City have begun to win games and Fulham need to outpoint those sides with their vastly inferior goal difference and that even accounts for a team like Norwich City that might not earn too many more points.

The game against Hull City at home provides a great chance for Fulham to earn another three points as the former have looked like a team that may be concentrating on the FA Cup and going through the motions in the Premier League.

Hull City are not safe just yet, although it would take a strange ending of season to see them finish in the bottom three, and they can't be under-estimated having won away games at Sunderland and Cardiff City in the last couple of months.

However, those games did come at a time when Hull City were still desperate for the points and I don't think that same motivation is in the squad at this time. Fulham on the other hand are in a position where they need wins and wins alone and they have improved at home with a couple of big wins in recent games.

That included riding their luck in seeing off Norwich City and I think Fulham can find another three points and move out of the bottom three with a win on Saturday. Felix Magath has got enough out of this squad to think he can extract another three points from this game and give Fulham a fighting chance to avoid relegation.

Stoke City v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: If you have a look at some of the teams that Stoke City have beaten at home this season, you can't help but feel they are being a touch disrespected as the underdog to win this game. Stoke have beaten Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea here in the Premier League, while both Everton and Manchester City have failed to win and I see them causing Tottenham Hotspur plenty of problems.

Stoke City have also had a number of wins here in recent weeks that have built momentum and confidence and Mark Hughes has made it clear that he wants to see his side finish in the top half of the table.

The disrespect of having Stoke City as the underdog is highlighted even more when considering Tottenham Hotspur's poor away form at the same time as Stoke have been piling up wins.

Spurs have lost at Norwich City in their run of 4 losses in 6 away games in all competitions, while I would also be concerned by the fact that they were 3-0 down at West Brom despite the side earning a point. That does show that the players are still behind Tim Sherwood, although it probably has as much to do with impressing whoever the new manager could be that walks into White Hart Lane.

Sherwood does play attacking teams that look capable of scoring plenty of goals, but one that also has trouble defensively. That has been the main cause for concern for Spurs when they play away from home and Stoke are certainly capable of winning the game.

The price is too big to ignore for a team that has won 5 of their last 6 Premier League games at home and I will back Stoke City for a small interest in this game.

West Brom v West Ham United Pick: This is the kind of game that West Brom will be looking at to win to earn the three points that avoids seeing them dragged into the bottom three. It has to be a worry for West Brom that the likes of Fulham, Cardiff City and Sunderland have all earned big wins recently and are within striking distance of the Baggies.

They are facing a team that is essentially already safe in the Premier League in West Ham United, but a dangerous team that can score goals away from home judging by their recent results. West Brom have conceded three goals in each of their last three home games so the Hammers must feel they have every chance of scoring here.

However, the fact West Brom rarely have been beaten at the Hawthornes in recent weeks is down to the fact that they also have goals in the side and I can see them posing plenty of problems themselves.

It is all pointing to goals on Saturday afternoon and that is what I will be backing.

Manchester United v Norwich City Pick: It has been a rough season for Manchester United fans in terms of the upheaval at the club and the poor way they decided to dismiss David Moyes would not have impressed the majority of fans. However, it was a decision they had to make and now the search for the third manager in a little over twelve months will begin with Louis Van Gaal looking the favourite at this stage.

For now, Ryan Giggs will take charge of the side for the visit of Norwich City and I expect there to be a real reaction from the players that had had enough of David Moyes judging by some of the stories coming out since the manager was fired. There should be a change of feeling on the pitch and that could translate to a very big win on Saturday afternoon.

Norwich City must have been hoping that this happened seven days later as Manchester United would then be hosting one of their relegation rivals in Sunderland and the away side are fearing a backlash from United in this game.

It won't be helped by a poor away record all season which has left Norwich on the brink of falling into the bottom three and there is every chance they will begin in one of those positions by the time this game kicks off. Norwich have been conceding goals for fun on their travels and that won't be good enough against a Manchester United team that may have something to prove.

It is hard to see Norwich keeping it tight enough to earn anything from this game this weekend and I think the players at Manchester United will respond to the removal of David Moyes and help record a convincing win.

Crystal Palace v Manchester City Pick: With the news coming out of Chelsea that they are likely to play a weakened team in their game at Anfield on Sunday afternoon in anticipation of the Champions League, it will be interesting to see how Manchester City respond in their game later in the afternoon.

Manuel Pellegrini can only look at the failings of his own side as to why Manchester City are in a position where they are desperate for a favour from another team, while missing the likes of Yaya Toure and David Silva is going to make this trip to Crystal Palace that much tougher to overcome.

We know that Tony Pulis is going to set up his Crystal Palace side to be very solid defensively and they will be hard to break down, especially if Sergio Aguero is not fit to start for Manchester City either. That toughness was shown in a win over Chelsea here last month and Palace also have 5 straight wins in the Premier League which may give them the confidence to knock off Manchester City in this game.

The mental state of Manchester City has to be a worry too if Liverpool have won the earlier game, but I think Pellegrini is not a manager that will be letting his side lose too much focus. He will be aware that Liverpool still have to visit this tough ground and I think there is enough quality in the Manchester City squad to find an important three points to extend the race for the title to another week.

It certainly won't be easy, but there are enough goals in the City side, even in the absence of Toure and Silva, to find a win although it may come by the minimum of margins.

Arsenal v Newcastle United Pick: It has been a really poor period for Newcastle United and I don't know if they can work through the injuries in the squad to try and rally around for the final three games this season. Their 1-2 home loss against Swansea was largely disappointing considering Newcastle United took the lead in that game, and I don't believe they are going to get too much out of this visit to Arsenal.

The Gunners have scored at least three goals in their last two Premier League games after struggling through the FA Cup Semi Final against Wigan Athletic and I think Arsenal will be happy with the extra time to prepare for this game.

It may help clear up some of the injuries in the home squad and the momentum and motivation is certainly going to be behind Arsenal.

Arsenal crushed Newcastle United here last season and while I don't think anyone would be predicting them to score seven goals, the Magpies conceded three goals at Chelsea and four at Southampton in heavy losses.

There should be enough attacking intent in the Arsenal team to see them win this by a couple of goals.

MY PICKS: Fulham @ 2.38 Bet365 (2 Units)
Stoke City @ 3.33 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
West Brom-West Ham United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City to Win by One Goal @ 3.80 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

April Update12-13, - 4.33 Units (45 Units Staked, - 9.62% Yield)

March Final26-22, + 13.94 Units (83 Units Staked, + 16.80% Yield)
February Final12-28, - 16.74 Units (61 Units Staked, - 27.44% Yield)
January Final17-24, - 3.18 Units (62 Units Staked, - 5.13% Yield)
December Final19-16-2, + 13.34 Units (66 Units Staked, + 20.21% Yield)
November Final17-19-1, + 0.50 Units (56 Units Staked, + 0.09% Yield)
October Final20-16-1, + 12.94 Units (51 Units Staked, + 25.37% Yield)
September Final13-12, + 1.24 Units (39 Units Staked, + 3.18% Yield)
August Final13-26, - 12.13 Units (54 Units Staked, - 22.46% Yield)

Season 2013/14137-153-3, + 9.91 Units (472 Units Staked, + 2.10% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Friday, 25 April 2014

United Corner- It Just Wasn't Meant to be for David Moyes (April 25th 2014)

United Corner- It Just Wasn't Meant to be for David Moyes (April 25th 2014)

The David Moyes era at Old Trafford was officially brought to a close just ten months after he first walked through the door as Manchester United manager and it seems the over-riding feeling is of joy from the majority of the fans.

That is an understandable reaction considering the fall from grace made by United during the course of the season as they failed to really make a concerted effort to retain the Premier League title they won by eleven points last season.

Even with that in mind, I wasn't one of these 'experts' that had tipped Manchester United to challenge for the League title simply because of the margin they won the League by the year before- it was clear to most match-going Reds that the squad did need some big improvements, but that was the first failure made by the club under Moyes last summer.

While I expected United to slip off the top of the table, the belief at the start of the season was that there would be enough to see the side finish in the top four, so being a position where even that aim is unachievable with four games left to play was never going to be acceptable. However, I still believed that the manager needed to be given a chance and I was always prepared, no matter what happened this season, to give him two full seasons before I made a judgement on him.

There have been mistakes made by Moyes and he almost admitted to some of those with his statement offering the line that he 'is always learning' from the experiences. That was never going to cut it at Manchester United where the manager needed to have more faith in his own ability to do the job and it does make me wonder if Moyes ever really got to grip with what was required.

He wasn't helped last summer with a bumbling approach to the transfer market that would have been better overseen by Alan Partridge- the fact that Ed Woodward has shifted the focus on his own mistakes by using Moyes as a fall guy is embarrassing, particularly with the leak of the sacking on Easter Monday likely to have come from the new Chief Executive in all but name.

Signing Marouane Fellaini was under-whelming considering some of the names that Manchester United were linked with, while the fee was a disaster considering the Belgian midfielder could have been purchased earlier in the window for four million less than eventually agreed with Everton.

David Moyes also made the mistake of being a touch critical of a squad that had won the League the moment he walked into the club with some of the statements made about the standard bound to rub players up the wrong way. That was exasperated by the training methods that hadn't sit well with the squad and it was clear he had lost the support of key players as soon as Rio Ferdinand took to Twitter with 'veiled' digs at the manager.

His backing of Wayne Rooney, which some fans would have agreed with, seems to have been far too over the top where the striker was dictating potential transfer targets and having an increasing influence on Moyes. That was a stark contrast to how Sir Alex Ferguson dismissed Rooney's suggestions to buy Mesut Ozil in 2010 and lost Moyes the command of the dressing room, a big no no when dealing with the egos of a title winning squad that United possess.

The worst aspect of the manager reign was the post-match, pre-match interviews of a manager that seemingly forgot he was managing one of the biggest clubs in the world.

Repeated talk of 'playing well' and being 'unlucky' grated on some fans when it was clear we were not watching the same game, but using words like 'hope' before a home game against Newcastle United had everyone scratching their heads and wondering if Mike Ashley had signed the Bayern Munich starting eleven in the days leading up to the game without anyone noticing.

And any suggestion of Manchester United being an 'underdog' when Liverpool were visiting Old Trafford didn't exactly set the fire burning in a terrible performance on the pitch. Another home loss where Moyes pointed to Manchester City, not United, being the benchmark of the standard required in the Premier League was just bothersome in the meek way United surrendered on the pitch.

The fatal error from Moyes, even accounting for all those above, was the lack of a cohesive playing style that the fans could relate to- I am convinced that he would have been given time if United had been playing a swash-buckling style where they didn't simply run out of ideas the second they fell behind in a match. David Moyes was at his most comfortable when the fans accepted the tactics employed against Bayern Munich to try and contain the reigning European Champions, but those defensive schemes in games against West Brom, Fulham and Stoke City were never going to be good enough.

Buying Juan Mata looked a very good move, but playing him out of position was a travesty and the lack of a clear tactical plan may have been the downfall for the manager. Moyes has been accused of being too cautious and perhaps being in charge of a team like Everton, where finishing in the top seven every season was a success, is more in line with how he wants to approach games.

Manchester United expect to beat the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City... David Moyes just didn't want to lose those matches.

All of this may seem that I am being critical of a manager that I said I would give a chance to for at least a couple of seasons before I made my opinion on him- I still would have given the man another transfer window and evaluated the success in six months time.

This isn't out of blind-faith or because I want to show off 'Top Red' status, but simply because I believe the job at Manchester United was not going to be one that could be settled into immediately.

Moyes had been identifying the weaknesses in the squad and was being linked with the right players to start making the changes he wished to see. The midfield was quickly seen as the area he wanted to improve, although I do wish he hadn't panicked and bought Fellaini without really considering what he wanted to do with him.

Luke Shaw seems to have been persuaded to join United over his favourite club Chelsea and Moyes apparently had a scouting system in place that had impressed some of the big-wigs at the club.

Manchester United had been getting linked to some of the talent required in the areas they are needed which suggests that Moyes had an idea of what had to be done to change our fortunes on the field, but all the sub-standard performances and losing support in the board room and the dressing room ended any chance of extending his time in charge.

At the end of the day, United have to be comfortable with the manager they are willing to back heavily in the transfer market as I simply don't believe the owners are going to be investing in too many big windows into the club judging by past performance. That means the investment has to be right and the club have to be sure which manager gets the chance to do that.

I respect that, but I don't respect the way the owners and Ed Woodward in particular decided to go about their dispensing of Moyes- for all the mistakes that the manager had made, and for all those who don't believe that he was the right man for the top job, Moyes seems to be a nice enough guy that deserved to be treated with dignity and respect.

Those two elements were the last things afforded to him with the rumours about his demise spreading through Easter Monday and United's denials that they were in the process of removing him at that point is an outright lie. Fanzines like Red Issue and Red News have both been making it clear for weeks that there was a big change in feeling towards Moyes and suggestions that he was going to be leaving definitely came from within the club to the journalists after the loss at Everton.

As despicable and slimy as the likes of Woodward and the Glazers are, the players also should not be afforded the luxury of hiding behind the Moyes dismissal. Despite what they thought of the manager, their lacklustre displays in defeats to Manchester City and Liverpool is just as unforgivable as anything Moyes did and many of them should not be wearing the shirt for United again.

Moyes is certainly not going to be forgiving those players if his statement thanking everyone but noticeably ignoring the players is anything to go by and I don't blame him. For all the tactics and complaints about the way Moyes prepared for games, I have utter disdain for the way some of the players conducted themselves on and off the field.

So where do United go from here? I am not at all convinced with the idea of the 'Class of 92' taking over in a committee role, but that doesn't look a long-term plan with the job being linked to some of the bigger names in football.

Louis Van Gaal looks the obvious choice and while I have never been his biggest fan, the idea of someone with the discipline to come in and shape that squad and a man with the strength of character he has is very appealing. He has plenty of trophies behind his name, but the majority of those have come in the last century and that is the main reason I am not bouncing off the walls in anticipation of his arrival.

Personally I would look to Carlo Ancelotti, although trying to get him out of the Spanish capital might be nigh on impossible if he leads Real Madrid to the Champions League success they have craved for over a decade.

Even if it is Van Gaal, a manager I don't have a lot of time for, he needs to be given the chance to build the squad to his satisfaction and that means not being in this same position in twelve months time. If Manchester United are out of the top four again, the pressure will be on the owners who haven't accounted for the club being out of the European elite for too many years, but Van Gaal, or whoever is allowed to spend the money being spoken about, should be allowed to make the necessary changes that may not produce results for a couple of seasons.

Patience might have to be the key for the supporters, but I have faith they will have that with the match-going Reds who were behind Moyes until the very end. That should make it easier for the new manager, especially if they employ an attacking style that shows signs of the improvement that fans were looking for from the Moyes team selections as each week passed by.

Ten months is not enough time to really have a positive impact on a club and that is sadly going to be David Moyes' legacy at Old Trafford when we look back on his time at the club. There just won't be anything that people will look back on and remember was set in place by Moyes and I do feel sorry for him that he wasn't given a full chance.

He can also take some of the blame for that as he lost the dressing room and the performances highlighted that- it also showed a team that might not be willing to learn under Moyes and that was always going to shorten his time at Old Trafford.

For years it has been said that the Manchester United job would be a great one for the manager following the manager that replaced Sir Alex Ferguson.

The first part of that statement has come true with David Moyes being the victim, but it remains to be seen if the new manager, whoever that is, can really get the team back on track as soon as the fans would like it to be.

Tennis Picks 2014 (April 25th)

We have reached the Quarter Finals at the tournaments that are being played on both the ATP and WTA Tours this week as the clay court season continues.

There are some unfamiliar names at the back end of the tournaments in the ATP events at Barcelona and Bucharest, but a more 'normal' look to the WTA event in Stuttgart as the players continue their preparations for the second Grand Slam event of 2014 which is now one month away.

Ernests Gulbis - 3.5 games v Teimuraz Gabashvili: After playing so well through the first set against Rafael Nadal last week in Monte Carlo, Teimuraz Gabashvili has come to Barcelona and surprised David Ferrer on his way to the Quarter Final.

There is definitely some talent that Gabashvili possesses, but his serve can be a weakness which makes it that much more difficult to win matches at the highest level, although he has hidden those deficiencies well to this point.

Even with a dominant head to head against Ernests Gulbis, it is tough to see Gabashvili really having enough to beat the Latvian who could very much be in line for a career year.  Gulbis has already had a couple of solid wins over clay court specialists this week and he has had a better control of his temperament than six years ago when he last lost to Gabashvili.

If Gulbis continues to pressure his opponents with his serve, I would imagine he can win this match 76, 63 and book his place in the Semi Final.

Agnieszka Radwanska + 3.5 games v Maria Sharapova: I don't seem to analyse Agnieszka Radwansaka matches very well this season and always seem to back her when she has a nightmare, yet she produces sublime tennis when I have gone against her.

Hopefully that run will be snapped in this Quarter Final against Maria Sharapova, a player who Radwanska has competed very well against in her three most recent matches.

The clay courts should also be more to the liking of Radwanska despite Sharapova recently winning the French Open, and I think it helps the Pole use her defensive strength to try and frustrate the former World Number 1.

Their previous two matches on the clay courts have both been won by Sharapova, but the first took three sets and the second ended 76, 75 in a tight match. Radwanska is certainly playing well enough to keep this competitive through the match, even if she doesn't quite have enough to move through to the Semi Final.

Sara Errani v Carla Suarez Navarro: It hasn't been a strong start to 2014 for Sara Errani after a couple of really top seasons on the Tour as a Singles player, but getting back on the clay courts may see a reinvigoration of form.

Errani has had a couple of good wins this week, but there is a feeling that all the hard work she has had to put into her Singles matches, as well as playing a lot of Doubles with Roberta Vinci, may have worn her down over the last couple of years.

She has to really put in a lot to hold serve, but I still believe Errani will be too good for Carla Suarez Navarro who has a similar game without the same level of consistency.

I am always more concerned for Errani against the real big hitters on the WTA Tour who can power the Italian onto the back foot, but this match up should suit her judging by the 6-2 head to head in her favour. Suarez Navarro is a solid clay court player herself, but I believe Errani wears her down over three sets to move into the Semi Final.

MY PICKS: Ernests Gulbis - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Agnieszka Radwanska + 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Sara Errani @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 2-3, - 1.6 Units (10 Units Staked, - 16% Yield)

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (April 24th)

Yesterday produced a number of surprise results from the tennis that was being played, especially seeing David Ferrer being knocked out of the tournament in Barcelona. Since beating Rafael Nadal in Monte Carlo, Ferrer has not exactly had the best of results and I do wonder if he is still on the climbdown from one of the better wins of his career.

The likes of Alexandr Dolgopolov and Fabio Fognini were pretty solid favourites, both that I picked to win and cover spreads, but both were comfortably dismissed. The only good thing Fognini did all day was decide to quit after losing 10 games in a row and that also voided the pick on him on what looked to be a tough day before Marin Cilic pulled out the win late in the day.

The Third Round is going to be played on Thursday in Barcelona and I hope the picks have a stronger day than how they started on Wednesday.

Ernests Gulbis - 3.5 games v Albert Montanes: I was beaten by Albert Montanes in the Second Round as he dismissed Alexandr Dolgopolov in straight sets, but I think Ernests Gulbis will prove too good for him in this Third Round match.

The Montanes win over Dolgopolov was actually a really close match and it was the Spaniard who took his limited chances to secure the win. He will have to be that clinical again if he is to beat someone like Gulbis, a player that has had success on the slower surfaces before.

In fact, Gulbis' best showing in a Grand Slam came at the French Open and he had a decent win a couple of days ago to move through to this stage.

Gulbis can look after his serve effectively and Montanes will have to serve as well as he did yesterday to keep this close. I think that could be tough two days in a row for the veteran and I like Gulbis to win 75, 64.

Fernando Verdasco v Nicolas Almagro: This match has been set as a pick 'em by most of the layers, although Fernando Verdasco is the slight underdog and I can't help feel that is still getting things wrong on their part.

Fernando Verdasco has a strong head to head record against Nicolas Almagro and sometimes that can happen between players from the same country regardless of how the rest of the season may go.

There could be a mental block in Almagro's case against someone he would have played against for years and Verdasco pulled yet another win when the players met in the Final in Houston a couple of weeks ago.

Verdasco has also won the last 4 matches between the pair on the clay courts and I think he has to be backed as the underdog to win this match, although it may need three sets to do so.

MY PICKS: Ernests Gulbis - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-2, - 1.6 Units (6 Units Staked, - 26.67% Yield)

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (April 23rd)

A poor final day at the Monte Carlo Masters meant I had my first real losing week on the Tour for a couple of months and that is pretty good going. It also means the picks are in a decent place for the season as we continue on the clay court part of the year, which is also my favourite time for making picks with the better players being able to wear down their opponents.

This week the tournaments in Barcelona and Bucharest are shorn of most of the top players on the Tour who are getting ready for a big May that has two Masters tournaments in Madrid and Rome and also the French Open, the second Grand Slam event of the season.

Alexandr Dolgopolov - 2.5 games v Albert Montanes: The key to really being a good clay court player is learning to deal with the patience that you need to construct points on the slower surface and that is something I am not convinced that Alexandr Dolgopolov has mastered just yet.

The Ukrainian is having a strong 2014 season, but he was out-thought by Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in Monte Carlo, a Spaniard that is very comfortable on the red dirt.

Now he faces Albert Montanes, another Spaniard who saves his best tennis for the clay courts, in front of the Barcelona crowd that will attempt to offer him plenty of support. However, Montanes is not the same player of a few years ago and his serve can be attacked, while Dolgopolov has been protecting his own serve pretty well in the last couple of months.

Dolgopolov has to keep his head straight in what can be a frustrating match on a clay court against a defensive player like Montanes, but he has had a lot of success on the surface already in 2014 and I like him to win 75, 63.

Fabio Fognini - 3.5 games v Santiago Giraldo: These are two players very comfortable on the clay courts, but I would expect the Italian Fabio Fognini to prove a little too good over the course of the match.

Fognini has won 3 of their 4 previous matches and leads 2-1 on the clay courts, while there is no doubt that Fognini has shown far more form on the surface than Giraldo.

He was a little disappointing in his matches in Monte Carlo which were made more difficult than they should have been for Fognini, but the belief still has to be high when he is on the red dirt.

There have been times that I have seen Giraldo play some exceptional tennis, but I imagine Fognini frustrating him too much with his defence and coming through 75, 64.

Rafael Nadal - 6.5 games v Albert Ramos: It was a disappointing tournament in Monte Carlo for Rafael Nadal, but I don't think he will be worrying too much about his chances of dominating most clay court tournaments just yet.

It is important that Nadal wins in Barcelona just to make sure there are no nerves heading into a big month of tennis for him and I expect him to get off to a dominating start against Albert Ramos in this match.

I like the way Ramos plays on the clay courts, but he is going to sit in Nadal's comfort zone and the fact that he is left-handed means he will give the World Number 1 the rhythm he should enjoy. It was no surprise that Nadal won comfortably when they met last year at the same tournament and I like him to do the same this year.

Marin Cilic - 4.5 games v Andrey Kuznetsov: To say I was disappointed with the way Marin Cilic performed in his hammering at the hands of Stanislas Wawrinka is an under-statement, but I still am backing the Croatian to come through this match.

He didn't serve well and missed his limited chances against Wawrinka in Monte Carlo, but Cilic can at least point to the fact that his conquerer went on and won the tournament. He should have a more comfortable time against Andrey Kuznetsov who has already won three matches in Barcelona this week.

However, the clay courts have not seen Kuznetsov produce enough to think he can beat someone as talented as Cilic if the latter is on his game.

That is the key to the match, but Cilic should prove to be too good for the Russian in this match and come through 64, 63.

MY PICKS: Alexandr Dolgopolov - 2.5 Games @ 1.67 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Fabio Fognini - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 6.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 4.5 Games @ 2.20 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Monte Carlo Final: 6-7, - 2.04 Units (26 Units Staked, - 7.85% Yield)

Season 2014+ 36.01 Units (545 Units Staked, + 6.61% Yield)

Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)
Season 2011+ 82.02 Units

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Midweek Football Picks 2014 (April 22-24)

The Champions League and Europa League Semi Finals may take centre stage in the grand scheme of European football this week, but there is no doubt the news that David Moyes has been sacked as Manchester United manager is the biggest story out there for us United fans.

It had begun to circulate on Easter Monday that the manager was going to be removed imminently, perhaps coming about from the money the owner could save now the club was officially unable to finish in the top four.

The range of emotions have been mixed, but it does seem more and more United fans are of the belief that Moyes had to go now, although I am not convinced it is the right move simply because of the lack of options to take over.

Anyway, I will do my best to put something down in time for the games to be played on Saturday, but in the meantime will just use this post for my picks from the Semi Finals of both European competitions.

The last couple of weeks have been tough for the picks I have made with a lot of them going wrong, but the season is still in a decent shape and April can be turned around with a strong final eight days.

Atletico Madrid v Chelsea Pick: Both managers would probably have been targeting the chance to play the other's team when the draw for the European Champions League was made earlier this month and both have been given a very good chance to reach the Final in Lisbon next month.

The odds have begun to shorten, but I think the price for the Atletico Madrid win has been set at a disrespectful level before that at odds against and I would imagine that the likes of Real Madrid or Barcelona would have been much shorter if they were playing Chelsea at home.

However, it is Atletico Madrid who are leading the Spanish title race and it has to be motivating the players that no one seems to believe in them, even at this late stage of the season. Diego Simeone has made them very tough to beat, yet they have players in Koke, David Villa and Diego Costa that can create and score chances and that blend has helped them get to where they are.

Atletico Madrid have been strong at home and in Europe in front of their own fans and they may take advantage of a Chelsea team that have really missed not having a top centre forward all season. Jose Mourinho doesn't really trust any of his forward players and Chelsea have really struggled to impose themselves away from home with any consistency.

Three straight losses on their travels before beating a ten man Swansea team, as well as 2 losses in their last 3 Champions League away games has to be a concern when heading into this intimidating atmosphere. Chelsea have players that have played in such atmospheres before, but I think Atletico Madrid are playing at a level that should give them an edge to take to London next week.

As I said, Barcelona or Real Madrid would be much shorter to win this game if they were involved as the leaders of Spain's top flight and I think Atletico Madrid have to be backed to take a lead into the second leg.

Real Madrid v Bayern Munich Pick: When the draw was made, I couldn't help but expect plenty of goals between these two teams who will want to get forward and score goals and attack through the game. I can't imagine either team really taking a back step, although Real Madrid will be desperate that the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are available for selection.

Real Madrid have already played two German sides at home this season in the Champions League and scored three goals against both Schalke and Borussia Dortmund, which should give them confidence against this Bayern Munich too.

On the other hand, Bayern Munich have scored in their last 13 away games in the Champions League so will also expect that they can have an away goal or two to take back to Bavaria next week.

Their Semi Final in 2012 produced plenty of attacking football and I believe this tie is going to go the same way with both teams looking to get forward and cause problems for the opposition. As good as Bayern Munich have been this season, they have looked vulnerable at the back and I expect Real Madrid can create chances against them.

It should be a very fun Semi Final over the two legs and I will look for the first leg to produce at least three goals.

Benfica v Juventus Pick: This is a fascinating tie, but one where Juventus are favoured to come through over the two legs. However, I can't help feel that Benfica have been playing well enough in their Stadium of Light to have a lead to take to Turin next week.

An away goal would be huge for Juventus and they have every chance of getting that with the way Benfica have played in European competition. Benfica have had plenty of clean sheets in their domestic games, but they had struggled in the Champions League and they are playing an opponent that is very much of that standard compared to what they have seen in the Europa League.

Even with that in mind, Benfica will be confident of their chances of taking a lead to Italy when they look at the Juventus away record in their most recent Champions League away games. The Serie A Champions failed to win in Copenhagen and were beaten in Real Madrid and Galatasaray, although you can't ignore the conditions in Istanbul for the latter of those games.

Benfica have won their 2 home games against Juventus in their history and they play an attacking style, especially in front of their own fans, that should cause problems. I am not overly confident considering how tough Juventus are, but Benfica winning this has to be worth a small interest at a big price considering their form at the Stadium of Light at home and in European competition.

Sevilla v Valencia Pick: Both teams have the chance to really put an exclamation point to the season by reaching the Final of a competition that both have won, in a different form, over the last ten years.

Sevilla will definitely have the edge in terms of form and I think that will be what separates the two teams in the first leg of this Semi Final.

I expect them to get on the front foot to attack and give Valencia a lot of problems, but Sevilla have to be careful they are not over-committing and coming away with a 0-2 loss like they did when they met another Spanish side, rivals Real Betis, in the Last 16.

I also have respect for Valencia's away form in the Europa League before the 3-0 loss at Basel, but I think Sevilla are going to prove too strong and get back to winning ways against them here. It'll likely set up the second leg which should still have a lot to play for, but I imagine Sevilla will have a slight lead from this game.

MY PICKS: Atletico Madrid @ 1.85 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Real Madrid-Bayern Munich Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.70 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Benfica @ 2.75 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Sevilla @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)

April Update10-11, - 3.54 Units (38 Units Staked, - 9.32% Yield)

March Final26-22, + 13.94 Units (83 Units Staked, + 16.80% Yield)
February Final12-28, - 16.74 Units (61 Units Staked, - 27.44% Yield)
January Final17-24, - 3.18 Units (62 Units Staked, - 5.13% Yield)
December Final19-16-2, + 13.34 Units (66 Units Staked, + 20.21% Yield)
November Final17-19-1, + 0.50 Units (56 Units Staked, + 0.09% Yield)
October Final20-16-1, + 12.94 Units (51 Units Staked, + 25.37% Yield)
September Final13-12, + 1.24 Units (39 Units Staked, + 3.18% Yield)
August Final13-26, - 12.13 Units (54 Units Staked, - 22.46% Yield)

Season 2013/14137-153-3, + 9.91 Units (472 Units Staked, + 2.10% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Saturday, 19 April 2014

NBA First Round Play Off Picks 2014

This has been a really tough season when it comes to my picks as I have had bad luck, but also made some ridiculously poor picks (any time you pick Milwaukee/Philadelphia to cover, it shouldn't feel good no matter how many points you get on your side).

That happens once in a while, even through the course of a season, but hopefully the Play Offs will prove to be a 'different season' for the picks and get back to winning ways.

There is no doubt that there is plenty of exciting times ahead, particularly if you're a fan of the Western Conference which looks loaded with strong games from the very First Round. It isn't the case so much for the Eastern Conference, but both Miami and Indiana haven't looked themselves which makes it a more intriguing First Round than I would have perhaps expected when the season was drawing to a close.

The NBA Play Offs will be starting on Saturday 19th April and the next couple of months should be a lot of fun. I will be adding daily picks from the Play Off First Round on this thread, let's hope for some luck on and off the court.

Saturday 19th April
Brooklyn Nets @ Toronto Raptors Game One Pick: Experience against Youth, Athleticism against Veterans, are the kind of things we will be hearing during this series as the Toronto Raptors look to make home court advantage count as they open the Play Offs.

The lack of experience could be the biggest factor for Toronto to overcome against the Brooklyn Nets, but they have played with a freedom in recent weeks that should help them in this first game.

Nerves are always hard to judge, but Toronto are talented and can certainly give Brooklyn all they can handle. The Nets are also very happy with the series as they looked like they had been picking the Raptors as their First Round match up, but the excitement of the home crowd could carry Toronto to take the opening game.

As Brooklyn have rested players down the stretch, they may not have the full chemistry that they would need to immediately steal home court, and I am backing Toronto to win and cover the opening game of the series.

Golden State Warriors @ LA Clippers Game One Pick: If Andrew Bogut was available for the Golden State Warriors, I would see this being a much tighter series, but I like the LA Clippers to come through it. They will need to set the tone in this match from the first game and have proved too good for the Warriors when playing them at the Staples Center recently.

Both teams can get hot shooting the ball that always makes spreads like these look dangerous, but the Clippers have been comfortable winners at home in the two games previously this season and I think they have less adjustments to make. Without Bogut, Mark Jackson may still not be entirely sure how he wants the series to be played and I think the Clippers give him more to think about ahead of game two.

Atlanta Hawks @ Indiana Pacers Game One Pick: When the Atlanta Hawks are on, they have plenty of three point shooters that can put the pressure on their opponents, but the Indiana Pacers have a very good defence. The Pacers won all 3 home games against the Hawks in the Play Offs last season in their First Round series, all comfortably too, but the form down the stretch wasn't very good.

The Hawks won't have anything to lose and I think they can make the points look a little high in this first game.

Memphis Grizzlies @ Oklahoma City Thunder Game One Pick: The Memphis Grizzlies have been in Play Off mode for a couple of weeks as they have needed to push the Phoenix Suns out of contention, but they may just take a breath in this first game of a seven game series.

As inconsistent as the Oklahoma City Thunder have been in recent games, Kevin Durant will want to get this series of to a better start than last season to show the Thunder mean business this time around.

Sunday 20th April
Dallas Mavericks @ San Antonio Spurs Game One Pick: Game One of the NBA Play Offs were dominated by the underdog on Saturday, but I think this one could go more in the fashion of the Oklahoma City Thunder win over Memphis. Dallas put in a huge effort on days ago to avoid playing the San Antonio Spurs and that may adversely affect them in this game.

There is plenty of experience in both squads, but I think the Spurs will do enough defensively to secure a double digit win in the first game.

Charlotte Bobcats @ Miami Heat Game One Pick: Miami have been going through the motions towards the end of the regular season, but I expect them to turn up the defensive intensity now the Play Offs have begun. It hasn't been easy to see off the Bobcats despite the sweep of the regular season series, but the Heat covered in three of those games and I like them to begin this First Round series in a very positive manner.

The lack of Play Off experience in the Charlotte roster may bring up some nerves in this first game of the series too.

Washington Wizards @ Chicago Bulls Pick: There haven't been too many close games to this point of the NBA Play Offs and I think this game could reverse that trend with Washington capable of scoring enough points to make Chicago have to think. The Bulls are the right favourites to win the series, but games between the teams have been dominated by the underdog.

In recent games, the underdog is 7-1 against the spread and I am taking the points with Washington in game one.

Portland Trail Blazers @ Houston Rockets Game One Pick: This should be a really fun series to watch and I expect both teams will reach triple digits on a number of occasions- Houston have the experience and the slightly better all around team and I think they will back up their success from the regular season by beating Portland in this First Round series too.

With the three pointers on display, leads will quickly be evaporated throughout these games, but I like Houston to find a way to win this first game of the series and cover the spread.

Monday 21st April
You know when you should have had a winning pick when you see a tweet like this.

Give the Portland Police a lot of credit for the humorous nature of the tweet, but I think the Houston Rockets should be incredibly disappointed they didn't cover the spread let alone win the game.

Memphis Grizzlies @ Oklahoma City Thunder Game Two PickThis series was always going to be about which team can impose their style on the other and I don't suppose any game will be decided by anything more than those margins.

I am interested to see how Memphis would have recovered mentally and physically after the second half efforts on Saturday, particularly with 48 hours between Game One and Game Two. If they can replicate the Third Quarter on Saturday for 48 minutes, the Grizzlies could cause a surprise.

However, I think the Thunder have a little too much scoring for them and I will back them to win and cover for the second time in the series.

Golden State Warriors @ LA Clippers Pick: The zig-zag theory hasn't been working as well as it used to in recent seasons, but these teams are so closely matched that I think it is worth backing the LA Clippers to win and cover in Game Two.

If the referees don't take the same stance as Game One, the likes of Blake Griffin should have a much bigger impact in this game and I can imagine him leading the Clippers on the scoring to level up the series before heading to Golden State for Games Three and Four.

Tuesday 22nd April
Atlanta Hawks @ Indiana Pacers Game Two Pick: The zig-zag theory produced two winners on Monday night in the first of the Game Two match ups, but I won't be backing the Indiana Pacers to make it three out of three. It is hard to imagine the Pacers losing again at home, especially with the adjustments they will make between games, but the Hawks are playing better than them at this moment.

That momentum can be hard to stop and Atlanta might feel this is their best chance to get a real grip on the series while the Indiana Pacers second guess themselves. Atlanta have won on their last 2 visits to Indiana and they should be able to keep this close even in a losing effort.

Brooklyn Nets @ Toronto Raptors Game Two Pick: Games between Toronto and Brooklyn have been very tight all season which is highlighted by the fact that the 7 point win for the Nets on Saturday was the second largest margin in 5 games between the teams.

The Raptors are going to be the more desperate team in this one and I expect they will be getting to the foul line with more regularity than they produced in Game One. As experienced as Brooklyn are in their ranks, it is tough to win back to back games on the road against the same team and I think they are already satisfied with taking home court advantage in the series.

I wouldn't expect the Nets to roll over, but I do think Toronto win this game by at least five points and cover the spread.

Washington Wizards @ Chicago Bulls Game Two Pick: With the way Chicago have rallied through injuries to Derrick Rose and the trading of Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers, I absolutely expect the Bulls to have a big response to losing Game One on Tuesday evening.

They can play much better defensively than they did on Sunday, but Chicago now have to pick their poison and decide whether they want to keep the big men of Marcin Gortat and Nene quiet, or continue to harry and nag the likes of Bradley Beal and John Wall.

The Bulls have to show more consistent offense too if they are to win this game, but I do believe Tom Thibodeau will rally the troops and make a couple of adjustments to help them turnaround the result from Sunday.

Either way, the total points look a touch on the low side as three of their four games this season would have surpassed the number. If the referees continue playing the fouls as tight as they did a couple of days ago, both teams should get to 90 points in this one which means very likely going over the 181.5 total points line posted.

Wednesday 23rd April
Charlotte Bobcats @ Miami Heat Game Two Pick: The Miami Heat have dominated the Charlotte Bobcats in recent games and a hobbled Al Jefferson would make it that much more difficult for the Bobcats to spring a surprise.

There are stretches where Charlotte really give Miami all they can handle, but the Heat always seem to have an extra gear and I expect them to kick on and ensure a 2-0 lead in the First Round series with the second cover in the series.

Dallas Mavericks @ San Antonio Spurs Game Two Pick: It was a really strange Game One of the series where San Antonio started off so well, but then disappointed for two and half Quarters, while Dallas had a big lead without Dirk Nowitzki playing well at all.

Gregg Popovich would not have been happy with the way his veteran and experienced team took to the court on Sunday and I expect him to make a couple of adjustments to the first game. Those should help the Spurs play a more solid 48 minutes and I expect them to be more focused after being given a real scare in Game One.

It was also about as well as Dallas can play against the Spurs and there has to be a lingering disappointment with the way the game ended and I think San Antonio could take advantage of any doubts in the Mavericks minds.

Portland Trail Blazers @ Houston Rockets Game Two Pick: It has to be the most disappointing losses of the first round of games in the NBA Play Offs when Houston continually blew a lead to end up gifting Portland Game One of this series.

The interesting factor is how Portland approach Game Two- will they look to up the ante and really push for another win to take a 0-2 lead in the First Round series or are they happy with the guaranteed split of the first two games?

With the way that both teams attack and score points, I do think Portland will put in the necessary effort to try and win the game, but I think Kevin McHale makes the adjustments to earn the split of the first two games. I expect bigger games from Dwight Howard and James Harden, although the 'Hack-A-Howard' strategy has every chance of helping the Trail Blazers extend the game and keep things close.

Still, I don't expect the Rockets to lose focus as they did in Game One and I like them to cover.

Thursday 24th April
Indiana Pacers @ Atlanta Hawks Game Three Pick: The mood around the Indiana Pacers will definitely have changed after the way they fought back and beat the Atlanta Hawks in Game Two to level the series. However, the result had as much to do with the Hawks losing focus and moving away from what had given them such a big lead in that second game and I expect Atlanta to get back to basics.

As good as the defensive shape was from the Pacers in Game Two, the Hawks can be criticised for missing a number of open shots and even Head Coach Mike Budenholzer admitted the Third Quarter could, and perhaps should, have been so different than an 18 point blow out for Indiana.

The Hawks still provide some real match up problems and being back on home court should give them the chance to reclaim the lead in the series. Indiana haven't convinced me that they are back on track just yet and I will take the points for the third time in the series.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Memphis Grizzlies Game Three Pick: This series is going to be decided by which of the teams make the adjustments and impose their style on the other and it is tough to really predict from game to game which way it will go.

I thought the Thunder had the momentum after really hurting Memphis in Game One, but they lost the edge in the second game and couldn't quite ride their momentum to steal it in overtime.

Oklahoma City have an issue of trying to defend the big men inside the paint, while also being one of the weaker teams defensively from the three point line and that is a problem they have to resolve in Game Three.

That has helped Memphis score plenty of points against the Thunder despite the grind it out style they like playing and games have to be won by scoring close to triple digits. I would be surprised if this game ends in a blow out and I think both teams push each other to the point of going over the total points line set.

LA Clippers @ Golden State Warriors Game Three Pick: The first two games of this series have really been adversely affected by the refereeing which has prevented either team really playing their full rotations in the way they would have liked.

It also means the games have been extended and with two powerful offenses that these teams possess, it is no surprise that there have been a deluge of points in both games.

Game Three should go the same way with both Golden State and the LA Clippers pushing the pace and looking for three pointers and attacking the rim to get to the foul line. If the referees continue playing it as tight as they have in Los Angeles, the game could see huge numbers of free throws too.

I think the Clippers will get their home court advantage back in the next few days, but picking a winner can be tough with the home Arena very much something the Clippers won't have experienced before in Oakland. Their poor record here may also give the Golden State Warriors an edge in Game Three, but I am going to back the game to hit the overs in the total points market, even at the big number.

Friday 25th April
Toronto Raptors @ Brooklyn Nets Game Three Pick: It's Brooklyn's veteran Play Off experience against Toronto's youthful energy in this First Round series, but I think the Nets are perhaps not so pleased with their decision to tank the last couple of games to earn this series.

The first two games have been close with some poor refereeing really being the highlight, but the games have also been incredibly close which makes the 5 point spread look tough to call. I can make a case for either team to cover tonight which means I need to stay clear of that market.

However, the total points looks a little on the low side with both teams capable of getting close to triple digits in terms of points and the potential for overtime incredibly high. The last four games in Brooklyn have seen a similar total surpassed and I will back this game to head over the total points.

Chicago Bulls @ Washington Wizards Game Three Pick: They might be 0-2 down in the series after losing both games in front of their own fans, but I am absolutely convinced that Chicago are not too far away from turning this around and the series is far from over.

Up until yesterday, I was very keen on taking the points with the Bulls, but I do think the layers are being a little tight with the amount of points they are offering and Washington have played well enough to get away if on top form.

Either way, the total points still looks too low and the layers are not accounting for the match up problems that Washington provide both inside the paint and outside the three point line. 4 of their 5 games this season have ended over the total points set, although the exception was in this Arena when the Bulls completely dominated defensively.

That is my biggest concern- if Chicago lock down defensively and this inexperienced Washington team take too many poor shots, but the Wizards have controlled their nerves to this point and I look for enough points to cover the total.

Houston Rockets @ Portland Trail Blazers Game Three Pick: I am surprised as anyone that Portland took both games of this First Round series and I am interested to see if LaMarcus Aldridge is slowed down by the change in venue after his 89 points scored in the first two games.

The Rose Garden is never an easy place for a visiting team, but the fans should be rapid in anticipation of welcoming back their Trail Blazers with a 2-0 lead in the series. It is almost certainly a 'must win' game for the Houston Rockets, but I can't be backing them after they let me down twice already in the series and the spread looks a little low considering how well Portland played in the first two games on the road.

That isn't low enough to tempt me to back the home team to cover though, because Houston are a better team than they have shown.

One element that is unlikely to change is the number of points being scored by the teams and the over has now hit 9 times in a row in the series. Both teams love hitting the three point shot, while they also have players that can dominate inside the paint and attack the rim which leads to fouls and lots of free throws.

It is a big number, but Houston and Portland continue to combine and cover the total points and I will back them to do the same on Friday night.

Saturday 26th April
San Antonio Spurs @ Dallas Mavericks Game Three Pick: The first two games of this series have been surprising considering the domination the San Antonio Spurs have had over the Dallas Mavericks in the last few games between them before the First Round series began.

You have to think Gregg Popovich is going to find some of the adjustments that are clearly needed from the Spurs if they are to reclaim home court advantage, although there is also the factor that Dallas are a better road team than they have been at home.

San Antonio have enjoyed their recent visits to the American Airlines Center with four straight wins and they have covered the spread in every one of those wins. I can't imagine the team with the best record in the NBA this season, as well as the Play Off experience they have, not bouncing back from their poor Game Two.

It won't be easy if Devin Harris continues giving the bench a boost as he has been, but I like San Antonio to take back home court advantage.

Miami Heat @ Charlotte Bobcats Game Three Pick: The series has been more competitive than I thought it was going to be, but the important factor is that the Miami Heat are 2-0 up in the series and Charlotte are now in a desperate state.

Another loss would be curtains for the First Round series, but the Bobcats will still have earned their respect and can move forward with the experiences they have picked up.

The Heat are rested and should be focused in putting this series away as soon as possible, while they have also won 7 in a row in Charlotte. Of those games, the Heat have covered the spread 6 times and I will back them to do the same again.

Sunday 27th April
Chicago Bulls @ Washington Wizards Game Four Pick: This series has provided more scoring than most would have expected, especially the layers who have been burnt by three straight games going over the total. That is simply because of the fouls that both teams are committing as well as the ability to get hot from the three point arc and I do expect this one to go the same way.

However, you have to show concern for the absence of Nene who has been described as the 'x-factor' by John Wall and replicating his numbers will be tough for Washington. They were held to 76 points by the Bulls in the regular season when Nene missed that game, but the Wizards have given this Chicago defense enough to think about to believe they will do better than that this time.

The games have been close too and overtime is another real possibility and I expect the three pointers to help the teams achieve the overs.

LA Clippers @ Golden State Warriors Game Four Pick: Hearing the alleged audio of Donald Sterling's comments disgusted me and I am not sure how the players that he pays are going to be fully focused on this game, no matter how huge it is for their overall goals this season.

Chris Paul has released a statement in his role working for the Player's Union, while the likes of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin have to be angry and hurt, but Doc Rivers is a great Head Coach who will do his best to ready them for Game Four.

They have been the better team in the last two games over the Golden State Warriors, but the latter were beginning to really find something that worked at the end of Game Three and they can take advantage of the distractions in the opposite dressing room. While the Warriors will have players that have been shocked by Sterling's remarks, they don't get paid by that owner and are not going to be perhaps considering whether to stay with their team at the end of the Play Offs.

Golden State also weren't considering boycotting Game Four and I am not sure how the Clippers have prepared for this game with such a huge issue rearing its head just yesterday. The Warriors are also more desperate to tie the series so I am taking the points.

Toronto Raptors @ Brooklyn Nets Game Four Pick: The Brooklyn Nets should have blown out the Raptors in Game Three, but they allowed complacency to set in and it would be a surprise if this group, with the experience they have, allow that to happen again.

That isn't to say the Raptors are going to go away in this one, but they are banged up and struggling to find the adjustments in the series. There are too many turnovers from the Raptors and they are not finding enough sources of scoring for them to get past a tough, grizzled group.

Brooklyn wanted this series and they have been very good at the Barclays Center over the last few months. I will back the Nets to show more focus and come down on the Raptors to put all the pressure on them with a 3-1 lead in the series.

Houston Rockets @ Portland Trail Blazers Game Four Pick: This is a tough series to predict with both teams showing resiliency and character in the first three games- it is also a real surprise that all three games have been won by the road team in an underdog spot which Houston will be desperate to do again.

That is hard to call as both teams can get really hot from the three point line and the small spread indicates the layers are not quite sure how the game will go.

However, the one consistency has been the points being scored by teams that push the pace and don't bleed the shot clock when finding open shooters. The teams have now covered the total points ten times in a row in their series and the games have been so close that even overtime isn't out of the question.

It remains a big number on the total points, but I like the total to be surpassed again.

Monday 28th April
Miami Heat @ Charlotte Bobcats Game Four Pick: There are times that the Miami Heat have been criticised for using the 'off' button in games and try to coast to wins without really focusing, and that has to be the biggest fear for them in this Game Four.

The Heat have had big leads through every game, but Charlotte proved they can make the shots to hang around in Game Two when Miami were a touch too complacent down the stretch and almost allowed the Bobcats to win the game.

However, the chance for rest is too much to ignore and I think Miami come out focused in a bid to rest and then pick the scraps of the winner of the series between Toronto and Brooklyn which has been incredibly tough to this point.

Miami have won plenty of games in Charlotte during their 19 game winning run against them and they generally seem to be able to pull away in those games so I will back them to cover again.

Atlanta Hawks @ Indiana Pacers Game Five Pick: It is hard to really gauge what teams we are going to see on Monday night as both have blown hot and cold so regularly that it is also no surprise that the series is tied.

The Indiana Pacers have home court, but they have struggled against the Atlanta line up and they have to hope the Hawks are not quite with it from the three point arc.

That is where Atlanta will either sink or swim in this series and I expect them to hoist up plenty of shots from the three point arc. The Pacers have also struggled with a consistent offense so a hot Atlanta team has every chance of making it 3-2 in the First Round series and a chance to wrap things up at home later this week.

However, it is hard to back Atlanta to win this game outright, although the points look too many to be giving up and I will take them into this Game Five.

Tuesday 29th April
Washington Wizards @ Chicago Bulls Game Five Pick: This is a fascinating Game Five as it could be very interesting how Washington react if they are unable to close the show on Tuesday evening. As well as the Wizards have played, they are a young team that may feel a little anxious to close the series and that would only get more and more of an issue if Chicago can force a Game Six and then Game Seven.

My problem is that I can't see this Bulls team turning around a series in which they have been surprisingly bullied from the off by Washington. The return of Nene gives the Wizards another offensive threat and the 'pick your poison' choice of defending the front or back court isn't working out well for Chicago.

Offensively, the Bulls haven't got the consistent threat a Derrick Rose or even Luol Deng would have provided in the Play Offs and defensively they have struggled.

I am expecting the Wizards to close the show on Tuesday, but I hate under-estimating a Chicago team that have hung tough for two seasons without Rose who is easily the best player on their roster. Points shouldn't be a problem in a series that has seen 7 of the last 8 games go over the totals set by the layers, including all 4 in the Play Offs.

Golden State Warriors @ LA Clippers Game Five Pick: The big question heading into Game Five is whether the Game Four domination from the Golden State Warriors was down to legitimate reasons or whether the LA Clippers are mentally addled by all the furore surrounding their team.

Donald Sterling's alleged comments have stirred up huge controversy and there could be a very interesting press conference held by the NBA Commissioner which has been scheduled for this afternoon. Whether that inspires or infuriates the LA Clippers players is yet to be seen.

The home advantage may not be a great one for the Clippers with many fans unhappy and sponsors are pulling out of the team left, right and centre and this isn't the best atmosphere to try and focus on a huge Game Five just two days after being blown out in Oakland.

That all makes the points the Warriors are getting look too much in this game and I have a feeling they keep this close at the very least as the Clippers may not be completely focused on on-court activities.

Wednesday 30th April
Portland Trail Blazers @ Houston Rockets Game Five Pick: The first four games of the series have been high-scoring although I am surprised to see the Portland Trail Blazers on the brink of moving through to the Western Conference Semi Finals.

Overtime has been a feature of games between the teams as well as the vast amount of points being scored and I can't ignore the statistics that show the over being hit 10 times in a row. Both teams can get going from the three point line and both have players that can get hot and I will take the overs again in the series.

Thursday 1st May
Indiana Pacers @ Atlanta Hawks Game Six Pick: Both teams have struggled to win back to back games in the series, but all the momentum is back with the Atlanta Hawks thanks to their Game Five win in the series. Now they have home court advantage for one game knowing they need to win just one more to move through to the Eastern Conference Semi Finals against the Washington Wizards.

The three point shooting has either been boom or bust for the Hawks and you know that this game is going to come down to whether they are on or off with that shot. Indiana have shown very little resolve in trying to figure out how to prevent the Hawks imposing their game and this simply comes down to whether Atlanta hit or miss.

Going cold is my biggest concern for the Atlanta and the fact that I like this game to go over the total points as that has been the main reason that a couple of the games haven't hit the mark set. If they are shooting as they were a couple of nights ago, the mark should be surpassed again.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Memphis Grizzlies Game Six Pick: Overtime has been the main feature of the last four games, although the Oklahoma City Thunder will be scratching their heads as to how they have had all the momentum going into those extra periods but finished on the losing side three times.

The Thunder just haven't found the consistent offense they would have been hoping for against a grind it out Memphis team that have imposed themselves for large stretches of the games to this point.

Even with the slower style employed by the Grizzlies, the games have seen three of the last four surpass the total points set and the chance of overtime is clearly very high in this series.

LA Clippers @ Golden State Warriors Game Six Pick: All but one of the first five games of the series has seen plenty of points scored by teams that push the pace and will attack the rim. That will lead to fouls and extend the game, while both teams are also very capable of hitting from beyond the three point perimeter so picking over the total points looks the call in Game Six.

I have a feeling this is one of the series that is going to go the distance with Golden State being very strong in their own Arena and I can see them finding more consistency from Stephen Curry to get the win when it is all said and done.

However, the layers are finding it hard to split the teams so backing the total points to be surpassed looks the more reasonable call.

Friday 2nd May
Toronto Raptors @ Brooklyn Nets Game Six Pick: The Brooklyn Nets came all the way back from a 26 point deficit in Game Five to tie the game, but they once again failed to close the show against a Toronto team that looked down and out. In Game Four, the Nets looked like they had taken all of the shots that the Raptors took, but they struggled offensively down the stretch and have now lost two in a row in the series.

With the Raptors on the brink of moving through, I think it is going to take a huge effort from Brooklyn to force a Game Seven and this has all the makings of another close game between the teams.

Both have had runs through the games to make most of them competitive and it says a lot that the largest margin of victory either team has managed in the last seven games is eight points and that makes the points being given to the Raptors look too large to ignore.

San Antonio Spurs @ Dallas Mavericks Game Six Pick: Dallas have held surprisingly tough in the series considering the way San Antonio dominated them prior to these Play Offs beginning and every game in this First Round series has been closely contested.

The feeling is that San Antonio have found a groove in the last two games and that momentum may be hard for Dallas to take back despite their ability on the offensive side of the court. Unfortunately for them, they haven't been able to play enough strong defense to win either of the last two games and the series may just have slipped from their grasp.

Gregg Popovich will have his veterans ready for one more big effort to find their way through and not have to go through the 2006 talk that has begun to manifest ahead of this game. Ending the series in Dallas looks a decent chance for the Spurs on Friday night.

Houston Rockets @ Portland Trail Blazers Game Six Pick: This has been a close series from the very first game with overtimes separating the teams and there hasn't been a lot to separate them even in the games won and lost.

That has helped the confidence in both camps that they can either close the show or extend the series depending on which locker room you happen to be sitting in.

It has been a surprise to see the Portland Trail Blazers getting the better of the Houston Rockets to this point and I can really see the winner being the one that is the most clinical in the final two minutes of the game. It would be more than a surprise if the game is a blow out but the Rockets seem to be getting too many points, especially as they found some of the right adjustments in Game Five.

If someone suggested that there is going to be at least one more Game Seven this weekend, I believe I would pick this series out of the three Game Six being played tonight as being the one that goes the distance.

Saturday 3rd May
Memphis Grizzlies @ Oklahoma City Thunder Game Seven Pick: It does look a lot of points to be giving up for the Oklahoma City Thunder considering we have reached Game Seven, but it is hard to ignore the hardship that the Memphis Grizzlies have to overcome.

Zach Randolph is suspended and both Mike Conley and Tony Allen could be limited, while the Thunder found a groove in Game Six that may make their momentum very hard to slow down back at home.

Golden State Warriors @ LA Clippers Game Seven Pick: As bad as both teams were from the field, they continued to get enough attacking play to the rim to cause fouls and extend the last game and I can see that happening again in a vital Game Seven.

I would expect a big improvement when it comes to shooting from the field too and both teams should crack triple digits and lead to a high-scoring, but tense, final game in this First Round series.

MY PICKS: 19/04 Toronto Raptors - 3 Points @ 1.92 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
19/04 LA Clippers - 7 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
19/04 Atlanta Hawks + 7.5 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
19/04 Oklahoma City Thunder - 7.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
20/04 San Antonio Spurs - 9.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
20/04 Miami Heat - 9.5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
20/04 Washington Wizards + 4.5 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
20/04 Houston Rockets - 5.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
21/04 Oklahoma City Thunder - 7 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
21/04 LA Clippers - 8 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
22/04 Atlanta Hawks + 7.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
22/04 Toronto Raptors - 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
22/04 Chicago Bulls-Washington Wizards Over 181.5 Total Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
23/04 Miami Heat - 10.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
23/04 San Antonio Spurs - 8 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
23/04 Houston Rockets - 6 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
24/04 Atlanta Hawks + 2.5 Points @ 1.92 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
24/04 Memphis Grizzlies-Oklahoma City Thunder Over 190 Total Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
24/04 Golden State Warriors-LA Clippers Over 214.5 Total Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
25/04 Brooklyn Nets-Toronto Raptors Over 190.5 Total Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
25/04 Washington Wizards-Chicago Bulls Over 182.5 Total Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
25/04 Portland Trail Blazers-Houston Rockets Over 215.5 Total Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
26/04 San Antonio Spurs - 3.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
26/04 Miami Heat - 5 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
27/04 Washington Wizards-Chicago Bulls Over 183.5 Total Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
27/04 Golden State Warriors + 2 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
27/04 Brooklyn Nets - 4 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
27/04 Portland Trail Blazers-Houston Rockets Over 214 Total Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
28/04 Miami Heat - 7.5 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
28/04 Atlanta Hawks + 7 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
29/04 Chicago Bulls-Washington Wizards Over 183.5 Total Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
29/04 Golden State Warriors + 6 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
30/04 Houston Rockets-Portland Trail Blazers Over 214 Total Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
01/05 Atlanta Hawks-Indiana Pacers Over 186.5 Total Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
01/05 Memphis Grizzlies-Oklahoma City Thunder Over 184 Total Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
01/05 Golden State Warriors-LA Clippers Over 209.5 Total Points @ 1.92 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
02/05 Toronto Raptors + 5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
02/05 San Antonio Spurs - 3 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
02/05 Houston Rockets + 4 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
03/05 Oklahoma City Thunder - 9.5 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
03/05 LA Clippers-Golden State Warriors Over 206.5 Total Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

First Round Update: 22-19, + 2.02 Units