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Tuesday, 3 February 2015

NBA Picks February 2015

The NFL season came to a close this past Sunday and that means the NBA will take the focus of the majority of sports headlines in the United States over the next few months. Of course the NFL never really ends with Free Agency looming followed by the NFL Draft and before you know it, the NFL will be back in training camp and we can begin to look forward to a new season.

However, in that time the NBA will be moving towards the Play Offs when the real excitement begins considering more than half of the teams will be taking part in those games. That has made the regular season something of an experiment for teams as they look to peak for April-June, but it has been stated previously that teams change their mentality after the All-Star break.

That All-Star Game takes place in the middle of this month in New York and that week long break from the regular season settles the NBA down with teams focusing on lottery picks and improving Play Off Seeding.

While the Western Conference still remains extremely competitive through the top 9 places (which doesn't include the Oklahoma City Thunder at the moment), the Eastern Conference has fewer really stellar teams.

The Atlanta Hawks have been on a really special run through January which has given them a 7 game lead at the top of the Conference and I think it will take some collapse from them, or another team putting together a long winning run, for them not to finish with the Number 1 Seed in this Conference. This is a team that may be lacking the star power of the likes of the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers, but Atlanta are very strong through their rotation and I think they will be a tough out for anyone if they are hosting the Play Off series.

Talking about the Cavaliers, there definitely seems to be a better groove being demonstrated by the team led by LeBron James. However, bigger challenges await in February which will tell us a lot more about Cleveland, while Kevin Love still struggle to find his actual role in the team.

By the end of this month, we are going to have a much clearer picture of where the Play Offs are heading and it is an important month to start proving that your team is ready to compete through to June.

Tuesday 3 February
Boston Celtics @ New York Knicks Pick: The New York Knicks have been in decent form over the last couple of weeks since returning from London and I think they can see off the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks have won 3 in a row against Boston, including on the road earlier this season, and New York have gone 6-1 against the spread in their last 7 games since being blown out in London.

The Knicks have covered as the favourite in their last 2 games in this position and they are 2-0 against the spread as a home favourite of fewer than 3 points this season. Derek Fisher has got the team battling through their injury issues and New York have also been playing better on the Defensive side of the court.

The Boston Celtics have lost 3 in a row and are coming into New York for this road game before returning home tomorrow night. Avery Bradley should play despite fracturing his thumb on his non-shooting hand, but the Celtics have been struggling in this transitional season. The Celtics are 0-2 against the spread when set as a small underdog on the road and I will back the New York Knicks to come through.

Golden State Warriors @ Sacramento Kings Pick: The Golden State Warriors snapped a two game losing run with an impressive home blow out of the Phoenix Suns and have had a couple of days to rest. Games against the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks follow this one for the Warriors so they perhaps overlook the Sacramento Kings a little, but the Western Conference is so tight that Golden State cannot drop silly games.

It has also been tougher for the Golden State Warriors when they go on the road as they are just 2-5 straight up in their last 7 away from Oakland. They are also just 1-4 against the spread in their last 5 road games as the favourite, but they have dominated the Sacramento Kings with 3 wins against them this season by at least 18 points per game.

Sacramento have been on a 3 game road trip against teams from the Eastern Conference where they finally snapped a 8 game losing run. The Kings had failed to cover in 4 straight games before the win over the Indiana Pacers, while they are 3-5 against the spread when playing Divisional rivals.

The rest should have done Golden State some good and they are 7-1 against the spread this season when having two days rest before games and I think their three point shooting as well as the up-tempo style of basketball sees the Warriors cover in this game.

Wednesday 4 February
Denver Nuggets @ Boston Celtics Pick: The Denver Nuggets have lost 10 of their last 11 games, although the irony is the one game they did win was when I had backed the New Orleans Pelicans. I am hoping lightning doesn't strike twice, because I think the Boston Celtics are going to be able to knock them off at home on this back to back for both teams.

The Boston Celtics are looking for a fifth win in a row at home against Denver, although they need to snap their 4 game losing run at home and the fact they have lost 5 of their last 6 in front of their own fans. The Celtics are not a great team, but they might just be able to challenge for a Play Off spot in the Eastern Conference and they should have a lot more confidence than the Nuggets who were embarrassed by the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday.

Denver are just 4-6 against the spread on the second of back to back nights play and they are just 3-10 against the spread when revenging a home loss. On the other hand, Boston are 6-2 against the spread in back to back nights play and I think they cover in this one.

Brooklyn Nets @ Toronto Raptors Pick: The Toronto Raptors only just escaped Brooklyn with a win last week thanks to huge performances from Brook Lopez and Jarrett Jack who combined for 70 points for the Nets. That helped erase a 17 point lead that the Raptors had in the game, but Toronto have won both of the games against Brooklyn this season and will look to carry on that dominance.

Brooklyn recovered from a big deficit to beat the LA Clippers on Monday, but they are just 1-7 against the spread when the Nets have won a game as the underdog. They are also facing a Toronto team that was surprised by the Milwaukee Bucks in their last game and the Raptors have at least recovered to go 4-3 against the spread in their next game off an upset loss.

It was a poor shooting night all around for Toronto in their loss to Milwaukee, but that is unlikely to be repeated considering they average 103 points per game at home this season. The Nets are just 8-14 against the spread when playing a team with a winning record and they might not have the same inspiration to recover from a big deficit on the road as they have in their last two home games.

The Nets Defensive performances have not been up to par in recent games and I will look for Toronto to cover.

Thursday 5 February
LA Clippers @ Cleveland Cavaliers Pick: The Cleveland Cavaliers have won 11 straight games to move back above 0.500 and give fans a glimpse into what was expected when LeBron James joined Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving 'back home'.

James himself has admitted that the Cavaliers have had to work through a lot of 'bad habits' but there is still a lot of room for improvement, especially if they can get Love going. It has been tough for Love being the 'third man' on this team when it comes to shooting the ball, but James wants him to be more aggressive when the shots are presented to him.

There is also some concern that Cleveland have feasted on mainly bad teams during their run of wins, although they did knock off the LA Clippers on the road. The Clippers are one of the favourites in the Western Conference, but will likely miss JJ Redick in this one, while Jamal Crawford has struggled off the bench.

Los Angeles are also 1-5 against the spread in their last 6 road games against Eastern Conference teams and they are 1-7 against the spread in their last 8 games at the Cleveland Cavaliers. With the momentum Cleveland have picked up over the last month, I will look for them to knock off the Clippers at home.

Friday 6 February
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Indiana Pacers Pick: The spread moved up a point during the Cleveland Cavalier blow out of the LA Clippers, but I still like the current hottest team in the NBA to continue their run. Cleveland might 'only' have won by 11 last night, but they were up by 32 points going into the Fourth Quarter and rested all of their starters which should put them in a good place for this game.

The Cavaliers are getting it done on both ends of the court at the moment and have won their last 4 games by double-digits. They are meeting an Indiana Pacers team that has played better Offensively since George Hill returned, while the news that Paul George could return as soon as next month is another morale boost.

However, the Pacers are 2-5 against the spread as a home underdog this season and have been out-scored by an average 7 points per game in those games. Indiana are also 3-6 against the spread when playing a team with a winning record at home and I think they are going to have dig very deep to keep up with the Cavaliers who have found something of a groove.

Cleveland have won 12 in a row and are 10-2 against the spread in those games, going 3-1 against the spread in road games and I like them to continue being too grizzled at both ends of the court and win this one.

Milwaukee Bucks @ Houston Rockets Pick: Dwight Howard has been ruled out until at least the All-Star Game, but they still have won 4 of their last 5 games and now look to cool off the Milwaukee Bucks who have won 5 straight games and have one of the best depths in the NBA. The Bucks have battled through injuries to continue to surprise everyone, including those in Vegas considering their 33-16 record against the spread.

That includes an incredible 21-6 record against the spread on the road and they are just as good playing teams with winning records as those with losing records.

Milwaukee have a strong record in recent games in Houston, but they are facing a Rockets team that is 7-1 against the spread at home and are getting a big effort from their role players in the absence of Howard. Earlier in the season the Bucks were being given a lot of points which aided them in covering a lot of games, but this is a spread that the hot three point shooting of Houston can see them cover.

I have respect for the way that Milwaukee have played on the Defensive side of the court, but the Rockets may just catch the Bucks looking ahead to returning home to face Boston on Saturday night.

Saturday 7 February
Golden State Warriors @ New York Knicks Pick: The Golden State Warriors had to put in a big effort in an ultimately losing occasion against the Atlanta Hawks last night, but they might be facing  short-handed New York Knicks team in this one.

It is the fourth game in five days for the Warriors so tiredness may be an issue for them, but they have a very hot shooting team that might have too much in the locker for a Knicks team that could be without Amare Stoudemire and, more importantly, Carmelo Anthony.

The Warriors are 4-0 against the spread in their last four visits to Madison Square Garden and playing in such a famous venue might bring the best out of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the rest of the sharp shooters of the Golden State team. It is a big number to cover, but I will back Golden State to do that.

Sunday 8 February
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Detroit Pistons Pick: It was very irritating seeing Golden State fail to cover in a game they dominated on Saturday.

I will be looking for a better bit of fortune on Sunday when I pick the Detroit Pistons to cover a fairly big spread against the Minnesota Timberwolves who could be short-handed. Ricky Rubio is not expected to play and Minnesota have been much improved with the Spaniard running at Point Guard so his absence could be tough to make up.

Minnesota also have big games ahead against Atlanta and Golden State, the two top teams in the Eastern and Western Conference respectively and might overlook Detroit considering they have a losing record. The Pistons have won 3 of their last 4 games and can snap a 9 game losing run to Minnesota in this one and the Timberwolves are just 7-13 against the spread in non-Conference games this season.

Chicago Bulls @ Orlando Magic Pick: The firing of Jacques Vaughn wasn't really a big surprise for Orlando Magic fans considering how the team had been playing of late and they snapped a long losing run with a win over the LA Lakers in their first game under Interim Head Coach James Borrego.

Backing up that win against the Chicago Bulls will be tough, even if the Bulls are on a back to back, because the starters should be well rested after they blew out the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night. They might also have the services of Mike Dunleavy back in the rotation and Chicago should be too good for the Magic.

Orlando beat a poor Lakers team, but had been losing a lot of games by double digits prior to that and I think the Bulls cover.

Tuesday 10 February
Houston Rockets @ Phoenix Suns Pick: The Houston Rockets were upset as a favourite on Sunday by the Portland Trail Blazers, but they can make up for it as the underdog on Tuesday when they travel to Phoenix. The Rockets have won on their last two visits to the Suns and Houston are 7-1 against the spread following up an upset loss.

Even without Dwight Howard, Phoenix may not have the same presence on the glass that Portland have which allowed the Trail Blazers to give Houston as many problems as they did. James Harden also showed off some hot shooting and the Rockets can get very good support from the wings which could be a key against Phoenix considering the amount of points that both teams are capable of scoring.

The All-Star break is fast approaching, but Houston still have to deal with a trip to the LA Clippers before that, but I like the way they have bounced back from losses as the favourite. The Phoenix Suns have been limping into the break with injuries and a loss of form and they have lost 4 of their last 5 games as they have allowed teams to close on their Play Off place.

The break seems to be coming at a good time for Phoenix, but they may have to take another loss against one of the better teams in the West and I will take the points on offer.

Wednesday 11 February
Atlanta Hawks @ Boston Celtics Pick: The Atlanta Hawks might not have a long list of players that the casual fan would be able to name, but they are just the eighth team EVER to have four All-Star players after Kyle Korver was picked to replace Dwyane Wade. Last month the entire starting line up were given 'Player of the Month' honours to show how well the Hawks have been playing and they can go into the week long break with another win under their belts.

Atlanta have lost 2 of their last 5 games, but I still think this team is full of confidence and can snap Boston Celtic's two game winning run at home. The Celtics are still in contention for a place in the Eastern Conference Play Offs, despite the trades they have made to improve in the future, but I think the absence of Kelly Olynyk and the lack of consistent scoring hurts them in this game.

They were beaten by 14 points last month by this Hawks team who should dominate the paint and open up the three point shooting lanes. Boston are just 5-8 against the spread against a team with a winning record at home and Atlanta have continued to dominate the lesser teams by going 9-2 against the spread on the road against teams with losing records. Atlanta should have too much scoring power for Boston and I like them to cover.

LA Lakers @ Portland Trail Blazers Pick: With the All-Star break coming after this game, this looks a lot of points for the Portland Trail Blazers to be giving up, even against a terrible team like the LA Lakers which is struggling with injuries and playing D-League standard players. However, covering double digits worth of points is a tough task and Portland are 2-5 against the spread when favoured by 10 plus points this season.

It is a familiar position for the LA Lakers in the tough Western Conference that people will expect to see them blown out and they are 8-7 against the spread when giving 10 or more points. The expectation will be on Portland to demolish the Lakers, but their two wins this season against them has come by an average of 8 points per game and the Trail Blazers may be looking to the break to get healthier and rediscover their groove.

Only 1 of the last 8 games that the LA Lakers have played has seen them lose by more than 14 points and that was against the Cleveland Cavaliers in a game that ended in a 15 point win for the Cavs. Portland have blown out Phoenix at home recently, but their focus could be on the break ahead and taking the points seems the right call.

Houston Rockets @ LA Clippers Pick: I am sticking with the Houston Rockets for the second night in a row despite the fact that they are short-handed and coming off a really tough road win at the Phoenix Suns. However, backing them in an underdog spot against the LA Clippers who are off a long road trip and missing Blake Griffin looks a good opportunity for Houston to snap their 5 game losing run against a fellow contender in the Western Conference.

Playing on back to back nights is tough, but Terrance Jones may return to give Houston another body in the front court to take some pressure off a team missing Dwight Howard. James Harden is going into the All-Star Game in great form and he looks to have a good match up in this one and could have another huge outing.

Defensively it has been a struggle for the Clippers in recent games and they are allowing an eye-watering 111 points per game in their last 5 games. If they can't slow down Harden, it should open up the three point shooting for the Rockets and they might just be able to cover as the underdog for the second night in a row.

The Clippers are just 4-7 against the spread at home when playing a team with a winning record and they have failed to back an upset win this season by going 0-2 against the spread in their next game. It isn't a lot of points to be getting, but Houston may still be able to stay within the number.

Thursday 12 February
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Chicago Bulls Pick: It was an awful Wednesday night for the picks, but it was the small margins that seemed to go against them as teams blew leads or fell apart when the games were very close.

The last game before the All-Star break is between the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the two teams who had started the season as the favourites to win the Eastern Conference. Both teams could be missing a vital piece of their starting line up if Jimmy Butler and Kevin Love are sitting out, although Love looks more likely to take his place in the Cleveland rotation.

The Cavaliers blew out the Miami Heat on Wednesday evening and are on a back to back, but they have been in much better form than the Chicago Bulls who have struggled to find their identity. Chicago have been known for their Defensive capabilities, but that hasn't been the case of late and Cleveland are good enough to take advantage now they have found something of a groove at both ends of the court.

Chicago have won 3 in a row and haven't given up more than 97 points in those games, but they were very fortunate to beat the Orlando Magic and they haven't played a team as good as Cleveland. The Cavaliers are also 2-0 against the Bulls this season and I just think they have more of an understanding of one another at the moment and can end the 'first half' of the season with another important win in their development as title contenders.

Thursday 19 February
Dallas Mavericks @ Oklahoma City Thunder Pick: The All-Star Game is in the books and Russell Westbrook was so close to breaking Wilt Chamberlain's record of 42 points in the game but finished with 41. Westbrook will look to continue his hot form for the Oklahoma City Thunder who are looking to sneak into the Play Offs after injury derailed them early in the season.

Whether Reggie Jackson is suited up is a different matter with suggestions he will have been traded away before this game tips off. Jackson hasn't been getting a lot of minutes since Dion Waiters arrived though and I also think Kevin Durant's new outspoken attitude is going to help the Thunder bring it over the next couple of months.

Dallas have been boosted by the addition of Amare Stoudemire, while Rajon Rondo and Tyson Chandler should have recovered from injuries thanks to the break between games. However, I still like Oklahoma City to win and cover as Dallas have a big game against Houston on deck tomorrow night and they are playing the Thunder who are 9-4 against the spread at home when playing a team with a winning record.

The Thunder should be more ready to come out and make a statement that they are a threat in the Western Conference and Dallas are also 1-6 against the spread in their last 7 games as the road underdog.

Friday 20 February
Miami Heat @ New York Knicks Pick: There is no doubt about the direction these two teams are trying to go if you look at the moves made at the trade deadline. The New York Knicks have bought out Amare Stoudemire, shipped off Pablo Prigioni and about to shut down Carmelo Anthony for the season, while the Miami Heat made the biggest move at the deadline by trading for Goran Drajic.

I am a big fan of the 'Dragon' and he should give the Miami Heat plenty of upside as they look to work their way into the Eastern Conference Play Off mix. Chris Bosh misses this game, but Dwyane Wade is back and the Heat starting line up looks a good one, even if the depth was sacrificed in the trade for Drajic.

He should be running the point in this one against a Knicks team that looks like they will be tanking the rest of the way- that isn't even out of choice when you consider who will take the court as a full effort will be given, but they will likely fall short in terms of quality.

The Knicks are just 4-9 against the spread when playing a team with a losing record at Madison Square Garden, while Miami are 10-5 against the spread on the road against a team with a losing record. I look for that trend to continue as the Heat look to make it 10-1 against the spread against teams from the Atlantic Division this season.

Toronto Raptors @ Atlanta Hawks Pick: The Atlanta Hawks blew a game against the Boston Celtics just prior to the All-Star Break, but they remain in firm control of the Eastern Conference Number 1 Seed. They had four of their starters enjoying the All-Star Game and that must have inspired them to have a deep Play Off run.

Atlanta get a chance to show off what they learned over the last eight days as they take on the Toronto Raptors, a team that looked desperate for some time off, but then rolled into that break off three straight wins. The Raptors can score a lot of points and they look a team that can cause some problems in the Play Offs, while also beating Atlanta twice this season.

Imagine that, Toronto have accounted for 2 of the 11 Hawks losses this season, but Atlanta did blow them out when they last met in January. Now they get a chance to revenge a home loss in a spot where they are 7-0 against the spread when favoured by between 3 and 6.5 points at home.

Atlanta are also 10-1 against the spread at home when playing a team with a winning record and I think they can come out of the All-Star Break and make a real statement of their intentions over the next four months.

Cleveland Cavaliers @ Washington Wizards Pick: The Cleveland Cavaliers laid an egg in the final game before the All-Star Break as they were blown out at the hands of the Chicago Bulls, but they can come out of that break with an important win. The Washington Wizards are one of their rivals for a top four Seeding in the Eastern Conference Play Offs, but the Wizards limped into the All-Star activities having lost 6 of their last 8 games.

The Cavaliers haven't been a great team to back against 'good' teams though, especially not on the road, which has to be a concern for LeBron James and his team-mates. However, Cleveland have been playing some of their best basketball of the season over the last month and will be boosted by the return of Kevin Love to the starting line up.

Washington have been struggling to play the better teams in recent weeks and they are 1-4 against the spread when playing a team with a winning record in the 'second half' of the season. They are missing Bradley Beal and just traded away Andre Miller and I do think Cleveland are playing well enough to win and cover here.

Saturday 21 February
New Orleans Pelicans @ Miami Heat Pick: The Miami Heat have lost Chris Bosh for the foreseeable future, but they got better news about his long-term health which is the major concern at this moment.

Even without Bosh, Miami can rally together and make the Play Offs in the next couple of months from the weak Eastern Conference and they come into this one having blown out the New York Knicks. That means resting the likes of Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic will play his first game for the Heat having been traded from the Phoenix Suns.

I think the arrival of Dragic will spark the Heat and this looks a good chance for them to carry the momentum of last night into future games. The New Orleans Pelicans do have Anthony Davis back, but were surprisingly beaten by the Orlando Magic and must be feeling the pressure of the Oklahoma City Thunder breathing down their necks.

Both teams have been very good when playing the second of back to back games, but I think the Heat hold the edge with the excitement of the new arrival in Dragic making his debut and rallying around Chris Bosh.

Toronto Raptors @ Houston Rockets Pick: The Toronto Raptors stunned the Atlanta Hawks on Friday and I have a feeling they could be dealing with the emotional baggage of the game as they head to the Houston Rockets. It was a statement win by Toronto in the Eastern Conference so they might just have to pick themselves up to be ready for a non-Conference opponent on the road.

It will be an angry host too as the Houston Rockets look to bounce back from their disappointing defeat against the Dallas Mavericks when they felt there was too much rust coming out of the All-Star break.

Houston have stated that they expect to be much better with a game behind them and they have the volume three point shooting to really give Toronto some problems. However, the Raptors are a young team that haven't been affected by back to back nights play previously and so tiredness won't be a factor in this one.

This should be a fun game, but home advantage and the fact that Toronto are coming off a very important win means I will back Houston to take advantage of the mental effort the Raptors put into the win over Atlanta.

Sunday 22 February
Atlanta Hawks @ Milwaukee Bucks Pick: The Atlanta Hawks laid an egg in their first game back from the All-Star Break and admitted they weren't good enough at either end of the court.

They have a chance to bounce back against the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that has overachieved this season but perhaps understood that at the trade deadline. Trading away Brandon Knight didn't seem to be the best move, although Michael Carter-Williams could be a star of the future for them if he can get over his consistent injury problems.

Carter-Williams misses this game and as good as Milwaukee have been this season, they are still 4-6 against the spread when playing teams with winning records. The Bucks face Chicago tomorrow which could be the more important game for them as a Divisional game, while Atlanta have bounced back from an upset loss by going 3-1 against the spread in their next game.

Golden State Warriors @ Indiana Pacers Pick: The Golden State Warriors are the favourites to win the Western Conference, but they haven't always performed well against the weaker Eastern Conference, going 9-8 against the spread this season.

However, the Warriors can get their road games against teams from that Conference off to a good start when they travel to the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers have played well as the home underdog in their most recent game, but they remain just 4-5 against the spread when facing teams with winning records at home.

The Splash Brothers can get hot and really make it difficult for teams to keep up with the Golden State Warriors and I am not convinced the Indiana Pacers have the athleticism to keep up with them. Indiana have gotten back to the Defensive identity that made them one of the favourites to win the Eastern Conference over the last couple of seasons, but Golden State should test them to the fullest and I like the Warriors to cover.

Boston Celtics @ LA Lakers Pick: The only reason I can see for this spread to be as low as it is has to be the rivalry between the LA Lakers and the Boston Celtics and whether that will be enough to inspire the home team.

Jared Sullinger is a big miss for Boston, but the Celtics won't be short-handed for this one with the likes of Thomas, Jerebko and Datome all likely to be involved having come in at the trade deadline. Avery Bradley has been playing well and they are facing a Lakers team that has lost 7 in a row with the last 5 coming by an average of over 11 points per game.

The Lakers are clearly in the midst of more than a slight transitional season and it will be tough for them to win games down the stretch. Perhaps they dig deep knowing this is a rivalry game, but the Lakers are just 4-7 against the spread when playing a team with a losing record at home and Boston have played better in the non-Conference games so far this season.

Monday 23 February
I was disappointed with the late decision to withhold Stephen Curry made by the Golden State Warriors, but they should still have had enough to win that game.

The Boston Celtics loss at the LA Lakers didn't 'smell right' with some pretty brutal calls from the officials not helping, especially tossing Isaiah Thomas for absolutely nothing. The Celtics led for much of the game but couldn't put the Lakers away and it was a poor defeat for a team chasing a Play Off place.

Milwaukee Bucks @ Chicago Bulls Pick: The Milwaukee Bucks found the Atlanta Hawks a little too tough on Sunday, but they can redeem themselves against another of the top Eastern Conference teams when they visit the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls have won both previous games between these teams this season, but they have been inconsistent to say the least and Milwaukee have been a solid underdog all year.

Milwaukee had been playing well before the loss to Atlanta and will be looking for a better start to this game having played catch up all of Sunday.

They will still be missing Michael Carter-Williams but Milwaukee have given the best teams a run for their money by going 10-4 against the spread when playing on the road against those teams with winning records. Chicago have called for more focus for their team in the coming weeks as they prepare for the Play Offs and I expect a full effort for them with 'easy' games coming up and this being one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.

However, the Bucks have regularly shown that giving them a lot of points is a position they thrive in and I will take the 8 points on offer on the head-start.

Tuesday 24 February
Indiana Pacers @ Oklahoma City Thunder Pick: Kevin Durant and Paul George are the faces of these respective franchises, but neither player will be on the court on Tuesday as the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoms City Thunder look to improve their Play Off chances.

Both teams are in the bottom of the Play Off mix in their respective Conferences, but both the Thunder and Pacers are in red hot form despite missing their key players and that should make this a very good game.

I just wonder if the Pacers will be able to get up for this one road game between two huge home games against the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, while dealing with Russell Westbrook is going to be far from easy.

The Thunder also have decent depth thanks to the trades they made ahead of the deadline and they haven't missed a step without Durant thanks to the way Westbrook has been playing. I will back the home team to win this one and cover.

Wednesday 25 February
Dallas Mavericks @ Atlanta Hawks Pick: The Atlanta Hawks were blown out in their last home game, but they have every chance of bouncing back by knocking off one of the top teams in the Western Conference in this one. The Dallas Mavericks had to put in a huge effort to overcome the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday and will be missing Rajon Rondo in this game, while also returning home immediately after this one.

Those factors can play a part against a Hawks team that are 10-2 against the spread at home when playing a team with a winning record as well as going 14-5 against the spread against Western Conference teams. Atlanta might not be the fashionable choice to win the NBA Finals and most still doubt they do much more than get out of the First Round of the Play Offs, but the Hawks have continued to prove people wrong all season and have four All-Stars in the starting line up.

Jeff Teague is a doubt which bothers me, but Atlanta look in a good spot to knock off Dallas who have to fight fires with the Rondo situation which saw him suspended for this game.

LA Clippers @ Houston Rockets Pick: Simply put, if Patrick Beverley can't take to the court for this game, I think the Houston Rockets will struggle to match up against Chris Paul and the LA Clippers.

Even in the absence of Blake Griffin, the Clippers had won 4 in a row before making some late mistakes to be beaten by the Memphis Grizzlies. They actually have a return game on the road with Memphis following this one which could take some of the focus away for the Clippers, but the Houston Rockets are a big rival in terms of Seeding in the Western Conference and I think Los Angeles keep their head in the game.

The Clippers have won 6 in a row against Houston, including 3 straight on the road, and I think taking the points they are being given is the call. It is a shame that the 3.5 spread has gone, but 3 points could still be critical in what could be a very close game.

Thursday 26 February
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Phoenix Suns Pick: The Oklahoma City Thunder continue winning games even in the absence of Kevin Durant and they will look for a vital victory at the Phoenix Suns on Thursday. The Thunder know a win over the likes of Phoenix will give them a very good chance of earning their way into the Western Conference Play Offs and they should be fully focused despite a huge game against the Portland Trail Blazers coming up tomorrow.

Phoenix did play yesterday and they are 5-8 against the spread on the second of back to back nights play, while they are still trying to integrate the new look in the roster having traded away the likes of Isaiah Thomas and Goran Dragic.

Facing a team in hot form like the Thunder is going to be difficult for Phoenix to contain even if they have won their last 2 home games against Oklahoma City. The Thunder have struggled against the teams with winning records on the road, going 4-10 against the spread in that situation this season. However, I do think they are playing a lot better than Phoenix, have got a good understanding of one another in the absence of Kevin Durant and have a deep roster that can find scoring to complement Russell Westbrook and earn another vital victory in the chase for Play Off places.

MY PICKS: 03/02 New York Knicks - 1.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)
03/02 Golden State Warriors - 9 Points @ 2.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
04/02 Boston Celtics - 2.5 Points @ 1.93 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
04/02 Toronto Raptors - 7 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
05/02 Cleveland Cavaliers - 4.5 Points @ 1.93 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
06/02 Cleveland Cavaliers - 6.5 Points @ 1.93 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
06/02 Houston Rockets - 6 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
07/02 Golden State Warriors - 14.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
08/02 Detroit Pistons - 7 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
08/02 Chicago Bulls - 6 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
10/02 Houston Rockets + 1.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
11/02 Atlanta Hawks - 7.5 Points @ 1.93 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
11/02 LA Lakers + 13.5 Points @ 1.93 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
11/02 Houston Rockets + 3.5 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (1 Unit)
12/02 Cleveland Cavaliers - 1.5 Points @ 1.92 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
19/02 Oklahoma City Thunder - 5.5 Points @ 1.93 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
20/02 Miami Heat - 5.5 Points @ 1.92 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
20/02 Atlanta Hawks - 5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
20/02 Cleveland Cavaliers - 3 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
21/02 Miami Heat - 2 Points @ 1.92 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
21/02 Houston Rockets - 2 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
22/02 Atlanta Hawks - 5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
22/02 Golden State Warriors - 6 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
22/02 Boston Celtics - 2.5 Points @ 1.93 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
23/02 Milwaukee Bucks + 8 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
24/02 Oklahoma City Thunder - 6.5 Points @ 1.93 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
25/02 Atlanta Hawks - 7 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)
25/02 LA Clippers + 3 Points @ 1.92 William Hill (1 Unit)
26/02 Oklahoma City Thunder - 4.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

February Update: 11-16-1, - 5.70 Units

January Final18-10, + 6.67 Units
December Final3-6, - 3.31 Units
November Final14-11, + 1.70 Units
October Final2-4, - 2 Units
Season 2015: 37-31, + 3.07 Units

Final Season 201458-72-1, - 16.86 Units
Final Season 2013105-93-3, + 10.49 Units
Final Season 201279-53-1, + 27.48 Units

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