This is certainly the time of the season when the NBA takes a backseat to College Football and the NFL as those seasons are beginning to get down to the critical points. It has been a commonly held fact that the top teams don't really want to gel together until after the All-Star Break when they begin to look ahead to the Play Offs and all of the early stuff is just jostling for position.
No Seeds can be wrapped up in January, but a poor start can certainly make life uneasy and that is especially the case for the teams in the loaded Western Conference.
There isn't much to say about the picks last week after a 6-1 run in the final three days reduced the losses from a really poor opening to the week. Hopefully I can build on that momentum going into this week and get the season totals back moving in the positive direction.
Monday 9th November
San Antonio Spurs @ Sacramento Kings Pick: There is no doubting that it will take Gregg Popovich and the rest of the San Antonio Spurs a little time to figure out how best to employ LaMarcus Aldridge. The big off-season acquisition from the Portland Trail Blazers is trying to gel with his team-mates in the early portion of the season and the Spurs are certainly a team that will look to be in much better shape as a team come later in the season.
They have been there and done it so often that no one can seriously doubt the credentials of this team and Head Coach. After a disappointing loss in Washington snapped a three game winning run, San Antonio were back to winning ways against Charlotte, but now head off for another two game road game.
The first is at the Sacramento Kings who are missing key player DeMarcus Cousins and are still getting a new look team on the same page. Five straight losses against some of the best teams in the Western Conference has suggested the Kings are still looking to bridge the gap to become a genuine Play Off contender and the absence of Cousins really makes this a very difficult game for them.
Sacramento have only lost two of those five games by double digits, but Golden State were nine point winners meaning three of the five teams would have covered this number. The Spurs are playing well enough to do that too and have a solid 7-2 record against the spread in their last nine in Sacramento.
Add the fact that San Antonio are a solid 17-7 against the spread as a big road favourite in the last couple of years and I like the Spurs to earn a big win here.
Tuesday 10th November
The San Antonio Spurs put in a big effort in the Fourth Quarter to secure the win and the blow out.
Utah Jazz @ Cleveland Cavaliers Pick: Both teams have had a couple of days to get ready for this game which should mean the likes of LeBron James and Derrick Favors are able to go. Big players are what the fans are paying for so seeing these guys out there is great for the fans and both Utah and Cleveland have a few days before their next game.
Both teams have also made a very good start to the new season, but it is the Cavaliers with the momentum behind them after putting together six straight wins. Utah have played well too at the start of the season so they can't be dismissed easily, but the Cavaliers have the better talent level and should be too strong.
However, I have to be a little wary that Cleveland are generally over-rated at home because the books know they will get money on the Cavaliers. They are just 1-3 against the spread in home games, but I think this is a number they can cover even if the game will be close for a while.
With a few days until they visit the New York Knicks, I expect Cleveland to look to keep their momentum going and I think they win this by double digits.
Boston Celtics @ Milwaukee Bucks Pick: The Milwaukee Bucks are home underdogs against the Boston Celtics and I think they are in a good spot to cover in this one. The Boston Celtics are on the first of a back to back set when they host the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday and they might be looking ahead to that game having lost a close one to them last week and with revenge on the mind.
A quick road stop in Milwaukee before returning home to Boston might not be the ideal spot for the Celtics too. They haven't been the best road favourite to back as the Celtics have a 2-7 record against the spread in the last couple of years when favoured by 3 points or fewer on the road.
Boston have played well here, but Milwaukee are the team who have won four straight games to get their season moving in the right direction. The Bucks have played well on both sides of the ball in those wins, although it has to be accepted that Boston are the best team they have played in that run.
The Bucks have gone 3-1 against the spread in those four wins and I like them to potentially win this one outright as the underdog.
Charlotte Hornets @ Minnesota Timberwolves Pick: They might be at home, but the Minnesota Timberwolves have had to travel back from a stunning win in Atlanta. The Timberwolves had to dig deep to beat Atlanta after blowing a big lead in that game and now the Charlotte Hornets could take advantage.
The Hornets have won five of their last six games against the Minnesota Timberwolves and that includes two of their last three visits to Minnesota. This is the end of a three game road trip for Charlotte and they are back at home tomorrow which might take some of the focus, but I still like the spot that the road team are in.
Charlotte are 3-2 against the spread in recent years as a small road favourite while Minnesota are 5-8 against the spread as the small home underdog. The Timberwolves have played twice at home and have yet to cover and I think their young players may struggle to pick themselves up emotionally from a battle last night.
With Golden State Warriors the next visitors to the Target Center, I look for Charlotte to perhaps take advantage of tired minds and legs and win on the road.
Wednesday 11th November
It was a frustrating Tuesday as Cleveland missed a number of Free Throws and the Utah Jazz kept hitting their shots late in what was an eventual four point win for the Cavaliers.
Milwaukee were disappointingly blown out by the Boston Celtics, but Charlotte did take advantage of their spot to at least salvage something for the day.
New Orleans Pelicans @ Atlanta Hawks Pick: Anthony Davis could potentially become the latest in a long line of New Orleans Pelicans who are unable to go after picking up an injury in the win over the Dallas Mavericks. With no rest time between games and a potentially short-handed rotation heading to the Atlanta Hawks, it is no surprise that the home team are favoured by as many points as they are.
The spread looks to be moving upwards as more and more people understand how big an absence Davis will be for New Orleans, but I wouldn't be comfortable letting it move much further.
I have to give New Orleans credit in being competitive in their games recently and being beaten by double digits isn't easy in the NBA. However, they are 0-2 against the spread in the second of back to back games this season and Atlanta have won a few games by wide margins.
The Hawks are also looking to bounce back from a disappointing home loss to Minnesota as the big favourite, but they are 16-10 against the spread in that spot in recent seasons and I like them to cover.
Golden State Warriors @ Memphis Grizzlies Pick: When you're as good as the Golden State Warriors, even a little bit of motivation like being disrespected as Champions will see your team pummel opponents. That is the way they have opened the season as they remain unbeaten and look to put the hammer down on the Memphis Grizzlies for a second time.
The Grizzlies were arguably the team that gave up the Golden State Warriors most to think about in the Play Offs last season on their run to the Championship, but the Warriors have blown them out once already. Memphis have played better since that blow out defeat in the Oracle Arena and now have home court to support them.
Mario Chalmers could make his debut and give the Grizzlies a little more shooting, but it is tough to keep up with Golden State at the best of times. Memphis are a Defensive team, but the Warriors can spread them out and hammer them from the three point arc and that has led to a couple of big wins in Memphis during the Western Conference Semi Finals.
Memphis aren't a great home underdog to back, but they are rarely dogged by this many points so I expect them to be plenty motivated, including because of that blow out loss earlier in the season. However, I think Golden State have too much scoring and can win this by double digits.
Detroit Pistons @ Sacramento Kings Pick: I think the Detroit Pistons could be one of the surprise packages in the Eastern Conference this season and Stan Van Gundy should be expecting a Play Off spot at the very least. This is the third road game in four days which can be tough, but the Pistons have been playing well during this Western Conference swing and can put in a big effort knowing they have a few days to rest before their next game.
Andre Drummond versus DeMarcus Cousins looks the big match up in this one, but I am still surprised that the Sacramento Kings are set as the home favourite considering how each team has been playing. Add in the fact that Cousins only just returned from a four game absence and Drummond might be able to win that match up and give the Pistons the edge.
I can't dismiss the fact that Sacramento have had a tough schedule to open the season as they continue to fit Rajon Rondo into their system alongside Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins. Even with that in mind, the Kings might be surprised they have allowed at least 100 points in every game this season and that makes things tough against a Detroit team that has been good Defensively.
The Pistons have won five in a row against Sacramento and have won four of their last five here outright. Detroit are 9-6 against the spread as a road underdog of three points or fewer while the Kings are 3-8 against the spread as a small home favourite.
I'll take the points on offer here.
Thursday 12th November
It was a frustrating Wednesday to back up a frustrating Tuesday... Basically Atlanta didn't start playing until the second half and won by eight points against a short-handed opponent, while Detroit couldn't recover from a poor first quarter in their loss.
Golden State Warriors continue to be a popular team to back with another easy win over the Memphis Grizzlies and look to have come into this season with back to back Championships firmly their goal.
Golden State Warriors @ Minnesota Timberwolves Pick: My sole pick on Thursday night sees me go back to the well with the Golden State Warriors despite this being a back to back set for them. However, the chance to make a franchise record ten straight wins to open the season is in front of them as they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves and this is a Golden State team playing with a lot of passion and heart despite coming in as reigning Champions.
That might have seen Golden State perhaps make a slow start, especially with Head Coach Steve Kerr out with a back injury. Instead they haven't missed a beat and a second convincing win over Memphis this season means the Warriors should have enough energy for a second consecutive road game on a back to back.
Minnesota were expectedly not quite ready for their last home game and that has seen them drop to 0-3 at the Target Center this season. Their last two losses have both come by double digits, but they should be boosted by the return of Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins and Nikola Pekovic.
It should make the Timberwolves more competitive and this young team will want to give the Champions all they can handle. However, Golden State are 9-3 against the spread in their last twelve visits to Minnesota and I think the motivation for creating a new franchise record of wins to open the season sees the Warriors pull this out.
The experience they have should see them roll with the punches as this young Minnesota team takes it to them, but I expect the Warriors become the third straight visiting to win by double digits in this Arena.
Friday 13th November
The Golden State Warriors blew a nineteen point lead in the middle of the third quarter and looked to be letting the Minnesota Timberwolves hang around for long enough to secure a backdoor cover. However, Stephen Curry continued his hot start to the new season to hit a couple of big shots and the Warriors moved to 10-0 behind a thirteen point win.
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Indiana Pacers Pick: A poor first quarter saw the Minnesota Timberwolves behind the black ball against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday. However, the exuberance of youth saw them challenge the defending Champions the rest of the way, get within five points of them before Stephen Curry made some big plays late to see the Warriors come through.
This is the fourth game in five nights for Minnesota and putting in the effort they did to stay competitive against the Golden State Warriors will have an effect in this game. Minnesota are 0-1 against the spread in the only back to back game they have played this season and getting up for the challenge against the Indiana Pacers will be tough as they travel on Friday.
The Pacers have won five of their last six games to start showing what kind of effect the changes made in the off-season can have. They have a couple of days rest before they have to play again so Indiana should be ready to come out and compete on their home floor.
Indiana's last two wins have come by double digits and they have backed up upset wins by going 3-0 against the spread in their next game this season. The Timberwolves are 9-12 against the spread when set as the road underdog of between 6.5 and 9 points in recent years, although they have to be respected for going 4-0 against the spread as the road underdog this season.
However, I think fatigue plays a part in this one and putting in such a physical and emotional effort on Thursday might be tough to pick themselves up again. That should lead to Indiana winning this game by more than seven points.
Cleveland Cavaliers @ New York Knicks Pick: As a New York Knicks fan, the expectation might not have been great going into the season, but the early season suggests more could be in play. Kristaps Porzingis might not have been the player most fans would have Drafted last June, but he has made a stunning start to his life as a New York Knick and there are plenty of positives with this team to like.
They still don't look like an Eastern Conference contender, but a Play Off berth is certainly in their reach if the Knicks can maintain this form through the next few months. This game gives them a chance to see if they have improved in the last week having already lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road by ten points.
LeBron James, like many other superstars in the NBA, loves playing in the magic of Madison Square Garden. James has been essential in helping a banged up Cleveland team win seven straight games and this looks a team with the depth to win it all this season.
Cleveland haven't covered in their last five games and their last three wins have come by a combined fourteen points since beating the Knicks by ten at home. However, I do think the Cavaliers are the stronger team when it comes to the depth they have and I like their chances of beating the Knicks by double digits for a second time this season.
The Cavaliers are well rested and have covered 17 of 27 games with at least two days rest between games. I really expect the Knicks to challenge them through three quarters, but Cleveland to prove too strong and pull away in the fourth to cover this number.
LA Lakers @ Dallas Mavericks Pick: The Dallas Mavericks made a point by beating the LA Clippers in their last game, but this looks a difficult spot for their team. Coming off an emotional game that meant a lot to face a terrible team before hitting the road to play the Houston Rockets on Saturday makes it difficult to understand their focus in this game.
Of course any time the LA Lakers visit town it is going to be a big deal regardless of their 1-7 record and what looks another difficult season in the making. Kobe Bryant might be restored to the starting line up as the Lakers conclude this five game road trip and try to snap an eight game losing run to the Dallas Mavericks.
The Lakers have shown some fight in their last four road games with only one seeing them lose by double digits, although they have lost three of those games. With the spot as it is, I think the Lakers can be competitive in Dallas who will be looking ahead to the big game with Houston on Saturday.
Dallas had blown out the Lakers in three straight home games with a close one on Boxing Day last year. The Mavericks are not a very strong big home favourite to back and they are 8-15 against the spread when coming off an upset win.
We can at least see the Lakers are 11-8 against the spread when set as the road underdog of between 6.5 and 9 points and I think they might be getting too many here. Kobe's return would be huge and the Lakers can catch Dallas between two 'bigger' games and perhaps take advantage of a lack of focus against a team they have dominated in recent games.
Saturday 14th November
A highly frustrating Friday as the Indiana Pacers blew a 17 point lead going into the fourth quarter to barely hang on and win rather than produce the convincing cover.
Thankfully the LA Lakers did just enough to stay within their point spread, while Cleveland did pull away in the fourth quarter as anticipated but could produce a push when it came to the spread.
Should have been so much better than 1-1-1, but at least it wasn't worse than that else I really would have thought the Friday the 13th Curse had hit me.
Denver Nuggets @ Phoenix Suns Pick: The Denver Nuggets have surprised the Houston Rockets twice already this season, but they will want to have a much better response than the first time. Denver were crushed by almost twenty points by the Minnesota Timberwolves following the road win in Houston and now they are on a back to back in Phoenix after holding off Houston on Friday.
The Nuggets are just 14-20 against the spread in the second of back to back games in recent seasons, while they are 0-3 against the spread following an upset win this season.
Phoenix are off an easy win over the LA Clippers at home, although their visitors were certainly shorthanded, and they have a strong 6-1 record against the spread against Denver in the last seven games.
This is a team that has thrived after a dominant win and I think the Suns are well-rested and can take advantage of Denver having to travel here and trying to back up a big win as an underdog. It's a fair few points to cover, but I do like the Suns being able to do that.
Sunday 15th November
Boston Celtics @ Oklahoma City Thunder Pick: The Oklahoma City Thunder may have to get used to playing without Kevin Durant if the rumours are true about his impending Free Agency next summer. However, they have already gotten a little too used to missing Durant through injury after he was ruled out for much of last season and he is now out for the next week at least.
That hasn't stopped the Thunder so far as Russell Westbrook has once again put this team on his back and helped the team win their first game without Durant. This is another big challenge for him as he faces the Boston Celtics who are a solid Defensive team and coming with some confidence having beaten the Atlanta Hawks at home a couple of days ago.
Boston are on a quick two game road trip on Sunday and Monday but the key for them in facing a couple of Western Conference teams is whether the Celtics have enough scoring to keep up. Even without Durant, the Thunder can score plenty of points and it is part of the reason they are 4-1 against the spread in the last five games between these teams.
The Thunder are a decent home favourite when favoured by six points or fewer at home. Add in the fact that Boston are 2-7 against the spread when coming off a double digit win as the underdog and I like Oklahoma City to cover.
Toronto Raptors @ Sacramento Kings Pick: It all seems calm in Sacramento after a blow up between DeMarcus Cousins and George Karl looked certain to end with one of them leaving, most likely the Head Coach. Winning does that though and back to back home wins over two of the lower Eastern Conference teams will give them confidence, although now the Kings face a better team in that Conference.
The Toronto Raptors had lost three in a row, but they won back to back games against two of the weaker teams in the NBA to try and right their ship. I am a little concerned they visit the Golden State Warriors next on the schedule and could look ahead to their shot at the unbeaten defending Champions, but the Raptors have to respect the Kings in front of them.
With DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo and Rudy Gay, Sacramento have talent but they never seem far away from controversy. Cousins might not have a free reign to dominate the boards which could take away some of his Offensive game, while Toronto also have plenty of scoring to challenge the Kings.
Toronto are 7-3 against the spread as the road favourite being asked to cover three points or fewer while Sacramento are 4-8 against the spread as the home underdog of three points or fewer. With the Raptors building momentum ahead of the Golden State game, I will call for them to continue it here and cover.
MY PICKS: 09/11 San Antonio Spurs - 8 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
10/11 Cleveland Cavaliers - 6 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
10/11 Milwaukee Bucks + 2 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)
10/11 Charlotte Hornets - 1.5 Points @ 1.91 Betway (1 Unit)
11/11 Atlanta Hawks - 10 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
11/11 Golden State Warriors - 7 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
11/11 Detroit Pistons + 1.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
12/11 Golden State Warriors - 8 Points @ 1.95 Betway (1 Unit)
13/11 Indiana Pacers - 7 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
13/11 Cleveland Cavaliers - 6 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
13/11 LA Lakers + 8.5 Points @ 1.90 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
14/11 Phoenix Suns - 7 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
15/11 Oklahoma City Thunder - 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
15/11 Toronto Raptors - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
November 9-15 Update: 6-7-1, - 1.59 Units
November 2-8 Final: 7-8, - 1.59 Units
November Update: 7-8, - 1.59 Units
October Final: 5-4, + 0.57 Units
Season 2016: 12-12, - 1.02 Units