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Tuesday, 1 December 2015

NBA Picks December 2015 (December 1-6)

The first full month of the NBA season has been put in the books and the season has been dominated by two major story lines to this point.

The first is the dominance shown by the Golden State Warriors as the defending Champions open the season with nineteen straight wins to have the longest winning run to open a new season in NBA history.

Golden State are the clear favourites to win the NBA Championship for a second consecutive season as long as they can maintain the health they have shown the last couple of years. They have a depth that will be the envy of the rest of the NBA, although there are teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and the LA Clippers who will feel they can get the better of them in May when the Western Conference Play Offs roll around.

The second big piece of news from the first month of the season came last week when Kobe Bryant announced his retirement from the NBA at the end of the season. It looks like being another poor one for the LA Lakers who are in the midst of a transitional period, but at leas their season will mean something now as fans around the League will pay their respects to Kobe.

I am not going to say I was ever Bryant's biggest fan and I don't like the Lakers, but I have a lot of respect for what he achieved in the game. He has inspired a generation of players that are in the NBA at the moment and really is the heir to Michael Jordan's crown in the League and that can't be forgotten.

There were times that Kobe was surrounded by controversy both on and off the court, but he deserves the send off he is going to get beginning with a road game at the Philadelphia 76ers in the City where he grew up.

Like many others, I can only wish Kobe the best in whatever he decides to do. He is a player that transcended beyond the basketball court and one of the big names from the League over the last twenty years and has achieved everything he likely set out to do when he turned professional.

Kobe Bryant's retirement which was penned in poem form can be read here.

Tuesday 1st December
It was not a good end to November with both picks coming close but ultimately falling short on Monday.

However, I can't complain too much about a second consecutive winning months and will be looking to push on in December.

Washington Wizards @ Cleveland Cavaliers Pick: This looks a good spot to back the Cleveland Cavaliers against a Washington Wizards team that have struggled with their identity. It is a big number so the layers are taking no chances with the Cavaliers, but they should be too strong for a team that has lost four in a row and had suffered three straight blow out losses before a close loss to the Toronto Raptors.

Things are not going to plan for Washington with a number of voices offering up their discontent with the way the team is planning for games. Injuries haven't helped the Wizards, but that is not something the Cavaliers will want to hear at this stage of the season and Washington will have to dig deep to make this a competitive game.

Washington have struggled against the better teams on the road this season and have actually gone 0-5 against the spread on the road when facing a team with a winning record. Add in the fact that they have gone 0-4 against the spread as a big road underdog and I do like Cleveland to come through.

The Cavaliers had to battle hard to beat Brooklyn in their last home game, but had three straight wins by double digits at home. They are 11-8 against the spread as a big home favourite and Cleveland should have too much at both ends of the court for Washington.

Orlando Magic @ Minnesota Timberwolves Pick: It has been a long time since the Orlando Magic had a winning record in the NBA at this stage of the season and this young team is coming together effectively. This is a confident team that has won three games in a row, although the big test for Orlando will be to try and their form on the road.

Orlando have lost three in a row on the road to drop to 2-5 in those games, but they are facing a Minnesota Timberwolves team that have struggled on their home court. Like the Magic, Minnesota have a young team that experiences some ups and downs although their own three game winning run was ended by a loss at the LA Clippers on Sunday.

Neither team has enjoyed being in the small home favourite or small road underdog role so it is going to be something different for them to experience. I like the Magic because they seem to be having a better time on both ends of the court than Minnesota at this moment and the Timberwolves have a 1-7 record against the spread at home.

Add in the fact that the Orlando Magic have enjoyed coming to Minnesota where they are 7-1 against the spread in their last eight visits and the fact they have thrived in the underdog role this season and I do like their chances of covering. The Timberwolves are 0-2 against the spread as the favourite this season while they are 18-23 against the spread as the home favourite over the last two years so I'll take the road team with the small amount of points on offer.

Wednesday 2nd December
The Cleveland Cavaliers were terrible in a home loss to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday and it was far from the form that both of these teams have put together in recent home/away games respectively.

It looked like the Orlando Magic were going to blow a big lead in their game with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but they held on with some big plays late in the fourth quarter.

And of course the big story of the night was Philadelphia snapping their 0-18 start to the season by spoiling Kobe Bryant's last game in his home city with a win over the LA Lakers.

Phoenix Suns @ Detroit Pistons Pick: The Phoenix Suns blew a fourth quarter lead in their loss on Tuesday night and have a quick turnaround as they travel from the New York area to Detroit to face the Pistons.

It looks a difficult time to run into Detroit who are back up to 0.500 and shown a marked improvement from their early season form under Stan Van Gundy in 2014. Andre Drummond has been very good now the room has been cleared by the departure of Greg Monroe, while the mid-season arrival of Reggie Jackson has looked a very good move.

Detroit might have lost four of their last six, but that that is still better than Phoenix who are 1-5 in that same time and off a very disappointing loss on Tuesday. The Pistons have been strong at home this season where they are 2-0 against the spread when playing a team with a losing record and they have also covered in their last seven against Phoenix.

My one concern has to be how well the Suns have done as the road underdog compared with Detroit as the home favourite with this number of points on the line. However, I have to believe the Suns are suffering with some fatigue from their efforts on Tuesday night and Detroit have been strong at home where I expect them to cover.

Philadelphia 76ers @ New York Knicks Pick: Not many would have thought it would be the New York Knicks coming into this game with a long losing streak to snap rather than the Philadelphia 76ers. However it is the Knicks who have lost four in a row while their visitors snapped their 0-18 start to the season with a win over the LA Lakers on Tuesday night.

I had already shortlisted a competitive Philadelphia team prior to that win because of the way they have been playing of late with a number of fourth quarter leads blown. The fact they have remained competitive off those disappointments suggest a young team is coming together, although my concern is whether they have the same desire off their first win which is going to have had an emotional effect on the players.

Young players should be able to use that emotion in a positive way as they look for back to back wins and I do think the New York Knicks are giving away too many points. Carmelo Anthony is back which is huge for the team but any win will do for the Knicks to snap their run, while they have to make sure they don't overlook a bad team and focus on the game with the Brooklyn Nets which is next up at Madison Square Garden on Friday.

Philadelphia have played well as the big road underdog over the last couple of seasons, going 28-20 against the spread, while New York are just 4-6 against the spread covering big numbers as the home favourite. With the 76ers going 5-2 against the spread against the Knicks in the last seven games, this might be too many points for the home team to cover.

Toronto Raptors @ Atlanta Hawks Pick: I got it wrong when backing the Oklahoma City Thunder to beat the Atlanta Hawks as a favourite a couple of days ago, but I am not sure the Hawks should be favoured to win this one.

And they are favoured pretty big to win what I thought would be a pick 'em game.

I have a feeling that the Toronto Raptors are being under-estimated because they lost their last game and that was off an emotional back to back situation. While the Hawks won well, they haven't been lighting up the winning side of things in recent weeks and Toronto are 6-2 against the spread at Atlanta.

The Raptors aren't the greatest road underdog, but I like their chances here with the points to keep this very competitive.

Thursday 3rd December
It looked like it was going to be a bad day on Wednesday as the Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors all struggled, but fortunately two of the teams got it right to end the game.

That makes it a positive start to the week, but there are still a few days to go with things finely balanced.

Orlando Magic @ Utah Jazz Pick: The Orlando Magic have thrived in the underdog role so far this season and they are coming off a road win at the Minnesota Timberwolves. That came as a small road underdog and I like their chances of covering again on Thursday with a couple more points as their opponents are coming off an emotional loss.

There have been a couple of rest days since the Utah Jazz arguably came closest to beating the Golden State Warriors this season. They ultimately came up a little short and while I think they are more talented than Orlando, there could be a hangover left from not beating the Warriors which makes this a close game.

Utah have been a very good home favourite to back when asking to cover six points or fewer here, but I like the way Orlando have played in the underdog spot. There is also something to suggest Utah overlook this game and perhaps think ahead to trying to knock off what may be considered the hottest team in the Eastern Conference when the Indiana Pacers come to town.

The Magic have gone 9-3-1 against the spread in their last thirteen games in Utah and I think they make these points competitive.

Indiana Pacers @ Portland Trail Blazers Pick: Simply backing the Portland Trail Blazers in a home underdog spot over the years would have produced a very good 57% strike rate. However, I think the Indiana Pacers are playing at too high a level at the moment and I like them to win here even off a back to back situation.

The Pacers have been dominating teams of late and they have the 'East Coast Splash Brothers', or so Paul George described himself and CJ Miles with his tongue firmly in cheek, who have been scoring plenty of points. The Pacers have tried to change their style Offensively this off-season but not many would have expected it to come together in the manner it has.

Playing a back to back as the road favourite isn't an encouraging position- the Pacers are not the best road favourite to back, but this team has felt different. Indiana are also 2-1 against the spread in the second of back to back games this season and they are facing a Portland team that is off a disappointing overtime loss on Monday.

Portland do have a decent record at home, but they are just 2-4 against the spread when hosting a team with a winning record while the Indiana Pacers are 7-3 against the spread in their last ten here. I am looking for both of those numbers to be improved against Portland on Thursday and backing the Pacers to win and cover again.

Friday 4th December
It was another up and down day on Thursday as Orlando continued flying as the underdog, but the Indiana Pacers couldn't hold onto a couple of big leads before tiring and losing in Portland.

The Friday slate of games look very difficult, and I am only making the one pick from the games on offer.

Houston Rockets @ Dallas Mavericks Pick: These two teams have made contrasting starts to the season and I think the big surprise is that the Houston Rockets haves struggled while the Dallas Mavericks have put together a veteran roster that have gelled.

The poor start has cost Kevin McHale his Head Coach role at Houston, but there are now signs the team is turning things around with three wins in four games. The consistency is nothing near where they would expect, but Houston look a little better and might be getting too many points on the road in Dallas.

This is a Mavericks team who is well rested having played through overtime to somehow steal a win in Portland last time out. That doesn't take away from the fact they have lost four of their last six games and this is a Dallas team that has regularly found it difficult to cover the spread when favoured by six or fewer points at home.

Houston haven't exactly thrived as a road underdog in this spot either, but they have been a better team on the road when it comes to spreads this season. The Rockets have at least picked up their Offensive production in recent games and that is key against a Dallas team that can be bogged down on the Offensive side of the court.

All of that makes the points appealing for the road team in this one, especially as Houston are 8-3 against the spread in the last eleven games between these State rivals.

Saturday 5th December
The Houston Rockets dominated for long stretches in their win over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday and the cover was fairly easily obtained. The Rockets might be a team to watch in the coming weeks as they have shown they are perhaps turning a corner and becoming the team we all expected in the summer.

Golden State Warriors @ Toronto Raptors Pick: The Golden State Warriors has escaped with one win and dominated another on this seven game road trip where most expect them to fall for the first time this season. However, it might not be on Saturday if the Toronto Raptors continue to make lethargic starts to their games as they might be blown away by the Warriors before they really get into their stride.

It took a big second half comeback for the Raptors to knock off Atlanta earlier in the week, but they were dropped by Denver the next night with nothing left in the tank. It would have been a three game losing run for Toronto if they hadn't beaten Atlanta, but they can look at a game against Golden State at the Oracle Arena earlier this season when they were close to upsetting the defending Champions.

However, it might be much more difficult at home as Golden State are winning their games by over thirteen points per game on the road. Their last five wins have come by over eighteen points per game and the Warriors are the kind of team that will take advantage if Toronto make another slow start.

The Warriors have been a dominant road favourite of over 6.5 points in recent seasons and Toronto are just 8-7 against the spread as the home underdog in the last couple of years. I like Golden State to move to 21-0 with a dominant road win on Saturday.

Boston Celtics @ San Antonio Spurs Pick: I backed the San Antonio Spurs to beat the Chicago Bulls last week and that is the only loss they have suffered in their last eight games. I am going back to the well tonight though and hoping for a better result as they host the Boston Celtics who are playing their fourth road game in a five game stretch.

After being blown out in Orlando, Boston have responded with two very good road wins, but facing the San Antonio Spurs is a big challenge. The Celtics are a very good road underdog to back, especially when they are getting more than 6.5 points to start off.

However, San Antonio are a strong home favourite against big spreads and they are outscoring teams by over fifteen points per game at home. Unsurprisingly they are unbeaten at home which includes going 4-1 against the spread against a team with a winning record.

Boston do have a strong recent record in San Antonio, going 6-2 against the spread in the last eight games here, but I think the Spurs are playing at a very high level. Road blow out wins have inspired San Antonio who have followed a twenty point plus road win by going 10-3 against the spread in their next game and I think the Spurs win this by double digits and get over the spread.

MY PICKS: 01/12 Cleveland Cavaliers - 9 Points @ 1.91 Betway (1 Unit)
01/12 Orlando Magic + 2 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
02/12 Detroit Pistons - 4 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
02/12 Philadelphia 76ers + 9 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
02/12 Toronto Raptors + 4 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)
03/12 Orlando Magic + 4 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
03/12 Indiana Pacers - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
04/12 Houston Rockets + 5.5 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (1 Unit)
05/12 Golden State Warriors - 7.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
05/12 San Antonio Spurs - 9 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)

December 1-6 Update: 5-5, - 0.37 Units

November Final27-22-1, + 2.69 Units
October Final5-4, + 0.57 Units
Season 2016: 32-26-1, + 3.26 Units

Final Season 2015109-108-5, - 6.91 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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