This week the schedule is a little different to normal with Christmas Eve being a day off for every team in the Association before the annual Christmas Day bonanza which sees five games played back to back through the entire day.
After that we will get back to the usual NBA daily games through the majority of the rest of the season as the turn of the year also starts to shift the players attention to gelling together for Play Off runs.
At this point we are basically a third of the way through the regular season, although it has to be said that the NBA doesn't really seem to pick up steam until the NFL and College Football seasons are brought to a close. That is when the stories become larger and teams are really ready to kick on to the post-season, even if I am still not sold on the size of the Play Offs which means more teams get in than are eliminated at the end of an eighty-two game regular season.
Monday 21st December
The last picks I made were on Saturday as I wasn't convinced by too much on Sunday and also went to watch Star Wars during the day which limited any research time I had. Hopefully Monday will begin this week in the right way to ensure December ends with another successful month this season.
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Boston Celtics Pick: Playing on a back to back is a difficult proposition for teams, but a young one like the Minnesota Timberwolves can't really look to fatigue as an excuse. They have gone 2-1-1 against the spread in the second of back to back games this season and the Timberwolves have to be confident having recorded consecutive wins heading into this one.
They will be making a relatively short trip from Brooklyn to Boston to take on the Celtics who have just lost their way in recent games. Defensively the Celtics are having a hard time and that is difficult to overcome with an Offensive unit that is very inconsistent.
It is four losses in five games for the Celtics and I do think the Minnesota Timberwolves can make this a close contested game. They are 9-3 against the spread as the road underdog this season and the Timberwolves have covered in all six road games against a team with a winning record.
Confidence is a big factor and there is no denying that Minnesota have that from two wins in a row compared with Boston's recent form. I still think the Celtics likely win the game, but this is a lot of points for them to cover and I will back the underdog to keep this close enough.
Indiana Pacers @ San Antonio Spurs Pick: The Indiana Pacers were perhaps expected to challenge for a low place in the Eastern Conference Play Off picture as they changed the identity of their team. However they have been one of the more surprising teams in the NBA in the first couple of months of the season even if December has seen a little more inconsistency in their play.
The team are still winning though and only trail Cleveland by 2.5 games for the best record in the Eastern Conference, although they now face a huge test in the form of the San Antonio Spurs.
All of the casual fans might be focusing on the Golden State Warriors, but the San Antonio Spurs are quietly dismantling every team they face. They have won five in a row and four straight had come by double digits before knocking off the LA Clippers by eight points and the Spurs should be well rested for this one having had the weekend off.
San Antonio have been incredibly dominant at home and are facing an Indiana team that is a little more erratic on their travels. I respect the fact that the Pacers have a strong recent record against San Antonio, but the latter have dominated as a home favourite being asked to cover between 6.5 and 9 points this season (4-1 against the spread) and I do think the Spurs can continue their fine roll by winning here by at least ten points.
Phoenix Suns @ Utah Jazz Pick: The Golden State Warriors are the team that every other in the NBA are certainly setting as the standard to reach. That is the team next up for the Utah Jazz after this game, but the home team will be wise not to overlook the Phoenix Suns as they struggle for the consistency to get into a position to challenge for Play Off places in the Western Conference.
The Western Conference has been a tough one in recent years with teams with winning records missing the Play Offs, but Utah are currently the Number 8 Seed despite an 11-14 record. Utah have been having a hard time in recent games, but did snap a four game losing run by beating the Denver Nuggets last time out.
There is no doubting that Utah have been a much better team at home, but they have just hit a rough patch Offensively which will give them problems against the Phoenix Suns. The Suns might have lost three of their last four games, but they do have few problems scoring the ball, although it is their poor Defensive record which is letting them down.
Phoenix have given up triple digits in points in seven of their last eight games and that is a tough situation to overcome. While they have been a solid road underdog, they now face a Utah team that is 17-12 against the spread when set as the home favourite of six points or fewer over the last couple of seasons.
The Suns are also just 1-5 against the spread when playing on the road against a team with a losing record and they are 1-5 against the spread in their last six games in Utah. I like the Jazz to find a way to get another win on the board here and cover this number.
Wednesday 23rd December
I didn't like any of the four games being played on Tuesday to a good enough level that I wanted to pick them.
The week continues on Wednesday and I am looking at two big spreads as I look for one team to cover it and the other to perhaps just miss out.
New York Knicks @ Cleveland Cavaliers Pick: The Cleveland Cavaliers are clearly the superior team over the New York Knicks and the latter might also be missing Carmelo Anthony.
That would be a huge loss for the Knicks, especially as the Cavaliers are getting healthier by the day. Anthony's scoring power is hard to replicate for New York, but I think there is a chance that Cleveland are looking ahead to the big Christmas Day game at the Golden State Warriors.
There is time to rest ahead of that game, but I can see a situation where the Cavaliers win this game but are not at all bothered about blowing out the Knicks. Beating the Warriors is much more important than a normal regular season game and I think Cleveland might just rest players to give their returning players a few more minutes to get back up to speed.
I'll take the points in this one.
Oklahoma City Thunder @ LA Lakers Pick: It has only been a few days since the Oklahoma City Thunder blew out the LA Lakers and even a returning Kobe Bryant might not be enough to change the outcome this time. Bryant played well in a win over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, but playing back to back games is going to be tough for the Superstar and that is where a rested Thunder team can smash the Lakers again.
Games between them at the Staples Center have been competitive in the past and the Lakers have a strong 4-1 record against the spread in the last five between them here. However, the Lakers are also 0-2 against the spread when set as the home underdog being given 12.5 points or more and I don't think Vegas are wrong with such a big number.
Between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook I would imagine the Thunder have enough points in this one which is tough for the Lakers to keep up with them.
I have no doubt the Lakers are going to get this much closer than the 40 point loss they suffered a few days ago. However, I still think Oklahoma City have enough to cover this spread.
Friday 25th December
Both Picks came through on Wednesday to put this week in a good position, and hopefully will mean the month ends on a positive note too.
Christmas Day has five consecutive games to be played in the NBA and I will have a few picks from those that are scheduled.
New Orleans Pelicans @ Miami Heat Pick: The opening game on Christmas Day was perhaps one that the NBA would have expected to have involved two teams with winning records. The New Orleans Pelicans were a real disappointment with the way they began the season, but things are turning around as their health improves and three wins in four games should give them confidence.
It has to be said that the Miami Heat are also a team that doesn't look like they will blow out too many teams as they have been better on the Defensive side of the court than on the Offensive.
Miami have lost three of their last five home games and they would only have covered this number once in that time. The Pelicans have also won the last three in the series and have a solid 4-1 record against the spread when playing on the road against a team with a winning record.
This does look like they are being given too many points in this game and I think backing New Orleans to keep it close will get the picks off to a winning start on Christmas Day.
Chicago Bulls @ Oklahoma City Thunder Pick: The Oklahoma City Thunder have been in fine form in recent weeks and the team should be well rested for their Christmas Day game hosting the Chicago Bulls. The Thunder have won nine of their last ten games and demolished the LA Lakers twice in a matter of days between beating the LA Clippers.
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have been sparking the Thunder, but they will be matched by Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose in this one.
However, all is not well with the Chicago Bulls with some of their players the subject of trade rumours. The new trend of doing things in Chicago have not exactly sat well with the players and it is clear that the Bulls need more help shooting the ball to actually get things going in the right direction.
Chicago do have a winning record and will likely make the Eastern Conference Play Offs, but they have not looked anything like the tough Defensive team they have been known for in recent years. In fact it is the Thunder who might be the better Defensive team on the court in this one and I like the home team to continue their good run and cover a big number in this one.
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Golden State Warriors Pick: A rematch of the NBA Finals from last season was always going to be set for Christmas Day. With the way things are going, I am not sure there will be too many who would predict anything other than a repeat between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers in June 2016.
Both teams lead their respective Conferences and you can just imagine how much both teams have been looking forward to this game. The Cavaliers look the best team in the East by some distance so this game is very important for them to set a marker for what they can achieve come the rest of the season.
For the Golden State Warriors they have to come through a much tougher Conference, but they will know the one way to remove any doubts about their Finals win last season is by winning another Championship. Both teams have been in good shape in recent weeks, but playing in the Oracle Arena gives the Warriors a real edge in the contest.
Defensively Cleveland can give Golden State some problems, but it is hard to keep a lid on the home team in this raucous atmosphere. I don't think the Golden State Warriors should ever be favoured by less than at least eight points at home with the way they have dominated here and I think this is a game they would have circled.
That has seen the Warriors play at a very high level when fully motivated and I also believe Cleveland still need to get their roster fully healthy before they can take on Golden State.
San Antonio Spurs @ Houston Rockets Pick: One of the biggest disappointments in the NBA this season have to be the Houston Rockets, although they remain on course for a spot in the Western Conference Play Offs. There can't be any more motivation needed than hosting State rivals the San Antonio Spurs on Christmas Day to at least get a big effort out of the Rockets.
They will need to be at their best if they are going to challenge the San Antonio Spurs as the latter have quietly moved behind the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference.
San Antonio are one of only four teams in the NBA who have yet to suffer double digit defeats in the season. They have been blowing out teams with a strong effort at both ends of the court, but it might be a little more challenging against the Houston Rockets on the road.
This is an Arena where San Antonio haven't been at their best as they have failed to cover in their last five games here. I expect Houston to be fully motivated to cause an upset and they have covered in their last five home games.
I respect San Antonio as a team that can get hot and blow others away with the depth they can call upon, but I will back Houston to cover here with a large number of points behind them.
Saturday 26th December
The Christmas Day games were something of a disappointment with the first going to overtime only for the New Orleans Pelicans to lose by the exact number of points to force a push.
The Golden State Warriors missed the cover by a single point as the Cleveland Cavaliers decided against fouling them with about six seconds left and down by six points. Both of those games going my way would have at least protected the weekly number to this point, but it is what it is sometimes and you have to take the rough with the smooth.
Toronto Raptors @ Milwaukee Bucks Pick: The Milwaukee Bucks will be missing Jason Kidd as Head Coach for the foreseeable future. They beat Philadelphia comfortably enough, but it is a different test against a Toronto Raptors team that has won eight of the last nine in the series and are off a confidence boosting win over the Dallas Mavericks.
The Raptors have just come off the boil in recent games before the win over Dallas and they should be well rested ahead of this one. Momentum is still important for teams so Toronto can't look ahead to visiting the Chicago Bulls as they look to get some wins under the belt.
Toronto haven't played that well on the Defensive side of the court in recent games, and they continue to miss DeMarre Carroll who was brought in during the off-season to strengthen that side of things. However they have been better on the road, which can be surprising to hear, and I can see them recover here in Milwaukee.
You have to notice that Milwaukee have struggled with the better teams in the NBA while Toronto are 4-1 against the spread in road games facing teams with losing records. Milwaukee do have a winning record this season against the spread when set as a small underdog at home, but I like Toronto to cover thanks to previous success over the Bucks.
Boston Celtics @ Detroit Pistons Pick: There isn't much separating the Detroit Pistons and the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference and this could be a very good game on Saturday. Both teams have decent winning records, but I think the Detroit Pistons can continue a run of dominance over the Celtics at home, although there is no doubting it will be very close.
I am not reading too much into Detroit's last loss against the Atlanta Hawks which came in a back to back spot. The Pistons have shown they are more than capable of hanging with some top teams and they should be well-rested while also having a few days to prepare for their next game.
On the other hand Boston are hosting the disliked New York Knicks at home on Sunday and a quick stop in Detroit before heading over the day after Christmas doesn't look the best spot. The Pistons have shown some better Defensive form at home and I also like the fact they are 4-0 against the spread when favoured by three points or fewer at home.
Detroit are also 6-2 against the spread in their last eight home games against the Boston Celtics and I like them to cover this number in a tight game.
Philadelphia 76ers @ Phoenix Suns Pick: No one really wants anything to do with the Philadelphia 76ers at the moment and you will continue to get double digit spreads on them as the underdog. I am just not convinced the Phoenix Suns should be asked to cover as big a number with the way they have been playing of late as well as trying to get through some personal problems.
There was some friction between the organisation and Markieff Morris in the off-season after Phoenix traded away his twin brother Marcus. That has only been exasperated since Markieff's request to leave was ignored and it came to a head when he threw a towel at his Head Coach so he is suspended for this game.
It won't be easy for the Suns to focus on this game with the Cleveland Cavaliers their next visitors on Monday, especially out of a Christmas break. The Suns have lost five of their last six overall and they are just 3-5 against the spread when facing teams with losing records at home which would concern me too.
Philadelphia might not win on the road, but they have covered more often than not when facing the weaker teams in the NBA. The 76ers should have enough to cover if they can take advantage of some of the poisonous atmosphere developing in the Phoenix Suns dressing room and that is what I will back.
Sunday 27th December
Saturday was another solid day for the picks and ensures another winning week which has put the month of December in a promising position with just a few more days to go.
New York Knicks @ Boston Celtics Pick: The Boston Celtics have been in very good form and are off a very good win at the Detroit Pistons. The second of back to back games sees them host the New York Knicks who also played on Saturday but were beaten easily by the Atlanta Hawks and will be expecting more from the team in this one.
I actually like the Knicks' chances of bouncing back and at least covering as they are 10-4 against the spread as the road underdog including going 5-3 against the spread when playing on the road at a team with a winning record.
There is no doubting that the Boston Celtics are one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, but they do tend to play up and down to the level of the team they are facing. The team have also not been as dominant on the Defensive side of the court which makes this look a lot of points to cover and I do like the chances of the New York Knicks.
The Knicks are also 9-4 against the spread in their last thirteen games at the TD Garden and I will look for them to cover.
MY PICKS: 21/12 Minnesota Timberwolves + 8.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
21/12 San Antonio Spurs - 8.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
21/12 Utah Jazz - 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
23/12 New York Knicks + 11.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
23/12 Oklahoma City Thunder - 14 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
25/12 New Orleans Pelicans + 6 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
25/12 Oklahoma City Thunder - 8 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
25/12 Golden State Warriors - 6.5 Points @ 1.85 Coral (1 Unit)
25/12 Houston Rockets + 7.5 Points @ 1.85 Coral (1 Unit)
26/12 Toronto Raptors - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
26/12 Detroit Pistons - 1 Point @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
26/12 Philadelphia 76ers + 12 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
27/12 New York Knicks + 7.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
December 14-20 Final: 9-3-1, + 5.19 Units
December 7-13 Final: 2-4, - 2.14 Units
November Final: 27-22-1, + 2.69 Units
October Final: 5-4, + 0.57 Units
Season 2016: 32-26-1, + 3.26 Units