The Monday NBA games didn't really do anything for me as I thought the big numbers all made it difficult to really find an angle to go with. Sometimes it is better to take a step back when unsure and miss a day in what is a long season rather than pushing to find a pick that perhaps isn't making me feel too comfortable.
The same could be said for Sunday just passed and that does mean I have missed a couple of days of picks, but it is a long season as I have said and that isn't a concern to me, but rather ensuring winners are found which is the most important factor.
Tuesday looks to be a lot more promising in terms of the picks I want to make so let us hope for another decent week which can put the January totals into a strong position going into the last two weeks of the month.
Tuesday 12th January
Boston Celtics @ New York Knicks Pick: The New York Knicks have been in the midst of a very good run of form which has seen them get very close to returning to 0.500. The Knicks have won four of their last five games with the sole loss coming against the San Antonio Spurs by a single point, while the wins over Miami and Atlanta (twice) can't be seen as 'easy' ones.
That will give them plenty of confidence when they look to earn a measure of revenge against the Boston Celtics who have dominated the recent series between these teams. There is never any love lost between teams from New York and Boston and this game is going to be no different as the Knicks look to snap a four game losing run to the Celtics.
This looks a chance for them to do that as they face a Boston team that has dropped five of their last six games since their win over the Knicks and that sole win came against the truly terrible Brooklyn Nets. Boston have suffered a couple of really bad losses too as they have blown some big leads including in their last loss at Memphis, losses that have bothered the players who have accused themselves of not closing games with the right intensity needed.
Boston have thrived as the road underdog this season which does concern me, but the Knicks are playing a lot better basketball at this moment. The Knicks are also 8-4 against the spread when trying to revenge a same season loss and I like them to cover the small spread.
Chicago Bulls @ Milwaukee Bucks Pick: There aren't many 22-14 teams that I think are as divisive as the Chicago Bulls who continue to play up and down to the level of opponent they are facing. Many of the players admitted their disappointment in losing to the Washington Wizards at home on Monday, a game they were favoured to win by eight points, but they have a chance to quickly rectify that by beating the Milwaukee Bucks on the back to back.
Two disappointing losses will have dented some of the Chicago confidence, but their opponent has dropped three of the last four games they have played too. Even the one exception in that run saw Milwaukee just about rally to defeat the Dallas Mavericks at home and they will need to be a lot better to beat the Bulls who knocked them out of the Play Offs last season.
The struggles on the Defensive side of the court show no sign of improving for the Bucks, although Chicago have hardly helped themselves on that side either. The layers have figured that out by putting out a big line for the over/under, but I do think Chicago have more potential Defensively which can show up here.
Milwaukee do have the revenge factor behind them having lost to Chicago last week, but I am not sure they are playing well enough to do that. They are just 3-6 against the spread at home against teams with a winning record, while Chicago are 3-1 against the spread on the road against teams with a losing record so far this season.
The back to back might be a concern for the Bulls backers, but they can focus on this one with Philadelphia next on deck and I like Chicago to bounce back.
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Dallas Mavericks Pick: Just because the Cleveland Cavaliers continue to play the basketball that makes them favourites to repeat as Eastern Conference Champions, it doesn't mean they are a great to back against the spread.
In fact the Cavaliers have a losing record against the number this season, which isn't a surprise as the layers know they will be pounded by casual fans no matter what number is put out. The Cavaliers have won seven in a row overall and five straight road games, but covering the spread hasn't been something they have done consistently.
Now they have to make sure they are focused on the Dallas Mavericks knowing they have the San Antonio Spurs next on deck, although Dallas can't afford to look ahead to the Oklahoma City Thunder game tomorrow night. Cleveland have been scoring points for fun since Kyrie Irving returned to become a permanent feature of the starting line up and I think the Cavaliers are going to test the Dallas Defensive shape which has shown improvement of late.
With the Cavaliers also finding a way to lock down on the Defensive side of the court, this looks a tough match up for Dallas who have gone 1-2 against the spread as the home underdog being given six points or fewer. Cleveland have played well when up on the road when up against teams with winning records this season and I think they find enough Offensive output to cover.
Wednesday 13th January
It was a tough day for the Picks as the Chicago Bulls blew a decent lead in their loss to the Milwaukee Bucks to continue to frustrate those who want to cash at the window with them.
Cleveland started off incredibly slowly in their win over the Dallas Mavericks and that prevented them covering, but thankfully the New York Knicks made some big plays late on to prevent it being a totally terrible day.
Atlanta Hawks @ Charlotte Hornets Pick: There are times when you look at a spread and can't quite understand why the line is as it is. This is one of those lines, but I can't see a reason not to back the Atlanta Hawks to cover it at the Charlotte Hornets, even if I feel a 'square' in thinking that way.
There is no doubt that the Atlanta Hawks have been a streaky team this season and had a real slump in form at the end of December and early January. However, they have recorded two big wins since then while scoring at least 120 points in both and the Hawks might be set for another winning run with games against Milwaukee and Brooklyn to follow this one.
Atlanta can't overlook Charlotte even if the Hornets have lost seven in a row and have been having a difficult time at both ends of the court to find the balance they need to be successful. The absence of Al Jefferson was always going to be a big blow, but the Hornets at least return home off a four game road trip that proved very difficult.
The revenge factor is in play for the Hornets but they are just 2-6-1 against the spread in their last nine games at home against Atlanta. The Hawks have been a solid road favourite being asked to cover three points or fewer and I think they are playing the better basketball so it is hard to ignore this game and I will back Atlanta to cover.
New York Knicks @ Brooklyn Nets Pick: The New York Knicks knocked off one rival on Tuesday and now have a chance to move above 0.500 by beating the Brooklyn Nets and stamping their authority on the City. Playing a back to back is difficult, but the Knicks have a solid 5-3 record against the spread in that spot this season, although missing their superstar might be more of a factor.
Carmelo Anthony is doubtful having left Tuesday's win over the Celtics in the third quarter with an ankle sprain and it is hard to imagine him suiting up for this one. Those doubts have seen the number come off the board for a little while, but the Knicks are still set as a pretty solid favourite to win here.
That isn't a surprise considering the disarray the Nets are currently trying to come through- Lionel Hollins has been fired as Head Coach, Jarrett Jack is out for the season and trade rumours surrounding Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson are rampant. Add in the fact Brooklyn have lost five in a row and have been struggling hugely at the Offensive side of the court and it is hard to see them turning it around here, even if Carmelo was to sit.
It didn't stop New York scoring plenty of points against Boston and the Knicks are a very strong 6-2 against the spread when playing on the road against a team with a losing record. Being a road favourite might not be that common to New York over the last couple of seasons, but they are 10-2 against the spread when favoured on the road by six points or fewer.
Unless Brooklyn find a way to really get something going Offensively and can take advantage of any potential fatigue the Knicks are feeling, New York can add to their 10-4-1 record against the spread in their last fifteen games at the Nets.
Indiana Pacers @ Boston Celtics Pick: Both teams were playing on Tuesday night, but there is little doubt the Indiana Pacers had the easier night in the office compared with the Boston Celtics. While Indiana were blowing out Phoenix, Boston were in another fourth quarter battle, this time against New York, where they ultimately came up short.
This has been a tough part of the season for the Celtics who were dropped back to 0.500 with their loss on Tuesday, their fourth in a row and sixth in seven games. The players have admitted their frustrations at getting so close to winning games, but failing to close them out and the Pacers will head to the TD Garden looking for their third win this season over Boston.
Indiana had begun to slow down themselves after a really positive start to the season but they have won four of their last six and the two losses in that time have both come with the Pacers blowing leads and falling in Overtime. The Pacers have been enjoying playing on the road against some of the better teams in the NBA, going 7-4 against the spread when playing a team with a winning record, and they will still respect Boston despite the latter's struggles.
The spread is not a big one, but confidence certainly has to be on the Indiana side of the court. Maybe Boston will get it together considering they have played pretty well on the back to back, but they are just 9-9 against the spread as the home favourite of three points or fewer over the last couple of seasons and I think the underdog can make use of the points.
In fact the underdog is 7-1 against the spread in the last eight in the series between Indiana and Boston and I will look for the Pacers to extend that sequence.
Thursday 14th January
It was a brutal Wednesday with all three picks falling short, but none of those were really in a very strong position to cover which is a bigger disappointment.
That has had a knock on the week, but hopefully that fortune will change in the coming days.
Orlando Magic v Toronto Raptors Pick: The NBA is following the NFL model by bringing some regular season games to new markets and they continue putting one game in London. That game is between two teams with winning records in the Eastern Conference, but the Orlando Magic have just hit a wall in recent games.
Maybe the trip to London can allow Orlando to get back to winning ways having lost five of their last six games heading into this one. The Magic have really been struggling Offensively and that is going to be a problem against the Toronto Raptors who have improved Defensively.
They might not have shown it of late, but Toronto have the talent Offensively to score enough points to win games so an improvement Defensively is huge for their team. This looks a small window for success for the Raptors as they look to make an impact in a solid Eastern Conference.
Experience of being in London in 2011 might give Toronto some idea of how to deal with their second visit to the capital of the United Kingdom. They should be able to treat this more like the 'business trip' it is and I like the fact they have a strong record against the spread when playing teams with winning records this season.
Toronto have revenge on their minds and have thrived in that spot too and I like the Raptors to beat Orlando at the O2 Arena and cover this number.
Cleveland Cavaliers @ San Antonio Spurs Pick: There will be people out there that believe this potentially a NBA Finals preview, although not many of those will be in the Golden State area I presume. The San Antonio Spurs are unbeaten at home this season and they have a chance to lay down a marker in this one, although the Cleveland Cavaliers will want to show they can deal with the best the Western Conference can offer.
The Cavaliers lost a tight one to the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day, but they were short-handed for that one. Now there is a newly-found confidence level that has come with the return to fitness of the likes of Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert.
LeBron James has spoked about showing off the Defensive power of the Cavaliers, although it has been the Offensive side of the court in which they have played really well since Irving returned. Of course the San Antonio Spurs will test Cleveland to the fullest at both ends with their depth as good as any in the NBA while they have an incredible 16-6 record against the spread this season.
However, I like the Cavaliers in the underdog spot as these teams had two close games last season and both are in great form. Can you believe this is the first time this season that San Antonio will be favoured by less than six points at home? Even with that in mind, I think the Cavaliers have been looking forward to this contest and I like them in a road underdog spot.
Friday 15th January
A free throw away from beginning to get on the road back from what has been a poor week, but ultimately the picks went 1-1 on Thursday to leave the week in a pretty poor position.
However, I had a similar week last month before turning things around and I will stick with what has got me to this stage. Hopefully that will result in another turnaround over the last couple of weeks of January.
Atlanta Hawks @ Milwaukee Bucks Pick: Earlier this week I was let down by the Atlanta Hawks who laid an ultimate dud in performance at the Charlotte Hornets. Going back to them following that game might be considered a mistake by some, but the Hawks are still one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference and I think they can bounce back against the Milwaukee Bucks who are still putting together some inconsistent performances.
The Bucks have won their last couple of home games which makes them dangerous, but they are just 11-7 here this season. Winning the rebound battle is going to be a big key to the game for both teams and the Hawks in particular will be looking for Al Horford to produce much better than he did in an awful game at Charlotte.
Inconsistent performances have highlighted the Atlanta season as they struggle to replicate what they did last season to end as the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference. Some times they look like that same team, but at others they have looked like one of the worst teams in the Conference.
This has been a game that Atlanta have liked though and they are 6-0 against the spread in their last six in Milwaukee. The Hawks have usually bounced back from an upset loss in the right manner, going 6-4 against the spread in that spot this season, improving to 21-14 against the spread over the last couple of seasons and I like them to bounce back here.
Charlotte Hornets @ New Orleans Pelicans Pick: There is a connection between these teams simply because the original Charlotte Hornets were moved to New Orleans before a new franchise was created in Charlotte. They were known as the Bobcats, but reverted to the Hornets moniker when New Orleans rebranded to become the Pelicans.
That might make these two teams from different Conferences rivals and should have the fans ready to take some bragging rights. Neither Charlotte nor New Orleans have backed up their Play Off appearances from last season in the manner expected this season- Charlotte have been better than advertised, but New Orleans haven't been anything like the level that was tipped for them.
The Hornets have recently snapped a seven game losing run by beating the Atlanta Hawks last time out. On the other hand New Orleans have snapped a four game losing run with a win too and both teams will be looking for a rare winning run of late.
Charlotte have a 2-5 record against the spread when playing teams with losing records on the road and they are 1-10 against the spread in their last eleven in New Orleans. As poor as the Pelicans have been, I think Anthony Davis will make full use of the Al Jefferson absence and dominate the paint which ultimately gives the home team a narrow cover and the win.
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Houston Rockets Pick: There have been some teams in the NBA that have really fallen short, but I would say none more so than the Houston Rockets. Remember they were playing in the Western Conference Finals last season and are no struggling to even maintain a position to get into the Play Offs this time around.
Trade rumours haven't been helping, but the Houston Rockets have at least put together a five game winning run heading into this one. Of course you have to say that the Cleveland Cavaliers are easily the best team they would have faced since their last loss at the San Antonio Spurs, but the Rockets might be catching them at the right time.
That is because the Cavaliers have just lost at the San Antonio Spurs and are now on a back to back where they are 1-4-1 against the spread this season. Add in the fact that Cleveland are now facing the Golden State Warriors next on their schedule and end their six game road run so could be a little fatigued for this one.
Cleveland haven't played well in Houston going 1-11 against the spread in their last twelve games at this Arena. Taking the small underdog looks the right way to approach this game, especially as Houston are 6-1 against the spread in the last couple of seasons when given three points or fewer as the home underdog.
With the Cleveland schedule as it is, Houston's strong record against them at home and as the home underdog, and the back to back spot for the Cavaliers, I will take the points on offer.
MY PICKS: 12/01 New York Knicks - 1.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
12/01 Chicago Bulls - 3.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)
12/01 Cleveland Cavaliers - 6 Points @ 1.95 Betway (1 Unit)
13/01 Atlanta Hawks - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
13/01 New York Knicks - 4 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
13/01 Indiana Pacers + 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
14/01 Toronto Raptors - 4 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
14/01 Cleveland Cavaliers + 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
15/01 Atlanta Hawks - 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
15/01 New Orleans Pelicans - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
15/01 Houston Rockets + 2 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
January 4-10 Final: 6-5-2, + 0.46 Units
December Final: 27-21-3, + 3.67 Units
November Final: 27-22-1, + 2.69 Units
October Final: 5-4, + 0.57 Units
Season 2016: 59-47-4, + 6.93 Units