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Monday, 18 January 2016

NBA Picks January 2016 (January 18-24)

Last week was an absolute disaster for the picks as a couple of the teams failed to get the job done from promising positions or missed Free Throws that might otherwise have seen them cover rather than fail to.

I hate when that happens, but that is the way it goes sometimes and in a long season you are going to have some down weeks. After another poor Friday, I decided to miss the last couple of days of the week to try and recharge the batteries.

Hopefully that reset will work as it did in December with the last week being truly the worst of the season so far.

Monday 18th January
Monday the 18th of January is Martin Luther King Day in the United States which means the NBA games will begin in the afternoon and be spread over the day.

Utah Jazz @ Charlotte Hornets Pick: Both the Charlotte Hornets and the Utah Jazz are missing key figures as they get set to play one another on Martin Luther King Day, but at least the Jazz have kept themselves somewhat afloat during this time. Three wins in their last five games have moved Utah into a position to once again challenge for a Play Off place in the Western Conference, and they have to take advantage of a Charlotte team that have lost a lot of late.

The Hornets did sting me by beating the Atlanta Hawks last week when I picked the latter, but that has been the sole success they have had in the last couple of weeks. Al Jefferson remains a big loss for them and they will have a tough battle against a Utah team that have looked fairly solid Defensively and had Rudy Gobart play his best game of the season.

A trip to Charlotte has worked out for Utah in recent years and they have won eleven of their last twelve against the Hornets while going 8-2-2 against the spread in those games.

I really don't understand why the Jazz are the underdogs even though they have struggled on the road to win games. They are in the better form and Charlotte have to be short of confidence, while Utah have played well on the Defensive side of the court to make this short number of points very important.

Portland Trail Blazers @ Washington Wizards Pick: The Portland Trail Blazers were very upset with the effort they put in when being blown out by the Philadelphia 76ers and will expect better as they complete a three game road trip. They have been set as the underdog when visiting the Washington Wizards who dropped back below 0.500 after seeing their four game winning run snapped in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

The Wizards will believe they can get back to winning ways as Bradley Beal returns after sitting out a back to back and him and John Wall will give Damien Lillard plenty to think about at both ends of the court. Washington are the better team, but they are not really a very good home favourite to back, particularly not when being asked to cover between 3.5 and 6 points, a situation where Washington are 9-17 against the spread over the last couple of seasons.

If Portland were a better road team then it would be a big number to cover for Washington, but the Trail Blazers are not as strong outside of the Rose Garden. They are just 2-3 against the spread in road games as the underdog facing an Eastern Conference team and have struggled in Washington in the past where they are 1-7 against the spread in their last eight games.

However, I think the Trail Blazers have a chance against a team that has lost four of their last five games at home outright and who are 1-4 against the spread in that time. While Washington are the more likely winners, I think Portland can make this number of points look too many for them to cover.

New Orleans Pelicans @ Memphis Grizzlies Pick: The Memphis Grizzlies might have missed their window to play in the NBA Finals, but they remain a team likely to make the post-season before falling short. Getting past the First Round this season would be an achievement for this Grizzlies team that is trying to find their identity and I think they are going to have too much for the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Pelicans have officially taken over as the biggest disappointment in the NBA from the Houston Rockets as far as I am concerned and Al Gentry has to be under pressure as Head Coach. They have won back to back games to give themselves some confidence to take into this game, but New Orleans will be tested by a physical Memphis team that prides itself on its Defensive play.

It hasn't been a good season to back New Orleans as the road underdog of six points or fewer as they are 4-9 against the spread in that spot. This is a number that Memphis have regularly dominated in recent years, going 30-18 against the spread as the home favourite of six points or fewer and the Grizzlies will feel they can impose themselves on this one.

New Orleans were beaten at home by Memphis when they played in December and they are just 4-7 against the spread this season and 17-26 against the spread in the last couple of seasons trying to revenge a home defeat. The Grizzlies have looked solid enough in the last few weeks to think they can cover this number in a home win.

Tuesday 19th January
What a really poor day of bad breaks- the Utah game went into double overtime and the Jazz still didn't cover thanks to a missed free throw and then fouling with one second on the clock... What a pointless mess.

And remember I had been bemoaning free throws being missed late in games? How about Memphis leading New Orleans by three points and sending an 85% free throw shooter Marc Gasol to the mound.

Of course Gasol misses both with 12 seconds left on the clock and Memphis end up winning by two points thanks to another missed free throw, what a break(!)

On another note, how good for the Golden State Warriors in blowing Cleveland out on the road? There is little doubt the Warriors beat the Cavaliers if they are going to have a repeat of the NBA Finals from June 2015 so Cleveland's best hope of earning a title has to be another team in the Western Conference coming through.

Neither the San Antonio Spurs nor the Oklahoma City Thunder are going to be 'easy' but Cleveland might match up with both a lot better than they do against Golden State. The Warriors love the match up with Cleveland judging by their confident trash-talking and I wouldn't want that rematch at all if I am LeBron James.

Milwaukee Bucks @ Miami Heat Pick: This has been a match up that the Milwaukee Bucks have enjoyed in recent meetings with the Miami Heat and a win here can get them going in the right direction in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks have won four of their last six games as they continue on their current road trip.

It is a quick stop at home for the short-handed Miami Heat who remain very much in contention in the Eastern Conference Play Off picture. However, the Heat have lost four of their last five games, albeit against some top Western Conference teams on the road, and they will head out on another trip following this game.

Missing some key players means the rotation is shortened for Miami and that can be tough, especially when making a very brief stop at home. The Heat have just struggled at both ends of the court and it is a situation that Milwaukee can exploit here even if Miami have a solid 8-5 record against the spread as a six point or fewer home favourite.

Milwaukee are 4-0 against the spread in the last four with Miami and they have played well after winning a game as the road underdog, going 3-1 against the spread in that spot. This just looks like too many points for Miami to cover when you think they are short-handed and preparing to go on the road again.

Denver Nuggets @ Oklahoma City Thunder Pick: When a team has Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant at their disposal, you know it can be difficult to oppose them no matter how many points you are getting. However, the Oklahoma City Thunder are heading to the altitude of Denver for one game before heading back home for a game tomorrow and this spot might make it difficult for them to cover a big number.

The Thunder have blown out the Denver Nuggets fairly easily twice already this season, but both games were at home and they have lost two of their last three here. You also have to respect the way the Nuggets have played in their last four games, all at home, where they have beaten Golden State and Indiana and suffered a competitive loss to Miami.

No is doubting that Denver are one of the poorer teams in the Western Conference on paper, but they have found something of a groove in recent games and four wins from six games will give them confidence. I do acknowledge that Denver haven't been dominant as a home underdog, but Oklahoma City are just 4-8 against the spread when set as the road favourite.

Oklahoma City have been very good in the last few weeks which would worry me, but I like the Nuggets in this spot and will take the points.

Wednesday 20th January
After a bad seven days, Tuesday proved to be much better for the picks with both underdogs coming through with the cover, the Milwaukee Bucks actually winning outright.

That gives me something to build upon over the next few days as I look to get the month turned around from a poor middle stint.

Miami Heat @ Washington Wizards Pick: It is no surprise that the spread has moved from the opening line in the last twenty-four hours as the Miami Heat remain banged up. They are on a back to back which might mean they are even more short-handed than they were in yet another loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.

The Heat are down to a third choice Point Guard and that is going to be a big challenge for them as they take on the Washington Wizards with John Wall and Bradley Beal in the back court. Of course Beal is still working his way back to full fitness, but Wall should enjoy his match up and the Wizards should be good enough to snap their two game losing run.

Washington have been a big disappointment in the Eastern Conference so far this season, but they are only a couple of games below 0.500 and getting firmly back into the Play Off race. They are also not exactly a team I want to rush out and back as the home favourite of more than three points, but the spot looks a good one for them and the Heat are 14-21 against the spread when set as the road underdog being given up to six points.

I am not doubting the record Miami have in the nation's capital, but I like Washington in a revenge spot against a team that is struggling Offensively. The back court should be dominated by Washington and I think they can win this game and cover what is normally a bad spread for them.

Golden State Warriors @ Chicago Bulls Pick: Coming off a total and utter destruction of the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road might make the Golden State Warriors a vulnerable favourite to win in Chicago. The question is how can they pick themselves up from a near perfect performance against a disliked rival to facing one more top Eastern Conference team on the road before heading home?

For starters I think this Golden State team plays with a big chip on their shoulders and they are still aiming for a record breaking season. Secondly, the Chicago Bulls have been through a pretty rough stretch as they struggle for their identity both Offensively and Defensively and that is not a good place to be when taking on this Warriors team.

Now there is no way Chicago overlook Golden State because they are playing the reigning Champions, but they do have a couple of tough road games at Eastern Conference rivals to follow. The Bulls have lost four of their last six games but they have the tendency to rise up to the level of their opponents, or play down in some cases, and I think they will be ready for this game and approach it with belief rather than trepidation.

However it is hard to see Chicago being good enough Defensively to really compete with a deep Golden State team that has a number of players that can rise up on any given day. The Warriors are an impressive 6-2 against the spread when on the road against a team with a winning record and I like them to knock off Chicago in this one.

Sacramento Kings @ LA Lakers Pick: The Sacramento Kings are once again moving towards the Western Conference Play Off picture as they look to complete a three game road swing with a sweep of wins. They won at the Staples Center against the LA Clippers on Saturday and have been resting since as they get set to take on the LA Lakers, a team they have already beaten twice.

The second game was much closer than it should have been as the Kings blew a huge lead before seeing off the Lakers in Overtime. With Rajon Rondo turning back the clock and DeMarcus Cousins dominating the paint, the Sacramento Kings will be confident they can extend their run from three wins in their last four road games.

They face a Lakers team that is once again struggling as they have lost seven of their last eight games as they continue to have difficulties at both ends of the court. Kobe Bryant continues his farewell tour and is likely going to play despite knee and shoulder issues but this is a tough game for the Lakers.

One concern is that the Sacramento Kings are simply not used to being set as a road favourite and they are a healthy one in this game. Even with that in mind, they are the superior team playing the superior basketball and I like the Kings to cover.

Thursday 21st January
All three picks made on Wednesday came through with large wins that easily covered the spreads that were set for them.

That has improved the week again, but work is still to be done as I look for a solid end to this week and an improvement on the January totals which is still looking to be the first losing month of the year.

LA Clippers @ Cleveland Cavaliers Pick: The Cleveland Cavaliers will be returning home with some demons to exorcise after being run off their home court by the Golden State Warriors. Since then they have made quick work of the awful Brooklyn Nets on the road, but this is a game that the Cavaliers will look to give their fans some hope that they are still on the right path to the NBA Championship.

It is probably a good thing that they are facing the hot LA Clippers as Cleveland have a real chance to show the Western Conference does not provide all the answers to beat them. In all honesty the Clippers have used a very nice portion of their schedule to build the wins, but they still miss Blake Griffin and have not been as good when facing teams with winning records.

This has not been a good Arena for the Clippers to visit as they are 1-8 against the spread in their last nine games here. The Offense has been rolling for the Clippers with Chris Paul and JJ Redick running the back court, but Cleveland will give them a significant test with their Defense, especially in the light of the blow out loss to the Golden State Warriors.

LeBron James has been critical of his team for failing to beat the best teams in the NBA to this point, and I think they will get a response. As well as the Clippers are playing, they haven't met a team of the level of Cleveland for a while and it might be an eye-opener for them as I like the home team to find a way to cover this one.

Memphis Grizzlies @ Denver Nuggets Pick: Playing in the altitude of Denver has been difficult for visiting teams for years, but once again it is a factor with the Nuggets looking an improved team of late. I backed the Denver Nuggets to cover in their last home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder and they gave one of the favourites from the Western Conference all they can handle and now have a chance against a Play Off bound team from the Conference.

The Memphis Grizzlies have won three in a row with their new identity on the court and they have firmly entrenched themselves in the Play Off picture in the Western Conference. There are still improvements required Defensively if the Grizzlies are going to upset one of the top names, but they have been strong against teams with losing records through much of the season.

The Grizzlies have improved to 5-3 against the spread when playing a team with a losing record on the road although they haven't had the best of experiences playing against up-tempo Denver teams here in the past. I do love how competitive the Nuggets have been on their five game home stand against some of the best teams in the Western Conference, but this is not a big number for Memphis to cover and I do think they are the better team.

If Memphis can get a grip of the boards like Oklahoma City did, they should have enough second chance opportunities to cement this game. It would be nice if they don't miss a bunch of free throws when having a chance to close this out and knock the Nuggets down who are 3-4 against the spread as the home underdog of three points or fewer this season.

Friday 22nd January
It looked like being another sweep of the picks from the NBA on Thursday, but Denver hit a three pointer with one second on the clock, one that was essentially a 'buzzer beater' that made a four point lead for Memphis end with a one point win.

I hate those kinds of plays because most would have run out the clock with a second left and down by four points, but I got caught by the backdoor cover. At least Cleveland got the job done to split the picks.

The big news on Friday was clearly the decision the Cleveland Cavaliers made in firing David Blatt as their Head Coach despite having the best record in the Eastern Conference. Here was a Coach that was not really respected to the level he would have wanted from Day One of his time in Cleveland and LeBron James was never fully supportive of him despite the public statements.

A blow out loss to the Golden State Warriors underlined that Cleveland are some way from being a genuine NBA Championship calibre team and perhaps underlined the feelings the players have had that they won't win a Championship with Blatt as Head Coach.

Imagine reaching the NBA Finals and leading the Eastern Conference and being fired... However that isn't enough for this team that is desperate for a Championship and David Blatt was the obvious casualty, although any final thoughts on whether it was the correct decision won't be seen until June and whether Cleveland are closer to winning the NBA Championship.

There are multiple games to be played on Friday but I am not really feeling any of them so this will be a down day for the picks after that dagger three from the Denver Nuggets prevented me putting eight straight wins on the board.

Saturday 23rd January
The fall out of the David Blatt firing in Cleveland is still being felt around the NBA with a number of other Head Coaches expressing their surprise at events. We have also started seeing the stories that suggest Blatt was at fault for many things and I can only imagine that will increase in the coming days.

Chicago Bulls @ Cleveland Cavaliers Pick: The Cleveland Cavaliers will go onto their home court for the first time since firing David Blatt and I do wonder how the fans will respond to them. The team can't lose their focus with the events of the last couple of days and they are desperate to show they can take on the best teams in the NBA.

Kevin Love is questionable, but the Cavaliers are getting Chicago off a back to back after the Bulls were beaten in Boston on Friday night. The Cavaliers have had a couple of big wins over Chicago at home in the last couple of years, but this has regularly been a game that has given them trouble and I do think this might be a lot of points being asked for the home team to cover.

My fear in backing the Bulls is that Cleveland have been blowing out teams not called the San Antonio Spurs or Golden State Warriors recently and they dominated the LA Clippers here two days ago. This Chicago team is playing a little weaker Defensively than they have in recent seasons and that has to be an issue for them if they fall behind.

Chicago have lost six of their last eight games which has been a problem for them, but I look for them to keep this within the points and improve their 9-3 record against the spread in their last twelve games in Cleveland.

MY PICKS: 18/01 Utah Jazz + 3 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
18/01 Portland Trail Blazers + 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Coral (1 Unit)
18/01 Memphis Grizzlies - 4 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
19/01 Milwaukee Bucks + 5.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
19/01 Denver Nuggets + 8.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
20/01 Washington Wizards - 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
20/01 Golden State Warriors - 6 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
20/01 Sacramento Kings - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
21/01 Cleveland Cavaliers - 5.5 Points @ 2.00 Betway (1 Unit)
21/01 Memphis Grizzlies - 1.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
23/01 Chicago Bulls + 10.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

January 18-24 Update: 8-3, + 4.37 Units

January 11-17 Final2-9, - 7.18 Units
January 4-10 Final6-5-2, + 0.46 Units

January Update8-14-2, - 6.72 Units
December Final27-21-3, + 3.67 Units
November Final27-22-1, + 2.69 Units
October Final5-4, + 0.57 Units
Season 201659-47-4, + 6.93 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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