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Thursday, 18 February 2016

NBA Picks February 2016 (February 18-21)

The All-Star Break is over and it has been made clear by a number of the big name players in the NBA that this is the time when the focus really turns to the Play Offs which are now two months from beginning.

It has already been an intriguing season, but the last big moment before the run to the Play Offs has to be the Trade Deadline which is is Thursday 18th February.

Some big names have been suggested as potential trading chips including Kevin Love, Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin but nothing has yet to really land, although the Detroit Pistons moving for Tobias Harris looks an interesting move.

It is unlikely that Thursday will pass quietly as teams make sure they are well-stocked for a strong Play Off run with the likes of Toronto and Cleveland looking like they could be very active as the leading contenders in the Eastern Conference. On the other hand Chicago look like a team that will be making a few moves that might not give them a chance to challenge for the Eastern Conference this season but instead sets them up for the long-term.

Thursday 18th February
There are three games scheduled for Thursday as the NBA regular season kicks off after a week break, but I have to say I am not keen enough on any of those.

I was tempted by a big number being given to the Chicago Bulls, but Jimmy Butler is out and rumours that Pau Gasol will be moved on makes it hard to know how short-handed they will be for that game. On the other hand, Cleveland are also looking to make moves so I can't be confident in either team.

Utah visiting Washington and San Antonio visiting the LA Clippers round out the games on Thursday, but I think my next picks are likely to come from the Friday games when most teams return from the break to get the 'second half' of the season underway.

Friday 19th February
The trade deadline went by without any of the major moves that had been rumoured and now teams can focus on the 'second half' of the season as the run to the Play Offs get going.

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Memphis Grizzlies Pick: The Memphis Grizzlies do have a different feel about them coming out of the All-Star break with Marc Gasol out for the foreseeable future and Jeff Green being traded away. While the team are firmly in the Play Off picture in the Western Conference, the Grizzlies don't really have the feel of one that will make a lot of noise in the post-season.

A young and inexperienced Minnesota Timberwolves team have disappointed this season, but they have won three of their last four games. They also showed some of the talent they had in the All-Star festivities although the fans would like to see Minnesota start producing on a consistent basis.

The remaining two months of the regular season have to be used as a way of building the experience that will see the Timberwolves improve next season. The talent does make them a threat on any given night and it is no surprise to me that Minnesota have thrived as a road underdog as they have with the layers not so convinced about them.

Memphis also have a tendency to be involved in tight games as they have regressed Defensively and now miss a huge piece in Gasol. The Timberwolves have enjoyed the match up too as they are 5-1 against the spread in the last six between these teams while Minnesota are also 9-2 against the spread in their road games at teams with winning records.

No one knows how the break will have really affected teams, but I do note that Memphis are 1-8 against the spread this season when trying to revenge a same season loss to an opponent. There are enough recent trends to suggest Minnesota are getting too many points in this one and I will back them to cover.

Boston Celtics @ Utah Jazz Pick: The Boston Celtics might have had a number of interesting pieces to trade, but not many teams were willing to part with a Superstar that they were looking for. That means Boston have stood still with a team that can make noise in the Play Offs, although it is a big Free Agency year for them upcoming to take the next step in their development.

Danny Ainge has to be trusted with the way he has reconstructed this roster to this point and he admitted that Boston look better without making an 'impulse move'. The Celtics will go to Utah to take on a Jazz team that was hammered at Washington on Thursday in a make up game.

Utah are far from out of the Play Off picture in the Western Conference so they can pick themselves up, although they didn't make the moves anticipated before the trade deadline either. They had won seven in a row before losing games either side of the All-Star break and Utah are a tough team to face.

They have been particularly strong as a home underdog which they are on Friday even if by a single point. However I like how Boston have been playing Offensively and they are 6-1-2 against the spread in their last nine games against Utah and I do like the Celtics to cover here.

Saturday 20th February
I wasn't impressed with the way the Minnesota Timberwolves blew their big lead in the final quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. Going 2/17 from the field in the fourth quarter and then missing the cover by a single point has to be considered 'bad luck', but I may be going back to the well on Saturday.

The Boston Celtics just never looked in the game with the Utah Jazz and that was nowhere near the cover, but instead of a 1-1 day, a 0-2 start to the week is a blow.

New York Knicks @ Minnesota Timberwolves Pick: Both teams are on a back to back and travelling to Minnesota for this game on Saturday and this might have bigger Draft implications than Play Off ones. That will disappoint both the New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves as they get set to meet.

I have to say the Minnesota Timberwolves have been an awful team to back when considered the small home favourite in recent seasons and they are 0-4 against the spread in that spot this season. However this is a young team that have shown improvement at times and now they face a New York Knicks team that is season their season crumble at a remarkable rate.

Any belief that Kurt Rambis could salvage a sinking ship look over as the Knicks were blown out by the Brooklyn Nets on Friday. He is coming back to the city in which Rambis struggled mightily as Head Coach and I am sure the fans will be quick to remind him of that.

It is a tight game because I do think Minnesota put in a lot more in their loss to the Grizzlies on Friday than the Knicks put into their game. However, I think Minnesota are a better team than New York at this point and I will back them to finally cover as a small home favourite.

Golden State Warriors @ LA Clippers Pick: The Golden State Warriors are chasing the 72 win mark the Chicago Bulls set twenty years ago, but a blow out loss to the Portland Trail Blazers to open the 'second half' of the season has knocked them back a peg. The Warriors still have a chance to surpass that number, but the loss will have just reminded them that it is going to be far from easy as they continue a tough road trip.

On a back to back against the rested LA Clippers looks a big task for Golden State, especially as there is no love lost between these teams. Despite losing Blake Griffin to injury and not making the big moves at the trade deadline, the LA Clippers are hoping they can finally get into the Western Conference Finals thanks to a strong run without one of their better players.

However facing the Warriors is a different test altogether and the Clippers have lost four in a row against Golden State including both this season. Both have been close games, but I do favour the Warriors to bounce back as that is all they have done this season.

They are 4-0 against the spread off a loss this season and the Warriors are 9-3 against the spread when playing the second of a back to back. Golden State are also 5-1 against the spread in their games as the road favourite of six points or fewer this season, while the Clippers are just 2-2 against the spread when set as the home underdog of six points or fewer.

It was a bad game for Golden State on Friday, but I look for them to bounce back and win this one on the road at the LA Clippers.

Sunday 21st February
Seriously, someone out there must be having a laugh.

In all my years watching the NBA, a team blowing a sixteen point lead in the last ninety seconds has been something that occurs once in a blue moon. The Golden State Warriors turned the ball over three times in a row, Pablo Prigioni hit two three-pointers (as a Knicks fan, I can tell you how rare that is) and the Clippers also stole two inbound passes which would have sent the Warriors to the foul line.

The first two days of picks from the second half of the season have seen me suffer two really terrible beats and I have absolutely furious at that. Picks were right in two games, but they've missed by a combined three points thanks to crap execution down the stretch.

It is bad luck, no one can say anything different to me on that front. But hopefully Sunday can be a bounce back day.

Boston Celtics @ Denver Nuggets Pick: The Boston Celtics were chased out of Utah with their tails between their legs and injuries could be an issue as they conclude a three game road trip on Monday night. First they have to visit the Denver Nuggets who still have ambitions of making it through to the Western Conference Play Offs after getting past the trade deadline with the majority of their key players in place.

The Nuggets return home for the first time since the beginning of the month and they have certainly been much better here. With wins over the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls in their last two home games, Denver will certainly not be intimidated about facing the Boston Celtics.

That is especially the case as the Celtics have not been at their best as a small road favourite and Boston continue to frustrate with some of their Defensive performances recently. Brad Stevens was upset again on Friday as the Celtics gave up at least 111 points for the fourth game in a row and I do think the home underdog are worth backing here.

Denver are 8-3 against the spread in their last eleven home games against Boston and the Nuggets have been strong off a road loss this season as well as close losses by six points or fewer.

Philadelphia 76ers @ Dallas Mavericks Pick: All is not exactly well in Dallas as the Mavericks who are looking likely in being pulled back towards the bottom of the Western Conference Seeding. There is no guarantee that Dallas will make the Play Offs having lost five of their last six games, although a home date with the Philadelphia 76ers should change things for them.

In saying that, I don't think it will be easy for Dallas who had Chandler Parsons and Zaza Pachulia caught shouting at one another on the bench in the Overtime loss at the Orlando Magic. Dallas will be facing a Philadelphia team who might only have eight wins all season, but their last three losses have all come by seven points or less and they have regularly made life difficult for teams.

The 76ers remain a very young team and seem to be forever rebuilding, but they will know Dallas are struggling and this is a chance for them to upset them. I don't really believe that will happen but getting a double digit start might be too many when noting how the Mavericks are playing and knowing Oklahoma City are next on their schedule.

This is the most points Dallas have been asked to cover at home this season and Philadelphia are 4-1 against the spread in the last five games between them. The 76ers have performed decently as the big road underdog and I will take the points in this one.

Utah Jazz @ Portland Trail Blazers Pick: Only four teams had beaten the Golden State Warriors before the Portland Trail Blazers handed them the biggest defeat of the season on Friday. It was a special performance from Portland, but previous teams who have defeated Golden State have gone 0-4 against the spread in their next game and the Trail Blazers have to avoid the let down.

It is a huge game for Portland who are now thinking of getting a much higher Seed in the Western Conference Play Offs than merely getting in. The Trail Blazers have been playing some confidence basketball and I think Damian Lilliard is going to be playing angry the rest of the way having been overlooked for the All-Star Game.

If the 51 points scored against Golden State are any indication, angry suits Lilliard.

Portland will have to avoid the pitfalls the other teams that have defeat Golden State have faced, while Utah are another team chasing the Play Offs and can't be underestimated. The Jazz are just as hot as the Trail Blazers and they have a 9-4 record against the spread in the last thirteen at Portland which makes them very dangerous.

Half a game separates these teams, but Utah are just 2-5 against the spread when set as a road underdog of three points or fewer while I have liked Portland in a position as the home favourite. It will likely come down to the wire, but I like the Trail Blazers to earn a vital win and cover this number.

MY PICKS: 19/02 Minnesota Timberwolves + 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
19/02 Boston Celtics - 1 Point @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
20/02 Minnesota Timberwolves - 2 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
20/02 Golden State Warriors - 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
21/02 Denver Nuggets + 2.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
21/02 Philadelphia 76ers + 10 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
21/02 Portland Trail Blazers - 3 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)

February 18-21 Update: 1-6, - 5.09 Units

February 8-12 Final3-6, - 3.27 Units
February 1-7 Final9-5, + 3.23 Units

February Update12-11, - 0.04 Units
January Final21-23-2, - 3.80 Units
December Final27-21-3, + 3.67 Units
November Final27-22-1, + 2.69 Units
October Final5-4, + 0.57 Units
Season 201692-81-6, + 3.09 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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