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Monday, 22 February 2016

NBA Picks February 2016 (February 22-29)

Last week was a pretty disappointing one thanks to a couple of horrendously bad breaks, but I also think this is the time the adjustment needs to be made. The main one is that this is no longer the time to back bad teams to cover as they begin the 'tank' towards the end of the season to improve their Draft position, while the best teams begin to lock down and focus.

There were only four days of regular season games last week, but this week the thread will go longer to cover the end of the month which concludes next Monday.

I am looking for a much improved week to get things back on track here after two poor weeks in a row in February either side of the All-Star Game.


Monday 22nd February
Toronto Raptors @ New York Knicks Pick: The Toronto Raptors held steady at the trade deadline and they snapped a two game losing run by crushing the Memphis Grizzlies at home on Sunday. There are still serious ambitions of chasing down the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference, and that means winning games like this one at Madison Square Garden.

The New York Knicks might have snapped a seven game losing run with a win at the Minnesota Timberwolves, but they look a team that might begin to think about next season. I remain unconvinced that Kurt Rambis can steady the ship that Derek Fisher left behind and the Knicks are just 5-9 against the spread as the home underdog.

I have no doubt that Toronto are the better team and it doesn't look a bad spot for them even if they have been a little hot and miss playing on the back to back. The Raptors have the scoring power to give New York plenty to worry about and that can help them improve their 1-4 record against the spread in recent games in Gotham.

Defensively the Raptors have shown enough improvement in recent weeks to think they can win this one and I will back them to cover on the road.


Golden State Warriors @ Atlanta Hawks Pick: It looked like the Atlanta Hawks had a number of their starters available at the trade deadline, but no moves were made. The problem was Atlanta wanted too much for the likes of Jeff Teague and Al Horford for players who are almost out of contract and likely to move on anyway so this may be a small window for success for this current Atlanta team.

They will be in the Eastern Conference Play Offs this season, but Atlanta have come off the pace that saw them finish as the Number 1 Seed last season and reach the Conference Finals. I do wonder if the Hawks have been affected by the trade rumours considering they have lost both games out of the All-Star Game and now they face the unbelievable Golden State Warriors.

Forget the crazy finish to the last game with the LA Clippers which had no right to be as close as it was, the Golden State Warriors have shown they are capable of reaching the 73 win mark to overtake the Chicago Bulls' 72 win regular season record. There is so much scoring Golden State have and different players can take over a game and not simply just looking for Stephen Curry to do it.

The Warriors did lose here last season but they have been a strong road favourite this season and are also 7-3 against the spread when playing a team with a winning record. I like Golden State to make up for a terrible beat on Saturday and look for them to cover this number.


Tuesday 23rd February
The Toronto Raptors blew out the New York Knicks on Monday, but I would have been seriously unimpressed if the Golden State Warriors had not covered.

The Warriors were up by 23 points in the middle of the Third Quarter, but they managed to lose that entire lead before the start of the Fourth Quarter. It was a mental collapse at that point, but Golden State are the favourites to retain their Championship for a very good reason and pulled themselves together to make it 2/2 on Monday.

Hopefully that is something to build upon through the rest of the month.

Houston Rockets @ Utah Jazz Pick: All is most certainly not well in Houston as the Rockets have had a terrible season following reaching the Western Conference Finals last season. The Rockets were expected to be amongst the top Seeds this time around, but instead they have a team that is alleged to have a load of in-fighting, players like Dwight Howard who were rumoured to be on the trade block, and even getting into the Play Offs is far from certain.

Howard looks certain to move on in Free Agency, while Houston are currently hanging onto the Number 8 Seed in the West. However a loss to the in-form Utah Jazz will see the home team overtake Houston and this is going to be a game with plenty of Play Off intensity attached to it.

Both teams have big games to come with Utah hosting San Antonio next and Houston trying to get revenge in Portland but the importance of this game won't be lost on either team. Houston have won six of the last seven outright between the teams, and they are 5-2 against the spread in those games, but Utah are the team playing much more as a unit.

Utah have been a very strong home favourite of six points or fewer this season but they haven't always performed when trying to revenge a same season loss. The importance of the game is likely to make this a close one and I think Houston might be getting too many points even if the Rockets have not played well this season.


Brooklyn Nets @ Portland Trail Blazers Pick: One of the hottest teams in the NBA takes on one of the weakest on Tuesday and I have to back the Portland Trail Blazers in this one. The Trail Blazers were supposed to be one of the weaker teams in the Western Conference after a number of players left in the off-season, but they have rallied together.

Now they are not just thinking of making the Play Offs, but Portland have ambitions to perhaps earn a Number 5 or Number 6 Seed in the Conference which would be a remarkable achievement. Portland have won five straight and won't want to lose the momentum ahead of the big game against Houston which is hosted here on Thursday.

On the other hand Brooklyn have no Play Off ambitions and this off-season is going to be a big one in which they look to revitalise the franchise. The Nets have won three of their last five games, which is relatively strong form from them, but they look to be about to buy out Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez remains the only significant piece they have.

It is rare for Portland to be asked to cover this huge number at home, but they are 1-0 against the spread when set as a 9.5 points or bigger favourite here. Lots of points are being scored by them and the Trail Blazers are 9-3 against the spread when hosting a team with a losing record.

Brooklyn might not go down easily, but eventually I look for Portland to pull away and record a big home win.


Wednesday 24th February
I have to think the Portland Trail Blazers began thinking about their next game when blowing a seventeen point lead against the Brooklyn Nets at the end of the Third Quarter. They rallied to keep the momentum behind them, but thankfully the Houston Rockets managed to keep things close against the Utah Jazz to split the picks.

Golden State Warriors @ Miami Heat Pick: The Golden State Warriors blew a huge lead in the second half against the Atlanta Hawks, but they rallied to become the fastest team to reach 50 wins in NBA history. Now they head off for another Eastern Conference road game as they continue their run of games on the way back to the Oklahoma City Thunder this weekend.

It is easy to think the Warriors might be turning their attention to that game, but they have two more before that and history is there for the taking. I have no doubt that is motivating the players and any of the starters are capable of producing a big game to help Golden State win.

They face a banged up Miami team who have been playing with a lot of pace in recent games. Dwyane Wade is back, but he is hurting as is Luol Deng and Chris Bosh is definitely out of this game, but the Heat keep rallying together.

I just worry for them playing with speed against this Golden State team that loves to be involved in those types of games. Miami have also struggled as a big home underdog over the last couple of seasons, going 0-6 against the spread when set as the home dog of 6.5 points or greater.

Golden State are 6-0-1 against the spread in their last seven games in Miami and I like them to extend that number.


Oklahoma City Thunder @ Dallas Mavericks Pick: The Oklahoma City Thunder are not worrying about the manner of their blow out loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers last time out. I am not so sure they should dismiss that beating so easily, but they have a chance to make amends this week as they face the Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors.

It is a big deal for the Thunder to show they can win a Championship as Kevin Durant is fast approaching Free Agency and convincing him to stay means convincing the Superstar he can win titles here.


Dallas haven't been in good form so the Thunder have to be the favourites, although I wouldn't be rushing out to back a team that is 5-13 against the spread as a road favourite. The Thunder are also just 1-4 against the spread when favoured by 6 points or fewer and they might have beaten Dallas three times this season but two of those came by three points on the nose.

The Mavericks have overachieved, but I think they are a well organised team that will make life difficult for Oklahoma City who are striving to prove they are capable of winning it all. With a 3-6 record against the spread in the last nine against the Dallas Mavericks, I think Oklahoma City are a little over-rated in this one in a position of a road underdog in which they have struggled.

I don't think Dallas are one of the best teams in the Western Conference, but they are 5-3 against the spread as the home underdog this season and I will back them with the points.


Thursday 25th February
Wednesday was a disappointing day as both picks saw the teams go through long periods of allowing their opponents to get on a run. It is a shame, but hopefully things can turn around on Thursday to get this month back on track.

Houston Rockets @ Portland Trail Blazers Pick: The loss to the Utah Jazz came in heartbreaking fashion for the Houston Rockets and now they face the Portland Trail Blazers who beat them twice earlier this month.

That has seen the Trail Blazers move ahead of Houston in the Western Conference Play Off places and this is a big game to see if Portland can take the tie-breaker. Portland had to rally to beat Brooklyn in their last game on Tuesday, but they continued their momentum and I think they will be tough to stop while playing as a team.

Portland are playing in stark contrast to Houston who have many issues that need to be cleared up in the off-season. They are not playing together as they should and even the firing of Kevin McHale earlier this season hasn't changed things.

The Trail Blazers have been very strong as a home underdog of 6 points or fewer and they are facing a Houston team that have struggled in revenge spots all season. Portland have gone 5-0 against the spread in their last five games against Houston and both wins this month have come by at least thirteen points each and I will back them to cover for a third time against the Rockets.


San Antonio Spurs @ Utah Jazz Pick: Kawhi Leonard is back for the San Antonio Spurs who are close to concluding a long road trip this week. He helped inspire the Spurs to a win over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night and it is a tough spot going to the in-form Utah Jazz who are desperately chasing a Play Off spot.

In the two previous games this season, San Antonio have blown out the Utah Jazz, but the latter have improved since early January and they have been much stronger when playing at home against the Spurs. The Spurs are 1-5 against the spread in their last six games in Utah and I think the Jazz will keep this one competitive.

I have to respect the fact that San Antonio have played well on the back to back, but Gregg Popovich could restrict Leonard's minutes to make sure he is healthy going into the final two months of the regular season and beginning the Play Offs.

Utah are 5-1 against the spread as the home underdog this season, while San Antonio have gone 2-4 against the spread in their last six road games, all as the road favourite. I just have some doubts about the Spurs in this one and I think Utah are in a good spot to take advantage.


Friday 26th February
Been a busy day so I have not been able to put up the full picks as I usually do. For the first time I will simply place the picks below and be back to a full write up on Saturday, assuming I have any picks to make.


Saturday 27th February
It was a better day for the picks, but there is still some work to do to turn around the month with three days left. That doesn't really matter and there is nothing to 'chase' with the regular season still having at least another six weeks to go.

Minnesota Timberwolves @ New Orleans Pelicans Pick: The New Orleans Pelicans still have an outside chance to get into the Western Conference Play Off picture with a strong run in the second half of the season. To do that they have to win games like this and hope Anthony Davis continues his strong play, while the Pelicans could also be given a boost by a returning Eric Gordon.

The Pelicans have plenty to play for, but the Minnesota Timberwolves are now counting down the days for the regular season. The Timberwolves have underachieved but a strong core of young players might encourage the fans that things are going to be improving sooner rather than later.

Finding consistency has eluded New Orleans for much of the season and they have been a poor home favourite to back which would worry me. However I am not sure the Timberwolves have been playing well enough Defensively to win this game and they have also gone just 4-6 against the spread as the road underdog of 6 points or fewer.

New Orleans have had a tough season but they continue to get the better of the Minnesota Timberwolves and I don't think that changes. The Pelicans are 5-0 against the spread in their last five games hosting Minnesota and the latter are also just 4-8 against the spread when playing a team who have a losing record while on the road.


Portland Trail Blazers @ Chicago Bulls Pick: The Portland Trail Blazers blew a huge lead in their last game against the Houston Rockets and that cost them a big game in the race for the Western Conference Play Off. That loss might not have a long-term impact on their chances of picking up a decent Seed in the Conference, but they are just set for a road trip that may determine that.

The first of those is at the Chicago Bulls who are really banged up with the back court of Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose both likely to sit out. That isn't the way you want to go into a game where CJ McCollom and Damian Lilliard are going to be opposing the Bulls and might be a big difference maker for the Portland Trail Blazers to get their road trip off to the perfect way.


Playing as the road favourite has been a mixed bag for Portland so far this season, but they have some strong trends behind them. For instance they are 10-5 against the spread when revenging a loss, 5-1 against the spread when trying to revenge a home loss. Add in the fact they have gone 6-2 against the spread coming off a upset loss and they are 8-3 against the spread off a home loss and there is plenty of good feelings to think they can bounce back here.

I do respect the way Chicago can play as a unit under adversary, but they are banged up in this one. The Bulls are also 4-6 against the spread in back to back nights play and Portland are 3-1 against the spread in their last four visits here.


Memphis Grizzlies @ Phoenix Suns Pick: The Memphis Grizzlies should be well rested as they were able to rest starters with a twenty-five point lead going into the Fourth Quarter on Friday night at the LA Lakers. They might have lost Marc Gasol, but Memphis have changed their style to suit their players and it has worked in back to back blow outs over the Lakers.

Now they face another terrible team in the Western Conference who beginning to 'tank' the season away in a miserable season for them. The Suns have lost thirteen in a row either side of the All-Star Game and Phoenix have rarely been competitive as they have gone 4-9 against the spread in those games.

A blow out home loss to the Brooklyn Nets kind of sums up where Phoenix are at the moment and they have a poor record of revenging a same season loss this year, going 7-14 against the spread in that spot.

I will have to respect the fact that Phoenix have gone 10-6 against the spread when hosting a team with a winning record, but this is 'tank' time and I am not sure the Suns have a lot of fight. If Memphis keep the up tempo, high scoring performances up I think they are being asked to cover too few points in this one and I will back them to do so.


Sunday 28th February
I have to say I was disappointed Anthony Davis was injured in warm up for the New Orleans game on Saturday night, especially as the Pelicans blew a solid lead going into the Fourth Quarter in the final sector of that game.

It has been a tough, disappointing month, but I need to have some luck going towards to pick to ensure it turns around sooner rather than later.

Miami Heat @ New York Knicks Pick: The Miami Heat have been banged up but could have added Joe Johnson in time to take part in this one. They will visit Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks who have definitely done a lot more losing than winning in recent weeks and whose three best players were all sent home from practice.

I don't think any of Carmelo Anthony, Arron Afflalo or Kristaps Porzingis will sit out, but their doubts makes life that much more difficult for the Knicks. The New York team is clearly not as good as the Miami one who have looked like a tier below the very best in the Eastern Conference.

It will likely be a tight game considering Miami are on a back to back and they have been short-handed for much of the last few weeks. However, the Miami Heat have been much more favourable to back as a small road favourite than the New York Knicks have been as a small home underdog.

Miami are looking for at least one home series in the Play Offs and I think the Heat will cover here at MSG on Sunday night.


Monday 29th February
The Miami Heat took their time to take down my New York Knicks, but they were always in control despite blowing some big leads before ultimately pulling away.

An additional day in February is filled with more NBA games and hopefully another solid day will at least protect what has been a poor month overall.

Philadelphia 76ers @ Washington Wizards Pick: I am concerned with how the Washington Wizards are going to back up their impressive win over the Cleveland Cavaliers against one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards had to knuckle down and win the game when facing Philadelphia earlier this week, but I am looking for a better start from them in this one.

It is a big game for Washington who can't drop too many silly games if they are going to get into the Eastern Conference Play Off picture. There are only a couple of games between the Wizards and the Number 8 Seed, but they can achieve a lot more in the last six weeks of the regular season by winning those games they are expected to.

Both teams are coming in off a back to back, but Washington should be too strong for a team that is looking to improve their Draft position in the coming weeks. Philadelphia have also had a hard time when set as the big road underdog in the last couple of seasons and I do wonder if this is the right time to oppose them.

The 76ers have lost their last three road games by at least fourteen points per game including in Orlando last night. I will look for Washington to extend that sequence by covering a big number here.


Houston Rockets @ Milwaukee Bucks Pick: The Houston Rockets look to have a lot of talent on their roster, but this is an inconsistent team and one that will be much changed going into next season. The current crop of players are battling for their Western Conference Play Off place after reaching the Conference Finals last season and it has been a season they would like to consign to the history books to this point.

However that is to this point- there are plenty of games left and the Rockets can turn things around by going into the Play Offs with momentum behind them. The loss to San Antonio does show there is likely a ceiling they won't be able to overcome, but Houston are good enough to give some of the top teams something to worry about in April and May.

Houston are on the road at the Milwaukee Bucks who are beginning to play a younger team as the Play Offs are already looking beyond them in the Eastern Conference. Changes will also be made in Milwaukee in the off-season and they have also begun to produce inconsistent results with their younger players which is understandable.

The Rockets have won their last three visits to Milwaukee and they are 3-0 against the spread overall against them. It might be a poor season by recent standards, but I think Houston are still a better team than Milwaukee and will show that in this one.


Memphis Grizzlies @ Denver Nuggets Pick: The chance of reaching the Western Conference Play Offs is beginning to recede for the Denver Nuggets who have lost five of their last seven games. Danilo Galinari has been ruled out for a few weeks which is another blow for the Nuggets to absorb and now they face a Memphis Grizzlies team which is coming in off a big loss.

The Phoenix Suns have been terrible but they beat the Memphis Grizzlies who still look likely to sit in the Number 5 Seed in the Conference. More defeats like that one won't help them though and the Grizzlies have to bounce back in this one against a Denver team missing their best player.

This hasn't been a good venue for the Grizzlies to visit when it comes to covering the spread. However there isn't many times they have been asked to cover a small number and I think Memphis can get the better of Denver who might begin thinking of improving their Draft position with a six game gap to the Play Offs to make up.

Memphis have won six of their last seven against Denver and I like them to cover in this one.

MY PICKS: 22/02 Toronto Raptors - 3.5 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (1 Unit)
22/02 Golden State Warriors - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
23/02 Houston Rockets + 5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
23/02 Portland Trail Blazers - 11.5 Points @ 1.95 Betway (1 Unit)
24/02 Golden State Warriors - 8.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
24/02 Dallas Mavericks + 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
25/02 Portland Trail Blazers - 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
25/02 Utah Jazz + 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
26/02 Washington Wizards - 7.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)
26/02 Orlando Magic + 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
26/02 Memphis Grizzlies - 5 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)
27/02 New Orleans Pelicans - 5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
27/02 Portland Trail Blazers - 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
27/02 Memphis Grizzlies - 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
28/02 Miami Heat - 1.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
29/02 Washington Wizards - 12.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
29/02 Houston Rockets - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
29/02 Memphis Grizzlies - 1.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)


February 22-29 Update: 8-10, - 2.64 Units

February 18-21 Final1-6, - 5.09 Units
February 8-12 Final3-6, - 3.27 Units
February 1-7 Final9-5, + 3.23 Units

February Update13-17, - 5.13 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 201693-87-6, - 2 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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