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Sunday, 10 April 2016

NBA Picks April 2016 (April 9-13)

The final week of the long NBA season is with us and that means there will be players being rested in anticipation for the Play Offs which has to be on the mind when making picks. Not many teams have been locked into their spots in terms of Seeding which is still an important factor, but most Head Coaches will be concerning themselves with keeping players fresh for the Play Offs which begin in nine days time.

I have been away for a few days in Las Vegas and Dallas which means I have not made any picks from the NBA in April, but I will cover the last few days of the regular season if I find any lines that look out of sync, but my own mindset has moved to the Play Offs too.

Saturday 9th April
There are six games scheduled for Saturday as the Golden State Warriors look to win out to beat the Chicago Bulls' 72 single season win record. There should be plenty of tension in Chicago too as the Bulls look to keep slim Play Off hopes alive, although they might have become accustomed to LeBron James ending their season who is coming to town with his Cleveland Cavaliers team.

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Portland Trail Blazers Pick: The Minnesota Timberwolves might be lottery bound, but they are playing hard to end their regular season. Beating the Golden State Warriors last week shows the potential of this young team which will be expecting to challenge for a Play Off berth next season.

While they can't play spoiler for the Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota can at least push them in this one especially if the former have perhaps begun to rest players for the Play Offs. The Trail Blazers are in the Play Offs, but they would like to avoid slipping down to Number 7 or Number 8 and a First Round series with either Golden State or San Antonio.

It is a fine line between getting enough rest into the starters legs and making sure Portland keep winning games. They do have a strong 6-1-1 record against the spread in the last eight games against Minnesota at home, but I like the way the young Timberwolves have played over the last couple of games.

This just looks a lot of points for Portland to cover with the way Minnesota have been playing and they have would have failed to beat this number of points in four of their last five games. I am looking for Minnesota to continue their decent end to the season and build momentum for next season and will take the points here.

Sunday 10th April
It is another big day for teams chasing Play Off positions in the NBA, but most eyes will be on the Golden State Warriors who travel to the San Antonio Spurs knowing they are two wins from breaking the Chicago Bulls' 1996 record of 72 wins.

Charlotte Hornets @ Washington Wizards Pick: The Washington Wizards were finally put out of their misery last week as it was confirmed they are eliminated from the Eastern Conference Play Offs. With John Wall banged up it will be interesting to see the changes made in Washington in the coming weeks and whether they will bother risking their best player.

On the other hand, there is still plenty for the Charlotte Hornets to achieve in their final three games as they look to improve their current Number 6 Seed. Winning out will give the Hornets a very good chance of finishing in the top four in the Eastern Conference and earning a home First Round series.

That will all be for nought if they are unable to win in Washington on Sunday and I think the Hornets will be too good for them. They have lost their last two visits to Washington but Charlotte have been one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference over the last couple of months and they could have a big impact in the Play Offs.

Washington have been a strong home underdog, but they look banged up and motivation might not be at the highest level. The Hornets have played well as the road underdog, especially when asked to cover between 3.5 and 6 points, and I think they can use their added motivation to win this one and cover.

Dallas Mavericks @ LA Clippers Pick: The LA Clippers are already locked into the Number 4 Seed in the Western Conference and that has seen Doc Rivers giving his starters a lot of rest down the stretch. There is no love lost between the Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks, but I can't see Rivers changing his thought process with the Play Offs beginning in eight days time and this game might mean a lot more to the Mavericks.

A six game winning run has put Dallas on the brink of making the Play Offs and a win on Sunday will mean they are booking their place in the post-season. There is still a chance that Dallas can overtake the Memphis Grizzlies into the Number 6 spot in the West which means avoiding the San Antonio Spurs in the First Round, although the top four Seeds all look strong.

Rick Carlisle will just want to keep the momentum behind his team although Dallas have a huge game at the Utah Jazz on Monday night that may take some focus away. However, playing a resting Clippers team might be the 'easier' game and I think the Mavericks will be ready to go.

The Clippers are 4-2 against the spread in the last six in the series, but I think Dallas can make use of this number of points and keep this one competitive.

Monday 11th April
A couple of disappointing picks on Sunday saw one team blown out by a short-handed opponent and the other miss the cover by a single point thanks to a meltdown in the Third Quarter.

With just three days left of the regular season, I am hoping to finish strong and get ready for the start of the Play Offs this weekend.

I potentially will add the pick from the Cleveland-Atlanta game later if the line is as big as I think it may be, but we will know more about that once the layers get those lines released.

Houston Rockets @ Minnesota Timberwolves Pick: This is the last chance saloon for the Houston Rockets who are trying to find their way into the top eight of the Western Conference. A defeat here coupled with a win for the Utah Jazz will eliminate the Rockets from the Play Offs a year after reaching the Western Conference Finals and big changes are likely ahead no matter how this season is closed out.

It has been a really poor season all around with inconsistent results keeping Houston from getting some momentum behind them. They might be facing a team already eliminated from the post-season on Monday, but the Minnesota Timberwolves are a young team playing with plenty of pride.

That has shown up in three straight wins including at the home of the Golden State Warriors and Minnesota are trying to get into the off-season with a lot of momentum behind them. It is another test for the Timberwolves having lost six in a row to the Houston Rockets, but it is one they can pass on current form with all the pressure on their visitors to find the win and stay in contention for the Play Offs.

I am not convinced they can do that and Minnesota have knocked off two teams in a row that have made the Play Offs. The confidence is flowing for the home team and I will take the points in this one.

LA Lakers @ Oklahoma City Thunder Pick: For the last time in his career, Kobe Bryant will be playing a road game for the LA Lakers as the final two games of a really successful career come to pass. Playing against the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will be enjoyable for the veteran before an emotional final home game in a couple of days time.

The Lakers were beaten by the Houston Rockets on Sunday, but the off-season will be a big one for them as they are lottery bound and have a lot of cap space thanks to Bryant's retirement. It could be a quick path back to relevance for the Lakers, but for now they are far off the pace of the best teams in the Western Conference.

One of those is the Oklahoma City Thunder who have the Number 3 Seed in the Play Offs but who will need to be at their best to beat both the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors to get to the NBA Finals. It is important they show they can challenge with Durant's future up in the air, while they have lost three of four games and will look for some momentum to take into the post-season.

On Tuesday they are likely to rest their starters at the San Antonio Spurs with that being a potential Semi Final series, so that should mean the Thunder give their starters their normal minutes in this one. I can see both teams putting on a show with the Bryant situation as it is, but the Thunder should have too much punch and can cover a big number.

Atlanta Hawks @ Cleveland Cavaliers Pick: This is a big game for the Atlanta Hawks who are trying to maintain the momentum they have built and earn the Number 3 spot in the Eastern Conference. One of the rare setbacks they have had in the last few weeks is the Overtime loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers who are still to wrap up the Number 1 Seed in the Conference, although they are virtually at that point.

That has seen the Cavaliers resting players in anticipation for the Play Offs which begin this weekend and there is a chance that they won't have all five starters playing their full minutes in this one. On the other hand, Atlanta are desperate to finish Number 3 in the Conference and so should play a full squad to make sure they keep ahead of the likes of Boston and Miami who are breathing down their necks.

It is also a game for Atlanta to prove they are ready for the Play Offs having lost the Eastern Conference Finals to Cleveland last season and losing both regular season games against them this season. The Hawks have the kind of squad that can give Cleveland some issues when they are hitting from the three point line and I think the added motivation makes them very dangerous in this one.

Cleveland have lost their last couple of games which should see them plenty motivated as no one wants to ride a losing record into the Play Offs. However I think Atlanta can keep within the points in this one and will back them to do so.

Tuesday 12th April
More of the Play Off Seedings will be settled on Tuesday as the final two days of the regular season are here. The Play Offs begin this Saturday and I think this could be a really fun time with some quality teams likely to produce some impressive Conference Semi Final and Final series.

New York Knicks @ Indiana Pacers Pick: The New York Knicks have had another difficult season which has ended with the team being far from a Play Off calibre one. Rumours surrounding Carmelo Anthony's future continue to dominate the back pages, while the lack of a First Round Draft Pick means Free Agency will be key for them.

Before all that, the Knicks need to hire a permanent Head Coach as Kurt Rambis continues to lead them on an interim basis following the firing of Derek Fisher. This off-season is going to be a big one for Phil Jackson to show the Knicks fans he is going to get this right in New York and the next Head Coach appointment is key to that.

The Knicks have continued to play hard and may be getting too many points against the Indiana Pacers who confirmed their Play Off spot last time out. That could easily see this young team just exhale following the pressure to get into the top eight in the Eastern Conference and that will make it tough for the Pacers to win this one by double digits as they are being asked to.

I do think Indiana will likely win the game as they look to finish with the Number 7 Seed in the East, but New York's two defeats to them have come by a combined eight points this season. Only two of their last eleven games have seen the Knicks lose by more than nine points and I am going to back them to give it their all for their final game of the season and stay within this number.

Miami Heat @ Detroit Pistons Pick: Both the Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons will be playing in the post-season beginning this weekend, but they still have some Seedings to sort out in the final two days of the regular season. The Heat are hoping to finish as high as Number 3 in the Eastern Conference, while Stan Van Gundy has made it clear he wants to finish Number 7 with the Pistons to underline a strong season.

That should mean a competitive game on Tuesday, but I think the well rested Detroit Pistons can get the job done and cover a small spread. They have been very strong at doing that at home this season and Detroit have won three in a row at home against the Miami Heat.

Both teams have shown some solid form to close the season, but I think it is hard to ignore the fact that Miami have been struggling on the road. That makes earning a home series in the First Round vital for them and perhaps the Heat are looking ahead to the game at Boston tomorrow night which could determine who hosts that potential First Round series between those teams.

Miami might be the team that can give Cleveland the most issues in the Eastern Conference, but I think it is going to be a tough task for them at Detroit. The Pistons are 7-2 against the spread when favoured by 3 points or fewer at home this season and I will back them to cover and keep the pressure on Indiana for the Number 7 Seed in the East.

Memphis Grizzlies @ LA Clippers Pick: The LA Clippers close their home regular season with a game against the short-handed Memphis Grizzlies and it might be the last time the starters play a full game before the Play Offs. The Clippers look like they could make a big impact in the Play Offs as they have gotten healthier at the right time of the season, although it will be a big task to beat the two top Seeds in the Conference.

They should have a little too much shooting for the Memphis Grizzlies who have seen their roster depleted week by week over the course of the season. To make the Play Offs is a big achievement considering what they have had to suffer through, but this looks a team that is going to be little more than First Round fodder for one of the top four teams in the Conference.

Memphis can't be underestimated having almost beaten the Golden State Warriors last time out which would have ended the latter's chances of breaking the Chicago Bulls' regular season win record. However it is the fact they have another shot at doing that on Wednesday which makes me wonder if their focus could be on the final game of the regular season rather than this one.

The Grizzlies have lost four in a row on the road and I think the Clippers can cover in this one even though Memphis have a very strong recent record against them. Those came with a much deeper roster than the one they will have at their disposal on Tuesday though and I look for Doc Rivers to inspire a big win to give the Clippers some confidence heading into the Play Offs.

Wednesday 13th April
Nothing will ever frustrate me more than teams resting players at this time of the season when you don't expect them to and only for those I pick against to buck the trend and play a full rotation.

That was a the case on Tuesday and means April is once again a really poor month for the picks at the close of the regular season.

The final day of the regular season means teams have begun to focus on the Play Offs which begin on Saturday and that makes it more of a minefield to negotiate. Thus I have only one pick despite a whole host of games tonight.

Utah Jazz @ LA Lakers Pick: It is surely going to be the most emotional game at the Staples Center for the LA Lakers in recent seasons as Kobe Bryant says goodbye to the NBA. Tickets are going for crazy prices for a team that is not in Play Off contention, but that just goes to show what the Black Mamba has done for this franchise as everyone wants to see him play one final time.

They should get to see plenty of Bryant too as Byron Scott has admitted he will give him the most minutes he has all season. With the Lakers players likely deferring to Bryant whenever they can, there is potential for one final huge game for Bryant on the stats sheet.

The Utah Jazz have to avoid all of the emotions in the building as they try to win and hope the Houston Rockets lose if they are to make the Play Offs. I am picking the Jazz to spoil the party but my big concern is that they will know their Play Off fate when this game tips off and a Houston win could potentially deflate the atmosphere in their own locker room.

On the face of it the Utah Jazz should be too good for the Lakers who have lost six straight games and none by fewer than seven points. Utah haven't exactly been in great nick themselves though, but they have covered the number the last four times they have played the Lakers. That includes three straight blow out wins in this Center and I will back the Jazz to win although not ruining the party atmosphere for Kobe as he says goodbye.

MY PICKS: 09/04 Minnesota Timberwolves + 8.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
10/04 Charlotte Hornets - 5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
10/04 Dallas Mavericks + 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
11/04 Minnesota Timberwolves + 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
11/04 Oklahoma City Thunder - 15 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
11/04 Atlanta Hawks + 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
12/04 New York Knicks + 9.5 Points @ 2.00 Coral (1 Unit)
12/04 Detroit Pistons - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
12/04 LA Clippers - 7.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
13/04 Utah Jazz - 6 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)

April 9-15 Update: 3-6, - 3.27 Units

March Final21-17-1, + 2.15 Units
February Final21-27, - 7.77 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 2016122-114-7, - 2.17 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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