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United Corner- Manchester United, New Season, Increased Expectations (August 11th)

United Corner- Manchester United, New Season, Increased Expectations (August 11th 2017) If you were going to grade the 2016/17 season...

Monday, 7 November 2016

NBA November Picks 2016 (November 7-13)

I decided to take a few days off from the NBA Picks as I had been hit with a poor run where the teams I had picked had decided to find special ways not to cover. The Cleveland Cavaliers had been up by almost twenty points before allowing the Boston Celtics back into things last Thursday and I decided that would be the last pick from the first week of November with little luck landing on my side and in a long season there will be moments like that.

You can't get too disheartened when those moments are hit, but I do want to limit the damage at that point and this is a new week now in which I am looking to put a winning record together. There are going to be plenty of chances to do that with this thread beginning on Monday and covering games up until next Sunday, but finding those right spots is the key.

I've had some issues with that early in the season, which has led to picking against teams who've been able to be competitive in those situations but only to then play poorly in their next game. I'm not going to beat myself up too much for results in a two week stretch of a nine month season though even if I am expecting much more positive results this week.


Monday 7th November
The NBA season always seems to be play second fiddle to the NFL and College Football seasons at this stage with the majority not really paying for attention to the NBA until the Super Bowl is in the books. Players have also been accused of not really putting in their best until after the All Star Game, but I don't think anyone needs to be peaking in November when the Play Offs don't begin until next April so it isn't a surprising situation.

We have seen the Golden State Warriors struggle to find their consistency as they integrate Kevin Durant into the five man starting team, while this early point of the season has shown off some surprise teams at the top and bottom of the NBA.

Things will settle into shape in the coming weeks and months and so watch out for some erratic results at this stage of the season.

Indiana Pacers @ Charlotte Hornets Pick: It is early in the season but both the Charlotte Hornets and Indiana Pacers are expected to be amongst the Eastern Conference Play Off picture and both have made moves to earn a higher Seed than last season. Both ended up narrow First Round losers and it is the Charlotte Hornets who come into this game with the winning record.

The Pacers might have had the same if they were able to take their home form on the road, but that has not been possible so far with some poor Defensive efforts in those road games. That has seen Indiana give up an average of 115 points per game on the road and they have had issues in their new era away from the Frank Vogel time as Head Coach when Defense was the main foundation for the Pacers success.

Strong Defensive foundations have helped the Hornets to their 4-1 record to begin the season although they have been given a hand by the schedule which has seen Charlotte take on some of the weaker teams in the NBA. Their sole loss came to the Boston Celtics at home, but they have been solid Defensively and winning the rebound battle will likely give them an edge in this game.

The Hornets have also produced decent numbers coming off the bench which is another key element to the NBA games and Indiana have had issues when they have brought their starters out. Paul George will likely avoid a suspension for being ejected from the last game when he accidentally kicked the ball into a spectator's face, but I think Charlotte might match up well with the Pacers at this moment and I like them to cover this number.

Charlotte are 7-1-1 against the spread in the last nine against Indiana and I like them to extend that number.


Miami Heat @ Oklahoma City Thunder Pick: I am not sure where I really stand with the Oklahoma City Thunder as a team considering they have an impressive win over the LA Clippers and a blow out loss to the Golden State Warriors under their belt. It does look clear that they will go as far as Russell Westbrook will take them, but perhaps the Thunder have a little more about them than the losses of Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka might have suggested.

They are facing another team that have been in the Championship mix in recent years, but one that is most definitely in a transitional period. It is only three years since the Miami Heat would have been able to roll out Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James here, but all three players are no longer active for them with two moved on.

It won't surprise anyone that the Heat have had some mixed results to open the season, but the concern in recent games has to be losing the rebounding battle. Hassan Whiteside can't do it all himself and is going to have a big match up with Steven Adams which decide so much about this game, and it does look like the Thunder are comfortable enough running their Offense through Russell Westbrook compared with Miami who are a little inconsistent.

The key to this game could be Oklahoma City's Defense against the three point shot and their ability to win the rebound battle. They've also managed to get something from the bench play and I think the Thunder are going to be too good for the Heat who could easily be looking ahead to the return of Dwyane Wade with the Chicago Bulls which is next up on deck.

The Thunder have covered as the favourite in three of the last four against Miami and I will back them to win this one by at least six points.


Tuesday 8th November
Monday was a good start to the week with the two picks coming in as winners, but I've had that start in a week already this season but only to have a few issues keeping that momentum together. Avoiding those pitfalls will be key in the coming days to get this month turned back around after a poor opening week.

Atlanta Hawks @ Cleveland Cavaliers Pick: For all the years that LeBron James has been part of some of the best teams in the NBA, this is the first time his team have ever begun a season 6-0. The schedule suggests that this run can continue for some time to come and the Cavaliers will be favoured to make it through the rest of the month unbeaten, although they are likely to be resting James at some points with the real key keeping him fresh for the Play Offs.

They are facing one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference on Tuesday when the Atlanta Hawks visit, although I am not sure exactly how good the Hawks are going to be. The Hawks are transitioning from the likes of Al Horford and Jeff Teague and Atlanta do come into this one with a winning record.

There have been a couple of surprising slips for the Hawks, but they dominated the Houston Rockets in a back to back last time out. Dwight Howard has fitted in with his home town team, and his presence is going to be important for Atlanta to try and challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers who have been solid when it comes to the rebounding.

Defensively Atlanta have been solid this season outside of the horrendous effort against the LA Lakers at home. The Hawks held a strong Houston team to fewer than 100 points in a win over them so they can challenge Cleveland, but the Cavaliers have been able to get going from beyond the arc which could be important for them to try and pull away in this one.

Atlanta should be very motivated having been swept out of the Play Offs by Cleveland last season, but they are 0-5 against the spread in their last five games here. Cleveland have won those games by at least 11 points per game and I like the Cavaliers to cover for the first time in five games.


Denver Nuggets @ Memphis Grizzlies Pick: The Memphis Grizzlies have a solid starting roster, but this is a team that has lacked the depth of previous seasons and one that cannot afford to struggle through injuries. That has been a problem early in this season and Memphis could be without the likes of Tony Allen and Mike Conley in this game.

Both have been dealing with injuries and I am not sure it would make much sense to risk them with a few days off before the Grizzlies are due to take the court again. Chandler Parsons was a big money acquisition during the off season and made his debut for Memphis in their last game, but it will take time coming off a big knee injury for him to find his best.

There just seems to be a bit of inconsistency for the Grizzlies at both ends of the court and the Denver Nuggets have shown they are a feisty group that will perhaps exceed expectations this season. Getting into the Play Offs looks a long shot in a tough Western Conference but the Denver Nuggets have been competitive in all but one game they have played this season and all three wins produced has come as the underdog on the road.

The key for Denver in this game is going to be the way they have managed to dominate the glass in their games so far. Getting second chance opportunities and preventing the same at the other end of the court is huge for the Nuggets and my only concern is that they look past the Grizzlies at the home game against the Golden State Warriors which is scheduled for tomorrow.

It looks like the public are very much behind the Grizzlies in this one, but I like the Nuggets who look the more confident team and I will take the points in this one.


Phoenix Suns @ Portland Trail Blazers Pick: There should be plenty of motivation for the Portland Trail Blazers in this one as they look for a bit of revenge for a last second loss to the Phoenix Suns last week. That defeat came in Overtime, but the Trail Blazers have bounced back with two wins in a row and they will be feeling confident they can beat one of the poorer teams in the NBA.

That might be the case for the Phoenix Suns, but they have been a competitive team so they clearly don't feel they should be labelled as one of the weaker teams in the NBA. The Suns have been blown out a couple of times, but they have also been involved in narrow losses to the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder (9 points combined) against two of the best teams in the Western Conference.

Phoenix might feel they are catching the Portland Trail Blazers at the right time here as this is the first of a back to back set for the Trail Blazers. While they will want to avenge the defeat to the Suns from last week, the Portland Trail Blazers take on the LA Clippers on Wednesday who defeated them at The Rose Garden in their opening game.

A rivalry has developed there and it is easy to see Portland overlooking Phoenix, especially with Damian Lillard a little banged up. Lillard is looking for an MVP kind of season so can't afford to take any nights off, but it is only human to want to save your best for some of the best teams and the Clippers are certainly looking like one of those.

Portland have not quite been at the races Defensively which should give Phoenix a chance to keep this one close and the Suns are 5-2 against the spread in the last seven here. Being able to win the rebounding battle should give Phoenix a chance to stay with an Offensively powerful Portland team and this looks like enough points to keep the Suns competitive.


Wednesday 9th November
On a crazy night when Donald Trump was elected the next President of the United States the picks moved to 4-1 for the week and I am looking to keep the run going. I have slipped to 0-4 in Cleveland Cavaliers games though and that means I won't back either team in their games for the rest of the month as I try and start reading their games better than I have.

It's funny to think Cleveland are 2-5 against the spread as the favourite this season, but they have gone 2-0 when I have backed their opponent... If I didn't think I was reading their games wrong before, I think that kind of sums up that fact!

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Orlando Magic Pick: These two teams might be in the bottom half of the NBA in terms of what kind of quality they have on the roster, but both the Orlando Magic and Minnesota Timberwolves are expecting big improvements this season. They have made some moves to show improvement, but at the moment inconsistent results have been the feature of their early season form.

Orlando have employed Frank Vogel to improve their results and Minnesota employed Tom Thibodeau and both of those Head Coaches have had success previously with the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls respectively. Both are known for their Defensive Coaching but it will take time for their new teams to really understand what the new voices in the locker room are going to want from them.

It is the younger Minnesota roster which is taking a little more time getting to grips with what Thibodeau wants from them and they have only held one team under 100 points so far this season. The Timberwolves have particularly struggled on the road and are playing in a back to back spot which is difficult especially as they heading home after this one.

Orlando can take advantage of that spot and they have played better at home for the most part. The concern has to be that the Magic are 0-2 against the spread as the favourite this season, but they are 5-1 against the spread against Minnesota at home and I do think Orlando are catching them at the right time in this one.


Chicago Bulls @ Atlanta Hawks Pick: The Atlanta Hawks came out fired up and motivated when they visited the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday and they came away with an upset win on a night where Donald Trump had one of the biggest upset wins of the year.

Backing up emotional wins on a back to back is tough, but when you've invested as much as Atlanta have had into that win then it is even more difficult without the rest between games. They will have to bring the same intensity into this game as they take on the Chicago Bulls who have been inconsistent behind their new look roster.

The Bulls have a big game on Thursday night when they visit the Miami Heat for Dwyane Wade's big homecoming, but you have to think they will come out in this one with something to prove. Chicago have had a couple of big wins at home, but the motivation has to be to show they can take that toughness on the road and take on one of the quality teams in the Eastern Conference.

They don't have a good record in Atlanta in recent years, but Chicago can challenge the Hawks on the boards and that will give them a chance in this one. With the Hawks likely to struggle to bring the same intensity to the court as they had in Cleveland I can see the Bulls keeping this one close and taking the points looks to be the play.

The bench could be important for Chicago in this one and I like the Bulls here.


Thursday 10th November
That was not a good day for the picks with both the Orlando Magic and Chicago Bulls letting me down, the Magic in particular going on my blacklist for a couple of weeks at least.

It is still a positive week but I want better from the Thursday picks.

New Orleans Pelicans @ Milwaukee Bucks Pick: The New Orleans Pelicans have not started the season 0-9 since moving here, but they look like they are about to break that record having gone 0-8. They have a huge superstart in Anthony Davis, but injuries to starters and a limited bench has meant the Pelicans have struggled despite the numbers Davis has been putting up.

They have already been beaten once by the Milwaukee Bucks this season and now travel to the Bradley Center before returning home at the end of this three game road trip. One of the problems for the Pelicans has been the struggles on the Defensive side of the ball which has prevented them making the stops when they have needed them most and they will be challenged on that side of the court.

This is a Milwaukee team which has averaged 112 points per game in their four home games and they have won three in a row. The Bucks are looking to bounce back from a defeat on the road at Dallas which saw them struggle Offensively and snap a three game winning run, but I expect they can do that against a Pelicans team who have allowed at least 102 points in each of their last three games.

Despite the presence of Davis, I expect Milwaukee to win the rebounding battle and also make a few more shots from the three point arc. The Bucks should have an edge from the bench too and I like them to win this one by at least five points.


Golden State Warriors @ Denver Nuggets Pick: They are not going to reach the record for NBA wins in a single season as some suggested when the Golden State Warriors brought in Kevin Durant, but there are signs this team is finding its groove. Both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson perhaps needed some time to work Durant into the rotation, but both the Splash Brothers have been knocking down the Field Goals for fun in the last couple of games.

That has helped the Golden State Warriors beat New Orleans and Dallas fairly comfortably, but this might be a bigger test as they head on the road to take on the competitive Denver Nuggets.

The Nuggets are coming off a five game road trip which means they are playing on their second home game of the season. They might have lost three of those games, but Denver could easily have gone 4-1 with a little more clutch performers down the stretch although only a couple of the teams they faced would be considered in the top ten of the NBA.

It is a challenge for Denver to take on Golden State, but they did beat them in their last game against each other in January. However this is a Warriors team that is hot from the three point line as they have hit at almost 40% over their last five games which gives them the ability to pull away from opponents.

Denver will likely win the rebounding battle which will give them a chance, but I am not sure they have the shooting to stay with Golden State and are coming off a highly emotional loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. I imagine this will be tight for a while but I can see Curry, who should be healthy enough to play after hurting an ankle on Wednesday, Thompson and Kevin Durant making some big second half shots to win this one by around ten points.


LA Lakers @ Sacramento Kings Pick: The LA Lakers were expected to face another transitional season in the shadow of the LA Clippers, but the hiring of Luke Walton as Head Coach looked a great acquisition for them. Walton made his name with the Golden State Warriors as an Assistant, but also led the Warriors to an incredible start last season when Steve Kerr was away from the team and had a number of suitors before going back to the LA Lakers.

It was still expected to be a season where he needed time to get his young players understanding what Walton expects from them, but the Lakers have responded with a surprising 4-4 start. The win at the Atlanta Hawks looks incredibly good at this moment considering how Atlanta have opened the season, but there will be inconsistencies as shown in their home loss to the Dallas Mavericks which snapped the Lakers three game winning run.

This is a big test for the Lakers as they head to the Sacramento Kings who have won their last two home games and have begun to show the effort on the Defensive side of the court which has been demanded of them. They have held their last two opponents to 94 points or fewer having had six games in a row where they had given up triple digits and DeMarcus Cousins knows the importance of continuing to show strong effort Defensively.

The Lakers have the edge when it comes to the bench play and have rebounded well to open the season but playing on the road is much more difficult. The Sacramento Kings have been better at home and I do think the return of Darren Collison has given them an Offensive boost outside of Cousins.

The Kings have won seven in a row in the series and they are 5-1-1 against the spread in those games. I respect what Walton has got out of the Lakers so far this season, but I like the Kings to make enough big Defensive plays to win this one by between eight and ten points and I will back them to cover this number.


Friday 11th November
There are a number of games scheduled for Friday and I got down to a shortlist of four teams but couldn't really pull the trigger on any of those with any confidence. I will hopefully have something for Saturday but I will avoid making any picks I am not confident about on Friday.


Saturday 12th November
So how did the Friday shortlist go? Not very well actually with those going 2-2, but I am glad I held off without feeling the confidence behind those picks and prevented this week turning incredibly sour.

There are plenty more games to be played on Saturday and this time I do have two picks from the games that are scheduled to be played.

LA Lakers @ New Orleans Pelicans Pick: The LA Lakers continue to play with the heart and determination which is helping them exceed all expectations. It was expected to be a season where Luke Walton introduces his ideas to a young roster, but the players have bought into what Walton wants and that has seen them produce a 5-4 record to open the season.

There are still some doubts about the Lakers as evidenced by the fact they head to the 1-8 New Orleans Pelicans as the underdog on Saturday. I am not sure that is fair in this case even if the Pelicans are off their first win of the season and the way the Lakers have been going about their business even when in deep holes suggests their belief will still be in a better place than the Pelicans.

It is also harder to trust the New Orleans Pelicans' role players to keep making the plays they have in the win over Milwaukee. They are struggling Defensively and the Lakers have been big on the boards which should give them a chance to earn the win on the road.

The Lakers have made enough Defensive stops to think they can do the same to New Orleans and they have just dealt with DeMarcus Cousins in preparation for Anthony Davis. That should mean they have the right plans in place and I like the Lakers with the point.


Boston Celtics @ Indiana Pacers Pick: The Indiana Pacers cannot escape the Jekyll and Hyde personality at home and on the road and that continues to be the case for them. After narrowly beating the Philadelphia 76ers at home in Overtime, the Pacers lost to the previously winless team on the road on Friday.

Now they have to host one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference on Saturday as the Boston Celtics arrive off the back of a blow out home win over the New York Knicks. Al Horford potentially returns for the Celtics in this one too to give them a boost and I do like Boston as the underdog on Saturday.

Boston have lost three of their four road games this season and against some of the best teams in the East which is a concern. However they have covered in both games against a team with a winning record and Indiana have not really hosted any of the top teams so this is a completely different level of test for them.

The Celtics have yet to cover as the small underdog, but I do think they can win this one outright against an Indiana team still finding its feet. They have won their four home games, but the Pacers haven't hosted teams of this quality too often just yet and I will take the points with another underdog on Saturday.


Sunday 13th November
Yes I was aided by the absence of Paul George for the Indiana Pacers, but I have had some tough setbacks too this past week so two winners from two is a positive to take into the final day of this thread. I have only one pick from the Sunday offering which means the week will end with a positive result regardless, but I would love to add a winner and get this month close to back into a positive position.

LA Lakers @ Minnesota Timberwolves Pick: The LA Lakers didn't just cover as the underdog yesterday but they blew out the New Orleans Pelicans and now head to the Minnesota Timberwolves on this back to back. The Timberwolves weren't resting on Saturday as they were beaten at home by the other team from Los Angeles and I will absolutely admit that I am surprised the home team are being asked to cover as many points as they are.

The Lakers have been a surprise team to open 2016, but that doesn't mean they should be given this many points when you think Minnesota have lost four of their last five games. Winning the battle on the boards continues to drive the Lakers forward but they are also getting a huge boost from the bench and that should give them a chance for another upset on the road.

Minnesota are only 1-3 against the spread as the favourite this season while the Lakers are 3-0 against the spread when considered the underdog being given fewer than seven points. You have to admire the fight that the Lakers have shown and I do think they are not being respected in this one.

The underdog is 4-1 against the spread in the last five in this series and I am taking the points with the road Lakers in this one.

MY PICKS: 07/11 Charlotte Hornets - 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
07/11 Oklahoma City Thunder - 5 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (1 Unit)
08/11 Cleveland Cavaliers - 8.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
08/11 Denver Nuggets + 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
08/11 Phoenix Suns + 7.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
09/11 Orlando Magic - 3 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)
09/11 Chicago Bulls + 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
10/11 Milwaukee Bucks - 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)
10/11 Golden State Warriors - 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
10/11 Sacramento Kings - 5.5 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)
12/11 LA Lakers + 1 Point @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
12/11 Boston Celtics + 2.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
13/11 LA Lakers + 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)

November 7-13 Update: 7-6, + 0.49 Units
November 1-6 Final2-5, - 3.18 Units

November Update: 2-5, - 3.18 Units
October Final8-9, - 1.72 Units

Final Season 2016150-143-7, - 5.37 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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