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Thursday, 1 December 2016

NBA December Picks 2016 (December 1-4)

The NBA week this week is going to be split into two threads to cover the end of November and the move into December in the 2017 season. I mentioned in the last November thread that this is what I was going to do and this thread will cover games going through to Sunday 4th December.

At that point the remainder of December will be split into the following threads:
Monday 5th December-Sunday 11th December
Monday 12th December-Sunday 18th December
Monday 19th December-Sunday 25th December
Monday 26th December-Saturday 31st December.

After two losing months for the picks, I am looking for December to begin turning things around and getting this season back on track.

Thursday 1st December
Milwaukee Bucks @ Brooklyn Nets Pick: Both the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets are coming off big wins after the former beat the Cleveland Cavaliers and the latter beat the LA Clippers. Now the Bucks and Nets have to face one another in a home and home series this week and it is key for the young Milwaukee team to take the next step in their development if they are going to be one of the top eight Eastern Conference teams.

It is tough for any team to play on the road, but the young Bucks have really had some issues in that spot through the season. This is a team that has lost in Dallas despite all the problems the Mavericks have been having and Milwaukee were also blown out at the Miami Heat, but the win over the Orlando Magic on the road might have given them a little more belief.

There are some expectations for the Bucks, but the Brooklyn Nets are arguably having a better record at this point of the season than most expected. However it has to be noted that the Nets had really been struggling before the win over the LA Clippers and they were on the road to a blow out loss in that one before the Clippers decided to play poorly.

Recent games have shown Milwaukee should have the edge at both ends of the court and the Bucks should have succes on the boards against the Nets. Milwaukee have been looking after the ball a little better than Brooklyn too and these factors can come together to help the Bucks win this game, while they shouldn't be overlooking Brooklyn having to play them again in a couple of days.

Milwaukee also have an 11-1-1 record against the spread in their last thirteen road games against the Brooklyn Nets and I like them to cover here.

LA Clippers @ Cleveland Cavaliers Pick: A week ago you might have been mistaken for thinking the LA Clippers are the best team in the NBA by some of the media coverage around their start. Since then the Clippers have not only lost three games in a row but they have lost to the likes of the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets. All of those games saw the Clippers go in as favourites and in the last two games they were favoured by double digits.

Playing on the road as the underdog might be more appealing to the Clippers as they take on the NBA Champions Cleveland Cavaliers on the road. DeAndre Jordan has been critical of his team for their lack of effort over the last week, but that shouldn't be a problem going up against LeBron James.

A bigger problem might be facing a Cleveland team with something to prove after being blown out by the Milwaukee Bucks last time out. That followed a tougher than expected win over the 76ers, but Cleveland have been much more dominant at home where they have won their last three games in dominant fashion.

However the Cavaliers haven't played too many teams of the standard of the LA Clippers who are far better than they have performed. Blake Griffin is back and the Clippers can match the scoring power of the Cavaliers, but I do think Cleveland have been stronger Defensively in recent games and have an edge on the rebounding which is important for them.

The three point shooting of the Cavaliers is another edge that can help them get the better of the Clippers and I think the Cavaliers look after the ball more effectively than their visitors. Cleveland have a 12-2 record against the spread in the last fourteen against the Clippers at home but they have yet to really do enough when facing teams with winning records in front of their fans as they are 2-4 against thes spread in those games this season.

I did say I was not interested in backing the Cavaliers for a few weeks at the beginning of November, but we have moved into December and this looks a spot to back them in. Coming off a huge loss, Cleveland should be motivated to show they are still the NBA kings and I like them to cover this number. I do expect the Clippers to have some strong runs in this one too, but ultimately Cleveland can come through with a win by around seven-nine points.

Friday 2nd December
I really thought the Cleveland Cavaliers would want to show something in their game with the LA Clippers but I have not been more disappointed in a performance like the one they produced. A lack of desire and effort resulted in a blow out home defeat and it is a game where I really don't understand what they were thinking about.

Maybe the game with the Chicago Bulls feels bigger for them, but I really didn't expect to see them lay such a horrific performance at home.

Thankfully the Milwaukee Bucks continued their dominance of the Brooklyn Nets to at least pull out a 1-1 day to open the month.

Orlando Magic @ Philadelphia 76ers Pick: The Orlando Magic are coming in off a heartbreaking road loss at the Memphs Grizzlies on Thursday and now have to travel to Philadelphia to take on a rested 76ers team. There are some concerns for me in liking the 76ers in this game because I simply can't remember the last time they were favoured to win a NBA game and that is a different mindset than what they have been used to.

Some people suggest the players don't care about these things, but you would be foolish to think they don't know what the odds are in games. I have little doubt the 76ers know they are favoured to win which does put additional pressure on a team that has been so used to losing in recent seasons.

Joel Embiid has had his minutes per game increased which is important for the 76ers and I do think they are overall in a decent spot to take advantage of Orlando. The 76ers are well rested having had their game with Sacramento postponed a couple of days ago due to issues with the court and they face a Magic team that have put in two huge efforts since Philadelphia last played by beating San Antonio and then narrowly going down to Memphis on the road.

Being on a back to back after that emotional loss at the Grizzlies is going to take something from the Magic and that is why I think Philadelphia can take advantage. There are some similarities with the recent way both teams have been playing, but a key difference that may give the 76ers an advantage is the superior three point shooting they have been offering.

Philadelphia are also 4-0 against the spread at home to teams with losing records, while Orlando are 1-4 against the spread when visiting a team with a losing record. Offensively Orlando have been a little Jekyll and Hyde and I do like the 76ers to win this one even though they are 10-26 against the spread the last thirty-six times they have hosted Orlando.

Minnesota Timberwolves @ New York Knicks Pick: The New York Knicks had a rare road win this season when they visited the Minnesota Timberwolves a couple of days ago and now they return to Madison Square Garden to complete this home and home series. After some recent struggles it was Carmelo Anthony who scored the winning bucket for the Knicks who will be confident to make it two from two against the Timberwolves having played much better in the Garden than on their travels.

There is a feeling that the Knicks are getting their chemistry together on the court although the loss of Courtney Lee is a blow to the rotation. Joakim Noah is another who could be absent again and that will hurt the Knicks who will be looking for a little more dominance on the boards having struggled in that regard for much of the season.

New York will feel they can take advantage of some of the Minnesota Defensive problems, but containing Karl-Anthony Towns is not going to be easy. The Knicks were hurt by Towns in the game a couple of days ago, but Kristaps Porzingis will be keen to get a little closer to him in this one.

I am expecting the Knicks to have the edge from the three point arc and they have been looking after the ball better than Minnesota in recent games. By being a little better in the Garden, I expect the Knicks to have a little more control in this game than they did in Minnesota, although it was blowing a big lead in the Fourth Quarter that meant they needed Anthony's last second winning shot.

The Knicks are 4-1 against the spread as a small favourite so far this season and they can get the better of Minnesota again as long as they can contain Towns and force the Timberwolves to find a big game from another avenue. I think they can do that and I will back the Knicks to win this one at home.

Washington Wizards @ San Antonio Spurs Pick: The San Antonio Spurs have had some really big moments in the early part of the 2016/17 season, but they have also had some moments which is far from what you would expect from this franchise. Gregg Popovich has been visually frustrated at times from what he has seen, but in saying all that the Spurs are still 15-4 to open the season and remain a contender in the Western Conference.

On the other hand they clearly don't look up to the level of the Golden State Warriors, LA Clippers and perhaps even the Houston Rockets as they try and find their feet without Tim Duncan. There have been some tight wins in recent games and the Spurs have gone 3-7 against the spread in their last ten games which suggests they are being held in check by opponents.

The Washington Wizards are trying to find some consistency in their play, but they have not been winning the close games and blew a big opportunity at the Oklahoma City Thunder in their last game. The return of Bradley Beal to go with John Wall has given Washington an Offensive punch and they should be able to give Tony Parker and Patty Mills some issues with the speed and the Spurs struggling Defensively.

You can't doubt that San Antonio are the better team with stronger shooting from the three point arc that will give them a chance to run away with this game. That is a concern, but on first glance this looks a lot of points for the Wizards who should be able to challenge San Antonio on the glass and can get hot from the three point line themselves when firing.

One issue is hoping that Washington are firing because when they are bad, they are very, very bad. However they are rested and San Antonio are only making a quick stop back at home before heading on the road which might take some of the focus and I will take the points with the Wizards despite their horrific record in this part of Texas.

San Antonio did handle Washington easily enough when they played last Saturday in the nation's capital, but I expect the Wizards to be a little better this time and make use of the points.

Saturday 3rd December
A mixed set of results yesterday, but fortunately I came out on the right side of the three picks to move this week into a positive position. Two days are still to go this week on this thread and I am looking for another move in the right direction in that time.

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Charlotte Hornets Pick: The Charlotte Hornets have to feel they can end up winning their three game home stand when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves having gone 1-1 previously. This looks a good opportunity for them to do that with the Timberwolves having played at the New York Knicks on Friday and with Minnesota not looking as strong as their roster should perhaps be.

Like against a few of their opponents, Minnesota are going to have some issues on the boards in this one and that is where Charlotte can use second chance points to start pulling away in the second half.

Defensively they have still be having issues and the Hornets have shown they are much better on that side of the court. These factors can play together to give Charlotte the edge in this game and the Hornets are 5-1 against the spread against Minnesota in their last six games against one another.

Miami Heat @ Portland Trail Blazers Pick: You have to be disappointed with some of the Defensive performances that the Portland Trail Blazers have produced in recent games, but they have to be feeling better after their win over the Indiana Pacers. They are also facing a Miami Heat team who have won back to back games on the road, but who have been Offensively challenged at times.

The Heat will believe they have the Defensive organisation to give Portland something to think about too, but the Trail Blazers have enough to get going in this like they have for much of the season.

Recent games haven't seen the Heat at their best Defensively either which should give Portland plenty of encouragement and I do think think it could be a tough day for the Heat.

Portland have shown improvement on the boards which can help their cause against Hassan Whiteside and I think they can cover at home for the third time in a row against Miami.

MY PICKS: 01/12 Milwaukee Bucks - 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)
01/12 Cleveland Cavaliers - 4.5 Points @ 1.86 Coral (1 Unit)
02/12 Philadelphia 76ers - 2 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
02/12 New York Knicks + 2 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
02/12 Washington Wizards + 10 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
03/12 Charlotte Hornets - 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)
03/12 Portland Trail Blazers - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)

December 1-4 Update: 4-3, + 0.68 Units

November Final24-25-1, - 2.92 Units
October Final8-9, - 1.72 Units

Season 2017: 32-34-1, - 4.64 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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