There is no slowing down of the NBA at this time of the season and the picks will come out on a daily basis providing there is an angle I like.
Tuesday 13th December
Memphis Grizzlies @ Cleveland Cavaliers Pick: Backing the Cleveland Cavaliers has proven to be a tough proposition for me this season, but I am looking for them to be far too strong for a shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies team on Tuesday. It is a big spread, but the Cavaliers have the shooting power to cover as long as they can remain focused on the task at hand.
Despite being shorthanded, the Grizzlies have won six in a row which includes blowing out the Golden State Warriors ahead of this home and home series with the Cavaliers. It is mainly the effort on the Defensive side of the court which has enabled the Grizzlies to win their games, but they will need to show the same kind of shooting as they had against Golden State to have a chance in this one with the Cleveland Cavaliers producing plenty of points in games.
The Cavaliers have averaged 111 points per game on the season and they have scored at least 105 in each of their last five games while winning four in a row. Cleveland do have this tendency to blow past teams at home when they get on a roll, and they have been shooting the ball very efficiently which makes them a dangerous team to go up against.
However Memphis can make enough Defensive plays and control the glass to have their chances to stay within this number. The Grizzlies haven't been shooting nearly as well as Cleveland, but they have looked after the ball and done enough to keep the momentum going in recent games.
Cleveland have gone 3-4 against the spread when being asked to cover double digits this season but I do like their chances here. Marc Gasol is expected to sit out along with all the other injuries the Grizzlies have and I simply don't know how they stay with the home team. The Grizzlies are just 2-6 against the spread in their last eight visits to Cleveland and I like the home team to cover a big number.
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Chicago Bulls Pick: This game is going to tell me a lot about how the Minnesota Timberwolves are responding to Tom Thibodeau at Head Coach as he is going up against his last team that he was the Head Coach for on Tuesday. This game will mean a lot for Thibodeau and I think the players will produce a big game for him if they are on board with what the Head Coach wants from them.
It has been a difficult learning curve for the young Timberwolves who would have a far better record if they could just finish off games in the Fourth Quarter. Minnesota have had a couple of days to get over blowing a Fourth Quarter lead in spectacular fashion against the Golden State Warriors and I do think they could be in a position to win this game.
The Chicago Bulls have to be respected with some big wins under their belt this season already as it looks like the veteran signings have not rocked the boat for the team. However this is not a team that have been used to blowing away from opponents and so the points being given to Minnesota do look attractive for a cover at the least.
Thibodeau has been known for his work on the Defensive side of the court, but the Timberwolves haven't brought enough of that onto game day. They will need to make a few stops against a Bulls team that have been solid Defensively for much of the season, but I think the Timberwolves have the players to match up well with Chicago and do that.
It feels like this is going to be a fairly competitive game if Minnesota can challenge the Bulls on the glass and this is a lot of points for the Bulls to cover. Chicago haven't been great against the spread when being asked to cover at least this many points and the Timberwolves have performed better as a big underdog so I will look for them to give their new Head Coach something to shout about against his former team.
New York Knicks @ Phoenix Suns Pick: The New York Knicks have gotten on the same page with each other much more quickly than some anticipated, while the moves for veteran players like Derrick Rose look to be paying off. Wins have been coming on the court to suggest the Knicks are Play Off bound, but they could do with Phil Jackson not undermining Carmelo Anthony at every turn which has put the superstar's nose out of joint.
The Knicks have won six of their last seven games and have opened this Western Conference road trip with back to back wins over the LA Lakers and Sacramento Kings. The Phoenix Suns are a tough proposition at home, but they are not better than either of those teams and the Knicks have to be looking to move to 3-0 on this road trip by Tuesday evening.
Both teams have big games next up on deck so the overlooking factor shouldn't be in play here while the Suns have to pick themselves up from a heartbreaking loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday which came by a single point and in Overtime.
New York should have the edge when it comes to the Offensive and Defensive side of the court and I think they will also have a little more success on the glass than the Suns. They have gone 6-0 against the spread in their last six against a team with a losing record and the Knicks have just come off a game where they were set as the road favourite so even the spot isn't a bad one for them.
Jeff Hornacek would love to get one over on his former team who fired him back in February and I am not sure the Suns have the confidence or the belief they can stay with the Knicks in this one. It does have to be said that New York have a poor recent record when visiting this Arena, but they beat Phoenix easily in both games last season and I will look for the Knicks to continue rolling with a win by at least four points here.
Wednesday 14th December
So that was a good start to the week with two of the three picks coming in, but would have been really nice if the New York Knicks could have beaten the Phoenix Suns in Overtime to complete the sweep. Not to worry though as it does give me something to build upon going into Wednesday when I do like two more picks.
Toronto Raptors @ Philadelphia 76ers Pick: The Toronto Raptors don't only have one of the best records in the NBA, but they have been very strong against the spread in the opening weeks of the new season. There is still some room for improvement for the Raptors if they are going to close the gap to the Cleveland Cavaliers having falling to them a couple of times already this season, but the Raptors have dealt with the majority of the teams they have faced this season in much better fashion.
They are being asked to cover a big number on the road at the Philadelphia 76ers who have won two in a row in relatively comfortable fashion. Those have been on the road and Philadelphia have played competitively at home all season, but this is going to be difficult for them against a hot shooting Toronto team.
The Raptors have covered in their last six games against Philadelphia and all of those games have seen them being asked to cover at least 9 points. A key for Toronto is how well they have shot the ball from the three point arc in recent games and that has seen the Raptors reach triple digits in eleven straight games.
Toronto have looked after the ball and they are also getting plenty out of the bench to keep the team rolling forward. I don't want to underestimate Philadelphia who have been playing well in recent games and haven't lost by more than eight points in any of their last five games. However they don't seem to like the match up with the Raptors and I think the road team is going to prove to be too good and cover for the seventh time in a row against the 76ers.
Indiana Pacers @ Miami Heat Pick: The Miami Heat continue to try and battle through injuries and improve on the fifth worst record in the NBA. They did snap a five game losing run with a win over the Washington Wizards at home and the Heat are looking to make it back to back wins when they host the hot Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.
The Pacers have scored plenty of points in back to back wins and have won four of their last six as the team begins to build some chemistry together. They have scored at least 103 points in their last six games and that is going to be a problem for the Miami Heat to match, especially as the Heat's Defensive strength has shown signs of regression in their most recent games.
Miami have allowed at least 98 points in their last ten games and they have allowed almost 50% shooting from the field in their last five games. They have been stronger against the three point shot, but the Heat will be tested by Indiana who have found the extra pass and the open man in their most recent games.
Both teams have struggled on the glass which could be a key factor in this game, and both have had issues playing at home/away respectively. The Heat are 1-5 against the spread when hosting a team with a winning record at home but they have secured narrow wins in their last three home games against the Pacers. Those were behind better teams though and I am going to take the points with Indiana on Wednesday and look for them to earn the 'upset' at Miami.
Thursday 15th December
Both picks really should have covered yesterday although for a sickening moment it looked like both would miss out. It keeps the week in a positive position and I am looking to build on that in the coming days to get this month into the black.
Chicago Bulls @ Milwaukee Bucks Pick: It feels like both the Chicago Bulls and the Milwaukee Bucks might have been listening to too much praise of how they have played at different times this season. There won't be much praise in the air with the Bulls heading into this game having lost four of their last six games, while the Bucks are not in any better form having lost four of their last five including the last three in a row.
For a little while it looked like the Chicago Bulls might have been the biggest threat to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference, but that doesn't look as likely now. Surprisingly both the Bulls and Bucks hold wins over Cleveland this season, but neither has shown the consistency that they can really build on that impressive game.
Milwaukee are a younger team than the Bulls and have a little more inexperience to deal with which is going to produce some inconsistent moments. The Bucks have just had a few problems on the Defensive side of the court that they need to resolve, but Chicago have not exactly been lighting things up Offensively. The Bulls have really struggled from the three point range in recent games and Milwaukee look to have a definite edge in that aspect of the game.
However it is Chicago who look stronger on the boards which can make up for poor three point shooting, although I do like how Milwaukee have played when it comes to getting some support from the bench. The Bucks have been a strong team to back when hosting a team with a winning record as they are 5-2 against the spread in that spot and they have been solid as a small favourite.
My concern is how well Chicago have matched up with Milwaukee in recent games with a strong record against the spread in that time too. However I do think the Bucks can cover the spread in the first of this home and home series as they have been a little better Offensively which can make the difference in a close game.
Portland Trail Blazers @ Denver Nuggets Pick: The Portland Trail Blazers are hoping the blow out win over the Oklahoma City Thunder can give them the confidence to get their season back on track. Not many in the locker room would have predicted they would have a losing record after twenty-seven games and the majority of the issues have come on the road where Portland have a 5-10 record.
They've been close to turning things around, but Portland have failed to close the show on a number of games in recent weeks. The Trail Blazers have lost by 2 points at Memphis and 1 point at the LA Clippers but there are signs they are improving on the Defensive side of the court and start putting a strong run together.
It is a very good chance for Portland to begin that run by following up the win over the Thunder by winning at the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets have a 3-7 record at home this season and have lost six of their last eight games and they are just having a few issues that need to be resolved at the moment.
The Nuggets have not defended the three point arc well enough and their overall Defensive performance has not been up to scratch in their recent games. The only saving grace for Denver is that they should be much superior on the boards and that will give them a chance, but failing to defend the three point shot is only going to give the Trail Blazers the edge in this game overall.
I am surprised they are the underdog in this game and I do think Portland can improve their 7-2 record against the spread in their last nine games in Denver. They have not been a great small underdog to back this season, but Portland can reverse that here and I will take the points with the road team and look for them to cover.
Friday 16th December
I am not going to be backing the Portland Trail Blazers as a small underdog again until they can prove they can win in that spot. The Milwaukee Bucks proved to be easy winners on Thursday and I will pick them in the back to back spot with the Chicago Bulls but this time with a few points behind me.
Atlanta Hawks @ Toronto Raptors Pick: The Toronto Raptors have been one of the hottest teams when it comes to not just winning games, but covering the spreads that have been set for them. You would imagine that they will come back towards the mean in the coming months, but for now the Raptors are a team to back and I think they can cover this number against the Atlanta Hawks.
The 9-2 opening run to the season has been long forgotten by the Hawks who actually head to the north with a losing record. Injuries have been an issue, but it seems like they have bought into their own hype and the hard work has not been put in as much as expected. The Defensive effort has not been there as it was earlier in the season and they have allowed at least 102 points in eight of their last nine games, while the Hawks gave up 131 points to the Offensively challenged Orlando Magic last time out.
Atlanta had one of the better Defensive records earlier in the season, but they have allowed teams to shoot at 50% from the field in the last five games. That is a big problem against the hot shooting Toronto Raptors, while the 42% the Hawks are allowing from the three point range is going to be another vulnerability that the Toronto shooters can expose.
One area the Hawks have to win is the battle on the glass, but this Raptors team have been very good at protecting the ball and making sure they get plenty of shots off. Toronto are 6-1 against the spread in their last seven at home against Atlanta and they look to have a big edge in this game from the field which is going to allow them to pull away.
The Raptors have won their last three home games against Atlanta by at least eight points each time and they have blown them out here already once this season. I like the Raptors to cover the number against the Hawks again.
Milwaukee Bucks @ Chicago Bulls Pick: This is the second of a home and home series between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Chicago Bulls and Fred Hoiberg will be expecting a much better performance from his Bulls. The final score might suggest it was a close game, but the Chicago Bulls went into the Third Quarter trailing by 22 points and they never really threatened to get back into the game.
Dwyane Wade said he was surprised by the eight three pointers hit by the Bucks in the first half because that was not on his scouting report, but that was surprising to me. I mentioned yesterday that I felt the Bucks had an edge from the three point range and they have been shooting at 41% from that range in the last few games which is a number that shouldn't be ignored.
That has been part of a very strong shooting performance from the Bucks in recent games and they should be able to find the open man outside the three point arc in this one too. Milwaukee also showed they can compete on the boards, which was a concern for me yesterday, and I do think they can cover as the underdog in this game.
Chicago have just hit a bad patch and have now lost five of their last seven games and they will be challenged by the Bucks who have looked after the ball pretty well in recent games and have been getting more production from the bench. It does have to be noted that Chicago have a strong 7-1 record against the spread in their last eight home games against the Milwaukee Bucks, but I am taking the points with the Bucks again to keep this one close at the very least.
LA Clippers @ Miami Heat Pick: The Los Angeles Clippers had been really good Defensively to open the season which suggested they could challenge in the Western Conference, but they have been a little sloppy on that side of the ball. The Clippers have allowed at least 105 points in their last five games, but they have won three in a row with a really strong Offensive showing.
The Miami Heat will be trying to expose those Defensive issues and then use their own strong Defensive shape to try and earn the upset. They have had a couple of players return to bolster a roster that has been hurt by injuries and the Heat are on the long road back to 0.500 having won back to back home games.
It was the Defense that won the game against the Indiana Pacers having held them to 10 points in the Fourth Quarter in what became a 6 point win. The Heat have been very good at the three point line and using their length to prevent teams from hammering them from deep, although that will be tested by the Clippers on Friday.
Both teams will feel they can win the rebounding battle with the big match up between DeAndre Jordan and Hassan Whiteside going to dictate which way the game lands. However I do think the Clippers have a bench that can compete with Miami and their starters are firing Offensively which will help them move clear of the Heat in this game.
The Clippers have covered in their last two visits to Miami and I think they can beat this big number on the road behind another big Offensive effort which is just a little too hot for the Heat to contain.
Saturday 17th December
There are a few games scheduled for Saturday but none leap off the page. Hopefully will have better choices for Sunday.
MY PICKS: 13/12 Cleveland Cavaliers - 13.5 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)
13/12 Minnesota Timberwolves + 7 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
13/12 New York Knicks - 3 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
14/12 Toronto Raptors - 8.5 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)
14/12 Indiana Pacers + 1.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
15/12 Milwaukee Bucks - 2 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
15/12 Portland Trail Blazers + 2 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
16/12 Atlanta Hawks - 7 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
16/12 Milwaukee Bucks + 5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
16/12 LA Clippers - 7 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
December 12-18 Update: 5-5, - 0.37 Units
December 5-11 Final: 5-6, - 1.41 Units
December 1-4 Final: 4-3, + 0.68 Units
December Update: 9-9, - 0.73 Units
November Final: 24-25-1, - 2.92 Units
October Final: 8-9, - 1.72 Units
Season 2017: 32-34-1, - 4.64 Units
Final Season 2016: 150-143-7, - 5.37 Units