To be honest I haven't really found an appealing angle over the last three days, but Tuesday looks to be a better day and I will begin the picks from the week from today. Keeping the winning going would put this month in a decent position, but I have to be aware of the situations at this time of the NBA season when trades can cause upheaval in teams, especially the rumour of trades disrupting preparation for games.
Tuesday 10th January
Boston Celtics @ Toronto Raptors Pick: The Cleveland Cavaliers might be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, but fans will be looking to the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics to be their closest challengers. Both teams are potentially working in the trade market to improve their roster too and they come into this game with the Celtics currently holding the Number 3 Seed in the East and the Raptors holding the Number 2 Seed.
That might be the case over the course of the season, but it is Boston who come into the game with some momentum behind them which comes from four straight wins. All of those have been at home though and the last time Boston were out on the road was when they were beaten by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
However they have to be feeling better than the Toronto Raptors who have lost five of their last seven games and who have just looked a little tired at times which has contributed to the struggles on the Defensive side of the court. The last two games have seen Jimmy Butler and James Harden star for their teams in wins over the Raptors and now they have to slow down Isaiah Thomas who is one of the best players in the NBA if not at elite level.
It does look like Avery Bradley will be missing for Boston which is a blow to their chances but Marcus Smart played well in relief of Bradley in their win last time out. The three point shooting of the Celtics has been firing which is going to be a concern for Toronto and the heavy scoring makes Boston a dangerous opponent for them on Tuesday.
The Celtics have played well at the top teams in the NBA as they are 5-1 against the spread in their games at teams with a winning record this season. As long as they don't get beaten in the battles on the glass, Boston have a chance to spring the upset, but I will take the points in this one and look for them to keep this one close with the Raptors.
Atlanta Hawks @ Brooklyn Nets Pick: The Kyle Korver trade has not been confirmed just yet, but it is basically a done deal and most expected that decision to be the start of the Atlanta Hawks making a few moves before the trade deadline. The fact they traded Korver to the Cleveland Cavaliers underlined that feeling but the expected flurry of moves have yet to occur.
The Hawks are currently holding the Number 4 Seed in the Eastern Conference, but there is a feeling this current roster doesn't have a lot of upside that a few moves could improve the long term outlook for the team. And despite the rumours and the confirmed moves being made, the players in Atlanta clearly feel they are better than what the Head Office do as they have won six in a row heading into this game against the lowly Brooklyn Nets.
This was clearly a rebuilding year for the Nets and I do think the veterans on the roster like Brook Lopez will be getting some interested glances from other teams in the League. Brooklyn are the only team who have yet to win double digit number of games on the season and six straight losses in which they have allowed at least 101 points each time has just dented the confidence of the players here.
Injuries have not helped the cause and Brooklyn have not been hitting the three pointers at the same rate as earlier this season. They might have to match that scoring from the Hawks who have found Tim Hardaway in a strong vein of form from beyond the arc in the absence of Korver and will be extending his minutes on the court.
Defensively Atlanta have been playing very well and they should have an edge on the boards and they can improve a poor recent record in Brooklyn by winning this one by double digits.
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Utah Jazz Pick: The Cleveland Cavaliers had a mixed reaction to almost blowing a huge lead against the Phoenix Suns from their last game. While some were upset with the way the Cavaliers took their eye off the ball, others mentioned that it is a long season and that these moments are better to happen in the regular season than doing that in the Play Offs.
The Cavaliers are in the midst of a road trip and they have won four of their last five overall, but will be well aware that the difficulty in test goes up at least two levels when they head to the Utah Jazz. However they might be catching the Jazz at a good point of the season with Utah having lost three of their last four games and coming off a long road trip of their own.
Playing back at home in a first game after a long road trip has proven to be difficult for teams in the past, while rumours about Gordon Hayward's future with the Jazz have been talked about so much that he was actually cheered at times on the road trip. Utah do look set to make the Western Conference Play Offs this season, but they have to improve their 7-12 record against the spread when they play the best teams in the League if they are going to have an impact beyond April.
Utah have just had a couple of issues when it comes to their Offensive performances in recent games and that will be a problem against a Cleveland team who have scored at least 116 points in their last two road games. This has been a difficult place for the Cavaliers to play in recent season as Utah have raised their game when hosting Cleveland, but I think they can snap their two game losing run here.
Cleveland have a 5-2 record against the spread on the road against a team with a winning record and they are 2-1 against the spread when favoured by fewer than three points. I will back them to win this one on the road and keep the momentum going on this road trip by covering the points.
Portland Trail Blazers @ LA Lakers Pick: The Portland Trail Blazers are arguably the biggest underachievers in the NBA this season and not many would have picked them to be seven games under 0.500 as we get to the halfway mark of the season. However their record is still good enough to hang onto the Number 8 Seed in the Western Conference although that looks like being a battle that will go right down to the eighty-second game on the schedule.
It might not be the case if Portland can find some consistency in their play but they have struggled to put the wins together so far this season. There is enough to like about what they can do on the Offensive side of the court with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to call upon, but Portland have been erratic Defensively all season.
They do have a dominant record against the improving LA Lakers who come into this game having won back to back games for the first time early November. The Lakers have started producing strong scoring outings, but the challenge for them will be to try and slow down the Portland Offense who dominated the boards when they played each other last week and used that to produce 118 points in a home win against the Lakers.
The shooting let the Lakers down a week ago and I do wonder if they have the consistency to beat the Portland Trail Blazers. The Trail Blazers have covered in their last six visits to the LA Lakers and have improved to 40-15 against the spread in the last fifty-five games between these teams.
Portland do host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday which may take some of the focus, but this team is battling to start moving away from the chasing pack in the Western Conference and can't afford to lose games like this. I expect that will be enough to keep them in the moment and I will back the Trail Blazers to have a little too much Offensive power for the Lakers and cover on the road.
Wednesday 11th January
It might have been a split of the opening four picks of the week, but the Boston Celtics must be feeling sick this morning having not won their game in Toronto despite being in a dominant position going into the final five minutes of that game.
The fact that Boston missed the cover too really didn't help else it could have been a decent start to the week.
New York Knicks @ Philadelphia 76ers Pick: The New York Knicks had a better than expected first couple of months of the season, but the last few weeks have seen the team slipping out of the Eastern Conference Play Off picture. There is still more than half of the season to be played, but Derrick Rose's unexplained absence from the team on Monday before returning on Tuesday has just kept the negativity around this team.
Rose contemplated quitting basketball on Monday so I do wonder about the state of mind of the former MVP in the NBA. With the Knicks struggling, this is a very difficult game for them against the improving Philadelphia 76ers who have a lot more positive feelings around the locker room despite having seven fewer wins than the Knicks over the course of the season.
Things have been rolling along much better of late that the Philadelphia 76ers are contemplating a run to the Play Offs in an Eastern Conference where none of the teams in the bottom half of the Seedings have been consistent all season. The 76ers have won three of their last four games and almost upset the Boston Celtics in that time, while the New York Knicks have lost eight of their last nine and clearly looking for a way to turn things around.
Philadelphia have to show a little more consistency Offensively if they genuinely believe they can make the Play Offs, while they are 3-11 against the spread in their last fourteen home games against the Knicks. The Defensive side of the court has been a little inconsistent for the 76ers of late and you can understand why they are still the underdog in this game.
However I do think the Knicks are imploding at the moment and the 76ers are 2-0 against the spread when set as the underdog of less than three points this season. New York have been a strong small favourite, but the negative noise around the team over the last two days has to have an effect on the players and I will take the points with Philadelphia.
Memphis Grizzlies @ Oklahoma City Thunder Pick: The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies have laid the foundations for a Play Off appearance in April, but both teams might feel they can perhaps push on and challenge for a top four Seeding in the Western Conference. That will bring a First Round series with home advantage to one of these teams, but they have a gap to fill if they believe they can achieve more than a Western Conference Semi Final appearance.
Both teams have surprised at times and I don't think there is a lot between them when it comes to the upside of the current rosters. Perhaps a trade or two could see either the Grizzlies or Thunder look more like an also ran in these Conference Play Offs, but that looks a long shot to say the least.
Being evenly matched does mean the points being given to the Memphis Grizzlies do look appealing to me despite that meaning going up against Russell Westbrook. There is no doubt that Westbrook is a leading contender for MVP this season and he is capable of taking any game away from an opponent, while his energy gets the rest of the Thunder playing to a decent level.
However I don't think the Grizzlies will be overawed by the fact they are facing the Thunder having beaten the Golden State Warriors on the road last week. The Grizzlies are a little erratic with their style of play making it hard to be consistent from game to game, and they have really struggled in recent visits to Oklahoma City.
With that in mind, the blow out home win over the Thunder earlier this season should encourage this Memphis team who are as healthy as ever this time of season. The Grizzlies have to be firing from the three point line to earn the upset, but I do think they are capable of making use of this number of points on the road and I will back them with the start.
Thursday 12th January
The Philadelphia 76ers made a big comeback against the New York Knicks to earn a cover for the picks, but the Memphis Grizzlies fell just short which means I remain at par for the week.
There is still time to turn things around and I will have three picks from the Thursday offering including from both games played outside the United States.
Denver Nuggets vs Indiana Pacers Pick: The NBA plays one game in London in the regular season and this year it is the turn of the Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers to head across the pond for the game at the O2 Arena. The novelty of having an NBA game in London should ensure a sell out, but this isn't the most inspiring of games.
However it should be a high-scoring one as the Denver Nuggets continue to play far too loosely on the Defensive side of the court although that hasn't prevented them from still being in touch with the Western Conference Play Off top eight Seeds. The Nuggets will be hoping a new country can perhaps change things for them having lost five in a row and allowing at least 120 points in each of those defeats and none of those games have needed Overtime.
It doesn't sound the best when you note they are going to be playing an Indiana Pacers team who have won five in a row and have scored at least 121 points in their last three games. The Pacers are much healthier than earlier in the season and that means having a better depth that allows them to keep the scoring going when turning to the bench.
The Pacers are flying and I think they can keep the momentum riding in this one. They have covered in their last five games while the Nuggets are 1-8 against the spread in their last nine and it might be a struggle to keep up barring some tremendous turnaround from their recent Defensive performances.
Denver have dominated the recent series, but this looks a very good opportunity for the Pacers to keep their run of wins going and I will back them to cover the points in London.
New Orleans Pelicans @ Brooklyn Nets Pick: The Brooklyn Nets look in pole position to finish with the worst record in the NBA this season as the team have really begun to struggle through injuries. Another home blow out to the Atlanta Hawks keeps Brooklyn down as the only team without double digit wins this season and seven straight losses will have drained any confidence they had.
There won't be too many better opportunities to break the losing run until the end of the month when the Miami Heat come to visit, but the New Orleans Pelicans are fresh off a blow out of the New York Knicks on the road. Anthony Davis escaped any serious injury in that game and should be in the line up for the Pelicans having had a couple of days to rest and this is a team that feels they can be a threat for a Play Off place in the Western Conference.
A slow start put the Pelicans in a hole, but they will feel confident they can make it two wins in a row in a borough of New York City on Thursday thanks to recent performances. New Orleans have just looked a little better Defensively and that can give them an edge against a Brooklyn team who are allowing plenty of points and haven't held a team to fewer than 101 points since the middle of December.
New Orleans have the personnel who can exploit those holes to go along with Anthony Davis while they are 4-2 against the spread when visiting a team with a losing record. I will admit I hate the fact that the Pelicans are just 1-4 against the spread when favoured by less than three points this season but they are 4-1 against the spread in the last five against the Brooklyn Nets.
I am just not convinced Brooklyn can stay with the New Orleans Pelicans with the problems they are having from a Defensive point of view and I like the road to cover as the small favourite here.
Phoenix Suns vs Dallas Mavericks Pick: One NBA game is being sent to London this Thursday and another is heading to Mexico City. If the London fans feel they have not exactly been given two great teams, imagine how the Mexico City fans are feeling for this game between the bottom two teams in the Western Conference.
At least those fans will get to see San Antonio Spurs later this week so it isn't all bad for the Mexico City fans and there are some legends and promising young talent on the rosters of the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns to enjoy. Neither team is enjoying a consistent season, but they should be quite evenly matched in this one which at least should produce a competitive game for the fans who don't get to experience the NBA that often.
The layers certainly think so with little between them on the spreads although I have to say I am surprised the Suns are considered the underdog between these teams again. That was the case a couple of weeks ago in Dallas and it was Phoenix who earned the upset and I do think the altitude here will affect the older Mavericks more than the younger Suns in this game.
Phoenix have been a little more competitive than the Mavericks of late and have gone 5-1 against the spread in their last six games. They will feel they have been doing enough Offensively and Defensively to have the edge, while I also think the Suns can win the rebounding battle which can be critical in those games expected to be close.
The Mavericks have also just hit the wall when playing teams with losing records recently having gone 0-3 against the spread in those games and I do like the Suns with the point to get off to a good start in Mexico City before awaiting the arrival of the San Antonio Spurs.
Friday 13th January
It was a difficult Thursday, but I am hoping the 'curse' of Friday the 13th can be reversed.
Charlotte Hornets @ Philadelphia 76ers Pick: Trust The Process.
That is what the entire NBA is beginning to do with Joel Embiid living up to the reputation he had coming into the League and continuing to inspire the Philadelphia 76ers to wins and perhaps an unexpected push to the Play Offs. The Process is likely to be rested in one of the next two days which is a concern making this pick as the 76ers have not made it clear when they are planning to do that, but I would be surprised if they decided to rest Embiid as they try and win three games in a row for the first time this season.
There is still a long road back for the 76ers when it comes to the Play Offs but the character shown in coming back and beating the New York Knicks at the buzzer has to inspire this young team who are coming into their own. They are facing a Charlotte Hornets team who have slipped up of late and looking a little porous at the Defensive side of the court, while the Hornets have lost four in a row on the road.
Charlotte are a dangerous team because they can score plenty of points too and this 76ers team is not really one that wants to be in a 'you score, we score' kind of game. The 76ers have cracked 105 points in three of their last five games though and that might be enough to make these points count and turn around the recent form which has seen the Hornets go 4-1 against the spread in Philadelphia.
However the Hornets have not been used to covering big numbers as the favourite. They are 11-6 against the spread as a favourite of fewer than five points, but 4-7 when favoured by five or more points. This is the kind of number that has worked well for Philadelphia all season as they are 8-3 against the spread when given between 4 and 7.5 points as an underdog and I will back the 76ers to keep this one close with Embiid leading the way for them again.
Miami Heat @ Milwaukee Bucks Pick: This was always going to be a tough season for the Miami Heat with the 'Big Three' that helped them win the NBA Finals twice in a row now a distant memory. However the Heat have fallen even below the reduced expectations as injuries continue to leave them with a depleted roster and relying on unfamiliar faces for the majority of fans.
The slump has seen the Miami Heat fall back to having the second worst record in the NBA at this point of the season and perhaps some thoughts have turned to whether there are any trade options for them ahead of the deadline. The lottery is certainly going to be in the mind of Pat Riley who has constructed strong teams for the Heat and has to be trusted to get this team turned back around in the off-season.
Miami will be concluding a six game road trip on Friday and have lost three in a row as they head to the Milwaukee Bucks who look a Play Off team in the making in the Eastern Conference. Offensive struggles coupled with some problems at the Defensive end of the court have not helped the Heat and now they face a Bucks team coming off an impressive win over the San Antonio Spurs thanks to former Heat player Michael Beasley.
The Bucks have been inconsistent which isn't a surprise with a young roster, but recent games have shown they have the Offensive output to hurt the Miami Heat. They are shooting well from the three point line and Milwaukee are getting a boost from the bench which has helped them keep enough wins going to to perhaps even challenge for a home Play Off series.
The Miami Heat are 2-6 against the spread in their last eight games in Milwaukee. However I do have to consider the fact that the Bucks have not covered a number as big as this and Miami are 8-3 against the spread when given 7 points or more this season as the underdog. That has to be something to think about, but I think the Heat could find the energy tough to come by as they conclude a road trip and think about heading home, and I think that allows the Bucks to just get over this number.
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Minnesota Timberwolves Pick: The Minnesota Timberwolves have won back to back games and have the confidence of being the team to snap Houston's latest long winning run last time out. They did catch the Rockets at a good time in their schedule though and that is not the case in this one against the Oklahoma City Thunder who have dominated the Timberwolves in two previous meetings this season.
Both of those were played at the home of Oklahoma City though so this is a completely different challenge for the Thunder who have a losing record on the road. Eight of the next nine games for the Thunder are on the road now and they will be desperate to get off to a good start which can give them some momentum to take into difficult venues in the next couple of weeks.
There have been improvements made by the Timberwolves on the Defensive side which has helped them, but they have struggled to balance with the Offense until the last couple of games. Now they have to face the red hot Russell Westbrook who has given the Thunder a real boost all season and the energy the Thunder play with means they can challenge anyone on the glass.
Zach Levine could be absent for Minnesota again which does damage their chances of springing a second upset in a row, but they have a young roster that can really pick up their play when hosting the better teams in the NBA. The key for the Timberwolves will be to try and stay with the Thunder when Oklahoma City do hit a hot patch Offensively, and that has been a problem for them at times.
Oklahoma City don't have a great record here, but they have been strong as the small favourite against the spread and I do think they can get their road trip off to a positive start with a narrow win here.
MY PICKS: 10/01 Boston Celtics + 4.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
10/01 Atlanta Hawks - 7.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
10/01 Cleveland Cavaliers - 2 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
10/01 Portland Trail Blazers - 1.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
11/01 Philadelphia 76ers + 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
11/01 Memphis Grizzlies + 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
12/01 Indiana Pacers - 3 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
12/01 New Orleans Pelicans - 2 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
12/01 Phoenix Suns + 1 Point @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
13/01 Philadelphia 76ers + 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
13/01 Milwaukee Bucks - 7 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
13/01 Oklahoma City Thunder - 2 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes
January 9-15 Update: 6-6, - 0.54 Units
January 2-8 Final: 4-3, + 0.68 Units
January Update: 4-3, + 0.68 Units
December Final: 19-23, - 5.51 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