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Monday, 6 February 2017

NBA Picks 2017 (February 6-12)

The first week of February has been a solid start for the NBA Picks thanks to the Oklahoma City Thunder beating the Portland Trail Blazers at home on Sunday. It's only the start of the month though and I will be looking to build on the first week and try and put another solid one in the books.

We are fast approaching the All-Star Break and the Trade Deadline this month which is usually the moment when teams really begin to turn things on to get into solid Play Off shape.

However there are plenty of teams still trying to prove the executives do not need to tear down their rosters so there are big games through the week. Hopefully I can stay on the right side of the picks to put another winning week together and get this month into a solid position prior to the All-Star Game.

Monday 6th February
Utah Jazz @ Atlanta Hawks Pick: Two teams who are very much on course for a Play Off spot meet on Monday with the season goals now changing for both Atlanta and Utah who have a chance to finish in the top four of their respective Conferences. It isn't that long ago when it looked like both the Hawks and the Jazz would be changing their rosters with trade moves, but both look settled now and can make significant moves up the standings over the next couple of months.

It might be a flat atmosphere in The Philips Arena on Monday as the home town Falcons blew the Super Bowl in stunning fashion on Sunday night. The Atlanta Hawks have to try and pick up the crowd in this regular season game and they are playing well enough to do that, although they can't expect an easy day in the office when the Utah Jazz come to town.

The key to the game is likely to be on the boards where both Atlanta and Utah have been very strong in recent games. However I think the Hawks have just been playing a little better on the Defensive side of the court which is likely to give them an edge in the game and I think that will be an important aspect in this game and the outcome.

Utah can certainly stay in the game with the superior three point shooting, but that has been an area where the Hawks have shown some improvement. They are also better at home and this Jazz team have had their problems on the road where they are 3-8 against the spread when playing a team with a winning record.

The Jazz are just 2-5 against the spread when being set as a small underdog this season and I think the Atlanta Hawks will make a few stops in the Fourth Quarter which allows them to pull away for the win.

Phoenix Suns @ New Orleans Pelicans Pick: It says a lot about how tight the bottom of the Western Conference is when the Number 8 Seeded team at this moment is only 6.5 games ahead of the Phoenix Suns who are at the bottom of the pile. It would still be a long shot for the Suns to make the Play Offs with a young roster who have struggled on the Defensive side of the court, but they have shown they can score enough points to give teams something to think about.

They head to the New Orleans Pelicans who remain an underachieving team for the season. The Pelicans have not been helped by Anthony Davis being banged up and lacking the consistency through the season, but they are still just 3.5 games behind the Play Off teams.

Neither team will be coming in with a lot of confidence as New Orleans have lost four in a row, while Phoenix have been beaten in six of their last seven. The Suns have simply not been able to stop teams Defensively which has seen them give up at least 112 points in each of those losses and 103 points in the one victory in that time at the Sacramento Kings.

I have little doubt that New Orleans are capable of exposing those holes in the Phoenix Defense, but the Suns score plenty too and the Pelicans have not been that strong on the Defensive side of the court either. However the Pelicans have ben guilty of playing up and down to the level of opponent they have faced and that has shown up in the stats as they are 6-10 against the spread as the favourite this season and 4-6 against the spread when hosting a team with a losing record.

Phoenix are hard to trust, but they did reward me last week when beating the Sacramento Kings as the underdog and I like them to keep this close. Both previous games between these teams have been decided by a combined two points, while Phoenix have won outright on their last two visits to New Orleans. I will back them with the points in this one.

Miami Heat @ Minnesota Timberwolves Pick: There is no hotter team in the NBA than the Miami Heat who have won ten games in a row to move away from the basement of the Eastern Conference and now look a threat to take one of the Play Off places. It has been a remarkable turnaround for the Heat who looked like an also-ran with a big chance for a strong lottery position just three weeks ago, and the team have to be given credit for a special run.

Sometimes these runs can hide the fact that a team hasn't played top level opponents and simply taken advantage of a good spot in their schedule. However that charge can't be levelled at the Miami Heat who have beaten the likes of Houston, Golden State, Chicago and Atlanta in that time.

One aspect that can be thrown at the run is that only two of the ten games have been on the road so the Miami Heat are set for a challenge as they embark on a four game road trip. They have a chance of opening up this road trip with a win though as they face the Minnesota Timberwolves who have lost three in a row and also will be without Zach Levine for the rest of the season.

Minnesota have continued to struggle Defensively and now losing a key Offensive piece will make things that much more difficult for them. The Miami Heat can take advantage of those Defensive issues, especially with their incredibly hot shooting from the three point line that they have been showing off in recent wins.

The Heat have a strong 7-4 record against the spread when visiting a team with a losing record this season and they are 4-0 against the spread in their last four in Minnesota. This is only a small number, but I am going to take the underdog Heat to continue their run through for at least one more game and I will back them here.

Tuesday 7th February
I was a little frustrated that the Phoenix Suns couldn't quite get the cover for the picks yesterday, but at least it wasn't a losing day. There are only three games scheduled in the NBA on Tuesday and I am going to back one big underdog to stay within the number.

Brooklyn Nets @ Charlotte Hornets Pick: The Brooklyn Nets might have the inside track to the worst record in the NBA, but they might still be getting too many points when they visit the out of sorts Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets might only be half a game out of the Eastern Conference top eight, but this is a team that has lost seven games in a row which automatically makes this a big number for them to cover.

As bad as the Brooklyn Nets have been, they have tried their best to remain competitive and only one of their last eight losses has come by double digits. That has to be respected considering the level of opponent they have been playing and now going up against a Charlotte team that has not been on the same page as one another gives the Nets a chance to keep this one close at least.

It is a big ask for Brooklyn to snap their nine game losing run by beating Charlotte, but this is a team that has covered on their last five visits to the Hornets. The Nets are also 7-3 against the spread when set as the double digit underdog that is not getting as many as 14 points, while Charlotte are 1-2 against the spread as the double digit favourite this season. The Hornets are also just 5-6 against the spread when hosting a team with a losing record.

The key for Brooklyn is going to be winning the rebounding battle and then taking advantage of the Charlotte Defense which has allowed an average of 113 points per game over their last five games. The Nets have lost on the boards in their two games with Charlotte this season, but they have split those 1-1 and their loss came by 7 points. I will back Brooklyn with the points to keep this one close.

Wednesday 8th February
It has been a quiet start to the week in terms of picks made, but Wednesday feels like a very different day as there are four games I like. We are fast approaching the All Star Break for all of the teams in the NBA, which means we should also begin to see more and more move into Play Off mode, while the trade deadline continues to see players rumoured to be on the move.

Cleveland Cavaliers @ Indiana Pacers Pick: The Cleveland Cavaliers had to produce a huge effort on Monday as they had to go into Overtime to knock off the hot Washington Wizards on the road. It will take something to get going again just two days later against another strong home team in the Indiana Pacers who have put a few wins together.

The Cavaliers have a few key injuries in the rotation which is not going to help, while Kevin Love continues to be linked with a trade move to the New York Knicks in a bid for Cleveland to bring in Carmelo Anthony. Rumours that LeBron James is pushing for that move might have been described as 'trash' by the Superstar, but it can't be helping build team chemistry.

Cleveland have won three in a row, but they are facing an Indiana team who have won seven in a row and they are 20-6 at home this season. The Pacers have every chance of moving up the Eastern Conference standings as they have used their strong Defensive performances in recent games to spark their run.

Those Defensive schemes are going to be tested by the Cleveland Cavaliers who have played very well in recent weeks, while the Cavaliers also look like a team that will have the edge on the rebounding statistics. However the spot is not a great one for Cleveland having come off an emotional win over the Washington Wizards and heading to Oklahoma City on Thursday for another road game, and Indiana have to take advantage of that.

The Pacers have not been a great small underdog to back, but they have won twelve of their last thirteen home games in the regular season against Cleveland. Indiana are 6-0-1 against the spread in their last seven home games against Cleveland and I am going to take the points with the Pacers to exploit this spot in the Cavaliers schedule.

Denver Nuggets @ Atlanta Hawks Pick: The Denver Nuggets are barely holding onto the Number 8 Seed in the Western Conference and they must be looking forward to the All Star Break in a bid to get their team a little healthier. The Nuggets could be missing some key names as they embark on this road trip prior to the All-Star Break next week and they are running into the Atlanta Hawks first up, a team looking to bounce back from a pretty bad performance in the home loss to the Utah Jazz.

The Hawks simply couldn't make any stops in the loss to Jazz who shot an incredible 61% from the field and not many teams are going to be able to overcome that kind of Defensive 'effort'. Making stops has been a tough task for Atlanta in recent weeks and it is no surprise that they have had so many inconsistent results from day to day.

This is a real chance for Atlanta to bounce back as they are going up against a Denver Defensive unit who have not had it easy making stops themselves. The Nuggets are off a very strong performance when they held the Dallas Mavericks to just 87 points, but even with that effort behind them, the Nuggets have allowed an average of 112 points in their last five games.

Atlanta have the size to challenge Denver on the boards which is important for them to stay with the Nuggets in what could be a shoot out. Despite the poor effort in the loss to Utah, Atlanta have actually been pretty good at limiting the efficiency of teams shooting the ball against them and that can make the difference in this game.

The Hawks are 9-3 against the spread in their last twelve home games against Denver and I am looking for them to bounce back from a poor home defeat to cover in this one.

Utah Jazz @ New Orleans Pelicans Pick: The Utah Jazz might have some big decisions to make in the off-season with the likes of Gordon Hayward potentially moving on, but this current roster looks like one that can take the Jazz into the top four of the Western Conference. They have won their last three games behind some strong Defensive performances, but Utah can't overlook a New Orleans Pelicans team who have played up and down to the level of their opponents.

For much of the season you can say the Pelicans have been shorthanded and it looks like Tyreke Evans could miss out on Wednesday. The Pelicans snapped a run of four straight losses with a narrow win over the Phoenix Suns a couple of days ago, but this is a team that is looking like they are struggling to find the consistency to really push on for a place in the Western Conference Play Offs.

New Orleans look like they will be real players in the trade deadline as they look to bring in Jahlil Okafor from the Philadelphia 76ers to give Anthony Davis a little more help. Despite the presence of Davis, the Pelicans have struggled on the boards and that is an area the Utah Jazz will feel they have a real advantage.

One of the other issues for New Orleans in this game is the fact the have had issues on the Defensive side of the court in doing enough to stop teams. They did shut down Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker in their win over the Phoenix Suns, but still couldn't prevent them scoring 106 points and I think a superior Utah Jazz team will find gaps to exploit.

I have to respect New Orleans for being able to compete very well with the better teams in the NBA and actually owning a 9-6 record against the spread when hosting those with a winning record. However, Utah are 8-3 against the spread when favoured by less than 5 points this season and I do think the Jazz can do just enough to win this game even though they are back in action on Thursday.

Toronto Raptors @ Minnesota Timberwolves Pick: The last few weeks have been difficult for the Toronto Raptors and has highlighted that this is a team that needs to be fully healthy if they have any chance of playing for the NBA Finals. I still think they are significantly short of the very best teams in the NBA, but the Toronto Raptors have arrested their recent slide as they look to make sure they finish with at least a top four finish in the Eastern Conference.

The Raptors have a very strong 9-2 record against the spread in their last eleven visits to the Minnesota Timberwolves and might be catching them at the right time. The Timberwolves have lost Zach Levine for the season and have lost four games in a row with the team continuing to struggle on the Defensive side of the court.

Now they have to face the back court of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan and it is going to very difficult for Minnesota to contain the Raptors in this one. With Levine missing for the remainder of the season, the Timberwolves may have some difficulties to find the scoring power to make up for the Defensive vulnerabilities they have continued to show throughout the course of the season.

Toronto should be the superior team on the rebounding stats, but Minnesota can keep things competitive with the better three point shooting they have displayed. Stopping the three point shots has been an issue for the Raptors, but overall you have to think Toronto can improve their recent record in Minnesota on Wednesday.

This is a game that could be close at times, but I think Toronto will just be able to make a few more key stops which allows them to pull away for the road win and cover.

Thursday 9th February
We all know the New York Knicks is a mess and it is clear the town is not big enough for both Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony. Instead of a duel at High Noon, Jackson has continued his veiled attack on Melo, while the latter continues to walk on the high road as tension increases ahead of the trade deadline.

Then you get the Charles Oakley situation where he is thrown out of Madison Square Garden surrounded by conflicting reports of being abusive towards James Dolan or whether he was targeted immediately.

It's a big mess and the Knicks continue to be the poster child for mediocrity and disfunction in the NBA. Good luck to Phil Jackson attracting big name Free Agents after his ridiculous treatment of Anthony and good luck to the Knicks in turning around what had looked a promising season. There is almost no doubt in my mind that a complete rebuild is needed around Kristaps Porzingis, but I am not sure I am putting that in the hands of Phil Jackson so a clear out in the Head Office is needed to.

I won't say much about Dolan because he has shown little sign of going anywhere so it doesn't matter what I think about him... He is simply not going any time soon.

It's been tough being a Knicks fan for twenty years, things just don't look like changing.

Houston Rockets @ Charlotte Hornets Pick: The Houston Rockets have been a little up and down since a long winning run came to an end, but this is the time of the season when the top teams begin to turn on the gas. Picking up the kind of form they want to take into the Play Offs in two months time is important and Houston have won consecutive games coming into this one.

Mike D'Antoni is the first to admit that Houston need to pick up their play on the Defensive side of the court if they are going to challenge for the NBA title this season. Only one of the last eight teams they have played have finished with fewer than 100 points and while the Rockets score plenty of points themselves, they won't want to get into a shoot out with the likes of Golden State or Cleveland over a best of seven series.

The Rockets are still with an outside shot of catching the top two teams in the Western Conference to improve their own Seeding but they can't afford to drop games like this one. The Charlotte Hornets snapped a seven game losing run with a narrow win over the Brooklyn Nets, but Steve Clifford was not happy with the Defensive effort and that is going to be tested by the high-powered Houston Offense.

It is clear Charlotte are having some issues at both ends of the court and that is highlighted by Kemba Walker's struggles, although he could get loose against this Houston Defense. I do expect the Houston Rockets are able to take advantage of that on their one step on the road before returning home and the Charlotte Hornets are just 1-4 against the spread when given less than 5 points as the underdog.

Cody Zeller could be back in the rotation for Charlotte and he has been a huge miss for the Hornets, but I think Houston come away with a win and a cover in this one. They are just 2-5 against the spread in their last seven at Charlotte, but the Rockets have won three of their last four here and would have covered this number each time.

Utah Jazz @ Dallas Mavericks Pick: I picked the Utah Jazz to win on the road on Wednesday and playing on a back to back might be an issue, but Utah were such big winners on the road at New Orleans that they were able to rest key players down the stretch in anticipation of this game. Playing at the Dallas Mavericks has been a challenge for Utah over the years and this is a Mavericks team arguably playing their best basketball of the season over the last month of the season, but I do like Utah to win and cover.

The Jazz won on their last visit to Dallas earlier this season and come into this one with strong showings at both the Offensive and Defensive side of the court. Utah have won four in a row heading into this game and they have scored at least 104 points in each of those games while not allowing more than 98 points in any of those too.

Dallas did suffer a heartbreaking loss a couple of nights ago against the Portland Trail Blazers but they had won four in a row at home before that which included knocking off the Cleveland Cavaliers. As impressive as that is, Dallas are still going to be shorthanded for this game and that only increases the pressure on their patched up roster against a team that is playing right near the top of their game.

I would expect the size of the Jazz to dominate the boards and that allows them to have more opportunities to score when Defenses break down and I have to respect the fact that Utah have improved to 8-2 against the spread when favoured by less than 4 points this season. At the same time Dallas are just 4-9 against the spread when given less than 4 points as the underdog and I think Utah are playing at a very good level and will be too good on the day.

Utah are just 3-9-1 against the spread in their last thirteen against Dallas, but I will look for them to sweep the series against the Mavericks this season.

Friday 10th February
Yesterday should have been a sweep for the picks as Utah led the Dallas Mavericks by 21 points halfway through the Third Quarter. Their poor finish to the Fourth Quarter when up by 4 proved to be the difference maker and I have to say I was a little irritated that that winner kind of folded away.

I am still up for the week, but I am looking to kick on over the next three days to conclude this week and get this month into a decent position prior to the All-Star Game.

Golden State Warriors @ Memphis Grizzlies Pick: The Memphis Grizzlies have been one of the most improved teams over the last couple of months and are in a position to challenge for a top four spot in the Western Conference. They also hold two wins over the Golden State Warriors already in the regular season, although it might be difficult to make that three in a row as they look like potentially being shorthanded.

This might also feel like a good time to take on the Warriors even if the latter have the best record in the NBA. Golden State are on a back to back and tomorrow they take on the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road, Kevin Durant's first trip back to face his former team and the kind of game that the entire Warriors squad will be looking to win for their new teammate.

In normal circumstances it would be understandable to think the Warriors overlook this game, but losing twice to the Grizzlies already has to burn away at them. The Warriors are well rested having needed to play once in the last six days which should mean the back to back is not a big concern for them, but this is a Grizzlies team who have gone back to the 'Grind City' methods which made them just an awkward team to oppose for many seasons.

Over the last week Memphis have crushed the San Antonio Spurs here so they are a dangerous team, but I do think there will be plenty of motivation for the Golden State Warriors. The three point shooting of the Warriors is going to be a key factor in this game as they continue to produce big numbers from beyond the arc and that is the one area Defensively that the Grizzlies are looking to improve.

This is a big number, but Golden State are 5-3 against the spread when visiting a team with a winning record and I am going to back the Warriors to cover.

Indiana Pacers @ Washington Wizards Pick: Both the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers had proud winning streaks ended by the Cleveland Cavaliers this week although the Indiana defeat was definitely the poorer performances of the two. Both are very much trending to be in a position to end with a very strong finish in the Eastern Conference Play Off picture, and games like this could be huge in deciding those positions come the end of the season.

Indiana had won seven in a row and led the Cleveland Cavaliers by 9 points after the First Quarter a couple of days ago, but they were heavily outscored in the second half. That might have given the Pacers food for thought but they do head into this one having won three road games in a row.

It was a seventeen game winning run at home that came to an end for the Washington Wizards when beaten by Cleveland earlier this week. They didn't play well in winning at the Brooklyn Nets a couple of nights ago, but the Wizards were back to winning ways and will be confident they can start a new winning streak at home beginning with this game.

Both teams have shown they can make key stops on the Defensive side of the court which is important for them. However I do think Washington may have the edge on the rebounding statistics which may offer up more second chance opportunities to find a way to pull clear of Indiana.

Washington did beat Indiana by 6 points here at the end of December and the Pacers are just 2-4 against the spread when visiting a team with a winning record. Indiana are also 7-10 against the spread when set as the underdog of less than 6 points this season and Washington are 14-5 against the spread as the favourite of less than 6 points. It should be noted that Indiana have a strong record against the spread in recent games in Washington, but I like the Wizards to win and cover on Friday.

Atlanta Hawks @ Sacramento Kings Pick: The Atlanta Hawks are struggling for some consistency as they head towards the All-Star Game, but they have every chance of winning their fourth game in six as they get set to take on the Sacramento Kings. DeMarcus Cousins is set to return from a one game suspension, but the Kings have lost some key players to injury which may leave them shorthanded for this one.

It is hard to know which Kings team will turn up on any given day considering they have beaten the likes of the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics in recent games, but also lost to the Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns around those wins. Sacramento have been able to stay in games thanks to their size and being able to dominate the boards, but that won't be easy for them in this one with Dwight Howard on the other side of the court to battle Cousins.

Neither team is really playing that well Defensively which does make this a harder game to call, but I do think Atlanta have the better rotation and can make that count. Atlanta have enjoyed the match up which has seen them go 14-3 against the spread in their last seventeen games against Sacramento and they are 6-1 against the spread in their last seven games here.

Add in the fact that Sacramento are just 1-6 against the spread as the underdog of less than 3 points this season and I am looking to back the Hawks to earn another win and cover here. The Hawks were beaten in their last visit to this Arena, but I will look for them to bounce back and cover this number in a win on Friday.

Saturday 11th February
I can only have a chuckle to myself that on back to back days I could have really been putting in some solid wins if only teams had held onto big leads. Both the Utah Jazz and now the Atlanta Hawks have gone into their last two games with a double digit lead going into the Fourth Quarter and being asked to cover small numbers.

Both times they have fallen apart in the Fourth Quarter and instead of being in a really strong position for the week, I remain with a small positive. This is one of those weeks where even being in the positive doesn't make me feel better as it just takes a couple of bad breaks to suddenly have a losing week when I should really be at least three units further in a positive position.

At least the picks looked right and it is bad play/luck that has cost me rather than picking a team that has been blown out by half time.

Time is an issue for me today so I am adding the two picks from the games to be played tonight below in the 'MY PICKS' section.

MY PICKS: 06/02 Atlanta Hawks - 1.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
06/02 Phoenix Suns + 5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
06/02 Miami Heat + 1 Point @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
07/02 Brooklyn Nets + 10.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
08/02 Indiana Pacers + 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)
08/02 Atlanta Hawks - 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)
08/02 Utah Jazz - 4 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
08/02 Toronto Raptors - 3.5 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)
09/02 Houston Rockets - 4 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
09/02 Utah Jazz - 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
10/02 Golden State Warriors - 7.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
10/02 Washington Wizards - 5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
10/02 Atlanta Hawks - 2 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
11/02 Golden State Warriors - 7 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
11/02 Dallas Mavericks - 6 Points @ 2.00 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)

February 6-12 Update: 8-5-2, + 2.41 Units
February 1-5 Final5-3, + 1.59 Units

February Update: 5-3, + 1.59 Units
January Final26-28-1, - 4 Units
December Final19-23, - 5.51 Units
November Final24-25-1, - 2.92 Units
October Final8-9, - 1.72 Units

Season 201758-62-2, - 8.64 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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