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Tuesday, 21 March 2017

NBA Picks March 2017 (March 20-26)

The regular season is winding down at a rapid rate which means we are not too far away from the First Round of the Play Offs.

In fact we are only a month away from that and that means you have to be careful at this time of the season as players begin to focus on the bigger picture, while other teams are more interested in earning the best Draft position possible.

Tuesday 21st March
I didn't have any picks from the last three days of the NBA because I didn't really like any of the angles of the games. It's been a difficult month so far with some bad breaks not helping, but there are still enough days to get this turned around heading into the final couple of weeks of the regular season.

I have been a little short of time on Tuesday so I will place my picks from the games in the 'MY PICKS' section and I will be back with fuller picks the rest of the week, if I do find the right games to back.

Wednesday 22nd March
It's remarkably irritating that I have backed two teams in the last few days who have completely and utterly collapsed from a winning position. The Detroit Pistons blew a huge Fourth Quarter lead last Friday and it was Memphis doing that on Tuesday as they allowed a 10 point lead to evaporate in the Third Quarter when they were out-scored 30-6.

Those two picks going my way would have made the totals for March look much better, but both have fallen apart when they should have won.

Indiana Pacers @ Boston Celtics Pick: The Boston Celtics have admitted that they are not overly concerned about chasing down the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference. The win over the Washington Wizards on Monday has given the Celtics a real edge when it comes to the Number 2 Seed and the rest of the season will be about making sure they at least finish with that Seed behind them and ensure their starting players have enough rest to take into the Play Offs.

The same can't be said for the Indiana Pacers who are still in a battle to simply get them in a position to be playing in late April and it is their inconsistent results which have prevented them securing a spot in the Play Offs already. This is a team who have been very good at home and poor on the road, a recipe that isn't going to produce a deep Play Off run even if they do secure a spot in the post-season.

The Pacers have won and lost half of their last eight games and they have not won or lost two in a row in that run. A concern for Indiana has to be the fact they are likely to be beaten on the boards by the Boston Celtics who have Isaiah Thomas back in the line up even if their star player is not at 100%. That means Thomas is likely to be given a chance to rest at times in the remaining weeks of the regular season, but he should be good to go in this one.

Backing the Boston Celtics as a big favourite has not been a good decision this season but the sharps have been on the Indiana Pacers which has brought this number down to a more manageable level for the home team. However Boston are just 2-5 against the spread when hosting a team who have been poor on the road and they are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games following a win.

Indiana don't have a very good recent record against Boston, but they are 5-1 against the spread in their last six games against a team with a winning record. I will take the points with the road underdog in this one as I look for Indiana to finally produce a decent road performance against a team who invested a lot in beating Washington last time out.

Atlanta Hawks @ Washington Wizards Pick: Both the Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks look like they will be making it into the Eastern Conference Play Offs at the end of this season, but their Seeding is still to be decided. Recent form for both teams leaves a lot to be desired as the Wizards have lost four of their last five games and the Hawks have lost four in a row to slip away from some of the momentum they have had.

You would have to say the Atlanta losses have been a little more disappointing as they have come by wide margins and in half of those games they would have been favoured. That isn't the case for Washington who have lost three of four games where they were the underdog and they have been much more competitive in those games which also suggests they are perhaps in a better position to turn things around.

The absences of the likes of Kent Bazemore and Paul Millsap will be hurting the Hawks who could see their Number 5 Seed in the Eastern Conference slip in the coming weeks. The feeling is that the likes of Bradley Beal and John Wall will help Washington break out of their current slump a little better than the Atlanta Hawks who are a little shorthanded and I do think the Wizards can begin that here.

However there has to be a concern with asking Washington to cover this number when you think how poor they have been when favoured by 7 or more points this season. The Hawks have also been a solid team to back as soon as they are given 5 or more points as the underdog.

I'm just not sure they have enough shooting to keep up with the Wizards in this one as both teams look to bounce back from some tough losses of late. While this will be a tight game going into the Fourth Quarter, I will back the Wizards to just have a little too much consistency at the Offensive end of the court to pull away from the Hawks and record a big win at home.

Cleveland Cavaliers @ Denver Nuggets Pick: I have to admit I am going to be going with the squares in this one and that is backing the Cleveland Cavaliers to get the better of the Denver Nuggets on the road. Both teams will be desperate for the win as they battle to keep ahead of rivals either as the Number 1 Seed, as the Cavaliers are, or as the Number 8 Seed, as the Nuggets are.

The Nuggets have not slowed down despite injuries to the likes of Danilo Galinari and Wilson Chandler, but both are on the road back. A key for Denver has been the size they are able to put out on the court which gives them an edge over most teams when it comes to the rebounding battle and that is going to be very important to them in this one.

Both Cleveland and Denver have been able to shoot the ball efficiently in their recent games, but the Nuggets are off back to back losses to the Houston Rockets because of their porous Defensive unit. That is where the Cavaliers have an edge in the contest and it is the better Defensive numbers that should give the road team the chance to pull away from Denver even if the home team will dominate the stats on the boards.

You have to respect Denver because they are 10-4 against the spread when set as an underdog of less than 4 points this season while they are 12-2 against the spread in their last fourteen games off a loss and 13-6 against the spread in their last nineteen home games. However, the Cavaliers should feel well rested with the their top names all sitting on Saturday night and having a couple of days since they last played.

Cleveland are 4-0-1 against the spread in their last five games in Denver and they can get the better of their hosts in this one.

New York Knicks @ Utah Jazz Pick: This has been an incredibly disappointing season for the New York Knicks fans who had some excitement coming into the season. The mood won't be helped with talk from Kristaps Porzingis that the Knicks were always going to be a bad team and that he didn't have as much hope as the fans clearly had in their potential.

Any hope of a Play Off spot has disappeared over the last month and the Knicks are now playing a lot of their role players to see who can help moving forward. It won't be a big surprise if Carmelo Anthony is one who moves on in the off-season, while Derrick Rose is unlikely to be signed to a long-term deal here.

It all adds up to another disruptive summer coming up for the Knicks who have not improved under the watchful eye of Phil Jackson and James Dolan is another who is feeling the wrath of the fans. Even with that in mind, the Knicks have a chance of covering the spread in Utah against a Jazz team who have lost three in a row and who are trying to fight off a number of teams trying to take their Number 4 Seed in the Western Conference.

New York are not likely to win the game with Utah dominating the boards and being more efficient shooting the ball from the three point range. However this is still a big number for a team like Utah to cover because they are more focused on the Defensive side of the court and I think the Knicks can make the points count.

The Jazz have a huge game with the LA Clippers in a couple of days and may be focused on that one and they are 4-9 against the spread when favoured by 7 or more points this season. Utah are also 2-6-1 against the spread in their last nine games against a team with as poor a record as the Knicks and I will take the double digits and look for New York to remain competitive.

Thursday 23rd March
I have to criticise myself for taking on two teams that I was not entirely convinced about on Wednesday and the fact both disappointed only exasperated by frustration with myself. I switched sides with one of those, which is a big no-no for me, but I will take the shot on the chin and look to get back up off the canvas.

Toronto Raptors @ Miami Heat Pick: There are some big Play Off implications on the line when the Miami Heat host the Toronto Raptors on Thursday and both are hoping to improve their position in the Eastern Conference standings. The Toronto Raptors will be looking to chase down the Washington Wizards and finish with the Number 3 Seed in the Conference at the least, while the Miami Heat are hanging onto the Number 8 Seed with a 1.5 game lead over both the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons.

The bottom half of the Eastern Conference Play Offs is a tight race and the Heat will know a strong end will see them move up the standings and they could even finish as high as Number 5 in the Conference. The Heat have won seven of their last nine games as they have continued fighting hard in the second half of the season when the first half offered up the promise of a really strong lottery pick in the Draft.

Earlier this month they beat the Raptors easily at home and the Miami Heat will be looking to make it four home wins in a row against this opponent. However the likes of Dion Waiters have been ruled out and Hassan Whiteside could be limited which may see the Raptors, even without Serge Ibaka, have an edge on the boards.

It is the Toronto Raptors who have been producing the better Defensive efforts of late, but they did invest a lot of energy in coming back from a big deficit to knock off the Chicago Bulls a couple of nights ago. That might play a part in this one, while the favourite has covered the spread in the last six in the series between these teams.

A reduced Whiteside would be a big blow for Miami though and I think that is the reason this spread is perhaps a little shorter than it may have been. It might mean the Raptors are getting enough points to at least stay within the number and I will back the road underdog to find a way to make those count.

LA Clippers @ Dallas Mavericks Pick: The games are beginning to run out for the Dallas Mavericks who have a 3.5 game gap between themselves and the Number 8 Seed Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference. Another loss on Thursday might just start putting the final touches on a difficult season for the Mavericks who look set to miss the Play Offs again, while the LA Clippers come into this game still tracking the Utah Jazz for the Number 4 Seed in the Western Conference which will give them home court advantage in the First Round of the Play Offs.

The Dallas Mavericks got close to the Denver Nuggets, but they have lost four of their last six games and they have got to bounce back from a disappointing blow out loss to the Golden State Warriors. Dallas have played well at home in recent weeks, but they have lost their last couple of games here and are under pressure to stay with the Nuggets who had an impressive win on Wednesday.

It has been an up and down few months for the LA Clippers thanks to injuries, but they are getting healthier and the team have responded with three straight wins ahead of this one. They are only 1 game behind the Utah Jazz for a top four spot in the Western Conference, and that makes every game they have left very important.

In a couple of days the Clippers actually host Utah in a very big game for the Seedings, but Doc Rivers will want them to maintain some momentum going into that one. The Clippers have been shooting the ball with more efficiency than the Mavericks in recent games and they have the kind of size and energy to win the battles around the boards which should give them an edge in this one and a chance to pull away for the win.

The Clippers are 5-2 against the spread in their last seven games in Dallas and I will look for them to have a little too much for the Mavericks in this one while matching the Golden State Warriors with a win and cover here.

Memphis Grizzlies @ San Antonio Spurs Pick: The San Antonio Spurs are trying their best to chase down the Golden State Warriors for the Number 1 Seed in the Western Conference, but they won't allow it to consume them. Gregg Popovich has plenty of top Play Off experiences that means he will be resting players over the next couple of weeks to keep his players ready for the post-season, but the Spurs will see the 2.5 game gap between themselves and the Warriors as one they can close.

There will be some revenge on the minds of the Spurs when they host the Memphis Grizzlies who have beaten them twice over the last couple of months. Those wins have been part of a limited highs this season for the Grizzlies who are currently the Number 7 Seed in the Western Conference, but a strong run could see them move up the standings.

However they saw their four game winning run come to an end in embarrassing fashion when beaten at the New Orleans Pelicans a couple of nights ago and the Grizzlies have been so inconsistent through the course of the season. A part of that four game winning run saw the Grizzlies beat San Antonio at home as the underdog, but they have not been as strong on the road as they are 1-4 against the spread in their last five in San Antonio.

The Defensive side of their game has improved and Memphis know they need to keep things tight to give themselves a chance to win any game. Doing that will give them a chance, but San Antonio have been shooting the ball efficiently enough to think they can pull away from the Grizzlies in this one.

San Antonio are 4-1 against the spread when hosting a team with a winning record on the road and Memphis have not been a great team to back when set as a big underdog. It would be a surprise if San Antonio are able to blow out Memphis from tip off to the end of the game, but I do think they will eventually have a little too much consistency Offensively in the second half which allows them to win and cover this spread.

Friday 24th March
I'm seriously not impressed with my picks this week as they've been surrounded by some crappy play at just the wrong time. The Memphis Grizzlies decided they can make some big shots unlike the other day when they were outscored 30-6 once moving into a 10 point lead (those jerks won't make it to six games in the First Round, a terrible team) and the LA Clippers basically allowed the Dallas Mavericks to shoot what they like from the field and even then barely lost.

It's been a frustrating week to this point as I don't think I've had too many breaks down the stretch, plus it makes those two picks I didn't like stand out even more. After the positives of February, March has been much harder work.

Cleveland Cavaliers @ Charlotte Hornets Pick: The Cleveland Cavaliers have some real questions to answer after suffering a disappointing loss at the Denver Nuggets last time out. That has opened the door for the Boston Celtics to take the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference, which is not actually the main concern for Cleveland.

Instead they have been described as being soft both mentally and physically and LeBron James has admitted that the team need to improve Defensively. To their defence it should be remembered that Cleveland have only just got all of their pieces in the rotation back, but that isn't going to make them feel much better about themselves.

The slippage from the Defensive performances from last season which led to the NBA Championship has to be a concern and teams simply don't win titles with the Defensive inefficiency that the Cavaliers have been showing.

At least Cleveland have a Play Off berth wrapped up compared with the Charlotte Hornets who have 11 games left to play this season and are still 2.5 games behind the Number 8 Seed in the Eastern Conference. The Hornets have won three games in a row, but they don't have a lot of room for error and only one of their remaining games is against a team that is currently outside of the top eight of either Conference.

Neither team has been playing that well Defensively of late and you have to think the Cavaliers are going to bounce back from their loss a couple of nights ago. They are 4-0-1 against the spread in their last five games with the Charlotte Hornets and the Hornets are 4-10 against the spread in their last fourteen home games. Charlotte are also 1-8 against the spread this season when set as the underdog of less than 5 points and I will back Cleveland to get back to winning ways despite being the start of another back to back.

Denver Nuggets @ Indiana Pacers Pick: The Indiana Pacers continue to produce up and down performances depending whether they are playing at home or on the road. It has been a strange portion of the schedule which has seen the Indiana Pacers play at home on one day and then play on the road in the next game, but they have shown they can beat anyone here.

Wins over the likes of the Miami Heat and Utah Jazz at home will give Indiana plenty of confidence, but during the same portion of the season they have been beaten at the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics which has kept the Pacers looking over their shoulders when it comes to their Play Off place.

Now they have to host a tough Denver Nuggets team who have just crushed the Cleveland Cavaliers at home and are hanging on to a Play Off spot in the Western Conference despite the likes of Portland, Dallas and New Orleans closing in on them. It is the Nuggets who will have the edge on the boards again with their size, and they have shot the ball very efficiently of late.

However it is the Denver Defense which can be a problem and it will be up to the Indiana Pacers to expose those problems. The Nuggets do have a solid 4-1 record against the spread in their last five games in Indiana, but the Pacers are 4-1 against the spread in their last five home games overall and have gone 6-1 against the spread in their last seven games following a loss.

On the other hand Denver have not been able to back up wins as effectively as they like as they have gone 4-9 against the spread in their last thirteen games following a win. In what will likely be a close game, Indiana can continue riding their home form to another win which can keep them clear of the chasing pack in the Eastern Conference and I will back them to cover the spread.

Atlanta Hawks @ Milwaukee Bucks Pick: There is every chance that the Milwaukee Bucks could finish as high as Number 5 in the Eastern Conference after coming through a sticky patch in their season where they looked like they might fail to make the Play Offs. No one in Milwaukee is going to booking their Play Off hotels just yet though as they are only 2.5 games clear of the Number 9 position in the Conference, but Milwaukee are playing with momentum.

It had looked like a season where the Atlanta Hawks could be looking for home court advantage at least through the First Round of the Play Offs, but they have struggled with their consistency. A run of five consecutive losses has put their Number 5 Seed in the Eastern Conference under threat and there is still a possibility that the Hawks will miss out completely if they don't reverse form soon.

This is a huge test for the Hawks who blew a big lead against the Washington Wizards last time out and they had previously been beaten by large margins against Memphis, Portland and Charlotte. The absence of Paul Millsap has meant Atlanta have struggled for consistent scoring in recent games and that could be a big problem against the Offensive minded Milwaukee Bucks.

Millsap's absence has also seen the Hawks begin to struggle on the boards and they are facing a Milwaukee team who have been strong at home against teams with a winning record. The Hawks have dominated the recent series between these teams, but Milwaukee won't have too many better chances to snap that run and move level with the Hawks in the standings.

Milwaukee have covered in their last five home games and even my concern about coming off a long road trip has been lessened by the fact the Bucks are 19-7 against the spread in their last twenty-six home games following a road trip of seven or more days. The Hawks have just been struggling at the moment and I will back the home team to cover.

New Orleans Pelicans @ Houston Rockets Pick: Both the New Orleans Pelicans and the Houston Rockets should be well rested for this regular season game which is much more important to the road team than the Rockets. With just eleven games left to play, it is almost certain the Houston Rockets are going to finish with the Number 3 Seed in the Western Conference, while the New Orleans Pelicans are trying desperately to close the 4 game gap between themselves and Number 8 Seed Denver Nuggets in the West.

That is a gap that is likely too much to bridge with games running out, but the Pelicans have given themselves a chance by winning three games in a row. They have begun to understand what they want to do on the court with DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, although we may not see the best of the Pelicans until next season.

This is a very difficult game for the Pelicans against a Houston team who have won five of their last six games and who have one of the most high-powered Offenses in the NBA. Stopping the Houston Rockets scoring points is very difficult, but the Rockets Defensive numbers have not been that great of late and that gives the Pelicans a chance to cover with the number of points they are getting in this one.

New Orleans can challenge Houston on the boards and the Pelicans have shown some tough Defensive schemes of late, although I am not sure they have enough to win the game outright. They are still getting a lot of points though and New Orleans are 6-1 against the spread when given between 7 and 9.5 points as the underdog. At the same time Houston are 2-10 against the spread when favoured by between 7 and 9.5 points.

The underdog is 18-8-1 against the spread in the last twenty-seven games in this series and Houston are 1-4 against the spread in their last five home games against a team with a losing record on the road. The Rockets are also 6-13 against the spread in their last nineteen games following a win and I am going to back the road underdog to cover.

Saturday 25th March
This has been a tough week with some late baskets going against the picks, the New Orleans Pelicans failing to cover with the points in the final two minutes the latest in that regard. That has made it a tough month, but there are still a few days to build some momentum to take into the final couple of weeks of the regular season and the Play Offs.

Utah Jazz @ LA Clippers Pick: There are 2.5 games between the Number 4 Seed Utah Jazz and the Number 6 Seed Oklahoma City Thunder as the Western Conference boils down towards the end of the season. Between those teams are the LA Clippers who are a game behind the Utah Jazz with a chance to move above them in the standings with a win on Saturday.

The Clippers saw their three game winning run come to an end in disappointing fashion as they blew a late lead against the Dallas Mavericks, but the focus will be on improving for this game. They are facing a Utah team who have recently snapped a losing run of their own, but there is a feeling these teams might be trending in opposite directions.

A problem for Utah going forward will be finding the consistent Offensive threat to challenge the very best teams in the Western Conference. Earning home court advantage in the First Round is going to be key for their chances too, but this isn't the best match up for them as the Clippers have a high powered Offense which is getting healthier by the game.

A big key for the Clippers is they are able to match Utah on the boards and that takes away some of the big advantages the Jazz have over many teams. The LA Clippers have won two of the three previous games between these teams and can secure the tie-breaker with another win as well as being able to get some revenge for a defeat to Utah earlier this month.

Utah have a poor 6-11 record against the spread in their road games against a team with a winning record this season and they are 3-11 against the spread when they are set as an underdog getting less than 8 points. With home advantage in this one, I am looking for the LA Clippers to bounce back in this one and record a valuable win which gives them the inside track to the Number 4 Seed in the Western Conference.

Toronto Raptors @ Dallas Mavericks Pick: This is a big game for the Toronto Raptors and the Dallas Mavericks as both are very keen on picking up another win on the road to their Play Off ambitions. The Raptors are almost certainly assured of at least the Number 4 Seed in the Eastern Conference, but they have every chance of overturning the Washington Wizards for the Number 3 Seed and arguably an easier First Round Play Off series.

For the Dallas Mavericks it is all about trying to chase down the Denver Nuggets for the Number 8 Seed in the Western Conference, but that looks to be a losing battle. There are still 3.5 games between those teams, but the Nuggets are continuing to put the big wins together and that is keeping them clear of the Mavericks.

Rick Carlisle has made some changes to his starting line up with the preparation for next season beginning already. That means extended minutes for the likes of Noel Nerlens and Seth Curry which is coupled with Dallas trying to close the gap on the Play Off places.

It is the Mavericks who have just been a little inconsistent of late while the Toronto Raptors have won four in a row in the absence of Kyle Lowry and have some momentum behind them. The Raptors have been a little better at both ends of the court and I think that might give them the edge in this one as they look to keep the momentum going from their recent wins.

The superior Toronto size is going to give them a real edge on the rebounding and the Raptors are 10-5 against the spread when set as an underdog of less than 6 points. I like the fact the Raptors are going to get the points in this one and I do think Toronto can win this one outright, but I will take the points on offer.

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Portland Trail Blazers Pick: The Minnesota Timberwolves are almost certainly out of Play Off contention and suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss on Friday night. Games are running down in the regular season and the Timberwolves might be focussing on improving draft picks.

They head to the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night with the hosts trying to close on the Number 8 Seed Denver Nuggets.

The momentum is with the Trail Blazers who have been shooting the ball efficiently while playing some stellar Defense in recent games. The expectation is Portland will be able to expose the vulnerabilities in the Minnesota Defensive unit who have allowed teams to shoot at 53% over the last 5 games. With Damien Lillard and CJ McCollum in the back court, the Trail Blazers should be able to continue hitting the 3 point shot at their current 41% they have shown in recent games.

Recent games have seen Portland display their size around the boards and that could be a real advantage if the Minnesota Timberwolves are displaying some fatigue from playing on Friday night. They do have a decent record on a back to back, but a long game with the Lakers and then having to travel here is a tough ask for a team who are no longer in Play Off contention.

Minnesota are 2-6-1 against the spread in their last nine games in Portland and they have not covered in any of their last five games on the road overall. I will look for the Timberwolves to show the effects of an overtime game and the Portland Trail Blazers to pull away for an important win in the second half.

Sunday 26th March
Saturday was a better day for the NBA Picks with all three made coming back as winners and I am looking for Sunday to keep that trend going and put a significant dent into what has been a difficult week and a difficult month.

The games are all very important at the moment with teams beginning to run out of chances to make the Play Offs, while the Seeding does matter to teams more than they like to admit.

Philadelphia 76ers @ Indiana Pacers Pick: The Indiana Pacers are trying to keep themselves together, but there are some wear and tear at the seams of this team as they try and book a Play Off place. That is far from an easy task for the Pacers who have lacked consistency down the stretch and they are just 2.5 games clear of the Chicago Bulls and the Detroit Pistons on the outside of the top eight in the Eastern Conference.

The misfiring of the Bulls and Pistons has eased some of the pressure on the Pacers, but they won't want to back their way into the post-season, while there is still a chance for Indiana to finish higher up the standings and avoid the likes of Boston and Cleveland in the First Round.

They have at least been playing better at home before the shellacking at the hands of the Denver Nuggets last time out. Indiana can't afford to drop another game here and at least face the Philadelphia 76ers who are heading towards the lottery again, but in a much more positive frame of mind than they have in recent seasons with plenty of positives to take away from the 2016/17 season.

The 76ers are still fighting hard despite the season coming to an end and that is highlighted by their 8-1 record against the spread over their last nine games. Even teams chasing Play Off spots have been surprised by the Philadelphia 76ers in recent games and the Pacers are not playing well enough to be laying as many points as they are being asked to.

Indiana are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games against a team with a winning record and they are 2-2 against the spread when favoured by 8 or more points this season. Things seem a little uncertain inside and out the Indiana Pacers locker room at the moment and I will take the points with the 76ers.

Miami Heat @ Boston Celtics Pick: There are a couple of concerns that a stomach bug has been working its way through the Boston Celtics roster, but this is a team that is firing on all cylinders heading into the post-season. They have every chance of finishing with the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference as the Celtics are 0.5 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers, but also keeping an eye out on the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors who have continued piling up the wins.

It is an important game for the Miami Heat too who are desperate to get into the Play Offs after a terrible start to the season has been replaced with win after win over the last three months. The Heat might only be 1.5 games ahead of both the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons, but they have bigger ambitions with just 2 games between the Heat and the Number 5 Seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics have shown a little more consistency of late which makes them the favourites in this one, while they are at home and Hassan Whiteside may be limited for the Miami Heat. That will mean Boston could have the edge on the rebounding and the Celtics are playing hard Defensively which is keeping them moving in a positive direction.

They haven't been perfect Defensively, but I expect Boston to make enough plays to move clear of the Heat in this one and improve their 15-5 record against the spread from the last twenty games where they have hosted the Miami Heat.

I like the fact that the Celtics have a 17-10 record against the spread when favoured between 4 and 7.5 points this season and I do think they are catching the Heat at the right time. With Whiteside a little hurt, Boston should have enough of an edge around both boards and Miami may just raise the white flag in anticipation of the big game at Detroit in a couple of days time.

New Orleans Pelicans @ Denver Nuggets Pick: The Denver Nuggets have knocked off the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Indiana Pacers over the last week which has helped keeping them in front of the chasing pack in the Western Conference. They have yet to see off the Portland Trail Blazers, but the New Orleans Pelicans look to have run their course for the season.

The Pelicans have been preparing for next season as soon as they traded for DeMarcus Cousins and there are some clear signs Cousins and Anthony Davis are getting on the same page. They have been playing well in recent games and they will be a challenge for the Denver Nuggets.

However Denver have plenty of size to match the New Orleans Pelicans on the boards and they have been playing aggressively Offensively which has seen the Nuggets put opponents under pressure. That aggressiveness is likely to be a key factor for the Nuggets in this one and I think the return of the full rotation will allow them to play at a tempo which will make it difficult for any team heading to the altitude of Colorado in the coming weeks.

I am expecting New Orleans to have their successes in this one too as the Nuggets Defense has not been as strong as they would like. That makes the points appealing, but Denver are a team with good form and motivation behind them and they are 6-2 against the spread in their last eight home games against the Pelicans.

Denver are 8-3 against the spread in their last eleven games hosting a team with a losing record and I am going to look for the Nuggets to make enough plays to see off a challenging team and stay ahead of the Trail Blazers who are heading to the LA Lakers on the same night.

MY PICKS: 21/03 Memphis Grizzlies + 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (1 Unit)
21/03 Golden State Warriors - 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)
21/03 Portland Trail Blazers - 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
22/03 Indiana Pacers + 8 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
22/03 Washington Wizards - 7 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
22/03 Cleveland Cavaliers - 3 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
22/03 New York Knicks + 12 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (1 Unit)
23/03 Toronto Raptors + 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
23/03 LA Clippers - 4 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
23/03 San Antonio Spurs - 8.5 Points @ 2.00 Stan James (1 Unit)
24/03 Cleveland Cavaliers - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
24/03 Indiana Pacers - 2 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
24/03 Milwaukee Bucks - 5.5 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)
24/03 New Orleans Pelicans + 7 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
25/03 LA Clippers - 5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
25/03 Toronto Raptors + 1.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)
25/03 Portland Trail Blazers - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
26/03 Philadelphia 76ers + 8.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)
26/03 Boston Celtics - 6 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
26/03 Denver Nuggets - 6 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)

March 20-26 Update: 7-13, - 6.47 Units
March 13-19 Final5-6, - 1.32 Units
March 6-12 Final7-8-1, - 1.51 Units
March 1-5 Final4-5, - 1.28 Units

March Update16-19-1, - 4.11 Units
February Final32-20-3, + 9.69 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 2017109-105-5, + 1.05 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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