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Monday, 27 March 2017

NBA Picks March 2017 (March 27-31)

This has been a difficult month for the NBA Picks but there are still a few days to go as the regular season begins winding down.

The NBA Play Offs actually begin on Saturday 15th April so there isn't long to go for teams to book their places and improve their Seeding.

Things are beginning to take shape in both the Eastern and Western Conferences, but nothing has been locked in just yet although I think a couple of teams might have mentally prepared for the positions they are going to have.

While the games over the next two weeks might not be as important as those that will begin in the middle of April, Seeding has proved to be important enough to suggest teams will play starters down the stretch. However it is wise to keep an eye on news around the NBA when teams decide to sit starters for rest and hopefully the end of the regular season can be strong enough for my Picks here to build the momentum and confidence to take into the Play Off Picks.


Monday 27th March
It was a tough week in the penultimate one in March, but one where a little more fortune in the final two minutes of games might have ended up producing stronger numbers. All credit has to be given to the oddsmakers who have just been on the right side of their numbers for the most part.

Orlando Magic @ Toronto Raptors Pick: For a team who are in a position to try and improve their Draft Pick, the Orlando Magic have won three of their last four games as the players look to prove they are worth keeping next season. It has been a really poor season for the Magic who were expecting to be challenging for a Play Off spot in the Eastern Conference, but those wins show that Orlando are not quite finished with the regular season winding down.

They haven't played any of those games against a team in a position of making the Play Offs though and this time the Orlando Magic are taking on the Toronto Raptors. There has been an improvement in the play for the Raptors despite missing the likes of Kyle Lowry from the starting line up and they have an outside chance of finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference.

A top four berth has already been all but secured, but Toronto can still play for a much better Seeding than their current Number 4 spot and that should give them enough motivation for the remaining regular season games. Toronto have the advantage in terms of size on the court which should win the rebounding battle, while they have been playing some stellar Defense of late and that should see them earn revenge against the Magic who have won the last two regular season games between these teams.

Toronto are 11-5 against the spread when favoured by 8 or more points this season and the Magic are 2-5 against the spread in their last seven games against a team with a winning record.

The Magic are also 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games following a win and I am going to look for Toronto to be motivated enough to pull away for the win.


Detroit Pistons @ New York Knicks Pick: Another season of ups and downs and upheaval off the court has helped the New York Knicks miss the Play Offs again despite some big investment last summer. It looks like another big summer coming up for Phil Jackson and the Knicks, but they will be excited about one or two of the pieces they do have to build around.

For now the Knicks can play who they like and potentially return Carmelo Anthony having missed a couple of games with an injury. The Knicks have lost five in a row and eight of their last nine games which has put them in a decent position for a strong Draft Pick, but they have a chance to put a rare win on the board down the stretch as they face the imploding Detroit Pistons.

It looked like the Pistons were going to be good enough to finish inside the top eight in the Eastern Conference, but they have lost three in a row and six of their last seven which has left them 1 game behind the Number 8 Seeded Miami Heat. There is a pressure on the Detroit Pistons because of that run and the fact that there has been a lot of talk about the players not getting on with one another, while missing the Play Offs may see some big changes made in the summer.

The Knicks do have a disadvantage on the boards but New York are shooting well enough to expose the holes in the Detroit Pistons Defensive shape. Detroit have allowed 115 points in each of their last two games and the Knicks have shot the ball well enough to earn a potential upset in this one.

New York are 21-5 against the spread in their last twenty-six games at home against the Detroit Pistons and the home team has been dominant in the series over the last few years. It is hard to trust the Knicks when you think how bad they have been down the stretch as they look to the future, but the Detroit Pistons are not playing well and the Knicks can put another dagger into their Play Off hopes.


Cleveland Cavaliers @ San Antonio Spurs Pick: The Cleveland Cavaliers are now only just ahead of the Boston Celtics for the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference having suffered a home loss to the Washington Wizards on Saturday. The momentum is clearly with the Boston Celtics in that race, and the bigger fear for the Cavaliers has to be the continued struggles on the Defensive end of the court with the Play Offs fast approaching.

Things won't get any easier on Monday as they visit the San Antonio Spurs who still feel they can take down the Golden State Warriors for the Number 1 Seed in the Western Conference. The Spurs and Warriors meet on Wednesday in a key battle for that spot, but Gregg Popovich isn't concerning himself about Seedings but trying to get the Spurs focused on the Play Offs.

San Antonio have won four games in a row, but there are still some problems for them to iron out over the next couple of weeks. The Spurs are the kind of team who have the size to hurt the Cleveland Cavaliers, but they are also an efficient team who will expose the problems that the Cavaliers have been having Defensively. Cleveland have allowed their last five opponents to shoot at almost 52% from the field and that is not going to be good enough against a team as good as the Spurs.

Playing as the underdog hasn't seen the Cleveland Cavaliers motivate themselves and they are just 1-5 against the spread when given 5 or more points this season. The Cavaliers did win here a couple of seasons ago, but they were favoured that day and I am not sure they are going to be able to turn around the Defensive performances like flicking on a light switch.

The Cavaliers have a 6-16-2 record against the spread in their last twenty-four games following a blow out loss of double digits. They are facing a San Antonio Spurs team who are 5-1 against the spread in their last six games against a team who have won at least 60% of their games and I will back the home team to win this big game.


Oklahoma City Thunder @ Dallas Mavericks Pick: The Oklahoma City Thunder were reminded again of the gap between themselves and the elite of the Western Conference when blown out by the Houston Rockets on Sunday. Avoiding a First Round series with one of the top three teams in the Western Conference is still a goal for the Thunder as they try and track down the two teams in the Number 4 and Number 5 spots in the standings above them.

That means they have to find a way to improve what has been a poor record on the road all season as they get set to visit the Dallas Mavericks on Monday. The Mavericks are 3.5 games behind the Play Off spots in the Western Conference and have to overtake two teams, but they have lost two of their three games in their current home stand as they face opponents who will all be playing after the regular season ends.

Dallas have been mixing the ambitions of making the Play Offs with the chance to see some of their role players in starting positions in a bid to work out what they want to do next season. That has seen them have a few issues Defensively and I do think the Thunder are playing well enough to expose some of those vulnerabilities while Dallas have not been consistent Offensively.

The Thunder are one of the better teams on the boards and that is going to be a big challenge for the Dallas Mavericks. Being out-rebounded is a difficult way to win games and I also think Oklahoma City are shooting the ball well enough from the three point range to punish the Mavericks in this one.

Oklahoma City are 7-3 against the spread when favoured by less than 3 points this season and they are playing with revenge having lost here earlier in the month. They have a 16-7-1 record against the spread in their last twenty-four games in Dallas and they are 19-7 against the spread in their last twenty-six against a team with a losing record. With Russell Westbrook, I am looking for the Thunder to make the big plays through the game and come away with a vital win.


Tuesday 28th March
Milwaukee Bucks @ Charlotte Hornets Pick: It looked like the Charlotte Hornets had suffered a fatal blip in form at a critical moment both sides of the All Star Break and one that was expected to keep them out of the Play Offs. However the bottom half of the Eastern Conference has been struggling for consistency and the Charlotte Hornets are now in a position that a strong end to the regular season can move them into the top eight standings in this Conference.

There are only 2 games between the Hornets and the Number 8 Seed Miami Heat and Charlotte do face a number of teams above them in the standings over the next couple of weeks which can see them close that gap. Those games begin on Tuesday when the Hornets host the Milwaukee Bucks who have been on a good run which has moved them into a strong position to make the Play Offs.

However the Bucks are coming off a disappointing home loss against the Chicago Bulls, a result which just about keeps them in touch for the teams chasing the Play Off spots in the Eastern Conference. Prior to that defeat, Milwaukee had won five of six games to move up the standings.

Charlotte have won four of their last five games and have been shooting the ball much more efficiently in that time to boost their chances of making the Play Offs. They should have some joy against the Milwaukee Defense, but the Bucks are also a team that have shown Offensive power from the field. A key might be the fact that Milwaukee have struggled on the boards a little more than Charlotte of late and that could give the Hornets the slight edge to earn an important win.

The Bucks have covered the spread in their last five games in Charlotte, but they are just 7-12 against the spread when given less than 5 points as the underdog this season. They face a Charlotte team who are 5-2 against the spread in their last seven games against a team with a winning record and I think the Hornets can keep their momentum going with another win and a cover of the spread.


Golden State Warriors @ Houston Rockets Pick: The next three games for the Golden State Warriors could be very important in determining the top three Seeds in the Western Conference. They face the Houston Rockets twice and the San Antonio Spurs in that time and three wins for the Warriors would likely mean they enter the Play Offs as the Number 1 Seed, the Spurs as the Number 2 and the Rockets as the Number 3.

While the Houston Rockets are virtually locked into their Seed, they have won seven of their last eight games and Houston will know the two games with the Golden State Warriors can give the players real confidence to take into the Play Offs. The Rockets are in good recent form, but the Warriors are the hotter team with seven straight wins despite the absence of Kevin Durant.

Both teams have had similar levels of wins with both knocking off the Oklahoma City Thunder and a couple of other Play Off teams in their recent runs. It is no surprise that both teams have been shooting the ball well with the rosters they have built, but the Golden State Warriors do look the better team Defensively and I think that potentially makes a difference here. The Warriors look like they are more comfortable without Durant than they initially were when he was injured, and Golden State are rolling towards the Play Offs.

Golden State have been playing well at both ends of the court and I think they can make the plays to win this game as the underdog. The Warriors also have an edge with how they have been rebounding the ball and they are 4-1 against the spread in their last five games in Houston.

The Warriors are also 10-4 against the spread in their last fourteen games against a team with a winning record and they are 6-2 against the spread in their last eight games against teams who have won at least 60% of their home games. On the other hand Houston are 1-4 against the spread in their last five home games against the best teams in the NBA who have won at least 60% of their games and they are 6-13 against the spread at home against a team with a winning record.

All the numbers point to the Warriors and taking them as the underdog is the play with that giving the players added motivation to prove they are the team to beat in the West.


Denver Nuggets @ Portland Trail Blazers Pick: The focus for the majority of NBA fans on Tuesday night will be on the big Houston versus Golden State game, but the one with the biggest Play Off implications comes from Portland. The home Trail Blazers and the visiting Denver Nuggets have the same record in the chase for the Number 8 Seed in the Western Conference and the winning team will occupy that spot as games begin to run thin.

For the home Portland Trail Blazers, the win could be huge as they would hold the tie-breaker over the Denver Nuggets which effectively means a 2 game lead over the Nuggets for the final Seed. Both teams are 4 games clear of the next team in the Western Conference standings which suggests it is a two horse race for one spot in the Play Offs so the winning team will have a lot of momentum.

Denver have lost three of their last five games, but they have been playing better than the results had suggested until the blow out home loss to the New Orleans Pelicans a couple of nights ago. That's dented some confidence, and now they face a Portland team who have won six of their last seven to get themselves back in contention for a spot in the post-season.

It does look like the Trail Blazers can have enough of an edge in this one to win the game and cover the spread. It is the Trail Blazers who have been playing better Defensively and they have the players like Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum who can expose what has been a porous Denver Defense. Portland have been shooting the ball really well from the three point range and they have the size to match up and compete with Denver in this one which should be enough for the home team to just have enough to win the game.

The Nuggets do have a 5-2-1 record against the spread in the last eight games in Portland and have been a very good underdog to back when getting less than 4 points this season. They have also bounced back from recent losses with a solid 13-3 record against the spread in their last sixteen following a loss, but Portland are 6-1 against the spread in their last seven games.

In what is going to be a tough and tense game, I will look for Portland to show a little more at both ends of the court which helps them close the show in the Fourth Quarter and cover this number.


Washington Wizards @ LA Lakers Pick: The Cleveland Cavaliers continue to stumble towards the Play Offs and the Washington Wizards are only 2.5 games out of the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference. The more immediate concern is to stay ahead of the Toronto Raptors who are only 0.5 games behind as the Number 4 Seed in the East and there looks to be plenty for these top Eastern Conference teams to play for in the final couple of weeks of the regular season.

The same can't be said for the LA Lakers who have the second worst record in the NBA this season and will be looking for a strong lottery position to take into the Draft. There have been few signs of improvement for the Lakers who have made the decision to bring in Magic Johnson in the Head Office to try and turn around a franchise that had been the benchmark for so long.

The Lakers have lost eight of their last nine games and half of those losses have come by double digits with a younger core of players being given their opportunity to build experience. They are still shooting the ball pretty well, but Defensively they have been a mess for much of the season and Washington certainly have the players to expose those vulnerabilities, while they also should have an edge on the rebounding stats.

The feeling that Washington look past the Lakers at the big Western Conference road games at the LA Clippers and Utah Jazz should be negated by the need for wins. The Wizards have won three in a row and one of those wins was a blow out of the Brooklyn Nets, while the last two wins have come by double digits.

Washington do have a 5-1 record against the spread in their last six games at the LA Lakers and they are 5-0 against the spread in their last five when receiving two days of rest. I have to be concerned by their 3-12-1 record against the spread in their last sixteen road games when facing a team with a losing record at home and they are 2-4 against the spread when favoured by 9 or more points this season.

However the Lakers are 4-12-1 against the spread in their last seventeen games overall and they are 1-5 against the spread in their last six when facing a team with a winning record. There might be less motivation for the Lakers who are winding down the season in a hope to finish with a strong Draft Pick, and I will back the Wizards to record a rare cover on the road against a team they should be beating.


Wednesday 29th March
That's back to back solid days for the NBA Picks this week, but there are still three days to go as I look to end this month in a positive way. Bringing that momentum together to take into April when the Play Offs begin is the key for me and I am looking to continue the strong run with the games to be played on Wednesday as the regular season continues to wind down.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Orlando Magic Pick: It is hard to disagree with the conclusion that the Oklahoma City Thunder are not very good on the road and they are a team that will do well to simply make it out of the First Round of the Play Offs. Russell Westbrook is one of the best players in the NBA, but he doesn't have enough support to really compete with the top teams in the Western Conference who are loaded.

The best chance for the Oklahoma City Thunder to progress beyond the First Round will be to overhaul the LA Clippers for the Number 5 Seed in the Western Conference and thus avoid the likes of Golden State, San Antonio and Houston in the opening Round of the Play Offs. Only 1 game is between the Thunder and the Clippers and Oklahoma City will believe they can finish above them with the Clippers just struggling for consistency of late.

To do that means the Thunder can't afford to drop this game at the Orlando Magic who have the third worst record in the NBA and may be focused on improving their Draft position. There are rumours that big changes will be made in the Head Office in Orlando after a season of underachievement and the players have been producing some erratic performances of late.

Orlando have won three of their last five games, but were blown out by Toronto last time out. They also have some poor numbers at home where they are 6-17-1 against the spread in their last twenty-four games when facing a team with a losing road record, and Orlando are just 10-24-1 against the spread in their last thirty-five at home.

The Magic are also just 2-6 against the spread in their last eight games when facing a team with a winning record and Oklahoma City have been shooting the ball more efficiently than them in recent games. The Thunder also have the size to dominate on the boards against most teams and they are 12-3 against the spread when facing a team who have won 40% or fewer of their games.

Oklahoma City have a poor recent record covering the spread against Orlando, but they are 15-3 against the spread this season when favoured by between 4 and 7.5 points. The Magic are 8-16 against the spread when set as the underdog between those numbers and I will look for the superior motivated road team to cover as the favourite.


Milwaukee Bucks @ Boston Celtics Pick: The top four teams in the Eastern Conference are all in a considerable battle to finish with the Number 1 Seed and it is the Boston Celtics who are leading the way. There is only a 0.5 game gap between the Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers and just 3 games that separate the top four so those battles for Seeding are likely to go right down to the wire.

Further down the Eastern Conference, the bottom four places are all up for grabs with the likes of the Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets all in contention. One of those teams is the Milwaukee Bucks, but this is a team playing with more momentum than most in those positions and the Number 5 Seed is up for grabs.

An impressive win at the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday means the Bucks have opened up some distance between themselves and that particular Play Off chasing team. Playing a back to back is difficult, but Milwaukee are 6-1 against the spread in their last seven games in the second of a back to back.

It is a big challenge facing the Boston Celtics who have won seven of their last eight games including the last four in a row. Boston are playing tough Defensively to spark their success and will have the edge on the boards in this one which is a reason they are favoured considerably to win this game.

However Boston are 0-11 against the spread when favoured by 8 or more points this season and Milwaukee have a solid 10-4 record against the spread in their last fourteen games in Boston. The Bucks haven't played well against the best teams in the NBA recently as they are 1-5 against the spread in their last six against a team with a winning record.

Boston have also struggled coming off a two day lay off as they are 5-16 against the spread in their last twenty-one games in that spot and I think Milwaukee are playing well enough to keep this competitive at the least. The Celtics are the better team, but just haven't played well as the big favourite, and I will take the points with the Bucks.


Charlotte Hornets @ Toronto Raptors Pick: The Charlotte Hornets came out surprisingly flat in their home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday and that loss has put them under severe pressure in the race for the Play Off spots. With eight games left to play in the regular season, Charlotte are 3 games behind the Miami Heat who currently hold the Number 8 Seed in the Eastern Conference and they cannot afford any more slip ups.

A tough road game at the Toronto Raptors is not what the Hornets would have liked at this moment, especially as the Raptors have won six in a row and have every chance of improving on their current Number 4 Seed in the Eastern Conference. There is still an outside chance the Raptors could finish with the best record in the Conference and Toronto are playing with confidence even without a couple of key players in the rotation.

Another win has kept the momentum going for Toronto but they were not happy with some of the Defensive effort in the blow out win over the Orlando Magic. Overall they have been playing pretty well on that side of the court and Toronto have been shooting the ball at over 50% from the field which is going to be a big problem for the Charlotte Hornets to deal with.

Toronto are also one of the bigger teams in the NBA which makes them very dangerous when it comes to controlling the boards and they can complete the season win over the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. The Hornets have simply not been producing enough Defensively to feel they can contain this Raptors team and improve their 12-4 record against the spread in their last sixteen visits to Toronto.

The Hornets are 9-19-2 against the spread in their last thirty road games against a team with a winning record at home, they are 1-3-1 against the spread in their last five in the second of a back to back spot, and Charlotte are 0-5 against the spread following a double digit loss at home. The loss on Tuesday might be a fatal blow to the Charlotte chances of making the Play Offs and I think Toronto can take advantage with a win at home and a cover of this number.


Washington Wizards @ LA Clippers Pick: The Washington Wizards remain just 2 games behind the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference after coming back from a big deficit to beat the LA Lakers on Tuesday. They still have to hold off the Toronto Raptors in the Number 4 Seed of the Eastern Conference and Washington could finish anywhere in the top four places of the East.

The Wizards have won four in a row ahead of this game, but they have a tough road trip in front of them as they face three of the top five teams from the Western Conference in their next three games. The first of those come at the LA Clippers who have lost two of their last three games as they have fallen off the Number 4 Seeded Utah Jazz and are now just 1 game ahead of the Number 6 Seed Oklahoma City Thunder.

It has to be said that the Clippers have played some decent Defense through much of the season, but they have struggled to find the Offensive consistency to earn a much better record. They will be hoping to shut down a Washington team who have both Bradley Beal and John Wall playing at a high level, but the Wizards have the size to deal with the Clippers on the boards too and I do think this has all the makings of a close game.

The effort Washington had to exert in the Fourth Quarter to beat the LA Lakers is a concern, but they have gone 6-1 against the spread in their last seven games in the second of a back to back. The Wizards are also 9-2 against the spread in their last eleven games against a team with a winning record at home, while the LA Clippers are just 3-7 against the spread in their last ten home games.

The underdog has gone 5-1 against the spread in the last six games in this series and I think the Clippers are just a little out of sync at the moment which gives Washington an advantage to at least keep that trend going. It won't be easy for Washington on the back to back, but at least they haven't had to travel and I will take the points with the underdog.


Thursday 30th March
There are just two days left of this month for the NBA Picks and I am in for a big Thursday that could make or break the week. I like the game on offer tonight and have a number of picks from them.

Brooklyn Nets @ Detroit Pistons Pick: This is the time of the season when teams might be thinking about improving their chances for a strong lottery pick in the Draft, but that isn't the case for the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets will be swapping their First Round Pick with the Boston Celtics so tanking makes little sense and that has been shown up in the manner of their performances down the stretch.

Brooklyn were narrowly beaten as a rare favourite last time out, but they have won three of their last five games which includes a home win over the Detroit Pistons. Now they head to Detroit to take on a Pistons team who are leaking water at a rapid rate and who have dropped eight of their last nine games to leave themselves 3 games outside the Play Off positions in the Eastern Conference with the regular season two weeks from closing down.

The real worry for the Detroit Pistons has to be the fact they have lost five of their last six games outright when set as the favourite against the spread. They have not been shooting the ball very well and Detroit are struggling Defensively which takes away the fact they have the size to take on a lot of teams on the boards.

The Nets might not be a very good team, but they have been shooting well enough to expose the Defensive problems a Detroit team fading away from Play Off relevance have been having. Playing at home has been very good news for Detroit in recent games as they are 12-4 against the spread in their last sixteen here, but this still feels a lot of points for a team to cover when they have been playing as poorly as Detroit have been.

Brooklyn are 5-1 against the spread in their last six road games and they have bounced back from recent losses by going 6-1 against the spread in their next game. The Nets also have a solid 8-2 record against the spread in the last ten in the series with the Detroit Pistons and I do think they can make use of the points being given to them.


Cleveland Cavaliers @ Chicago Bulls Pick: The Cleveland Cavaliers are back in the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference without playing a game as they saw rivals Boston, Washington and Toronto all lose on Wednesday. That's a piece of good news for the Cavaliers who have been accused of being 'delicate' by leader LeBron James who is very careful with the choice of words he uses in the media.

James is trying to rally his teammates who have lost four of their last six games overall and they continue to struggle Defensively which is a real concern going into the Play Offs. Most expected the defending Champions to pick up their play at this time of the season as they got healthier, but Cleveland are not able to turn a corner consistently and most will be expecting the NBA Champion to come out of the Western Conference at the moment.

The Cavaliers are a good team, but questions have to be asked about their ability to play consistently enough to defend the title they won last season. They have allowed their last five opponents to shoot at over 50% from the field and Cleveland have struggled on the boards and these issues could come out at the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night against a team they have struggled to match up with.

Dwyane Wade might be out for the season, but the Bulls continue to spark intermittently although that has left them 1.5 games outside of the Play Off picture. That makes this a big game for the Bulls too as they look for the season sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers and improving their 22-7 record against the spread against them.

Chicago are well rested and have a 5-1 record against the spread when given three or more days to rest, while they are 20-7 against the spread in their last twenty-seven games against a team who have won at least 60% of their games. The Cavaliers are 2-7 against the spread in their last nine when facing a team with a winning record and you can't ignore the head to head between these teams.

This looks a lot of points for an out of sorts Cleveland to cover and I will back the home underdog to stay within the number if not win the game outright.


LA Clippers @ Phoenix Suns Pick: The LA Clippers earned a vital win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, but will be looking to back it up against the Phoenix Suns and also close in on the Number 4 Seed in the Western Conference. It is all about earning a home court First Round series for the Clippers, but they have been inconsistent in recent games and covering a big number on the road won't be easy.

However they are facing a Phoenix Suns team who have just begun to shut down the veteran players on the roster and have a few banged up players. The Suns have lost nine in a row and six of those losses have come by at least 9 points as they look to improve their Draft prospects with regular season games winding down.

The Suns have been allowing a lot of points at the moment because the younger players are having a few teething problems gaining the experience Phoenix want them to, while they have struggled on the boards. That will be tested by the Clippers, although the starters for the LA Clippers played a lot of minutes in their win over the Washington Wizards.

The LA Clippers have some terrible trends to get over in this one, but they are facing Phoenix coming off a long road trip and the home team have not played well in that spot. There is little doubt the Clippers are the better team and Phoenix being without Devin Booker for a second game in a row will make life very difficult for them to stay with their visitors.

It hasn't been a good thing to back the Clippers against a team with a losing record or when they are playing on a back to back, but they should be too good for Phoenix. Doc Rivers is looking for more consistency and this looks a good spot for the Clippers who are 4-1 against the spread in their last five games against the Phoenix Suns and the favourites are 6-0 against the spread in the last six in the series.


Houston Rockets @ Portland Trail Blazers Pick: The Houston Rockets are almost certainly locked into the Number 3 Seed in the Western Conference and I do wonder what kind of motivation they have for this game. While there has been zero talk about resting key players down the stretch to prepare them for the Play Offs, this is not a great scheduling spot for the Rockets.

For starters the Rockets are coming off a defeat to the Golden State Warriors at home and they are facing the Number 1 team in the Western Conference on Friday which could be taking some of the attention away from this spot. Now they are meeting the Portland Trail Blazers who have been playing very well of late and chasing the Number 8 Seed in the Western Conference.

The Trail Blazers have won seven of their last eight games including the last four in a row and are in control of the Number 8 Seed in the Conference. Portland have been shooting the ball very effectively during their winning run and they should have success against the Houston Rockets who are still inconsistent Defensively.

They have the superior size on the court which could give Portland the edge and I also think the Trail Blazers are playing well Defensively. Of course the Houston Rockets are one of the better Offensive teams in the NBA and they can get hot against any team in the NBA, but the scheduling spot I mentioned above is certainly one that could see them produce an effort which is not quite good enough against a motivated opponent playing at home.

It is the Houston Rockets who have a very strong recent record in Portland and they do have a 17-5 record against the spread in their last twenty-two games following a loss. However the Trail Blazers are 5-2 against the spread in their last seven games against a team who have won at least 60% of their games and I think they may 'want' this game more than Houston who are looking for revenge over the Golden State Warriors which is next on deck.


Friday 31st March
It was another solid day for the NBA Picks on Thursday with only the LA Clippers letting me down as a favourite. In fact the underdogs were 4-1 on Thursday against the spread, but I backed three of those so I can't complain.

Indiana Pacers @ Toronto Raptors Pick: The Toronto Raptors had a disappointing home loss to the Charlotte Hornets last time out, but the three teams ahead of them in the Eastern Conference have not won a game since then either. That means the Raptors are still very much in a position to improve their Seeding for the Play Offs over the next couple of weeks.

Their opponents the Indiana Pacers suffered another loss last time out which has maintained their run of missing out on consecutive wins over the last few weeks. That has also seen them slip down the Eastern Conference standings and the Pacers are only 1 game ahead of the Number 9 Chicago Bulls who look to be playing with a lot more confidence than Indiana have been.

The Pacers have lost four of their last five games which has put them on the brink of falling out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference. The only reason it hasn't happened yet is because the likes of the Bulls, Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets have also been inconsistent, but Chicago look like they are making a real move.

Despite the manner in which Toronto blew their game with the Charlotte Hornets in the Fourth Quarter, they have been playing pretty effectively Defensively. I expect that can show up here while the Raptors are one of the stronger teams on the board and I can't ignore how much poorer Indiana have played on the road compared with at home.

The Pacers have failed to cover in any of their last six games on the road and they are 10-24 against the spread in their last thirty-four games in Toronto which includes a blow out loss a couple of weeks ago. Toronto have bounced back from recent setbacks and are 4-1 against the spread in their last five games following a loss and I am going to look for the Raptors to get the better of Indiana and cover a relatively big number at home.


Orlando Magic @ Boston Celtics Pick: They had control of the Eastern Conference Number 1 Seed but the Boston Celtics relinquished that when they were beaten at home by the Milwaukee Bucks. However they are back in a position to lead the Conference with the regular season winding down as the Cleveland Cavaliers dropped yet another game on Thursday.

A win over the Orlando Magic would mean Boston have consolidated their position as the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference but the big game next week is when they host the Cavaliers. However the Celtics have seen they can't overlook any opponent having failed to win their last game, although they are facing an Orlando team they have blown out by 30 points in both games against them already this season.

It has to be said that Orlando are still a dangerous team as they showed when taking the Oklahoma City Thunder to Overtime, although that was at home and the Magic are not as good on the road. They are trying to improve their lottery position as far as they possibly can too and I am not sure if the same energy will be in the legs when heading on the road.

Orlando have played pretty well Defensively at times but their Field Goal percentage on the road is considerably worse than it is at home. The Boston Celtics are 5-1 against the spread in their last six games following a loss and I am looking for them to bounce back here with a big win.

I've mentioned before that the Celtics are not a team you want to back as a big favourite and they are now 0-12 against the spread when favoured by 8 or more points this season. However they do have the two huge wins over the Orlando Magic behind them, and Orlando have not covered in their last four games against a team with a winning record.

The home team is also 19-7-1 against the spread in the last twenty-seven games in this series, while Boston are 26-9-1 against the spread in their last thirty-six home games against Orlando. They might have been a poor big favourite to back this season, but I will back the Boston Celtics to snap that record on Friday and cover this number.


New York Knicks @ Miami Heat Pick: This is the second of a home and home series between the Play Off chasing Miami Heat and the already eliminated New York Knicks. It has become clear to all, including Carmelo Anthony, that the Knicks are looking to next season and testing their role players to see if they have a future with the team and that means more inconsistent performances from the Knicks over the next couple of weeks.

It has seen Anthony defer shots more than he has at any time in his career and the Knicks are now looking to improve their lottery position.

On the other side of the court, the Miami Heat are continuing to build the momentum which is taking them towards a Play Off berth after a horrific start to the season. The Heat are only 1 game ahead of the Number 9 Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference but they have won two in a row and five of their last eight which is just about keeping them in the top eight of the standings.

The Heat are playing the better Defensive basketball and they have shown they can expose the issues the New York Knicks have had in defending the three point line. Miami dominated the boards in the game at Madison Square Garden a couple of nights ago and doing the same here will likely allow Miami to pull away for another comfortable win.

Derrick Rose could be back for New York which is a big positive for their starting rotation, but Miami are 7-2 against the spread when favoured by 6 or more points this season. On the other hand, New York are 2-7 against the spread when given between 6 and 8.5 points and the Knicks are just 2-10 against the spread in the last twelve against Miami.

Miami are very strong against the spread in recent games as they are perhaps under-rated at times, but this is a big spread for them to deal with. However they have proven they can do that through the season and the Heat are more motivated, and playing with more confidence and belief than the Knicks so I will lay these big points and look for the Heat to pull away for a second half cover.


San Antonio Spurs @ Oklahoma City Thunder Pick: The defeat to the Golden State Warriors two days ago has likely ended the race for the top three Seeds in the Western Conference and left the San Antonio Spurs as the Number 2 Seed. The disappointment won't be allowed to settle in for the Spurs by Gregg Popovich who has won many NBA titles and will know the more important games are coming in the next two months.

There is a chance that players are going to be rested by the Spurs down the stretch as they trail the Golden State Warriors by 3.5 games with just eight games left in the regular season. Chasing the Number 1 Seed at the detriment of players physical ability to produce in the Play Offs is not something the Spurs are going to be willing to do.

It is unlikely to begin on Friday at the Oklahoma City Thunder as San Antonio's rivalry with this team is expected to see the starters all begin with their usual minutes. The Thunder are still hoping to get back into the mix for a home court series in the First Round of the Play Offs and Russell Westbrook continues to produce at a really high level.

I would love for the Thunder to get Westbrook some quality support over the next few months because this team is not quite able to match the very best teams in the Western Conference despite their Point Guard's special performances. Both teams will have confidence in their chances to win this regular season game, but I am just giving Oklahoma City the edge especially as San Antonio need to come off a mentally exhausting defeat to the Warriors.

Oklahoma City are 38-15-3 against the spread in their last fifty-six home games against a team who have won at least 60% of their road games. They are also 7-2-1 against the spread in their last ten at home against a team with a winning record on the road and San Antonio are 3-14 against the spread in their last seventeen games here.

Overall San Antonio are the better team, but this might not be a great schedule spot for them and I will take the points with the home underdog.

MY PICKS: 27/03 Toronto Raptors - 8 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
27/03 New York Knicks + 2 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
27/03 San Antonio Spurs - 5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
27/03 Oklahoma City Thunder - 1 Point @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
28/03 Charlotte Hornets - 3 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
28/03 Golden State Warriors + 1.5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
28/03 Portland Trail Blazers - 2 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
28/03 Washington Wizards - 9 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
29/03 Oklahoma City Thunder - 6 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
29/03 Milwaukee Bucks + 8 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
29/03 Toronto Raptors - 6 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
29/03 Washington Wizards + 6 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
30/03 Brooklyn Nets + 6.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
30/03 Chicago Bulls + 5.5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
30/03 LA Clippers - 9.5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
30/03 Portland Trail Blazers + 1.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
31/03 Toronto Raptors - 6 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
31/03 Boston Celtics - 10.5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
31/03 Miami Heat - 8.5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
31/03 Oklahoma City Thunder + 2 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)

March 27-31 Update: 12-7-1, + 4.12 Units
March 20-26 Final7-13, - 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 Update23-32-1, - 10.58 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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