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Weekend Football Picks 2017 (December 9-10)

It's a difficult time for the players and the managers with games coming as quickly as they do over the next few weeks. The top teams ...

Sunday, 2 April 2017

NBA Picks April 2017 (April 1-12)

The last week of March did at least produce a positive return, although it was a tough month for the most part for the NBA Picks.

I am hoping to use that momentum from the last week to finish the regular season with more positive returns though and the final days of the regular season Picks will all be placed in this thread. There are only thirteen days left of the regular season and splitting the picks into two threads didn't make sense as there could be a couple of days when I decide to not make picks, especially as the final three or four days might see teams resting hosts of players which make it hard to find any real angles.

At the start of April there are still some things to sort out in the Play Off picture for both Eastern and Western Conferences, while Seeding looks to be fought over by a number of teams in both Conferences.

The Play Offs are fast approaching though and this is an exciting time of the season for NBA fans who are going to see their teams involved.


Saturday 1st April
I didn't have any picks from any of the five Sunday games because of the big spreads which put me off the favourites but also didn't have enough juice to really feel good backing underdogs who are chasing strong Draft positions.

Hopefully the coming days will be much more intriguing.


Sunday 2nd April
Charlotte Hornets @ Oklahoma City Thunder Pick: The Oklahoma City Thunder should have beaten the San Antonio Spurs in their last game, but failing to do that against an out of sorts opponent is the kind of defeat that can linger into the Play Offs. It also means they are less likely to chase down the two teams immediately above them in the Western Conference standings and potentially have to face either the Spurs or Houston Rockets in the First Round of the Play Offs.

Russell Westbrook isn't too concerned about the manner of the loss, but it is something for the Thunder to think about as they have struggled against the best teams in the West with limited support from the role players for the Point Guard.

The Thunder face a desperate Charlotte Hornets team who are still chasing the Play Off places in the Eastern Conference and are 2 games behind Number 7 Chicago Bulls and Number 8 Miami Heat. With the regular season just days away from closing off, the Hornets have to keep winning the big games coming their way and they have responded by taking six of their last eight.

This is a difficult road game for them, although Charlotte have been shooting from the three point range very well which may actually give them an equaliser against the Thunder. Oklahoma City have been very good at home, and the Hornets have struggled Defensively with their three point shooting being good enough to get them out of a hole.

The favourite is now 11-1 against the spread in the last twelve in this series, while the Oklahoma City Thunder are 13-3-1 against the spread in the last seventeen against the Hornets. I think Oklahoma City prove too good on the day and can win and cover in this one.


Chicago Bulls @ New Orleans Pelicans Pick: The New Orleans Pelicans have won six of their last eight games, but they have left things too late in the Western Conference to earn their place in the Play Offs. The positive has to be the way Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins have been playing with one another as the Pelicans begin to prepare the strategy for the 2017/18 season, and the Pelicans continue to play hard until they are mathematically out of contention.

It will take something special for New Orleans to blow past both the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers to steal the Number 8 Seed in the Western Conference at this time. Despite the wins, Portland have been matching those victories to stay 5 games in front of the Pelicans who have just six games left in the regular season.

One of those comes on Sunday against the Chicago Bulls who have moved into the Number 7 Seed in the Eastern Conference, but who share the same record as the Number 8 and Number 9 teams in the standings. That means there is so much to play for over their last six games, but Chicago have won three in a row to build some momentum and trend in the right direction.

The superior overall Defensive numbers have come from the New Orleans Pelicans in recent games, but Chicago are producing plenty of points from outside the three point arc. That coupled with the ability around the boards should make the Bulls competitive and makes the points they are getting very appealing.

The Bulls are on a back to back though and needed the buzzer beater from Jimmy Butler to win the game. They have invested a lot of energy into that game, but Chicago need to keep the momentum going and have a 4-0 record against the spread in their last four in the second of a back to back schedule spot.

New Orleans are 5-1 against the spread in their last six home games, but this is the kind of number they have not been favoured by too often this season. They are also 1-7 against the spread in their last eight at home against the Bulls and I will back the road underdog with the points to keep this one competitive.


Philadelphia 76ers @ Toronto Raptors Pick: After moving up to the Number 3 Seed in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors won't want to relinquish that position while still looking to chase the top two teams in the Conference down the stretch. Sunday does look like a day when Toronto can keep their forward trend going as they take on the injury hit Philadelphia 76ers who have played beyond the expectations this season but who may be slowing down to the finish.

The 76ers have now lost five of their last seven games and three of those losses have come by blow outs including at the Cleveland Cavaliers last time out. As good as this season has been for the 76ers, they will be hoping for better health next season and improving their Draft position is the main focus now for a team that will be looking to take more steps forward next season.

Toronto have won seven of their last eight games and five of those wins have come by a wide margin.

They are now 4-1 against the spread in their last five games when facing a team with a losing record and the Raptors should be rested for another home game. I do have to take note of some of the really impressive numbers that the Philadelphia 76ers have produced as they have been underrated so often by the oddsmakers, but at this stage of the season I am not sure the motivation is as high as it has been.

The 76ers are 1-7 against the spread in their last eight games against Toronto and they are 1-4 against the spread in their last five visits to 'The North'. While this is a big number being asked of the Raptors, I think they can dominate the boards in this one against a Philadelphia team missing Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor and I will look for them to take control and cover this number.


Indiana Pacers @ Cleveland Cavaliers Pick: The Cleveland Cavaliers are 0.5 games behind the Boston Celtics for the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference and have to travel to Boston one more time before the season comes to a close. I don't think the Seed the Cavaliers earn is going to determine whether they are able to defend their title or not, but they will want to go into the Play Offs in better form than they have been over the first three months of 2017.

They face an old rival in the Indiana Pacers who are desperately trying to finish in the Play Off positions in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers have lost five of their last six games which has dropped them out of the top eight in the standings with six games left to play this regular season, although Indiana have the same record as the Number 7 Chicago Bulls and Number 8 Miami Heat.

Both of those teams are also in action on Sunday evening as the Play Off pictures begins to clear up but Indiana have to focus on their own difficult task of earning a win in Cleveland. This is a big number when for the Cavaliers to cover considering how erratic they have been in March, but they do look like they could match up with the Indiana Pacers effectively as they have won their last two games against them by 15 and 9 points.

The Pacers have lost their last four road games by at least 9 points each time and they have not covered in any of their last seven road games. As poor as Cleveland have been, they are 6-2 against the spread in their last eight home games when facing a team with a winning percentage of 40% or lower on the road.

Indiana have a very strong recent record against the spread in games against Cleveland, but the favourite has covered in the last four games in the series. The home team also have a 10-4-1 record against the spread in the last fifteen games in the series and I think the Cleveland Cavaliers can become the latest home team to pull away and cover against Indiana.


Tuesday 4th April
Brooklyn Nets @ Philadelphia 76ers Pick: We are coming down to the last week of the regular season and so there are going to be a few teams looking to improve their position in the Draft by earning more lottery balls. The team with the worst record in the NBA, the Brooklyn Nets, are not keen to secure the Number 1 Draft Pick because that is going to the Boston Celtics and that means they are playing hard in the last few weeks.

The Nets have won five of their last eight games and continue to try and win games with nothing to gain by tanking for a stronger Draft position. For a long time the Philadelphia 76ers were also working hard, but that was because they really believed they could make the Play Offs. Now they are out of contention, have a number of injuries on the roster, and have lost six of their last eight games which has dropped them into the fifth worst record in the NBA.

One of the exceptions in that time was a road win at the Brooklyn Nets though and that might encourage people to back the 76ers to beat them again and complete the four game sweep of the season series.

Philadelphia have some really strong numbers at home this season against the spread, but Brooklyn are 6-1 against the spread in their last seven road games. I think the motivation for the Nets is higher than for the home team in this one and Brooklyn are 11-6 against the spread when given less than 6 points as the underdog this season.

Add in the fact that Philadelphia are 0-3 against the spread when favoured by less than 3 points this season and Brooklyn have shown a little more consistency at both ends of the court in recent games and I will take the point with the underdog in this one.


Orlando Magic @ Cleveland Cavaliers Pick: The Cleveland Cavaliers really are having a hard time at the moment and more open dissension between players on the court have raised more doubts about their ability to defend the NBA title they won ten months ago. The Cavaliers have won two in a row as they bid to win the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference, but they have continued to show real inconsistency on the Defensive side of the court.

There is a chance that the Orlando Magic could produce their 'A' game and make this one a competitive contest as they did in a narrow loss at the Boston Celtics last week. However they had been blown out in a few games prior to that, especially on the road, and the Magic are in a position to improve their Draft prospects with losses.

This isn't just about a loss, but whether the Orlando Magic can stay within the number set by the oddsmakers. However they were beaten by 12 points at home by the Cleveland Cavaliers last month and I do think the Cavaliers have a little momentum behind them and can make it three wins in a row before the trip to Boston on Wednesday night.

Orlando are 2-5 against the spread in their last seven games against a team with a winning record at home, while they are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games against a team with a winning record overall. Throughout the season Cleveland have had some horrible numbers as they have been asked to cover some big numbers, but they have matched up well with Orlando.

The Cavaliers are 16-5-1 against the spread in their last twenty-two games against Orlando and are 6-1-1 against the spread in their last seven at home against them. The favourite has produced a 20-6-1 record against the spread in the last twenty-seven of this series and I will look for the Cleveland Cavaliers to go into Boston with a blow out win behind them.


Toronto Raptors @ Indiana Pacers Pick: This is a game that has some big implications at the top and bottom of the Eastern Conference Play Off picture as both the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers look to put another win on the board. The Toronto Raptors will be looking to finish with the Number 3 Seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Indiana Pacers are only outside the top eight teams in the Conference on a head to head with Miami.

There has been a loss of momentum for the Pacers who have lost six of their last seven games including the last four in a row. Compare that with the Toronto Raptors who have won eight of their last nine games and bounced back from a loss by winning two in a row which has kept them in front of the Washington Wizards.

Despite the absence of Kyle Lowry, Toronto continue to shoot the ball effectively and they have been particularly lethal from outside the three point arc. That is going to be a problem for the Indiana Pacers as is the Toronto size around the boards, but it should be noted that Indiana have played a lot better at home than on the road.

Toronto have now covered in their last four games against a team who have won at least 60% of their home games so they won't be intimidated by having to come here. The Pacers do have a 4-1 record against the spread when facing a team who have a losing record on the road and so you can see why the oddsmakers have set a tight spread for this game.

However it is the Raptors who have matched up well enough to go 14-6 against the spread in the last twenty of the series with the Pacers. They are also 9-3 against the spread in their last twelve in Indiana and I will back the road underdog to keep this one close.


Denver Nuggets @ New Orleans Pelicans Pick: There is still a mathematical chance for the New Orleans Pelicans to make the Western Conference Play Offs, but they need to win every remaining game and hope both the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers lose every remaining regular season game. This is absolutely the longest of long shots, but the Pelicans can close their home campaign by keeping alive their Play Off hopes for one more day.

That still might be a big ask for the Pelicans who have a banged up Anthony Davis fighting through the pain to take part in this one. It would be a real shame for Davis to miss the final home game of the season, but he is questionable for this one as the Pelicans perhaps favour getting him healthy for next season now the Play Offs look beyond them.

The Denver Defensive performances have not been as effective as the Pelicans who have got Davis and DeMarcus Cousins playing at a high level when they are on the court at the same time. There is also an issue for Denver with injuries hurting them, but the Nuggets have snapped a three game losing run by winning at the Miami Heat last time out.

New Orleans have won half of their last six games as they continue to play with plenty of motivation behind them, but having a banged up Davis makes life that much more difficult for them. The Pelicans are just 2-5 against the spread this season when favoured by less than 3 points this season and are facing a Denver team who are 13-6 against the spread when given less than 4 points as the underdog.

The Nuggets are 4-1 against the spread in their last five games in New Orleans, while the road team is now 7-1 against the spread in the last eight in this series and the underdog is 6-0 against the spread in the last six. I will take the point being given to the Denver Nuggets in this one and look for them to keep their own Play Off hopes alive while ending the New Orleans interest in the post-season for one more year.


Chicago Bulls @ New York Knicks Pick: The Chicago Bulls looked to be floundering towards missing the Play Offs and losing Dwyane Wade for the season looked to be curtains for their chances to end in the top eight of the Eastern Conference. However they have rallied together and produced four wins in a row with three of those coming against teams in Play Off positions to move into a strong position.

Those wins have pushed Chicago into Number 7 of the Eastern Conference standings and they are 1 game clear of the Number 9 Indiana Pacers. The schedule also gives Chicago five remaining games against teams from the Eastern Conference who all have losing records and the Bulls will be looking to keep the momentum going on Tuesday.

They won't have to worry about former star player Derrick Rose who has been shut down for the season by the New York Knicks. Carmelo Anthony may also miss out as the Knicks look to their younger players to prove they are good enough to stay with the team going into next season and the Knicks have dropped seven of their last nine games and have been blown out in back to back games at Madison Square Garden.

Chicago have a real edge when it comes to the size to dominate the rebounding in this one and the Bulls have been shooting lights out from the three point range in recent games which has sparked their success. The Knicks may not be able to match up with that output as they are having a few inconsistent moments and their 5-1 home record against the spread in the last six against the Bulls may not matter here.

The Bulls have covered in their last five road games and look to have all the momentum behind them to snap that poor run at The Garden. They are 6-4 against the spread when favoured by 4 or fewer points this season and Chicago have all the motivation behind them. I hate when the spread 'smells' a little funny like this one does, but I am going to back the Play Off chasing favourite to win and cover on the road.


Wednesday 5th April
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Memphis Grizzlies Pick: We are into the final week of the regular season and it looks like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies are locked into the Number 6 and Number 7 Seed in the Western Conference respectively. There are still hopes for both teams that they could improve their positions by winning their remaining games, but only one of those teams will be in that position by the end of Wednesday.

Both Oklahoma City and Memphis were in action on Tuesday, but those games went differently for them. The Thunder blew out the Milwaukee Bucks and were able to get their starters some rest, while the Grizzlies were beaten in Overtime at the San Antonio Spurs and saw Mike Conley pick up an injury which will likely see him sit out in this one.

That defeat means Memphis have dropped six of their last eight games which has seen them come off the pace in chasing down the teams ahead of them in the Western Conference. It has to be noted that Oklahoma City have been a little inconsistent themselves down the stretch but they look like they could be the healthier squad coming into this game and that could be important for them as they try and close on the LA Clippers and Utah Jazz ahead of them.

The Thunder don't have a good recent record when playing some of the better teams in the NBA, while Memphis have gone 4-1 against the spread in their last five games against a team with a winning record.

Memphis have also gone 4-1 against the spread in their last five home games against the Thunder, but the likely absence of Mike Conley and potentially Tony Allen does shift things for Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook is likely to have another big game and can do enough to cover the likely absence of Alex Abrines who was injured in the win over the Bucks on Tuesday and I will take the points with the road underdog to snap a poor recent record in Memphis.


Denver Nuggets @ Houston Rockets Pick: The Denver Nuggets went into New Orleans shorthanded, but the eight man rotation made enough big plays to earn another vital win as they try and chase down the Portland Trail Blazers for the last remaining Play Off position in the Western Conference. Only 0.5 games separate those teams at the moment, but Portland hold the tie-breaker and the Nuggets have to take on a tough Houston Rockets team on a back to back.

That is a big ask for Denver even though Houston could be sitting some key players. The Rockets are virtually assured of finishing with the Number 3 Seed in the Western Conference and decided to give the likes of James Harden, Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson a chance to rest up in their win over the Phoenix Suns. There is no guarantee that any of those players return for this game as Houston look to get back to full health for the Play Offs which begin next week and that gives the Nuggets a chance.

Denver will likely be without Will Barton, Jameer Nelson and Kenneth Faried, but the motivation is very high to try and overtake the Trail Blazers. The Nuggets have not played well Defensively, but they have continued to show an ability to put plenty of points on the board and the challenge for Houston will be to stay in front of them even without some key players.

The Nuggets are now 5-1 against the spread in their last six games against a team with a winning record, while they are 5-2 against the spread in their last seven when facing a team who has a winning record at home. Houston do have a two day rest between games and have been strong in that position, but they have not covered in their last four games and their focus may already have shifted to the Play Offs.

The underdog is 5-1 against the spread in the last six in this series and Denver are 7-3 against the spread in their last ten in Houston. They met twice in March and Houston won both games by a combined 5 points and I am going to take the points with the road underdog to keep this one close with the added motivation behind them.


Cleveland Cavaliers @ Boston Celtics Pick: The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics both come into this game with the same 50-27 record and the winner of this one is going to have command of the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference. With five games left, the winner will be a strong position, but it is the Cavaliers who will also hold the tie-breaker if they win this game which will effectively put them 2 games clear of the Celtics with just four games to play.

That makes the game a bigger one for the Celtics as a defeat will likely secure them the Number 2 Seed, but Cleveland should have plenty of motivation too as they look to build on a three game winning run to take into the Play Offs. Boston have won six of their last seven games themselves so this looks like a game where both teams are coming in with some form behind them.

Both teams are producing some similar numbers at the moment, but Cleveland are coming in on the second of a back to back schedule spot, while Boston have had a couple of days to prepare. Neither team has been great in that spot with Cleveland going 6-15 against the spread in their last twenty-one in the second of a back to back, while Boston are 8-20 against the spread in their last twenty-eight when having two days to rest between games.

Jae Crowder could be missing for Boston, which is a blow for the home team, but they could have Avery Bradley back in the line up. That will improve the Celtics Defensively after giving up 108 points per game over their last five games. Boston have had a hard time dealing with teams at home recently, but they have gone 4-0 against the spread when facing a team who have won at least 60% of their games.

Cleveland don't have a good recent record against Boston against the number, but they are 8-2 in the last ten straight up and I think the Cavaliers might have just turned a corner in recent games. This will be close and Boston do have a very strong 10-4 record against the spread when favoured by less than 3 points this season, but I like the Cavaliers with the points to perhaps win this outright and put themselves in command of the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference.


Thursday 6th April
The Play Off picture has been clearing up with the top three Seeds in the Western Conference locked up and we should see the Eastern Conference teams begin locking up their own positions in the coming couple of days. We are only nine days away from the beginning of the Play Offs now, but the big games are still to be negotiated to close out the NBA regular season.

Chicago Bulls @ Philadelphia 76ers Pick: The Chicago Bulls continue to be a frustrating team to watch as they once again play up and down to the level of opponent they are facing. A blow out loss to the New York Knicks which was much wider than the 9 point final score indicated has put the Bulls once again in a position to fight for their Play Off future, and I am not sure whether it is a good or bad thing that their final four games come against some of the weakest teams in the NBA.

The first of those is at the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday who are coming off an embarrassing one-sided destruction at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets. The fans will realise it is better to lose games for the Draft at this point of the season, but the 76ers players will be looking to respond to one of the poorer efforts they have produced in the 2016/17 season.

Injuries have been the real problem for the 76ers and they will be hoping for better health for their key players in the next campaign. The 76ers have the fifth worst record in the NBA and they have lost four in a row with the regular season winding down.

Chicago are looking to bounce back from their loss a couple of nights ago and the Bulls have covered in their last five games following a defeat. The Bulls are now in a three way tie with the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, but hold the Number 7 Seed through the tie-breakers, although that could all change with a loss on Thursday.

They are facing a Philadelphia team who have strong numbers against the spread at home this season, although the 76ers are just 1-4 against the spread when coming off a double digit loss at home. The Bulls are 5-2 against the spread in the last seven in this series and I am looking for a much better effort on Thursday than they produced at Madison Square Garden and that can help them cover a big spread on the road. The 76ers have lost four in a row by at least 7 points each time and I will look for Chicago to become the latest to beat them by that margin.


Brooklyn Nets @ Orlando Magic Pick: At this stage of the season, the likes of the Brooklyn Nets and the Orlando Magic would both be looking to earn the best Draft Pick possible by tanking away games. That would usually make this a 'stay away' kind of game, but the Nets don't have the motivation to lose games with their Pick going to the Boston Celtics and they have responded with a run of three wins in a row which began with a home victory over the Orlando Magic.

Brooklyn still have the worst record in the NBA, but they are closing in on the Phoenix Suns and LA Lakers although they will only catch them by continuing their winning run.

Winning games might not be completely on the mind of the Orlando Magic who have lost five games in a row to move into the fourth worst record in the NBA. It hasn't been a complete tank from Orlando who have won half of their last four home games, but this is a team that hasn't played well as a favourite this season.

Orlando are 3-13 against the spread as the favourite in the 2016/17 season and they are facing a Brooklyn team who have a solid 11-6 record against the spread when given less than 6 points as the underdog. The Nets have the size to win the rebounding battle in this one and they have been shooting the ball better than Orlando who have allowed teams to shoot at 50% from the field in the last five games.

The Nets are now 7-1 against the spread in their last eight road games and are facing an Orlando team who are 1-7 against the spread in their last eight when facing a team who have won 40% or fewer of their games. Orlando are 10-25-1 against the spread in their last thirty-six home games and they do have a 4-1-1 record against the spread in their last six at home against Brooklyn.

However I do think the motivation is much higher with the road team and I will take the points with the underdog in this one.


Milwaukee Bucks @ Indiana Pacers Pick: You would think a 2 game lead over the Number 9 team in the Eastern Conference would be good enough for the Milwaukee Bucks, but back to back losses have just reeled them back in. Another loss on Thursday would likely see their lead over the Number 9 team cut and the Bucks would then be under some pressure to deliver a Play Off place.

The current Number 9 team is the Indiana Pacers who host this game on Thursday after recovering from a big deficit to go on and blow out the Toronto Raptors. Winning back to back games has not been something the Pacers have been able to achieve in the last couple of months and that is the main reason they are currently outside of the Play Off berths.

Indiana have been much better at home and that is the reason they are a healthy favourite to win this game despite losing six of their last eight games overall. The Pacers did snap a four game losing run with the win over the Raptors, but I am expecting the Milwaukee Bucks to shoot much better than they did in the blow out loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder and they should have success hitting the three point shot in this one.

Milwaukee have usually bounced back from a loss as they are 4-1 against the spread in the last five games when coming off a defeat, and they have covered in their last four games when off a double digit defeat. The Bucks are also 4-1 against the spread in their last five road games and are facing an Indiana team who have not covered in their last six following a win.

The road team is 9-4 against the spread in the last thirteen games in this series and Milwaukee are 5-1 against the spread in their last six in Indiana. I am looking for a much better all around effort from the Bucks than they produced in Oklahoma City and it is hard to ignore the fact that Milwaukee have won all three games against Indiana this season. It leads me into taking the points with the road underdog to keep this one competitive.


Minnesota Timberwolves @ Portland Trail Blazers Pick: This is the second time in the space of a few days that the Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves will play one another. The Trail Blazers are desperate to try and get back to winning ways after dropping back to back games which has allowed the Denver Nuggets to get a little closer for the final Play Off spot available in the Western Conference.

The pressure is on the Trail Blazers to earn the win and the Minnesota Timberwolves can come into this game with the pressure relieved now their Play Off bid has been run. A run of losses last month ended their hopes, but Minnesota have responded by winning three of their last five games.

A young roster will be looking to show they can end the season with some confidence that they can take into the 2017/18 season and they have been shooting the ball well enough to challenge this Portland Defensive unit. It is clear that Portland will have their moments too with the talent they have in the back court, but the injury to Jusuf Nurkic is a big blow as they have struggled on the boards without him.

The Timberwolves can certainly win the battle on the boards which will give them a chance to damage the Portland Play Off bid for the second time in four days. The general numbers against the spread certainly favour Portland on recent evidence, but the Trail Blazers have to deal with all the pressure and I like the Minnesota size to keep them competitive in this game.

Minnesota don't have a great record here against the numbers, but the underdog is 6-1 against the spread in the last seven in this series and the road team is 6-1 against the spread in the last seven. I will take the points with the road underdog in this one to stay close enough to make them count.


Saturday 8th April
There were a couple of games of interest on Friday, but not enough to get me to actually commit to a pick as the spreads begin to run all over the place. There are only five days left of the regular season and that means the 'must win' nature of some games for teams will see the oddsmakers respond.

On Saturday there look to be a number of games that will determine the top eight places in the Eastern Conference and those are of most interest to me. I am going to avoid much of the Western Conference games with the top seven places almost certainly secured as they are. There might still be some spreads of interest in the next four days after today, but for now I will focus on the Eastern Conference where all of the Seeds are still up for grabs.

Chicago Bulls @ Brooklyn Nets Pick: The Miami Heat defeat at the Toronto Raptors on Friday has just eased some of the pressure on the Chicago Bulls who are holding onto the Number 7 Seed in the Eastern Conference, 1 game ahead of the Heat. Chicago might be looking up the standings now with the final three games of their season against teams with losing records and the Milwaukee Bucks just 1 game in front of the Bulls with a tougher looking end to the regular season.

It is hard to know what to expect from Chicago from game to game as they are just as likely to be blown away by a team with a losing record as they are to beat the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. That will make Chicago a dangerous First Round Play Off opponent for any of the top four Seeds in the Eastern Conference, but getting into the Play Offs means beating the weaker teams to secure their place.

A win at the Philadelphia 76ers a couple of nights ago will make Chicago feel better, but they are facing a Brooklyn Nets team who have won six of their last ten games and simply don't care in improving their lottery position. The Nets have already secured the worst record in the NBA but they will want to get closer to the Phoenix Suns to try and give up a few lottery balls, although their top three pick will be heading to the Boston Celtics.

The Nets have been shooting the ball well enough which makes them a threat to the Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn have been strong against the spread in recent games. However I have to respect the fact that the Bulls have gone 6-1 against the spread in their last seven games and they have dealt with the Brooklyn Nets in their recent games.

Chicago are 9-4 against the spread in the last thirteen in this series, including going 4-0 against the spread in their last four in Brooklyn. The road team is 6-1 against the spread in the last seven in the series and I will back Chicago to cover the spread and take another step towards the Play Offs which begin next weekend.


Boston Celtics @ Charlotte Hornets Pick: The Charlotte Hornets have been in Play Off mode over the last month as they have tried to close in on the top eight in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately back to back losses earlier this week look to have put the Hornets out of contention as they trail the Number 8 Seeded Indiana Pacers by 3 games and with three regular season games to play.

Those defeats have been damaging, but the Hornets are facing a Boston Celtics team who have also suffered damaging consecutive losses this week heading into this game. The losses to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks means Boston are essentially 2 games behind the Cavaliers for the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference and with games running down.

It does feel like the Celtics have more on the line than the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday and Boston are the better Defensive team which should help them come through. The intensity of recent games might just have worn down the Hornets who have struggled to defend the three point arc although Boston have not really producing fireworks from that distance to be guaranteed to take advantage.

However, I do think the Celtics can be backed to at least close to 0.5 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers with a win here. Charlotte are just 6-13 against the spread in their last nineteen games at home and they are 1-5 against the spread following a double digit loss at home.

It should be noted that the Celtics don't have the best numbers in recent games too, but they are 7-1 against the spread in their last eight against Charlotte including covering in the last four here. The Celtics are 10-5 against the spread when favoured by less than 3 points this season and I will be looking for them to earn an important road win which puts the Charlotte Hornets out of their misery in terms of making the post-season.


Indiana Pacers @ Orlando Magic Pick: The Indiana Pacers might have turned a corner at just the right time in their race for a top eight finish in the Eastern Conference. They have won back to back games for the first time in over a month and they are favoured to beat former Head Coach Frank Vogel's current team the Orlando Magic.

Playing on the road has been much more difficult for the Pacers than in front of their own fans, but they do hold a 1 game lead over the Miami Heat in the chase for a Play Off berth in the Eastern Conference. That means they can't allow their poor road form to continue, but Indiana have been shooting the ball very efficiently in recent games which suggests they will have a little too much for Orlando.

Orlando do have size on their size, and the Magic have just snapped a five game losing run by beating the Brooklyn Nets in their last home game. However this is not the best Arena for the Orlando Magic and they have not covered in their last four games following a straight up win as the younger players on the roster continue to show inconsistent form.

Defensively it has been a struggle for Orlando which is not a big surprise with some of the inexperience they have been using on the court and that could be a difference maker in this game. The Pacers have held their last two opponents 90 points or fewer with that being the reason the players have pointed to for their improvement Offensively.

Indiana are 16-5 against the spread in the last twenty-one in the series against the Orlando Magic and they have covered on their last five visits to Orlando. The road team has improved to 9-1 against the spread in the last ten in the series and I do think the Indiana Pacers are playing with enough momentum to keep a hold of one of the top eight positions in the Eastern Conference by winning this game on the road and covering the number.


Milwaukee Bucks @ Philadelphia 76ers Pick: For a long time it has looked like the Milwaukee Bucks were going to be in a position to finish with the Number 5 Seed in the Eastern Conference, but three losses in a row have just slowed them down. That has meant Milwaukee are a game behind the Atlanta Hawks for the Number 5 Seed, while they have perhaps started to fear the teams below them as they are only 2 games clear of the Miami Heat in the Number 9 position.

The Bucks have a pretty difficult end to the season and this looks to be the 'easiest' game they have left to play. Failing to beat a Philadelphia 76ers team who have looked tired and hit by injury issues will be a big problem for Milwaukee as they round off the season with Boston and Charlotte.

Philadelphia have shut down some key players, and put others on a minutes restriction which is making things difficult for them as they close out what has been a positive season overall. The 76ers have lost six in a row which has seen them improve their lottery position for the Draft, and Philadelphia have struggled Defensively in those games.

It has been made clear to the Milwaukee Bucks players that they need to perform better at both ends of the court, but I don't think they have been helping themselves. Things should be easier in Philadelphia against a team who look to have settled for the improvements they have made in 2016/17 and the Bucks have bounced back with a 4-1 record against the spread after dropping a game by double digits.

The 76ers have just struggled a little bit down the stretch and they are 1-5 against the spread when coming off a blow out loss at home. Milwaukee have a 4-1 record against the spread in their last five visits to Philadelphia, while the road team has dominated against the numbers in recent games in this series. I will look for the Bucks to win here and cover the number as they just about secure a spot in the post-season, although Seeding will still be up for grabs over the last few days of the regular season.


Miami Heat @ Washington Wizards Pick: Another narrow loss won't be pleasing the Miami Heat who have been struggling to stay with the teams chasing the top eight spots in the Eastern Conference. That defeat on Friday at the Toronto Raptors means Miami have lost three of their last four games at just the wrong time of the season and has left the Heat 1 game behind the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers who in the Number 7 and Number 8 Seeds respectively.

The toughest remaining games also land with the Miami Heat having lost at Number 3 Seed Toronto Raptors on Friday and now facing the Number 4 Washington Wizards on a back to back. There is still a chance for the Wizards to improve their own Seeding and move away from the likely Cleveland Cavaliers bracket in the top half of the Eastern Conference Play Offs.

Washington have won back to back games to stay in touch with the Toronto Raptors who are ahead of them in the standings and they are favoured to win this one too. One of the issues the Wizards have had is Defensively where they have allowed teams to shoot too effectively which forces them into tougher than expected spots and that has to be keeping Miami motivated to secure an upset on the road.

The Heat have gone 14-3 against the spread in their last seventeen games when facing a team with a winning record and they are 11-1 against the spread in the second half of a back to back. They have to be encouraged by Washington being just 1-4 against the spread in their last five games and the Wizards are only 6-13 against the spread when favoured by 6 or more points so far this season.

Miami are 21-8-1 against the spread in their last thirty games in Washington and they are 4-1 against the spread in the last five overall. There is a concern the back to back affects the Miami performance in this one, but I am going to take the points with the road underdog and look for the Heat to keep this one competitive.


Sunday 9th April
Yesterday was a really good day for the NBA Picks with the teams coming back with a 4-1 return to put this month in a solid position. I am not a big fan of the Sunday games as we get set for the final four days of the regular season, but I do want to make one pick.

Cleveland Cavaliers @ Atlanta Hawks Pick: It has been made clear to the Cleveland Cavaliers players that they will not be rested until the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference is wrapped up. Dropping a home game against the Atlanta Hawks a couple of nights ago would have been a real frustration for the entire roster when you consider the players that Atlanta were missing, but Cleveland remain 0.5 games ahead of the Boston Celtics for the Number 1 Seed.

Having earned the tie-breaker over Boston earlier this week, Cleveland know they need to win two of their remaining three regular season games if they are going to secure the Number 1 Seed. Of course it will depend on Boston winning every remaining game to force Cleveland into that position, but that makes this revenge game an important one for the defending Champions.

The feeling is that Cleveland want to rest some players for the second half of a back to back set on Monday, but that will be much more difficult to justify if they are to drop this game. Atlanta will also have some importance attached to this game as they look to secure a Number 5 Seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Hawks have the momentum behind them that comes from back to back wins over Boston and Cleveland.

Backing up that win over the Cavaliers will be difficult when you think Atlanta have not covered in their last seven games following a win by at least 10 points, while they are also 9-23 against the spread in their last thirty-two home games. The Cavaliers don't have stellar numbers to fall back upon, but they have won on their last four visits to Atlanta and earned revenge for a home loss back in November when beating the Hawks here last month.

Now they are playing with more revenge following that embarrassing home loss a couple of nights ago and the Cavaliers will be looking to improve their 5-1 record against the spread in their last six visits to Atlanta. The road team is also 4-1 against the spread in the last five in this series and I will be looking for Cleveland to produce a much better all around performance while winning and covering the spread on the road.


Monday 10th April
I've had some tough losses this season from the NBA Picks, but the Cleveland Cavaliers blowing a 26 point lead in the Fourth Quarter to the second unit of the Atlanta Hawks has to take top prize.

Some of the poor plays at the end of the Fourth Quarter were embarrassing days before the Play Offs begin and the Cleveland Cavaliers look a vulnerable favourite in the Eastern Conference. I still expect them to come through the Play Offs to reach the NBA Finals, but the questions remain after the way they have played over the last couple of months.

Indiana Pacers @ Philadelphia 76ers Pick: One more win is likely to be enough for the Indiana Pacers to secure their spot in the Eastern Conference Play Offs which begin on Saturday. It had looked like the Pacers might have struggled for the consistency to crack the top eight in the Eastern Conference, but they have won three in a row at just the right time which has pushed them a game clear of the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls.

It always looked like Indiana had the 'easier' remaining games on the schedule and they have made use of that to get into this position. On Monday they face the Philadelphia 76ers who are shorthanded and have been worn down by a long season with injuries affecting their chances of a surprising run much further up the Eastern Conference standings.

The 76ers have lost six in a row and they have struggled from a Defensive point of view as they have allowed their last few opponents to average over 50% from the field. That is an area that the Indiana Pacers will look to expose with Paul George and the rest of the team scoring at least 100 points in their last five games.

Indiana have covered in their last four games against the spread and they are 4-2 against the spread this season when favoured by at least 7 points. As Philadelphia have been beaten down by a long season, some of the poorer numbers in recent games have come out as they have remained priced up closer to the levels they had been producing a few weeks ago.

The Pacers beat Philadelphia by 13 points at the end of March and have improved to 6-2 against the spread in the last eight in this series. The road team is also 6-2 against the spread in the last eight between these teams and I like backing the Pacers to cover the number in this one as they move that much closer to securing a Play Off berth.


Brooklyn Nets @ Boston Celtics Pick: The Boston Celtics will be looking to get the better of the Brooklyn Nets for two reasons on Monday as they try and move ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference. The first is obviously to win home advantage through the Play Offs, but the second is 'improving' Brooklyn's Draft Pick which is going to be swapped with the Celtics First Round Pick.

The de-motivation to finish with the Number 1 Pick in the upcoming Draft has seen Brooklyn continue to play hard down the stretch and they are winners of four of their last five games. There is a talent level differential between these two teams, but the Nets have fought hard against teams who are perhaps focused on other matters at this stage of the regular season and that makes them a dangerous opponent.

You also can't ignore the fact that Boston have not been able to play with the consistency they would have liked in recent games. The Celtics have dropped half of their last six games, while there have been some Defensive issues that Brooklyn will look to exploit as they battle hard in their remaining couple of games.

The Nets are 7-2 against the spread in their last nine road games and they are also 5-2 against the spread in their last seven when facing a team with a winning record. On the other hand the Celtics have not covered in their last five road games and have also failed to cover in their last five against a team who has won 40% or fewer of their games this season.

Add in the fact that Boston have still not covered as a 7 point or greater favourite and the points look very appealing in this one with the underdog. The underdog is actually 7-3 against the spread in the last ten in this series and the road team is 4-1 against the spread in the last five. With the Nets playing hard, I will back them to improve those numbers in this one too.


Orlando Magic @ Chicago Bulls Pick: The time for dropping stupid games is over for the Chicago Bulls if they want to make the Eastern Conference Play Offs. After blowing an 8 point lead over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday, the Chicago Bulls have the same record as the Number 9 placed Miami Heat and only hold a Play Off berth on a tie-breaker with two games left to play.

The continued struggles against some of the weaker teams in the NBA is a real worry for the Bulls when you consider they finish the season with two games against the Orlando Magic and the Brooklyn Nets. Both of those games are at home though and Chicago will definitely feel they can get back to winning ways on Monday against a Magic team who have underachieved this season.

Orlando have dropped six of their last seven games and they have begun to look ahead to the break if you take the Defensive numbers on board in recent games. The Magic have allowed teams to shoot at over 50% from the field in their last five games and they will have some difficulties against the Chicago three point shooting which has been a strong feature for the Bulls in recent games.

Having Dwyane Wade back in the line up gives Chicago another experienced head to help them negotiate the last two games, although Wade admitted he struggled with fitness in his first game back as expected. I do think Chicago can bounce back from their loss on Saturday and they have covered the spread in the last six games following a straight up loss and the Magic have not looked as focused in recent games as they look for an improvement in the Draft position.


Four of the last six games Orlando have dropped have come by double digits and the home team is now 4-1 against the spread in the last five in this series. While Orlando do have a strong recent record against Chicago against the numbers, I am looking for the Bulls to record a big win in this one which puts them on the brink of securing a Play Off position.


Charlotte Hornets @ Milwaukee Bucks Pick: The Milwaukee Bucks ended a three game losing run with a win at the Philadelphia 76ers last time out and that earned them a spot in the post-season. Some of the players admitted their main goal for the season has been earned, while the Charlotte Hornets will regret a really poor middle of the season which has prevented them from joining the post-season party.

Those two factors were both decided at the weekend and may be a reason the Milwaukee Bucks are pretty big favourites to win this game. The Hornets have 'nothing left' to play for now they are eliminated from the Play Offs and the Milwaukee Bucks can still finish as high as Number 5 in the Eastern Conference, but that looks to have created an inflated spread.

The Bucks simply haven't been playing that well of late as they have struggled for consistency at both ends of the court and only one of their last six games have been won by more than 3 points. However they did recently beat the Charlotte Hornets convincingly on the road, although Milwaukee weren't a big favourite that day and have not dealt being a favourite by 6 points or more as they are 4-11 against the spread in that spot.

Milwaukee are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games following a win and they are 6-14 against the spread in their last twenty home games against a team who have won less than 40% of their road games. With Charlotte also shooting the ball pretty efficiently of late, this is a tougher game for the home team than the layers may think.

The Hornets are 6-0 against the spread in the last six games in Milwaukee and the road team is 11-0 against the spread in the last eleven in this series. There looks to be enough points given to the Charlotte Hornets to keep this one close and competitive and I will take those with the road underdog.


Tuesday 11th April
There are only two days left of the regular season and while the entire Western Conference Play Off match ups have been locked up, there are likely to be a few moves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference picture in those remaining days.

The Tuesday action hasn't really appealed to me so hopefully I will something in the host of games to be played on Wednesday. That will conclude the regular season and I am looking to put out my picks for the first of the Play Off games on Friday.


Wednesday 12th April
Picks from the Wednesday games will come here when the spreads are released.

After taking a look through the options, the uncertainty about the kind of time starters will remain on the court coupled with other teams resting players in the final game of the regular season makes it hard to make picks with any confidence. The Play Offs begin in three days time and I am going to make my next set of picks once those begin.

MY PICKS: 02/04 Oklahoma City Thunder - 5 Points @ 1.97 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
02/04 Chicago Bulls + 8.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
02/04 Toronto Raptors - 10.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
02/04 Cleveland Cavaliers - 8 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
04/04 Brooklyn Nets + 1 Point @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
04/04 Cleveland Cavaliers - 9 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
04/04 Toronto Raptors + 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
04/04 Denver Nuggets + 1 Point @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
04/04 Chicago Bulls - 3.5 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (1 Unit)
05/04 Oklahoma City Thunder + 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
05/04 Denver Nuggets + 8 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
05/04 Cleveland Cavaliers + 2 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
06/04 Chicago Bulls - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
06/04 Brooklyn Nets + 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
06/04 Milwaukee Bucks + 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
06/04 Minnesota Timberwolves + 6 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
08/04 Chicago Bulls - 3.5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
08/04 Boston Celtics - 1.5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
08/04 Indiana Pacers - 3 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
08/04 Milwaukee Bucks - 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)
08/04 Miami Heat + 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
09/04 Cleveland Cavaliers - 3 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
10/04 Indiana Pacers - 8 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
10/04 Brooklyn Nets + 10.5 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
10/04 Chicago Bulls - 8.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
10/04 Charlotte Hornets + 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

April Update: 15-11, + 3.09 Units

March Final35-39-2, - 6.46 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 2017144-144-7, - 5.41 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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