December 2, 2015 (4:00 PM ET)
There are 3 picks tonight.
1) Take Atlanta Hawks at -3 spread against Toronto Raptors for 3% of the bankroll.
The last time Atlanta hosted Toronto, they had the #1 seed in the East all but locked up and were looking past their opponents. That complacency led to an ugly 105-80 home loss to these same Raptors! They will not have forgotten about that embarrassing spanking. Mike Budenholzer was Coach of the Year and one of the many reasons he's great at his job is his ability to motivate his players. His squad will have payback in mind tonight especially since they are no longer in the comfortable position they were in last time these two Eastern rivals met. The Hawks are currently 6th in the East standings but can overtake the 5th placed Raptors with a victory tonight. That is what we expect them to do against the Atlantic Division leaders as they get revenge and move up the standings. Atlanta may already be in a playoff spot but they aren't satisfied. They know they belong near the very top even if the media doesn't give them the credit they deserve and will be making a run toward that soon. This is an ambitious roster that has its sights set higher and will be keen to get a W over a main rival and enjoy back to back wins.
The Raptors have played well so far this year but are missing their main big man, Jonas Valanciunas. The towering Lithuanian will be out for another 10 days or so and while they dont lose much on the defensive front with Bismack Biyombo likely starting at Center, he does not have the same offensive skillset as the European import. And despite Biyombo's best efforts, the fact that Toronto lacks depth at that position could come back to hurt them especially since unlike Atlanta, they have another game to think about tomorrow night. The Raptors go back to Toronto to start a 5-game homestand after this contest and must be looking forward to that! Coach Dwane Casey must keep tomorrow's game in mind and may rest his stars in the 4th quarter to keep them fresh for Thursday's contest. Budenholzer's Hawks don't have that concern and will be solely focused on this contest. They also finally have a healthy roster that is quite deep and only has one player (Tiago Splitter) banged up.
Atlanta is a streaky team as displayed last season and one that thrives on confidence and swagger. When they believe in themselves, they are an incredibly dangerous side! We believe their win over KD, Westbrook and OKC will have given them some much needed reassurance and self-esteem. This is a team that often wins games in bunches and took 7 in a row earlier this season! While they may not have another hot streak like that in them right now, they do find themselves in the ideal position to get a win tonight. Whether it's through the back-court play of Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder or through the post-play and rim protection of Horford and Millsap, look for ATL to avenge its previous loss to the Raptors and cover this affordable spread in the process. The Hawks are 7-3 at home behind 47.4% shooting from the field!
2) Take Milwaukee Bucks at +12 spread against San Antonio Spurs for 3% of the bankroll.
The Bucks may have a tough time causing an upset in San Antonio but they have a good chance to cover this inflated spread thanks to the generous 12 points that they are being spotted. The Spurs are perennial contenders under Gregg Popovich and not much bad can be said about them. We have the utmost respect for them as a franchise and like the way they handle themselves on and off the court. That doen't mean however that they don't occasionally lay more points than they should. Given the fact that they are the most successful team over the last decade or so, they are often a public darling even in situations that don't warrant it.
Tonight's matchup against the Bucks may seem like an easy one at first glance but will pose a few different challenges. For one, the Bucks are young and athletic and under Jason Kidd's leadership, have also developped an enthusiastic and hard-working attitude! They have plenty of speed and length and can play stifling defense when communicating well. We believe they'll have a tough time stopping Spurs and their excellent ball movement tonight but that dosen't mean they'll get blown out. This is a team that is coming off two excellent defensive efforts by holding their opponents to 87 and 74 points respectively! That greatly pleased Jason Kidd, a coach that has long emphasized the importance of defense to winning games at this level. His young squad which also has some experienced veterans like OJ Mayo and Bayless in there as well as players arguably at their peak such as big off-season acquisition, Greg Monroe, has regained some of its swagger from last year. They are unlikely to limit the Spurs to 87 points but if they can keep them under 97, they have a very good chance of covering this inflated spread.
Let's not forget that while the Spurs are rarely complacent and look past opponents, they are more likely to do so against a lowly East opponent than a Western contender. They've beaten the Bucks with regularity in San Antonio over the years and may falsely believe that they can secure another W without much effort. Coach Pop is unlikely to allow his squad to have that kind of mentality but the fact that they are playing division rivals, Memphis Grizzlies, tomorrow night is a real factor in even his own preparation and lineup selection.
Afterall, tomorrow night's game is arguably more important and against a much more capable side. Popovich has a long history of resting some of his aging stars in back-to-back situations and may elect to give some of them less minutes tonight to keep them fresh for tomorrow. Whatever he decides to do, it is clear that this game is not the sole matchup on their agenda whereas the Bucks are only focusing on this game, a great opportunity to test themselves against the cream of the crop! It is fair to say that one side is more interested in this game than the other and we believe that is the double-digit underdogs. Whether it's through keeping things competitive and respectable (single-digits), through a backdoor cover when Spurs rest players in the 4th quarter or through a shocking outright win, there are 3 separate ways that Milwaukee can cash out sharp tickets tonight. This line should have been +10 in our opinion and is a couple of points too high! For that reason, the value is with the Bucks.
3) Take Detroit Pistons at -3.5 spread against Phoenix Suns for 3% of the bankroll.
The Phoenix Suns have not had the start to the season that they had hoped for. They have dropped 6 of their last 8 games including last night's loss in Brooklyn and now travel to the Palace of Auburn Hills to take on the Pistons and quite possibly former Sun, Marcus Morris.
The Suns have great talent in the back-court but just cannot seem to get consistent production out of every position. They also lack focus and defensive discipline which means they rarely play the entire 48 minutes needed to close games out! Last night they faced a struggling Nets team that was just 4-13 on the season heading into the contest and somehow managed to fall 94-91 in a game that was frustrating to lose because they had their chances. That has essentially been the story of Jeff Hornacek's team as errors and miscues have seemingly defined their season thus far. Now with no days of rest in between and such a short turnaround that includes a short trip, we expect them to be less energetic and enthusiastic than their rested opponents, Pistons.
For Detroit, they had the luxury of having last played on Monday night where they picked up a win against the struggling Houston Rockets and should come into this game with confidence. In their game against Houston, Reggie Jackson was superb as he went off for 31 points and 8 assists. Andre Drummond also had another big game as he went for 24 points and grabbed 13 boards in just 27 mins of action! The big man could have another monster performance as Phoenix is once again missing their starting Center, Tyson Chandler. The veteran former All-Star was brought in this off-season to give the Suns a defensive edge and intensity but he's battling a hamstring issue and will sit out once again. It will be the young Ukranian, Alex Len, who will once again start and he's got a lot to learn still at this level and will be out-musceled by the bigger and stronger Drummond. Stan van Gundy's team has done very well at home this year and is coming an all-around impressive performance as a team since they managed to shoot 53% from the field against Harden and the Rockets. We expect some of that momentum to carry over into tonight's contest and see them pulling away from the tired Suns at some point.
The Pistons currently sit with a .500 record at the moment and a victory tonight would officially give them a winning record. While many may view that as insignificant, we believe that plays a huge part in a team's mental outlook. Having a winning record, even if it is just a single game, gives the players confidence and drive while being tagged with a "losing record" could often cause players to have a defeatist attitude and affect their play on the court. It's those mental advantages that could be the difference in this contest. Detroit is not only arguably the better team but they are the more confident and rested squad going into this matchup and that should be enough to get the win and cover at home at this short price.
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