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April 17, 2016

There are 3 picks today.

1: Take Portland Blazers +9 spread (buy half a point) against LA Clippers for 3% of the bankroll. 

This should be a closer game than most anticipate. The Trail Blazers are arguably the most dangerous team in the playoffs as they really are playing with 'house money'. General Manager, Neil Olshey and coach Terry Stotts have done a brilliant job of building a winning squad that is made up of capable but under-rated (low profile) players to complement Damian Lillard. This is a squad with a deep bench and a very capable one while the starting lineup itself is stronger than perceived by casual NBA fans. The best part about them however is that they are greater than the sum of their parts as this roster has excellent chemistry and comraderie! Each and every player knows his role and does things for the greater good rather than for individual accolades. That makes them a dangerous team as they exemplify teamwork. 

The Clippers are a good quality but aren't at their best. Blake Griffin is still rusty after getting less than a handful of games under his belt before the post-season began. He admitted to the media that his conditioning isn't quite there yet and therefore he's not in ideal optimal game shape. Beyond him not being 100% yet however lies a bigger problem. LA got real used to playing without him and actually did quite well. To get Griffin back from that lengthy layoff is a positive but it'll take some more time for them to fully incorporate him back into their strategies. Simply feeding him the ball won't work as each and every player on this squad now has to get re-acclimated with their old way of playing as opposed to their smaller-ball strategies that worked so well for much of the season. This requires a transition phase and the fact that they have to do some of this during the playoffs is an issue as this is the time when every team should be firing on all cylinders and have the playbook fully understood and executed. The Clippers are gonna get better in our opinion as the post-season goes on but in their first few games, they still have a rusty Blake Griffin to work into the rotation and that requires certain shifts in strategy. For that reason, it is unwise to lay big points with them as even the games they do win are unlikely to be by convincing margins.

Portland has been a competitive team for much of the season and even in the games they have lost, they've put up a great right. It just so happens that coach Stotts is also excellent at preparing his team for games when they get 2+ days of rest. The Blazers have an excellent record against the Vegas line (spread) when getting 2 or more days of rest and will be ready for another good showing tonight. The Clippers on the other hand come out a bit rusty at times after a bigger than normal amount of rest. The fact that they've beaten the Trail Blazers 3 straight times might also give them a false sense of security. This should be a fairly closely contested game that could go right down the wire. If that's the case, the 9 points are extremely precious and could well come into play. All the value is with the capable underdogs given the inflated spread.

Other notable facts to consider: 

  • Blazers are 26-19 ATS when seeking revenge for a loss.
  • Clippers are 72-109 ATS after giving up 60+ points in the first half of their last game!
  • Blazers are 23-14 ATS after not covering the spread in their previous game!

2: Take Detroit Pistons +10.5 spread against Cleveland Cavaliers for 3% of the bankroll.

This is an interesting pairing for the first round the Eastern Conference playoffs as the Detroit Pistons square off against the Cleveland Cavaliers. All of the pressure is going to be on LeBron James and company in this series as they look to repeat as Eastern Conference Champions. James has yet to lose a series in the first round of the playoffs as he enters his 11th playoff appearance in 13 years in the league! He has feasted on "lesser opponents" in his playoff career coming away with 13 straight opening game victories and is an impressive 40-7 overall in the first round series with only one series extending extend beyond six games. Winning however does not equate to covering spreads, especially inflated ones such as this. Cleveland may well end up taking this opener but fail to cash tickets in Vegas. All the pressure is on the home side in this contest and that means the plucky underdogs can play 'loose' and free. It would be a mistake for James and company to overlook a Pistons team that are making their first playoff appearance since 2009. The oddsmakers are no doubt reflecting back to James' impressive opening series and playoff records when they released this line, however we don't believe that Cleveland is nearly 11 points better than their opponents, at least not in Game 1.

The Detroit Pistons, while somewhat unfamiliar with the atmosphere that is the NBA playoffs, is a team that is loaded with talent and actually matches up extremely well with the Cavaliers. Detroit managed to take 3 of the 4 meetings between these two teams during the regular season which shows that they have the ability to contend with the Cavaliers. One advantage that we believe Detroit will hold and potential exploit is the fact that Cleveland does not have a true Center in their rotation and instead will be sticking PF Tristan Thompson in there. The Canadian is a good player but he does give up some size to a load like Andre Drummond who is 6"11 of pure muscle, Drummond averaged 16.2 points and leads the NBA in rebounding (14.8) this season! His presence down low, especially on the glass has been critical for the Pistons this season and has been key in holding opposing offenses to single shot possessions. If he continues playing as he has been all season, it will limit the amount of separation that Cleveland is able to put on the scoreboard. 

While nearly everyone is talking about the Big 3 for the Cavaliers, it's important to mention that Detroit has built themselves a solid core of players as well. The addition of Tobias Harris has been huge for this organization, as he adds another dimension and scoring option to the likes of both Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond. Along with key two-way players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (14.5 ppg) and Marcus Morris (14.1 ppg), they have options in the scoring department that weren't present before while having good defenders as well. Rookie Stanley Johnson meanwhile is the X-Factor as he can do a bit of everything and has an incredible competitive streak in him! He's not a player to shy away from the big moments or feel intimidated. He and the likes of veteran PG Steve Blake provide this Pistons team with great depth. This is an all-around solid team that should be able to contend with what we consider a somewhat over-rated Cavaliers team. The oddsmakers are giving far too much respect to Cleveland in this opening matchup and we plan to take advantage of it.

There is no question that LeBron James is the best player on the court and at some point during this contest will put his team on his shoulders and take the game over. That is simply an inevitable fact. That being said, the Pistons have the playmakers on the court in order to keep this game competitive. Unless their shooting goes cold and their shots are not falling, we don't see the Cavaliers pulling away for a double-digit victory. This could potentially be one of the lower scoring games on the card this afternoon and if that is indeed the case, it will make winning by a big margin incredibly difficult. We believe that James and company would need to hold Detroit to around 85 points in order to cover this big number and we simply don't see that happening. While James will find a way to lead his team to victory, we believe the value is on the Pistons as they keep the game fairly competitive and cover this generous pointspread. 

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Detroit is 5-1 ATS in their last 6 vs. teams with a better than 60% winning record!
  • Cleveland is 4-9 ATS in their last 13 home games vs. a team with a losing road record.
  • Detroit is 7-1-1 ATS in their last 9 when their opponent allowed 100 points or more in their previous game!

3: Take Pittsburgh Pirates (-140) on the ML against Milwaukee Brewers risking 4.2% to win 3%.
(Nicasio and Davies must start for wager to have action)

The Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates close out their three game set this afternoon from PNC Park. The Brewers may have taken the series opener on Friday, but the Pirates bounced back strong yesterday as they shut out the Brew Crew, 5-0. With this being the series finale, we don't expect the Pirates to drop a home series versus a Milwaukee team that has some serious issues they need to straighten out, especially considering the Pirates are a perfect 13-0 since May 21, 2013 as a favorite off a home game in which they shut out their opponent. They should have a significant edge in this contest this afternoon.

Milwaukee's starting rotation is a mess right now. Matt Garza is injured and expected to be out until at least mid-May. Wily Peralta has been terrible to start the season and has lost his last 3 starts and Taylor Jungmann was roughed up in his first two starts and is now 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in just 13 innings pitched. This afternoon, the Brewers will turn to Zach Davies who will be making his season debut and just his 7th big league start. Having just 34 total innings at the big league level isn't enough experience to face a veteran and dangerous Pirates lineup. He did face Pittsburgh twice last season and struggled mightily against them, going 0-1 with an 11.25 ERA and 2.25 WHIP! He allowed 10 runs on 10 hits and 8 walks in just 8 innings of work! The last time he visited PNC Park he gave up 6 runs on 6 hits with five walks in just 3.2 innings! Davies could be in for another poor outing this afternoon.

The Pirates will counter as they send Juan Nicasio to the mound this afternoon. While he is just 1-1 with a 5.00 ERA thus far on the season, he has been stellar against Milwaukee in his career dating back to his days with the Colorado Rockies. He has faced them 4 times in his career and has recorded a 2-0 record with an impressive 1.20 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 15 innings of work. He also appears comfortable pitching in PNC Park as in his 5 appearances in this venue; he is 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA over the span of 19 innings. While those statistics are certainly impressive, it’s worth mentioning that Nicasio is a much more experienced and disciplined pitcher at this point in his career. He has become more patient and methodical with his delivery and it has been paying dividends, earning him a spot in the starting rotation after an impressive Spring Training with this team. The Brewers also have another battle they are going to have to contend with as yesterday they faced Jon Niese, who is a much different style pitcher than Nicasio; not to mention a southpaw. Niese is more of a finesse style pitcher and delivers a “soft ball” across the plate. Nicasio however is a much harder throwing pitcher, so the change in velocity that their hitter will be seeing at the plate will likely be enough to keep them off-balance.

Pittsburgh is playing just .500 ball at the moment and a loss today would label them as a "losing" team, not to mention put them in the basement of their division, even below their opponents this afternoon. This is exactly the type of series that they should be able to win, especially in their home park. The Pirates have had a strong advantage playing in front of their home fans as they are 47-23 in their last 70 home games. Davies is a young and talented pitcher with a lot of potential; however the Pirates are not only familiar with him, but have hit him hard in the past. While we don't necessarily expect this to be a blowout victory, we do believe the Pirates should plate enough runs to come away with the victory this afternoon. They are the better team, have the better bullpen, are playing at home and also have a better coach.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Pirates are 20-4 at home in day games over the last 2 seasons!
  • Brewers are just 6-13 in their last 19 matchups versus the NL Central.
  • Pirates are 44-15 off 3 or more consecutive home games over the last 2 seasons! 

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