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February 1, 2016 (4:00 PM ET)

There are 3 picks tonight.
 

1) Take Toronto Raptors at -5 spread against Denver Nuggets for 3% of the bankroll.

To say the Raptors have been hot would be an understatement. The Canadian club has won 11 in a row to  position itself near the top of the Eastern conference right below the Cavaliers! They've separated themselves from the chasing pack and now sit just 2.5 games behind Cleveland. They wrapped up the perfect homestand and now head out on the highway where they know tougher tests await them. Dwane Casey is the Eastern conference Coach of the Month and has warned his squad that if their concentration levels dip as they did in the 4th quarter of their last game, their winning streak will come to an end! The fact that he knows when to empower and encourage his players but isn't easily satisfied shows great leadership and quality.

The Raptors are riding a franchise best 11-game winning streak and are in the midst of creating history! Kyle Lowry and company pride themselves on being pioneers and and are playing with supreme confidence at the moment. They'll give everything they have to extend this impressive stretch and won't want this run snapped. The good news is that Toronto will not be complacent going into this matchup. They realize that winning on the road is much tougher than at the Air Canada Center and with this being their first stop on this road trip, the Nuggets have their full attention. The Raptors won't be looking ahead to tomorrow's game in Arizona for example since that is against the lowly Suns and they believe they have a tougher task at hand against Denver tonight. Look for DeMar DeRozan and teammates to start their itinerary with a W as they are well rested, motivated and playing great basketball. 

The Nuggets are a team in transition and one that plays hard for Mark Malone but they still have a long way to go before they can compete with the best. The fact that they are just 5-21 against teams with winning records is telling! It shows that when they face off against better teams, they fall short as they just aren't at their level yet. The Raptors have been covering double-digit spreads recently and so to ask them to win a game by more than 5 points isn't much. It definitely won't come easily but they should pull away at some point and barring a late backdoor cover, we don't see how Denver keeps up.

Keep in mind that the Nuggets have already surprised the Raptors once this season. They won by 1 point on Dec. 3 as big underdogs! Toronto overlooked them in that spot and paid a heavy price. They won't make the same mistake twice! They head to Pepsi Center with revenge in mind and will look to even the score. They are sharing the ball well and excelling on both ends of the court. They are the superior team in this matchup and the fact that they won't be looking past their lowly opposition means they should secure the win. It's also worth noting that Toronto is 10-1 ATS against Northwest division opponents over the last 3 seasons!

The Nuggets are coming off a 3-game road trip which makes this a tougher spot than normal for them. Especially since this is their only home game before heading to Salt Lake City to take on rivals Utah Jazz on Wednesday. It doesn't help that their last game in Indiana went to overtime and saw them expend a lot of energy only to fall short. Back the better team (Raptors) as they cover the short spread in the process of extending their winning streak to 12 games!
 

2) Take Dallas Mavericks at +6 spread against Atlanta Hawks for 3% of the bankroll.

These two teams both played last night and then had to travel which isn't ideal for neither but one squad has numerous advantages and is undervalued in this spot. The Mavericks have momentum and confidence on their side after a huge 4th quarter last night. Their defense locked down in the final period and limited the Phoenix Suns to just 9 points in twelve minutes! That was much to the delight of long-serving coach Rick Carlisle whose side has now kept its last 2 opponents to under 37% shooting from the field! They'll need that defensive toughness and intensity against a jump-shooting team like Atlanta.

The Hawks were overtaken by direct rivals, Miami Heat, in the Southeast division standings last night! That was a big blow to a team that was already suffering from fragile mentality. Mike Budenholzer's club has dropped 5 of its last 6 and seems to be doubting its identity at the moment. The fact that names like Teague and Horford have been thrown around in the media in trade rumors isn't helping their cause. Some of the players are understandably confused and feeling less secure given that NBA insiders believe a shake-up may be likely in ATL and that the franchise is considering offers for certain players. Dealing with the pressure and uncertainty that comes with being on the trading block is difficult to deal with for a locker room. Time will tell what the trade dealine has in store for the Hawks but for now speculation isn't going away and this squad has to find a way to not get distracted. Unfortunately for them, last night's defeat was deflating in more ways than one! Not only did Atlanta give up the division lead to the Heat but they fell to 5th in the East and could suddenly find themselves in a tight race for a playoff berth given the logjam in the Eastern conference this season where every team but two (Nets and 76ers) are still in contention for a post-season spot! The Hawks have potential and will get it together again at some point but to do so after a big loss, on a short turnaround with travel involved, means some of the players will lack enthusiasm tonight.

The Mavs rested future Hall of Famer, Dirk Nowitzki last night so he can be fresh for this contest. They also carefully limited the minutes of other stars while giving court time to fringe players in the squad. This is a deep roster and one where everyone knows their role. Nobody is complaining about playing time and players are happy to chip in and contribute in whatever way they can. Some are doing so effectively from the bench such as Dwight Powell, JJ Barea and Charlie Villaneuva while others have locked down starting spots (Deron Williams, Pachulia and Parsons) and are thriving thanks to the confidence shown in them by the coaching staff. The Hawks haven't used as many players in their rotation and that means players like Mike Muscala are not as ready to be called upon if required due to an in-game injury or an underperforming star. Shooting-guard Kyle Korver is one such individual. The normally sharp-shooting veteran has had a season to forget and was even held scoreless in last night's game! The Hawks as a whole have shot just over 40% from the field in their last 3 games and are sputtering. Against a Dallas defense that has recently founds it defensive identity, their struggles could continue.

We don't expect the Mavs to hold Atlanta to under 40% shooting but we do expect them to challenge for the outright win and take this game right down to the wire. Dallas games have often been decided in the final possession or two and it wouldn't surprise us if this one was as well. Mark Cuban's franchise has revenge on its mind after losing by just 3 points at home to these Hawks back on December 9th and Wes Matthews admitted that they have 'unfinished business' with Atlanta! The Mavericks won't wanna be swept in the season series and while the Hawks may pull out a closely contested win, we expect the points to come into play in that case. All the value is with the live underdogs in this contest as the Hawks are dejected, tired and currently lacking confidence. They may bounce back and somehow get the W but we don't believe it'll be convincing or easy. Take the six precious points as they may come into play, in what should be a tight game.
 

3) Take Washington Wizards at +10 spread against OKC Thunder for 3% of the bankroll.

The inconsistent play of the Wizards has been a source of headache for coach Randy Wittman. He won't have to endure one tonight as he won't be on the sideline. He'll be absent for the next 2 games due to the death of his brother and that means assistant Don Newman will set the tone. Wittman and his players don't always seem to be on the same page and despite him barking orders at them, it often seems to go in through one ear and exit from the other. It won't hurt this group to have a new voice on the bench, in fact it may just help grab their attention! The players will need no motivation for this game anyway as they are going up against DC native Kevin Durant and company, a team that's dominated them in recent years! The Wizards are a team that can be lazy against lesser opposition but does not like being viewed as underdogs and play with a chip on their shoulders against better teams. They often raise their level of performance against NBA contenders and the fact that they were beaten soundly at home by the Thunder, earlier this season, means they'll be out for revenge against OKC. While we doubt they'll cause an upset and win this outright, they should be competitive and keep this within single-digits.

When the Wizards are 'engaged' and interested, they tend to play well. For example, in their last game, they went to Houston and surprised James Harden and the Rockets. It was a morale-boosting narrow win for a team that was short on confidence and had dropped 3 in a row! The fact that they competed hard and walked out with a W will give them belief that they can have success in Oklahoma City as well. This will be a tougher game but it's one that should have a closer final score than the betting public expects and one that won't be a walk in the park for the Thunder. At some point, Billy Donovan's side is gonna go on a run and pull away but to spot a team 10 points is a dangerous proposition and presents sharp bettors backing the big underdog, several different ways to cash out tickets.

The fact that the team from the nation's capital has dropped 6 in a row in Oklahoma City means the Thunder may well be looking past them. Those looking beyond the surface however will see that 2 of those games went to overtime and Washington was fairly competitive in most of those trips. Their failure to close out games cost them wins but the Vegas line has proven kinder thanks to generous point-spreads. We handicapped this game at OKC -8 and find this line (10 points) inflated! The average Joe loves betting on hot teams no matter what the line is and is laying a basket more than they should in this case. The Washington roster is finally healthy after having as many as 7 players out injured in recent weeks! Brad Beal, Otto Porter, Drew Gooden, Gary Neal, Nene and Gortat had all missed time but are now back which gives Wizards a solid starting lineup and depth in what should be a high-scoring game.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • The Thunder are just 6-18 ATS against teams with losing records!
  • The Thunder have covered only 5 of 20 games when the total was set at 210 points or higher!
  • The Thunder are just 4-13 ATS after allowing 105 points or more in the previous game.



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