February 2, 2016 (3:20 PM ET)
There are two picks tonight.
1) Take Portland Blazers at -7 spread against Milwaukee Bucks for 3% of the bankroll.
The Blazers are in a dogfight with the Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings for the 8th and final playoff position in the Western conference! Portland currently occupies that 8th spot and will need to win this game to keep it after Utah outlasted Chicago in overtime last night. If they lose this game, they'll drop to 9th and be at least temporarily out of a post-season place. The Kings also won last night (against these same Bucks) which puts further pressure on the Trail Blazers to perform as that's another playoff hopeful squad breathing down their necks. Terry Stotts' team is playing some of its best basketball of the season and should have little trouble securing a victory tonight.
They are facing a tired Milwaukee team that played in Sacramento last night and expended a lot of energy! Not only are they physically fatigued, they are emotionally and mentally frustrated after falling short for what turned out be a deflating loss. After putting up a good fight for the first 3 quarters, they collapsed in the fourth and final period, giving up 37 points! The fact that the Kings were without DeMarcus Cousins made that defeat that much more disappointing. It is a game that the Bucks had hopes of winning and competed hard in. Still without two veteran guards, OJ Mayo and Greivis Vasquez, Milwaukee was also without towering youngster John Henson who's been ruled out for this contest as well. Their depth will be tested tonight on the second night of a back-to-back schedule given that they are without 3 players in their normal rotation. Their starting five of Monroe, MCW, Parker, Middleton and Antetokounmpo each logged 35+ minutes and could be tired tonight. Mix in the fact that there is travel involved and that makes it a lot tougher than consecutive home games two days in a row.
The Trail Blazers have revenge in mind from the lone prior meeting between the two clubs this season. Back on Dec 7th, Portland visited Milwaukee and had a tightly contested battle on its hands and one that it eventually lose 88-90 despite leading by 4 points with just 17 seconds left! That's a game that Damian Lillard and teammates have not forgotten about. They know they let one against the Bucks slip away and will be keen to not repeat that mistake tonight. They are not only the better team at the moment but the more rested and motivated side as well. Look for them to pull away and cover the spread on their way to a victory. This is a tough scheduling spot for the short-handed Bucks while the Blazers have confidence and momentum on their side and will have home court advantage at Moda Center, a venue that's been tough on visiting teams over the years. They are 4-1 ATS after 3 or more consecutive home games this season and have found their rhythm at both ends of the court.
Portland can match a season-high home winning streak with its 5th W in a row tonight while the Bucks have been atrocious away from home this season. They've not only dropped 4 consecutive games away from Milwaukee but own a 7-22 road record on the season! This young team has not played well outside the confines of BMO Harris Bradley Center and is unlikely to suddenly flip the switch tonight. They are up against a quality team that is better prepared and more rested for this game than they are and barring a late backdoor cover, we don't see them staying with this spread. This is a tough spot for them to bounce back out of their funk given that confidence is low after losing 5 of the last 6 and their energy might be as well after competing hard but falling short last night. Look for the Blazers to avenge that previous loss in Milwaukee while maintaining their playoff position in the West standings.
2) Take LA Lakers at +5 spread against Minnesota Timberwolves for 3% of the bankroll.
In a battle of two West bottom-feeders, one side presents great value tonight. The Los Angeles Lakers are a shadow of the team they used to be and are having a terrible season but that doesn't mean they can't win or at least cover the spread tonight. They will be the more desperate team in this contest for several reasons. They've dropped 10 games in a row which matched a franchise-worst record from the 1993/1994 season! The last thing the retiring Kobe Bryant or any player in that locker room wants is to be on the wrong side of history by suffering a record-setting 11th defeat!
The Lakers are a bad team but so are the T-Wolves. Both are experiencing ugly skids as Minnesota has lost 8 of the last 10 themselves! Neither team is hot nor quality but one is on the verge of an embarrassing streak that no player or coach wants to be a part of. As if that wasn't enough incentive to come out of the gate fired up, the Lakers know that they head out on a road trip after tonight for games against the Pelicans, Spurs, Pacers and Cavaliers! They'll be double-digit underdogs in each one of those games and will find it extremely tough to snap this slide. Therefore they realize that this home game against the second-worst team in the West is their very best chance to win! Failure to do so will not only see them make franchise history for all the wrong reasons but could easily see their losing stretch extend to 15 or more games! The players understand that and will come out and give it their all. Their sense of urgency should see them come out on top but even if they don't, we expect the 5 points to prove precious and come into play.
The Timberwolves have already beaten the Lakers twice this season and have a game against the superior Clippers, on deck tomorrow night. They will want to test themselves against Chris Paul and company and know that contest presents a much bigger challenge. The fact that Minnesota has another game tomorrow to think about and keep players fresh for, does not bode well for them in this spot. That's because they are at least partially looking ahead to that matchup while their opponents are hungry and solely focused on the task at hand! To make matters worse, veterans Kevin Garnett and Nikola Pekovic are 'doubtful' to participate which leaves little depth in the Center and Power-Forward positions for the T-Wolves. Adreian Payne was on the NBA court for a total of 35 minutes in the month of January and could be rusty if called into action. Dieng and Towns will certainly provide problems for the Lakers but Minnesota doesn't have any depth behind them which means the team's quality of play will suffer when one or both of those inevitably take a breather on the bench. And with another game on deck tomorrow, coach Sam Mitchell will be mindful of minutes-restriction.
Byron Scott's team is undoubtedly a poor one this season but are they so bad that they will get swept 3-0 in the season series by Minnesota? Let's not forget that while the T-Wolves are improved, they still sit just 14th (second-last) in the Western conference and have an abysmal 14-35 record on the season. They have lost 4 games in a row and are in no position to be laying 5 points on the road! Especially on the front end of a back-to-back schedule and against a hungry squad that is desperate to not rewrite history. The fact that LA lost the two prior meetings against Minnesota should only further fuel their fire and motivate them. That's because those two defeats came by a combined 2 points! That's right, they were both 1-point losses! The Lakers would cover the spread if something similar happened tonight give that they are being spotted 5 points but they are likely to do better than that, knowing they were just one play away from a W in those games. Inexperience played a role in those narrow defeats and the young players on this roster have gotten more playing time since then. They've learned some valuable lessons and should execute better with the help of veterans like Lou Williams. Look for Staples Center to be in party mode after this game as the lowly Lakers snap out of their current slide and register a rare victory. Even if they fall short however, this live underdog is likely to cover the generous spread.
Other notable facts to consider:
- Timberwolves are just 3-9 ATS as a favorite this season!
- Lakers are 9-1 ATS after a game where they had 5 or less offensive rebounds!
- Timberwolves are 17-44 ATS after a close road loss (3 points or less) over the last 3 seasons!
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