February 3, 2016 (3:31 PM ET)
There are two picks tonight.
1: Take Sacramento Kings at -2 spread against Chicago Bulls for 3% of the bankroll.
Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins have 'questionable' injury status going into this game but we believe they will both likely play tonight. Rondo played 35 minutes in the previous game against Milwaukee without any problems and seemed just fine. He's been a triple-double machine for the Kings this season and leads the NBA in assists! He's been give the keys to this offense by George Karl and has brought great leadership qualities to a squad that lacked playoff experience and a winning mentality. It would surprise us if he didn't feature tonight but even if he did miss out, Darren Collison is one of the most underrated point-guards in the league and more than capable of starting for some NBA teams! While he lacks Rondo's defensive presence, he's more comfortable with the ball in his hands and is the much better shooter. The Bulls will most likely have to take turns dealing with both in the back-court however and that is not a task that'll be easy for Rose and company.
DeMarcus Cousins is averaging 27 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.38 blocks per game and is having the best season of his NBA career! He's one of the most dominant players in the league and presents matchup problems for the Bulls as they'll likely have to rely on the much older Pau Gasol to limit his effectiveness. Gasol is still a quality player but at 35 years of age, he doesn't move quick enough anymore and lacks the athleticism that Sacramento bigs (Cousins, Cauley-Stein and Koufos) bring to the table. Whether Cousins plays in this game or not, we believe Sacramento has enough offensive firepower to win this game and cover the spread, much like they did on Monday night. Most likely however, both him and Rondo will take the court and when that gets publicly reported, this line will likely shift to -4 or higher! To lay only two points with the capable home team is a bargain.
Chicago is coming off consecutive defeats but bouncing back won't be easy tonight. That's because after being blown out by the Clippers in LA, their road trip took a turn for the worse in Salt Lake City. Jimmy Butler and the Bulls battled hard and gave it everything they had in a tighly contested game that was settled in overtime! And yet the end result was a deflating loss as Chicago managed to score only 3 points in the five additional minutes after regulation. Frustrated is one way to describe that locker room. Mix in the fact that they've had to travel from Utah back to California (unlike their opponents), and tired legs could definitely play a role tonight. That's because Butler and Taj Gibson were on the court for more than 45 minutes while Gasol logged 40 and the injury-prone Rose played 37 minutes! Fatigue is a recipe for disaster against an up-tempo George Karl offense that relies on getting the ball out quickly in transition and continuosly pushing the pace. An interesting fact is that Chicago is 0-12 ATS since last April after Jimmy Butler played more than 40 minutes on the road and should struggle again tonight.
If the Sacramento Kings want to make the playoffs, they need to win home games like this one at Sleep Train Arena. This is a great opportunity for them to inch closer to the Blazers for that 8th and final post-season spot in the Western conference and make up ground against another rival, Utah Jazz, who are also in the hunt. While we expect Rondo and Cousins to play, we believe the Kings are capable of winning this game and covering this spread even without them! This is a talented squad that does not lack depth. Rudy Gay and Omri Casspi will be a handful offensively against a Chicago side that is missing several players due to injuries, as will Collison and former Bull, Marco Belinelli. Fred Hoiberg's squad is lacking an identity at the moment and has found it tough in Sacramento over the years, winning only 4 of their last 16 visits there! The Kings have a tough upcoming road trip coming up after this game and know that they must get a W at home to keep pace with their West playoff rivals.
2: Take Utah Jazz at -7 spread (buy half a point) against Denver Nuggets for 3% of the bankroll.
The Jazz are playing extremely well at the moment and need to be as they are involved in a 3-team race for that 8th and final playoff spot in the West! They're currently sitting in 9th place, just behind the Portland Trail Blazers. They need to continue piling up wins to keep pace them while also creating some separation from the chasing pack which includes Sacramento, a team that's only 1.5 games behind them in the standings! The Blazers and Kings each won their last game and Utah did the same but still finds itself on the outside looking in. They're right there in the post-season hunt however and will need to do what Portland did last night which is win at home against lesser opposition. We believe they will do just that and cover the spread in the process. They have great home-court advantage at Salt Lake City and are 15-8 ATS (against-the-spread) when playing in Utah!
The Nuggets are in a classic let-down spot tonight. They were the team that put an end to the Raptors' 11-game win streak and they are still buzzing about that! Toronto was sluggish that night and it was a strange night in Denver, so much so that an excellent foul shooter like All-Star Kyle Lowry was at one point 1 of 6 from the free-throw line! Meanwhile Randy Foye couldn't miss a shot and neither could many of his other teammates even though they were taking some ill-advised ones (poor shot selection) and settling for low percentage attempts. It didn't cost them on that night as every shot was falling but against a stingy defense like the Jazz that limits opponents to an average of just 96.7 points, we believe poor decisions will prove problematic! Quin Snyder's team prides itself on its strong defensive organization while the Nuggets are very much hit-and-miss as far as defensive consistency goes on a game to game basis.
Derick Favors has now had 4 games under his belt after that lengthy injury layoff and has regained his swagger and shooting rhythm. He and Rudy Gobert make for an intimidating and incredibly talented front-court and should pose Denver plenty of problems. Nikola Jokic has been a revealtion for the Nuggets this season but he's dealing with a shoulder strain and while he'll likely feature, he is not 100%. And with Darrell Arthur also sidelined, it'll be up to Kenneth Faried to put in a solid defensive shift. 'The Manimal' is a great rebounder (high-energy player) but he doesn't necessarily excel in blocking shots or being efficient from the field. If the Nuggets decide to pack the paint and try to limit easy baskets, then the 3-point shooting ability of the likes of Hood, Hayward, Ingles and Trey Burke will instead punish them. The Jazz have great balance in their team right now and are communicating well at both ends of the court.
Gordon Hayward put this team on his back in the most recent game against the Chicago Bulls and is playing with supreme confidence right now. He's a natural scorer and can hit jump-shots as well as drive to the basket and finish or or lay off passes for open teammates. If the Jazz are to make the playoffs, they need him to assume a leadership role and be aggressive on the offensive end. He's been doing that recently and should have no problem continuing it against coach Denver given that he bucketed 20 and 26 points respectively in the two prior meetings this season! The Jazz won both of those games quite comfortably and should pull away from the Nuggets at some point in this contest. Barring a late meaningless backdoor cover when the outcome has already been decided, look for Utah to cover this number on its way to a 4th consecutive victory.
Other notable facts to consider:
- The Nuggets are 5-9 ATS after an upset win as an underdog.
- The Jazz are 19-9 ATS as a favorite of 3.5 to 9.5 points over the last 2 seasons!
- The Jazz have won the last 4 meetings between these two franchises!
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