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February 5, 2016 (3:58 PM ET)

There are two NBA picks tonight before the focus shifts to college basketball on Saturday!

1) Take LA Clippers at -4 spread against Orlando Magic for 3% of the bankroll.

The Clippers are in bounce-back mode tonight after a shocking defeat to the visiting Timberwolves! Minnesota had lost 12 straight road games while Doc Rivers' side was riding a 4-game winning streak going into that contest. That led to complacency and cost LA a very winnable game, something that Chris Paul took responsibility for as the captain of the squad and vowed to not let repeat. It should be noted that prior to that very rare slip-up, the Clippers had been 'all business' against lesser teams and had lost only one game to a team with a losing record since the beginning of December! They aren't a group that gets caught looking ahead much but they did on that occasion and learned a valuable lesson from it. They are fully focused heading into Orlando, knowing that they can't drop consecutive games to inferior opposition, and that makes them dangerous tonight.

The Clippers will not be overlooking the Magic for 3 different reasons. 1) They looked past their last opponent and it cost them dearly. 2) Orlando nearly caused an upset at Oklahoma City on Wednesday which caught the attention of the entire league. 3) The Magic took these same Clippers right down to the final possession in the last meeting between the two sides. LA won that game 103-101 on Dec 5th but will not have forgotten how tough it was! They know this Orlando squad can be a tough out if they let them find their rhythm and we expect them to do that.

The Magic are heartbroken after another close loss! This team has had to endure too many of those in 2016 and is no doubt discouraged and dejected heading into this matchup. They performed admirably against the Thunder two nights ago only for a clutch 3-pointer from Kevin Durant to seal the win for OKC with just 0.5 seconds left on the clock! It was another devastating defeat that this young squad has had to experience and not the type that is easy to 'get over'. Orlando is now just 2-14 since the turn of the year for the worst mark in the NBA, in that span! They have actually played better than that record suggests but failure to close out games has given them all kinds of problems. They went scoreless in the final 2 minutes and a half at Oklahoma City and wasted a great effort from Victor Oladipo, who hasn't always been as sharp this year.

Three of their losses this year have come in OT (overtime) and many others in the same manner in which their most recent game ended! After putting up such competitive efforts but falling just short, we believe they'll find it difficult tonight. They are frustrated and deflated. These narrow losses have taken a toll on them mentally and proven stressful to deal with. Now facing a superior motivated team that is 32-17 on the season and has shown no problems winning on the road (15-9) this game won't be as close. Look for the Clippers to pull away and cover this short spread in the process.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Orlando has lost 10 of its last 11 games!
  • Orlando has allowed an average of 112.3 points in its last seven games.
  • Clippers are 16-5 ATS as a road favorite of 3.5 to 6 points over the last 3 seasons!

2) Take Boston Celtics at +7 spread against Cleveland Cavaliers for 3% of the bankroll.

The Celtics are an improved team from last year and are set to make another playoff appearance, except this time with loftier ambitions! Last year, they were just happy to make it as the 8th and final seed and were still in rebuilding mode with some new trade pieces ala Isaiah Thomas working their way in. By now, this squad has had a lot of time together and has developped excellent chemistry. Every player knows his role and the tenencies of his teammates well and the entire group has grown together. Players like Jae Crowder are having the best season of their careers while Isaiah Thomas is now officially an All-Star! The squad has good depth with capable players like Evan Turner, Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynik and Tyler Zeller coming off the bench and each contributing in different ways. Boston has been playing very well recently, having won 7 of its last 8 and is now keen to test itself against the top team in the Eastern conference! That's because for all their impressive performances, the C's still lack 'marquee wins' against elite competition. They know this is an excellent opportunity for them to make a statement and should put up a competitive effort.

The Cavaliers were shocked in Charlotte by the Hornets after coming out flat in the second half. The fact that Kemba Walker was absent that day gave them a false sense of security at half-time. Ty Lue's side put in a less than inspired display and was rightly punished for it. We believe LeBron James and company were caught off-guard and will be more focused tonight. They'll want to bounce back with a W and are likely to somehow edge it but covering the spread is another matter. This should be a closely contested battle against a very good and under-rated Boston team. The notion that they're going to simply blow them out is naive. We expect the Celtics to be live underdogs and challenge for the outright victory! They will probably fall just short if questionable ref calls (home-cooking) bail out the Cavaliers as they often have in the past at Quicken Loans Arena. However, even if that is the case, the C's should do enough to stay within this generous spread since the spread should be no more than 5 points in our opinion but they've been installed as +7 underdogs! There is value in backing the capable underdogs in this situation.

The Celtics have averaged 110 points on their way to going 10-3 over their last 13 games! The Cavs have been an improved scoring bunch themselves since the firing of David Blatt as well. This should be a high-scoring and entertaining affair between two very good teams. The difference is that Cleveland is full of house-hold names while this Boston bunch are still up-and-coming and flying under the radar! Brad Stevens' team is in particular brilliant coming out of time-outs as they regularly confuse the opposition with unique sets. Boston was swept by Cleveland in last year's playoffs and also lost to them at The Garden earlier this season 89-77! They will lack no motivation for this contest. Those losses are crowding the average NBA fan's judgement. This Celtics squad is more confident than in was in those previous meetings and is eager to settle the score and put up a much better fight! The betting public is backing the Cavaliers and expecting another double-digit win but we believe they'll be disappointed at the end of the game.

It wouldn't surprise us if Cleveland got some questionable foul calls just to win this game. Covering the spread will be that much more difficult and is unlikely to happen unless it comes right at the end. However the fact that Cleveland has another game scheduled for tomorrow does not help them. The absence of Matthew Dellavedova should not be overlooked either. The gritty backup PG was instrumental in last year's 4-0 playoff sweep over the C's and has continued to be a pest for opposing teams this season! Kyrie Irving is incredibly talented and should have a big game tonight but on the defensive end, he's not at the same level as the Austrialian import. Mo Williams will likely be the point-guard for the second unit but the veteran has not played a lot this season and could be quite rusty. That's when the Celtics' bench may do some damage and keep things close.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Cavaliers are just 17-24 ATS as a favorite this season.
  • Boston is 15-9 ATS when seeking revenge for a previous loss this season.
  • Boston is a perfect 11-0 ATS on the road when the total is set at 210 points or higher over the last two seasons!

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