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February 19, 2016 (4:50 PM ET)

There are 3 picks tonight.
 

1: Take Denver Nuggets at +4 spread against Sacramento Kings for 3% of the bankroll.

The Denver Nuggets have been spread-covering machines since the turn of the year and yet continue to fly under the radar. This isn't a squad full of household names nor one that is high up in the standings and that means they remain largely ignored by the casual bettor. The sharps on the other hand take advantage when the right matchups present themselves and this contest against the dysfunctional Kings is certainly one of them. That's because while both teams are coming off lengthy layoffs due to the All-Star break, one has shown a habitual propensitity to be lazy and disinterested. Sacramento players may say the right things in the media and signal their intention to make the playoffs but their actions on the court have proven otherwise! They are the worst defensive team in the league and simply refuse to show up on that end of the court, on most nights. They have allowed an average of 109 points per game this season and most recently were embarrassed even further by giving up 120+ points on a regular basis.

Not playing defense is a recipe for disaster but that's not where Sacramento's shortcomings end. This squad is full of individuals with big egos and that prevents them from gelling well together. Self-interested players are more concerned about their stats than the team winning games and that has been evident through inconsistent displays and poor team efforts all season. They seem on a mission to get their coach, George Karl fired and it is sad to see a legendary coach like him have little to no authority. His resigned body language on the sidelines says a lot about his level of frustration and his wrecked relationship with star player DeMarcus Cousins seems ongoing despite reports that the two had buried the hatchet. Cousins and company have failed to play hard for their coach on a consistent basis and often resort to complaining to referees instead of digging deep and trying harder.

The hosts are playing a team that is in some ways their mirror opposite, in the sense that Nuggest while not the most talented roster, play hard, play as a unified group and have built solid chemistry. They have an established starting lineup by now and a bench that has proven players coming off of it and making an impact such as Will Barton and Jusuf Nurkic. Barton is a frontrunner for the 6th Man of the Year award and rightly so. He's capable of providing an offensive spark for the second unit, something that Omri Casspi and Marco Belinelli do at times for Sacramento but will not tonight. That's because the sharpshooting duo have both had dental work done recently and are highly doubtful to feature in this contest. They are two of the more capable scorers on this squad and their absence will be felt against a Nuggest squad that has all of its key contributors available.

Both squads are longshots to make the playoffs at this stage of the season as they find themselves 4.5 games behind the 8th placed team in the West but while the Kings have more 'talent', they lack discipline and work ethic. They are a dysfuncational bunch that plays well when it wants to and takes nights off when it wants to. Given that this game is coming after a lengthy layoff, it could play right into their 'lazy' mentality and be overlooked. That's especially the case given that they don't have another game schedule for 4 days after this one. The Nuggest meanwhile respect their coach a lot more and are ready to listen to his instructions. They know their 'break' is over as they play 3 games over the next 5 days and should be well prepared for it. Keep in mind that they'll be motivated to play hard for coach Malone given that he was inexplicably fired as the Kings coach prior to this stint in Denver. He no doubt wants revenge for that unjust firing and what better way to get it than by having his current team outplay his former one? Look for Danilo Gallinari and teammates to cause problems for the Kings and cause an 'upset' by perhaps winning this game outright. This is a 50-50 game that could go either way in our opinion and yet one side is being spotted 4 points! All the value is with the capable underdogs in this contest as it would not surprise us to even see them win this game.
 

2: Take Portland Blazers at +9 spread against Golden State Warriors for 3% of the bankroll.

Two teams that were playing great basketball before the All-Star break face off tonight in this Western conference clash. The Warriors are riding another extended winning streak (11) while the Trail Blazers have taken 8 of their last 10 which includes a current 3-game winning stretch! The difference is that while everything Steve Kerr's side does is highly publicized (and deservedly so), Terry Stotts and his team haven't received the media attention that they should. And that makes them hungry to prove themselves to the watching world especially against the defending champs! At the beginning of the season, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Blazers and one that many predicted would see them languish near the bottom. The players have gelled well quickly and admirably however and credit must be given to Portland GM Neil Olshey. He continues to make smart personnel decisions that fly under the radar and pulled off another deal at the deadline that the world will see as 'minor' but definitely improves his side. They added Brian Roberts as the backup PG behind Damian Lillard and he's without a doubt a big upgrade to rookie Tim Frazier who has since been waived. Roberts may not feature much in this particular game but he's an under-rated player and a serviceable guard that should prove to be another good low profile addition to this squad.

Names like Gerald Henderson and Allen Crabbe are hardly household or widely recognized and yet those two provide excellent minutes off the bench for this team and are joined by Noah Vonleh, Harkless and 3-point shooting big Meyers Leonard. This is a roster that is a lot deeper than casual NBA fans realize and has some quality players coming off the bench. The good news is that none have big egos as they each understand their unique role and are willing to do what the coach asks of them. The Blazers have grown a lot in confidence since the last meeting between these two franchises and will have a point to prove tonight. They were blown out by 20 points in that game and will at least want to keep this respectable. We believe this will be a closer game than most anticipate as they may even challenge for the outright win and surprise the Warriors. And while they will probably ultimately fall short, the points are precious and should come into play. It's also worth noting that the Blazers are 7-2 ATS when the total is set at 210 or more points this season!

Golden State is normally all-business but this particular matchup could prove more tricky given the odd scheduling. Teams are rarely at their best after such a lengthy layoff as they have to shake off their rust. Both sides have that issue to worry about but while the Blazers will at least be solely focused on the matter at hand, the team from Bay Area will have one eye on tomorrow's nationally televised game against the Clippers! Facing a red hot LA team that just easily took care of the Spurs last night, Curry and company will naturally want to save 'energy' for them. Key players could face limited playing time in a bid to be available for Saturday's key clash! That means even if Golden State does mount a big lead, the door may be open for a backdoor cover for Portland backers when the Warriors start looking ahead to tomorrow's contest against the 4th seeded Clippers. Portland is much improved from earlier this year and plays far better at the Moda Center, especially when seeking revenge for a previous loss. They have actually won 4 of 5 games when looking to avenge a previous home loss, now they simply have to keep this one within single-digits! We believe they are more capable than the betting public is giving them credit for and they should stay within this generous point-spread. Sharps are on the underdogs in this contest while the casual fan is expecting another beatdown even though this is hardly a favorable spot for the favorites.
 

3: Take Washington Wizards at -1 spread (buy half a point) against Detroit Pistons for 3% of bankroll.

This is an interesting point in the NBA season. The players just received a little bit of a break with the All-Star Break having just concluded and we're also just a day removed from the trade deadline. The Detroit Pistons were a team that made quite a few moves ahead of the deadline and added several new players which include Tobias Harris, Donatas Montiejunas and Marcus Thornton. They are a team that had lost 6 of their 8 games prior to the break and while those newly acquired players will look to help them, we believe it could take some time before their services pay dividends. Basketball is a game of chemistry and rhythm, therefore while the aforementioned players are talented, it will take them some time to learn van Gundy's system and to and gel with the already established players on the roster. In their first game back, Montiejunas and Thornton are not likely to feature, but we expect Harris to play and perhaps be just a bit out of sorts. We believe they will provide good additions in due time and could help the Pistons grab a postseason spot but to expect immediate improvements is naive.

Aron Baynes has played an important role for Detroit this season as Drummond's backup and has in fact been preferred to him at times late in games due to Andre's poor free-throw shooting. The Australian big is an under-rated player whose absence doesn't shift the spread but arguably should. He sat out practice yesterday and is questionable for this contest. The former San Antonio player may or may not feature tonight but even if he does, he clearly is not 100%.

As for the Washington Wizards, they were somewhat conservative at the trade deadline but did manage to acquire the services of the disgruntled but talented forward Markeiff Morris from the the Suns. Morris is a big upgrade to both Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair (whom he was exchanged for) and can be an effective contributor in the right environment. He had been seeking a move away from Phoenix ever since the summer and has finally gotten his wish! Now in a new setting, and hungry to prove himself, he could give this Wizards team a boost. Washington's main advantage tonight however will come from the fact that they had what proved to be a tune-up game against the Utah Jazz last night. That contest against the Jazz was their chance to get back on court and become re-adjusted to playing at game speed. Even though they played last night, they should be the more crisp team when it comes to the rhythm of the game. There's no substitue for competitive NBA action and the fact that Washington players experienced that last night while the Pistons have had a long lengthy layoff makes them the favorite.

While many will look at the Wizards as being on a back to back and view that as a negative, we actually believe it benefits them in this particular scenario. The Wizards are in the midst of a strange scheduling spot nd will actually play on three consecutive nights. They faced the Jazz last night, will face the Pistons tonight and then will travel to South Beach to take on the Miami Heat tomorrow. Last night's game was a must win for the Wizards and they managed to come away with the victory. Tonight should also be considered a must win for Washington as they will be in a less than ideal situation tomorrow with it not only being their third straight game, but also due to the fact that they have to travel.

The Wizards need to win these types of games if they are to have a chance of making the playoffs. After such a poor first half to the season, they could use last night's momentum where key players were rested down the stretch due to their comfortable double-digit lead. Playing at home at the Verizon Center gives them the advantage and even if this is a closely contested game, we expect their fan base to give them the extra motivation to pull out the victory. The Pistons have a lot of 'moving parts' at the moment and have to shake off their rust when John Wall and company already did that yesterday and are in better game shape tonight. Randy Wittman's side owes the DC crowd a proper home winning streak and should ride its intangible edge to a W tonight and give its post-season aspirations a big boost.




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