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February 26, 2016 (3:20 PM ET)

There are two picks tonight.
 

1: Take the UNDER 219.5 total points in LA Clippers vs. Sacramento Kings for 3% of bankroll.

These two Pacific division teams square off at Sleep Train Arena tonight and while it should be a high-scoring affair, we don't see it being the complete shootout that the betting public expects. NBA fans have been treated to some ridiculously high scoring games over the past few nights and that has resulted in square 'Over' bets cashing in one after another! Friday's card should see a fair few totals stay 'Under' and we believe this matchup is most likely to fit into that category.

The Kings are a poor defensive club but they have been improved on that end of the court since the All-Star break and reaped the rewards of it with 3 straight wins before falling to the Spurs. In the game against San Antonio, they lost their defensive intensity (allowed 51.8% shooting from the field) and dearly paid for it! Coaches tend to emphasize defensive communication and organization, especially after a game like that and although George Karl runs an up-tempo transition offense, he is no different. Players are more receptive to such instructions after a defeat and it just so happens that both squads are coming off disappointing losses and ones that they need to bounce back from! We believe that will make both sets of players eager to do their part defensively and stick to their assignment. There were too many instances of players not rotating around screens and allowing wide-open looks. There will be some of that on display again tonight but not enough to reach this inflated total.

If this game avoids overtime, we see it staying 'Under'. The average bettor looks at the final score of recent meetings between the two sides and quickly concludes that since those were high-scoring games, this one will be as well. They pay little attention to the fact that books have already factored that in and made the appropriate adjustment. This is a very high total and one that has already been adjusted by Vegas compared to many of the previous meetings. The public is hoping to see another super high scoring game on a Friday night but we believe they'll be disappointed as sharps are on the 'Under'. It doesn't help that sharpshooting veteran, Paul Pierce, will miss this game due to personal reasons. The Clippers will likely use Wesley Johnson in the starting lineup instead and he, much like Luc M'Bah a Moute, is a defensive specalist! Those two players are better defenders than they are shooters while the opposite is true for Paul Pierce who is a legendary scorer but not much of a defender. Jeff Green will also see playing time and while he is a capable player offensively, his athleticism also allows him to block shots, something that Pierce does not do much of.

DeMarcus Cousins is a force to be reckoned with and will get his fair share of points again tonight but the Spurs provided a blueprint of how to limit him offensively and Doc Rivers will have paid attention to that. Of course, in DeAndre Jordan, Clippers have one of the most dominant big men in the game and someone that can match the former Kentucky product's size and physicality! Jordan has led the NBA in rebounds and blocked shots over the last few years and will make it tougher than usual for Cousins. To make matters worse for the Kings, starting PG Rajon Rondo is said to be not only dealing with a turf toe but also tendinitis in his right thumb! Rondo leads the league in assists and while he is a great two-way player and a solid defender, he's got the keys to Sacramento's offense and his absence would be greatly felt if he sat out. It wouldn't surprise us if he played despite his 'questionable' injury tag but how effective he'll be at less than 100% remains to be seen.

The Clippers are looking to avenge last month's loss to the Kings and when they have that in mind, they amplify their defensive intensity. That's evident by the fact that LA games have gone 'Under' 5 of 7 times when seeking revenge for a home loss this season! That's not where it ends however. Doc Rivers makes sure his team is set up right defensively after an upset loss as a favorite, and that has resulted in 6 of 8 such games going 'Under' the set total as well. The Kings will realize that if they want to win this game, they have to play some D, as they did in their first 3 games back from the break. They do have solid defenders in their squad in the likes of Kosta Koufos, Willie Cauley-Stein and Quincy Acy! Those are shot-blocking big men that grab their fair share of defensive rebounds and limit the number of possessions that the opposing offense gets. All in all, this is a matchup that will be played at a relatively quick pace and will likely even see both teams reach triple digits, but that doesn't mean it'll fly over an inflated total that is a couple of baskets too high.
 

2: Take Chicago Bulls at +8 spread (buy half a point) against Atlanta Hawks for 3% of bankroll.

The Bulls are a live underdog in this contest and are being spotted far too many points. After a 5-game losing streak that coincided with the absence of their best player, Jimmy Butler, Chicago has finally learned how to be somewhat effective without him and has put together 3 consecutive wins! It naturally took the squad some time but now every player is comfortable with their specific role and knows how to impact the game. Young talent like Doug McDermott and E'twaun Moore have stepped up while veterans like Rose, Gasol and Gibson continue to provide leadership. The return of Mike Dunleavy should not be understimated either as the experienced 3-point specialist has now had a few games under his belt after missing the majority of the season due to an injury and is starting to find his rhythm.

The Hawks have lost all 3 games since returning from the All-Star break and are a mid-level team this year. They will no doubt be eager to bounce back tonight and register an important W but that won't be easy. That's because they last played four days ago, on Monday Feb 22nd! That was a tough game against Golden State which saw them lose by double-digits despite mounting a furious rally from 23 points down and briefly regaining the lead. They will be rusty tonight. Professional players are used to playing every other day more or less and while an extra day of rest is sometimes good if a roster was hit by injuries or could use a break, three full days of rest is almost always a bad thing. Shootaround and practices are nice and needed but they are no substitute for competitive NBA action for which there's no simulation as it requires an extra gear of intensity. Keep in mind that Atlanta is just 6-11 over the last three seasons when playing after 3 or more days of rest. Therefore they've lost most games in this situation before, now they not only have to win but do so by a big margin, in order to cover this inflated spread! We believe that is unlikely.

While rust could be a real factor in the first half for ATL, Fred Hoiberg's Chicago should be in-rhythm. They've not only gotten regular minutes on the court recently but have shot the ball extremely well. The Bulls have hit 50% or better from the field in each of their last 3 games! They are sharing the ball and spacing out the floor and did so even without Derrick Rose in Wednesday's nationally-televised game against another Eastern conference opponent, Wizards. While we don't expect that incredible shooting percentage to necessarily continue tonight, we do believe they'll be efficient once again but aren't sure the same can be said for the home side. Not being in game shape won't help Budenholzer's club physically but the fact that all the pressure is on them in this contest makes it mentally challenging as well. Afterall, playing at home brings a certain level of pressure with it, as does being installed as a significant favorite on a game shown on ESPN. For a team that has lost 4 in a row at home, their confidence is low at the moment. That little bit of hesitation often means teams have trouble closing games out even if they do have a healthy lead. It's not uncommon for a struggling team to bounce back and find a way to win the game but it generally comes by a few points, and not by double-digits which is pretty much what Atlanta backers need here!

Rose and Gasol are officially 'questionable' for this contest but we believe at least one, if not both are likely to feature in this contest. The veteran big from Spain is definitely more on the 'probable' side as far as his injury status goes and logged over 30+ minutes in the game against Washington, nearly clinching a triple-double! As for Rose, the coaching staff likely rested him last time out for precautionary reasons after he had been playing very well to avoid a serious injury. The fact that he went through shootaround this afternoon without any issues signifies that he has a solid chance of playing. Even if he does sit out however, Aaron Brooks and Moore have shown their ability to play distibutor as well as scorer and should do well at the PG position for the Bulls. Grab this generous line while you can because if it gets announced that Gasol and Rose will play as we believe they likely will, this spread could fall as short as +6 and will not present as much value. After having lost handily to these Hawks twice already this season, Chicago players are no doubt looking to avenge those defeats and find themselves in an ideal spot, going up against a reeling team that last played four days ago! The Hawks may mount a comeback and find a way to win this game but even if they do, we don't believe it'll be convincing or by a big margin. The Bulls are capable underdogs in this spot and can challenge for the outright win! We'll gladly take the precious points with them since they are being given too many.




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