January 13, 2016 (3:35 PM ET)
There are 3 picks tonight.
1) Take Denver Nuggets at +10 spread against Golden State Warriors for 3% of the bankroll.
The Warriors will be playing in their 4th game in six nights and will have to do in the thin air of Denver, a place where altitude has often played a role in tiring out opposing teams in the 4th quarter! Golden State may win this game but we doubt it'll come by double-digits. To ask them to cover such inflated spreads in a less than ideal situation, is unfair. Luke Walton and the Warriors coaching staff have their eyes set firmly on the big picture and while they will want to extend their current winning streak, they have some of their focus and attention on upcoming games. That has been evident in their decision-making as they are resting Draymond Green tonight. Green has been the most indispensable player on the roster next to Steph Curry and leads the team in minutes this season! The versatile forward has been a revealation and is without a doubt, an All-Star! He has been a triple-double machine and his absence will be felt tonight. The Warriors do have great depth in their roster but with Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingson also potentially having their minutes restricted and Barbosa and Barnes having only recently come back from injury, the defending champions are hardly primed to be at their best.
Green and Iguodala are the only two players to have participated in every single game for Golden State this season. Draymond Green of course has played an even bigger role than the 11-year veteran, having averaged 35 minutes per game! He gives the Warriors that 'nasty' streak that all championship teams need while being able to stretch out the floor and hit 3-balls if left open beyond the arc. Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli will play their part to prevent the Warriors from suffering in the rebounding department but their shooting efficiency should go down if Mark Malone's squad can limit easy points in the paint. And they are likely to do so given that Nikola Jokic, JJ Hickson, Kenneth Faried, Jusuf Nurkic and Geoffrey Lauvergne are all shot-blocking bigs that can push their weight around in the post. We believe Ezeli and Bogut will have good games but points could be a bit harder to come by for Golden State tonight and that makes covering such a big spread more difficult.
Even if the Warriors do mount a big lead, there is always a chance for a backdoor cover when laying double-digit points. In fact, that's exactly what happened when these two sides last met as a 20+ point lead ultimately turned to a close 3-point win! We don't expect Golden State to get as complacent tonight but while they are playing in altitude and could be fatigued in the second half, Denver has everyone but Wilson Chandler who is out for the season finally healthy and ready to contribute. Italian forward Danillo Gallinari has averaged 25.8 points over the last 5 games and should play a pivotal role in this contest! With his ability to both spot up and shoot 3-pointers as well as drive to the basket, he should be able to open up space for others like Will Barton to flourish. Gary Harris and Randy Foye will need to hit their uncontested 3-pointers while Faried should clean up the glass as he always does. The man nicknamed 'The Manimal' has an uncanny way of getting the Denver crowd going with his relentless energy and athleticism and with Draymond Green not there to offset his energy, the Warriors could find it tough. Mark Malone is a coach that emphasizes defensive intensity and his team seem to have finally understood his principles. While they will find it tougher against the sharpshooting Warriors tonight, they will hang their hat on the impressive achievement of having limited their last 3 opponents to less than 40% shooting! That gives them confidence heading into this contest.
This is the 4th and final game between these two Western conference foes this season. Having dropped the previous 3 contests against the champs, we expect the Nuggets to do everything they can to avoid the embarrassing 0-4 sweep! The fact is that this is a much BIGGER game for Denver than it is for Golden State. Whenever the defending champions come to town, they have a target on their back and the full attention of opposing players. The crowd at Pepsi Center would love nothing more than to see their beloved Nuggets compete against Golden State and should see that tonight. If the rookie Emmanuel Mudiay can limit his turnovers, Denver will have a chance to sneak within this generous spread. The two sides' motivation is not matched tonight as one team cares a lot more about this particular game than the other. Whether it's a 7-point win or a 12-point win makes little difference to Steph Curry and company whose only task is to secure the W while heading back to the airport unscathed. Having set all kinds of records with recent winning streaks, they dont' need to outdo themselves just yet. Their only goal at this stage of the season is to limit injuries and keep key players fresh for more important games. Look for the Nuggets to take advantage of these intangibles and present a tougher challenge than most anticipate.
2) Take Charlotte Hornets at +3 spread against Atlanta Hawks for 3% of the bankroll.
The Hornets are an improved team this year and can contend for a playoff spot. They are currently being written off by everybody and are undervalued after enduring their worst run of the season which has seen them drop 7 straight games! What many fail to take into account is the tough schedule they've faced which is more daunting than what their opponents, Hawks, have battled this season and the fact that they are coming off a tough West coast trip where they actually played well against top-tier competition like the Warriors and Clippers and were mostly competitive.
Steve Clifford is a quality coach and will demand a 100% effort from his players in this contest. That's because they are the more desperate team in this matchup and will no doubt be extra motivated to end this ugly 7-game slide. It should be mentioned that despite this rare recent stretch, they are still in playoff contention and only 2.5 games behind the Orlando Magic for that 8th and final post-season position. Their playoff aspirations are by no means over, they simply need to snap out of this funk and get a W under their belt and while this will surprise many, we believe it can come against the division leading Atlanta Hawks. That's because Budenholzer's club has already shown its tendency to have 'let-down' games after a big win or two. The fact that Atlanta easily took care of its last 2 opponents which included ending Chicago Bulls' 6-game winning steak puts them in a complacent mood tonight. Afterall, they've had great success against Charlotte in the past, having won 15 of the last 18 matchups, and will incorrectly believe that they can easily win this game without a maximum effort. Against a team that is on a 7-game losing streak, it wouldn't surprise us if some players were looking past this game. Meanwhile with Jeff Teague and Thabo Sefolosha banged up, the coaching staff may limit their minutes to save them for more important games.
The Hornets are a very dangerous team when playing in Charlotte. They not only have a winning home record but sport an impressive 13-7 mark when playing in front of their passionate supporters! Kemba Walker and company have frequently put on a show for the fans this season and that includes some 'upsets' of bigger-named teams. It wouldn't surprise us if the atmosphere was once again electric tonight as Jeremy Lamb and Lin provide a spark off the bench and catch the high-flying Hawks off guard. Whether it comes in the form of a 4th quarter rally when Atlanta starts looking ahead to its next game falsely thinking this game is over or through an outstanding effort from tip-off, we believe Michael Jordan's team can win this game outright. Even if they fall just short, however, they should cover the spread thanks to the 3 precious extra points.
The betting public is all over ATL tonight as they see a team with a better record going against the 12th team in the Eastern conference riding a 7-game losing skid! For them, it's a simple decision. Sharps, however, know otherwise. There is a reason, this is such a short line! The oddsmakers have set a 'trap' and the average fan is taking the bait much like they did with the Kansas Jayhawks against West Virginia last night. The Hornets are only 3-point underdogs to a team that owns a much better record and has regularly beaten them over the years including twice already this season! It should be noted that Charlotte lost the previous two games to Atlanta by a combined 5 points! They understand that if they can limit the effectiveness of Al Horford and points in the paint, they could have won at least one if not both of those games. With Cody Zeller likely starting at Center and Al Jefferson who is not a good defender, still out, look for Clifford's squad to get back to its defensive roots. The Hawks have shot over 52% from the field in their last two games but will find that very difficult to maintain especially since they last played 4 days ago on Saturday and any momentum or rhythm they had built, will have evaporated by now. Look for them to come out sluggish giving Charlotte an edge that will get the crowd into it and help them secure an important victory.
3) Take Milwaukee Bucks at +6 spread against Washington Wizards for 3% of the bankroll.
The Washington Wizards had been bit hard by the injury bug with Bradley Beal sidelined for 30+ days! He wasn't the only one. While it is expected that Beal will rejoin his team on the court tonight, many are expecting him to make an immediate impact but we are not so sure that will be the case in this particular contest. As we have seen many times in the past, players that return to their team after a lengthy layoff often show up rusty and out of rhythm. Rather than make an immediate impact to help their team; they essentially become more of a liability in the short run until they get used to playing back at NBA game speed, for which there are no substitutes or simulation. We believe that will be the case with Beal and a number of other players like Nene and Drew Gooden tonight. Along with Beal, it has also been reported that Gary Neal missed shootaround this afternoon and is questionable for this contest which means Garrett Temple will likely get a substantial amount of minutes at shooting guard. If that is indeed the case, he will have a tough matchup going against the likes of Khris Middleton, OJ Mayo and a very dynamic Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The athletic Greek, Antetokounmpo is the type of player that thrives on confidence. When he has an impressive performance, he feeds on that type of momentum and becomes extremely difficult to contain. He snapped out of his recent funk with a huge performance against the Bulls which allowed his team to gain a manner of revenge from a recent loss and we expect he and his teammate’s momentum from the 4th quarter to carry over into this game. While the Bucks are a team that builds off of confidence and momentum; Washington is a team that seems to be hindered by it. Off of two consecutive wins, we have often seen the Wizards get complacent and get caught in a let-down position. We wouldn't be surprised to see Randy Wittman fail to properly motivate his team in this contest and the Wizards players come out a bit flat for this contest.
While many may look and see that the Bucks are on a back to back set in this contest and view that as a negative; Milwaukee has actually thrived in this position going 7-2 ATS when playing on the second half of a back to back. This is an extremely young team who doesn't suffer from fatigue as some of the other, more veteran laden teams may. The Bucks actually seems to be more motivated in their second game and we wouldn't be surprised if that was the case again tonight. The Bucks have already dropped two games to Wizards this season including an ugly blowout in their last visit to the nation's capital. We expect that they will be extremely motivated in this contest to gain their revenge. We also wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar performance like the one against the Bulls with the Bucks completely dominating the game.
The biggest advantage that the Bucks will likely have in this contest is at the Center position as Washington will be without the services of Marcin Gortat, which is a huge loss for the Wizards. This will allow Greg Monroe to basically have his way down low near the basket and will have a much easier time scoring off a much-less athletic Nene in this contest. The Bucks are still in the playoff picture if they can put together a winning streak and cannot afford too many more slip ups. With John Wall also nursing a knee injury, this could be Milwaukee's best chance to pick up a win. We believe that they are live dogs in this contest, but even if they happen to fall short of the outright victory, the generous 6 points are likely to come into play. This game will be closer than expected with the Bucks cashing our tickets at the end.
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