January 23, 2016 (2:05 PM ET)
There is better value in the NBA than in college basketball today.
There are 2 recommended wagers. The Pistons pick was released earlier at 11:55 AM ET.
1) Take Detroit Pistons at -3 spread against Denver Nuggets for 3% of the bankroll.
The Pistons are a much improved team and are having a better season than they've had in years! And yet there have been inconsistencies that must be addressed if they are to kick on and become a force in the East. Despite owning a winning record and currently occupying a playoff spot, coach Stan van Gundy rightfully called out his team after the last game stating that: "We look like a team that is firmly committed to being mediocre!" While harsh, their up and down performances on a game to game basis warranted those words and it could well spark a fire in his players tonight. That's because they followed up an impressive showing in Houston with an ugly loss in New Orleans where they gave up 72 points in the first half! That tied a franchise record for worst defensive half ever and should have them a lot more focused tonight.
The Nuggets are a club in transition and while coach Malone continues to preach defensive intensity and playing fundamentally-sound basketball, his players have not yet fully understood that. They have greater inconstencies than the Pistons in their play and are overall not as polished a team. That is evident by their poor 16-27 seasonal record which has them on the outside looking in as far as post-season aspirations and playoff basketball go. This is a gradually improving team but it's been a slow process and they still have a long way to go before becoming a 'good' basketball team. They often turn the ball over in key moments, fail to close games out and generally look like a 'young' team despite having some veteran presence. They make rookie mistakes and have a difficult time stamping their authority on a game. The Pepsi Center used to be a daunting visit for opposing teams in past years but at just 8-14 this season, the Nuggets don't enjoy as much of a home-court advantage as they once did. The altitude is still a factor when an opponent is at the end of a lengthy road trip (5+ games) or if it is the second night of a back-to-back schedule but in a situation like this, where the Pistons are well rested and should come out of the gate fired up, we don't believe it'll matter. If anything, the pressure is on the home side since their fans have watched them drop consecutive close games! This young group is not always able to handle pressure well.
The Nuggets have participated in some very closely contested games recently and while that leaves them battle-tested, we believe it has also been a source of frustration for the team and its coaching staff. Mike Malone admitted that: "It gets so old when you hear, 'Hey, great game, great comeback. The fact is that we're paid to win games." It's not uncommon for a team to give up and kind of take a night off if they fall behind by double-digits after a series of tight games that has left them emotionally and physically drained. After losing to the Grizzlies by a single point, Denver could be dejected and deflated. Five of their 6 games on this current homestand has been decided by 3 points or less! We highly doubt this one will be. The Nuggets have a frustrated body language right now and don't fully believe in themselves.
The Pistons have a matchup advantage in the guards and center position tonight. Reggie Jackson and his backup, Brandon Jennings are both better point-guards than rookie Emmanuel Mudiay and veteran Jameer Nelson, who may not even feature tonight after missing the last 3 games with a sprained wrist. Jackson is clutch in closing time and has a size advantage over the opposing guards. Jennings can meanwhile provide a spark off the bench and is more than capable of being the starting PG for some NBA teams, including Denver. In the Center spot, Andre Drummond is a beast. He is the leading NBA rebounder and a genuine rim protector! Offensively, he's improved as well since his footwork allows him to get easy baskets. Nikola Jokic has been a bright spot for the Nuggets this season and is compmosed beyond his years but physically he's going to have a tough time keeping up with Drummond while Nuggets' other big man, Jusuf Nurkic is quite immature and temperamental. Nurkic often gets technical fouls and has been carrying an injury of his own. If the Pistons can limit the production of Faried (mainly offensive boards) and Gallianari's scoring, they should have no trouble winning this game convincingly. At the shooting guard position, Garry Harris has done well for the Nuggets but again is a step behind Detroit counterpart, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is having an excellent season and has no weaknesses!
Detroit is not only the better team but also arguably the more hungry one. In a tight Eastern conference race for playoff positions, they can't slip up. This is a team that has often bounced back from losses with an impressive performance in the following game and we expect the same tonight. Not only that, they have a score to settle with the Nuggets after allowing Denver to get the best of this series over recent years. If Ersan Ilyasova and Anthony Tolliver don't go completely cold from 3-point range, they could win this game by double-digits. It's worth noting that the Nuggets are just 4-18 against teams with winning records! Unlike many others, that is actually a meaningful stat and one that proves what 'class' this squad currently belongs to. They are a weak but improving team and it'll take coach Malone another season to get to where van Gundy has brought the Pistons. Back the better team at this short spread as they cover the spread in the process of securing the victory.
2) Take New York Knicks at PK against Charlotte Hornets for 3% of the bankroll.
These two Eastern conference foes both still harbour playoff aspirations but are currently on the outside looking in. Derek Fisher's Knicks are a much improved club from last year and occupy the 9th spot in the East just behind the final playoff position, at the moment. Only one game separates them from 12th placed Charlotte however as Steve Clifford's squad is within striking distance themselves, in what is an incredibly competitive East this year! If either one of these two franchises wants to make the post-season, they need to win games such as this one. There's a long way to go before deciding that but as far as tonight's contest goes, New York has a distinct advantage. And after allowing a season-high 56% shooting from the field, to the Clippers, they'll play with great defensive intensity and organization tonight. The last three times that this team allowed an opponent to shoot over 50% from the field, they immediately responded in the following game and severely improved that mark!
Both teams played last night and then had to travel which means this won't be an easy game for either one. However, one squad is not only significantly healthier than the other in terms of having more healthy bodies and fewer injuries but they will also be the fresher team. That's because the Hornets were involved in a high-intensity game that went beyond 'regulation' last night. Key players logged heavy minutes and Kemba Walker, in particular, played the entire 4th quarter and overtime! Tired legs could defniitely be a factor for a thin rotation that was already missing several key contributors. Nicolas Batum, Charlotte's jack of all trades has been ruled out for this contest. In addition, Tyler Zeller who has often started as the 'Center' for the Hornets will also miss out again. Not only are those two an important part of the starting lineup, Al Jefferson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist continue to be sidelined. To make matters worse, Clifford's primary go-to option off the bench, Jeremy Lamb who is often an offensive catalyst fo the second unit lasted only 4 minutes on the court yesterday in his return from a toe injury after sitting out the previous 3 games. To say the Hornets are not only missing some of their best players but are lacking healhy bodies altogether would be an understatement.
The Knicks on the other hand were outplayed from start to finish by the Clippers and that meant they quickly shifted their focus to this game as opposed to trying to mount a huge and improbable rally! That game was a blowout from early on and that prompted coach Fisher to limit the minutes of his stars. There's no doubt that Carmelo Anthony and company will be the fresher of the two teams tonight and that may well have an impact on the second half when fatigue starts to surface. New York has great depth in its squad this season and other than Lance Thomas who often backs up Anthony as the reserve SF, they will have everyone else available. Thomas himself is questionable and may be ready to participate tonight. Nonetheless, with the exception of Cleanthony Early who hardly got minutes, this is a deep and healthy roster.
This should be a closely contested game but one team is coming off an ugly loss and will play with a chip on its shoulders to bounce back, while the other has a banged up and tired cavalry and is coming off the emotional high of an overtime road win against a divisional opponent! That puts them in a let-down spot for this particular game after expending so much energy to secure that W last night. Keep in mind that Charlotte has not won consecutive games since back in December! For every win, they often take their foot off the gas pedal in the following game and suffer a defeat. Now at their thinnest in depth all season, it'll be even more difficult to outhustle New York's relatively fresher legs.
Other notable facts to consider:
- Hornets are only 1-6 ATS in back-to-back games this season!
- Knicks are 17-11 against poor defensive (allowing 99+ points) teams.
- Hornets are just 4-9 after scoring 105 or more points in the previous game!
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