January 26, 2016 (4:00 PM ET)
There are two picks tonight.
1: Take Portland Blazers at -5 spread (buy half a point) against Sacramento Kings for 3% of bankroll.
One team will be far more fresh and better prepared tonight. That's because while the Blazers have had the last 2 days off, the Kings played last night. That's not all, however. The Sacramento vs. Charlotte game went to double-overtime! That is 10 minutes of additional basketball leading to tired legs, only to fall just short and lose by one point! The final score was 129-128 as the Hornets left California with a sweet OT win, rallying from a 17-point deficit. That is the type of loss that is hard to shake off and get over. That's because the Kings shot over 50% from the field and yet still fell short. DeMarcus Cousins set a new franichise scoring record and yet it was not enough. George Karl's squad gave everything it had only to taste bitter defeat! It wouldn't surprise us if this led to a losing stretch since the Kings are a streaky bunch and find themselves in a tough spot tonight.
One game separates these two Western conference playoff rivals as Sacramento currently occupies the 8th and final postseason spot while the Trail Blazers are right behind them in 9th. A win for Portland tonight and they'll overtake the Kings and sit in a playoff position! That is an incredibly motivating factor and one that is entirely achievable given Sacramento's tired legs and deflated attitude. The Blazers enjoy great home court advantage at the Moda Center and have a winning record there. They can improve that while adding to Sacramento's road woes. It's worth noting that George Karl's squad has not been ready for back-to-back contests this season as evident by their poor 2-9 record! Playing the previous night has left them little gas in the tank given the up-tempo brand of basketball they play. The Kings average 101.8 possessions per game (48 minutes) which ranks 2nd in the NBA! Playing at such a fast-pace has its positives but also comes with some big negatives as it leads to costly turnovers and easy baskets for the opposition. The Kings often look tired as a result on the second night of back-to-backs and will have a difficult time keeping up with the well-rested Blazers for 4 full quarters.
Damian Lillard missed the last meeting between these two teams and yet the Blazers walked out of Sleep Train Arena with a victory. CJ McCollum exploded for 35 points and 11 rebounds on that occasion and will be a handful again tonight. That back-court duo is one of the highest scoring tandems in the league and will be tough to contain for the tired Kings. The fact that they know a win will see them occupy the top half of the West standings will only fuel their fire. Terry Stotts has an organized team where every player knows his role. Locker room dysfunction and arguments with the coach have been not been an issue as they have been in Sacramento. Despite the recent winning streak, we don't believe all is well with the Kings and expect frustration to boil over at some point. Especially since they're led by the ill-tempered Cousins who despite all the media attention is sometimes a detriment to his team with his undisciplined conduct. The fact that he logged 46 minutes last night and other key players were also on the court for 40+ minutes means they'll be at a disadvantage tonight.
The Kings may be able to keep up in the first half but we forsee the Blazers pulling away in the second when tired legs start to surface. Keep in mind that Portland is 6-1 ATS after two days of rest and is in that situation tonight. Not only that, the Kings have lost 9 of their 11 games this season when seeking revenge for a previous loss and are up against it again tonight. Rudy Gay won't be on the court and that takes away their most natural scorer and a guy that can get his own shot and make plays. Portland has won 4 of its last 5 games when hosting Sacramento and should do so tonight as well. Look for them to cover this short spread in the process in what should be a high-scoring game.
2: Take Milwaukee Bucks at -5 spread (buy half a point) against Orlando Magic for 3% of bankroll.
The Bucks are behind the Magic in the standings and currently own an inferior record and yet are installed as significant favorites in this contest! There are valid reasons behind that and we'll explore them in the following paragraphs.
These two Eastern conference foes still harbour postseason aspirations but are currently on the outside looking in. Nonetheless, in an incredibly competitive East this season, every team except the Nets and the 76ers is still very much in the playoff picture! The difference is that Orlando is reeling and not for the first time in Scott Skiles' managerial career, his team has gotten off to a hot start only to burn out after a few months. The Magic are playing with no confidence at the moment and have dropped 6 in a row! Their body language is that of a frustrated squad that doesn't believe in itself or each other. You can see the lack of trust between teammates in crucial moments of a game and that has translated to an ugly 1-9 record over their last 10 games!
What makes this poor streak even tougher to handle however, is that they've actually played well in some games. As an example, last night the Magic went to Memphis and outplayed the Grizzlies for much of the game. They had a 4-point lead with just 18 seconds left on the clock and yet for the second consecutive time, had the win slip out of their hands as the home side forced overtime! Then an epic meltdown in the 5 additional minutes beyond regulation saw them get outscored 8-2 in OT. This was their 3rd overtime loss of this current 6-game skid! Every player and member of the coaching staff looked a discouraged figure after the game and understandably so. Now less than 24 hours later, they had to hop on a plane, quickly brush it off, which is no easy task especially for a young team that has trouble getting over such painful losses and play what will be another tough game. Key players logged between 35 to 40 minutes for Orlando last night and will not only be physically tired tonight but will also be mentally drained as well. On top of that, they've had to travel as well and be on the road which does not help matters.
The Bucks on the other hand are well rested having last played on Saturday and will have revenge on their minds! That's because they lost by double-digits in Orlando earlier this season and they've not forgotten that. Milwaukee still believes it can make the playoffs and if they are to do so, they need to win games such as this. It's worth noting that they have been an impressive team at BMO Harris Center where they are 13-7 on the season and feed off the energy of their passionate crowd. Young players like John Henson, Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo often perform better at home than they do on the road and could have a strong showing tonight. Against a fatigued and dejected Orlando squad, look for them to take advantage of this situation and pull a full game closer in the standings to boost their playoff hopes.
As if Milwaukee needed any additional incentive to put on a good showing tonight, they will have head coach Jason Kidd back on the bench! Coach Kidd missed 18 games after undergoing hip replacement surgery and will no doubt be a source of motivation for his squad tonight. The players love the former PG and have bought into his competitive spirit. They'll relish having him back on the sideline and will want to impress him upon his return to aid their playing time. The Bucks have numerous advantages going into this contest while the Magic are the coldest team in the conference at the moment. They'll eventually turn it around but to do so after another heartbreaking loss in what a short turnaround situation with travel involved against a hungry and ambitious squad is too much to ask for! This game may be close in certain stages but the Bucks will pull away sooner or later and we don't believe Orlando will have enough left in the tank to mount a comeback after falling just short so often in recent weeks.
Other notable facts to consider:
- Orlando has won only 2 of 7 games when they played the night before!
- Milwaukee is a perfect 4-0 ATS in home games when the total was set between 195 to 199.5 points!
- Orlando has won only one game in January and covered the spread just twice in 11 attempts!
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