March 2, 2016 (3:55 PM ET)
There are 2 picks tonight.
1) Take Detroit Pistons at +11 spread against San Antonio Spurs for 3% of the bankroll.
There is no question that Spurs are an elite team once again. They are 50-9 on the season and a perfect 28-0 at home in the AT&T Center this season and because of those statistics, the oddsmakers have to be careful when setting spreads for them and in this particular instance, they have inflated the line by a basket to avoid getting lopsided action on the popular home side.
The Detroit Pistons are arguably playing their best basketball of the season. Since Tobias Harris joined the starting rotation, they are on an impressive 4-game winning streak which includes a road victory over the Eastern Conference powerhouse; Cleveland Cavaliers. They also beat the Toronto Raptors whom they were seeking revenge against. After having their backs against the wall and finding themselves outside the playoff picture, the Pistons have fought their way back into a post-season spot but now need to continue winning to keep it. Their recent hot stretch which includes wins over the top 2 teams in the East gives them confidence heading into this contest with San Antonio. In a nationally televised prime time ESPN matchup, they would no doubt like to be the ones to hand Pop's team their first loss in San Antonio. This is a big game for Detroit and they have nothing to look ahead to, given that they don't play again until Feb 5th. That means they will give it everything they have in this contest and that should be enough to cover this generous spread.
Stan van Gundy has an extremely talented starting 5 rotation and is getting contributions from everywhere on the floor. Reggie Jackson has been handed the keys to the franchise and their commitment to him as the starting PG was confirmed by sending Brandon Jennings to Orlando. He is averaging 19.4 points and 6.2 assists per contest and tends to elevate his performance in big games! Tobias Harris has made an immediate impact on this team and is averaging 17 points and 5.5 rebounds. Andre Drummond is having another quality season and is a force down low in the post. He leads the NBA in rebounds and could help the Pistons win the battle of the boards. He'll be aided by Aron Baynes, who as a former San Antonio player has a point to prove!
The Spurs find themselves in an unfavorable set of circumstances tonight given that this is their first game back after an 8-game road trip! As we have seen in the past, teams off a long road trip often struggle in their first game back at home as there is an adjustment needed given that they have been away from their families for a long time and certain matters needed to be attended to. We don't expect to see Spurs at their best tonight given that they last played at home on Feb 6th and have had certain distractions over the last few days. It's worth noting that they have covered just once in the last 5 years after their annual 'Rodeo Trip'! We wouldn't be surprised to see them come out just a bit flat, especially in the first half since this is their first game after a 4 day layoff and they may be just a bit rusty. San Antonio has covered only 6 of 17 spreads when playing on 3 or more days rest over the last three seasons!
This is simply too many points to spot a talented squad that has been playing very well. The Pistons have also had a fair amount of success in this venue in recent history. They managed to defeat the Spurs in their visit to Alamo City last season and have gone an impressive 7-2 ATS in their last 9 visits to San Antonio overall. Finally, the fact that Spurs have another prime time TV contest tomorrow against division opponents, Pelicans, means they can't solely focus on the task at hand. It wouldn't be surprising if Gregg Popovich decided to rest one or two players or at least limit their minutes. The Spurs are the much better team but in this particular situation, this is an incredibly high number for them to cover in what should be a competitive contest. Even if San Antonio opens up a huge lead, however, there is always the possibility of a backdoor cover when laying this many points! The value in this contest resides with the capable underdogs.
2) Take Washington Wizards at -2.5 spread against Minnesota T-Wolves for 3% of the bankroll.
The Wizards are finally playing the way many expected them to prior to the beginning of the season. They have won 6 of 8 since returning from the All-Star break and are right back in the playoff race! The Eastern conference is competitive and crowded this season meaning there are numerous clubs bunched up within only a few games of each other in the win/loss column. The team from DC is currently just on the outside looking in but has given itself a chance by taking care of business lately and is playing with renewed focus and confidence. They know that if they want to make it to the post-season, they need to continue piling up the wins and can't be satisfied with a small winning streak. Afterall, they're still not in the top 8 positions but are inching closer and could find themselves there soon if they can secure an important W in Minnesota tonight. They're sitting just 1.5 games behind the Pistons and Pacers and still have an opportunity to make the playoffs but given that they are playing catch up, they can NOT afford to drop games against lowly opposition like the Timberwolves.
The T-Wolves are an improved team from last year but they have little to lose or gain at this stage of the season. Minnesota won't be making the playoffs and so while they would like to win games, they don't have that sense of 'urgency' that playoff hopefuls do. Failure to win this game will not be as costly for them for example as it would be for Washington and that added motivation is often what is necessary to fight back from a deficit or pull away when leading. This is a talented young squad but they have been hit by injuries in the frontcourt and don't have much depth behind their starting lineup. Kevin Garnett, Nemanja Bjelica and Nikola Pekovic are all sidelined which leaves youngsters Dieng and Towns a lot to do with little rest. Luckily for them, those are two talented individuals that are more than capable but they still need to take a breather on the bench and when they're not on the court, the team usually suffers. Dieng missed practice yesterday due to personal reasons and may or may not be at his best tonight.
The team from the nation's capital has the opportunity to improve its record to 30-30 on the season tonight! While that may not seem significant, it is a huge psychological motivator as no contending team wants to be below .500 and yet that's where the Wizards have been up until their recent solid play. They can now shred that 'losing record' tag and inch ever closer to a playoff spot and we expect them to do. This is a healthy squad that is now only missing 3rd choice shooting-guard Gary Neal who is not much of a factor where as they had as many as 6 players out injured at one point earlier in the season! They are relishing their depth and having been beaten on their visits to Minnesota in recent years, they won't be taking the Wolves lightly. They know the importance of walking out as winners tonight given that they have a tough back-to-back schedule coming up against Cleveland and Indiana. Look for them to win this game and cover this short spread in the process as they are the better team and Sam Mitchell's squad does not have much of a home-court advantage, having lost twice as many (20) as it has won (10) at Target Center!
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