March 3, 2016 (1:14 PM ET)
There are 2 picks tonight.
1: Take San Antonio Spurs at -8.5 spread against New Orleans Pelicans for 3% of bankroll.
These two teams both played last night but while one has a long track record of not being affected by it, the other is quite the opposite. Contrary to popular belief that this is an 'old team' and that back-to-back situations are therefore difficult for them, San Antonio is actually undefeated (perfect 12-0) when they played the previous night! They've also been good at taking care of the Vegas line in this type of situation, having covered the spread in 8 of those contests! The Pelicans on the other hand have won only 3 of 12 when having played the night before and are in an even more challenging spot tonight. That's because there is travel involved with this one (from Houston to New Orleans) after a devastating defeat that all but eliminated them from the playoff race!
Head coach Alvin Gentry admitted to the media after last night's loss that his team is no longer hopeful of making it to the post-season. That's understandable given that they are just 23-36 on the season and last night was the final nail in the coffin as far as playoff aspirations go. That's because in what was an incredibly important game for them, they were defeated by the very team that they are chasing, the 8th placed Rockets! A win there and they would have pulled a full game back and still be in contention but after that tough loss, coupled with the fact that they were already coming off a heartbreaking 2-point home loss to the lowly Timberwolves, they're as good as done. They find themselves 6 games behind James Harden and company with just over 20 games remaining and there are still other teams like the Jazz, Kings and Nuggets ahead of them in the standings!
To lose is one thing, to do so in the manner that the Pelicans did last night, is deflating and hard to shake off. In what can only be described as a dejected, demoralized and disappointed locker room, the Pelicans have to quickly get their act back together in what is an extremely short turnaround against an elite squad. The Pels lead the Rockets in Houston for much of the night and by as many as 6 points with less than 2 minutes remaining! Then in what was the perfect example of how NOT to close out a game, the offense suddenly couldn't get anything going and kept turning the ball over. James Harden took full advantage and got a few 'clever' calls from the referee to complete the comeback and take the lead! The body language of every player including Anthony Davis said a lot in those moments and right after the contest, as they were mentally distressed and 'crushed' by what they had just witnessed. They know they now need a miracle to reach the playoffs and that makes them a lot less enthusiastic and focused tonight. It also doesn't help that what was already an injury-riddled squad is even more thin now after Alexis Ajinca and Dante Cunningham both took knocks in last night's game and may or may not feature.
While their opponents will still be 'shocked' and 'sad' at the way last night's game ended, Gregg Popovich's Spurs have no such issues. They did quite the opposite, turning a 1-point lead into a 16-point win in the second half! They're actually in a better situation tonight than they were last night since they played that game after a 4-day layoff and it was their first game back at home after the annual 'Rodeo Road Trip'! They were rusty in the first half, something that shouldn't be the case tonight. San Antonio won't be overlooking the Pelicans tonight for one simple reason. They have lost their previous 3 trips to 'Big Easy'! That means New Orleans has their full attention and won't be taken lightly. Spurs are still hopeful of chasing the Warriors and need to continue piling up W's to have a chance of doing so. They play division opponents extremely tough and have won their games by an average of 16 points this season! Back the better team as they pull away and take this game by double-digits, barring an unfortunate backdoor cover. Tim Duncan and teammates lead the NBA in scoring defense, having allowed an average of just 92.3 points!
2: Take Golden State Warriors at -7 spread (buy half a point) against OKC Thunder for 3% of bankroll.
To say the Thunder are facing an unfavorable set of circumstances tonight would be an understatement. As if having to battle the Clippers and Warriors on back-to-back nights in front of a national audience was not already a tough scheduling spot, their difficulties were compounded by a disastrous 4th quarter last night! The Thunder led from the beginning until right at the end and led by as much as 22 points at one stage! They took a comfortable 17-point lead into the 4th and final quarter before the 'unthinkable' happened! For a team that was already short on confidence, this was the worst thing that could have happened, given that they recently blew a big lead against the Warriors and went on to lose in overtime. It's worth noting that OKC has covered only 2 of 8 spreads when having played the previous night!
Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan smelled blood and went in for the kill as things unravelled in a bad way for Oklahoma City in the dying minutes. Much to the disgust and disblief of Kevin Durant and company, they had once again lost a game that they 'should have' won, and that to a direct Western conference rival. Bouncing back from such defeats is mentally challenging and not something that this fragile OKC squad has proven it can do. Getting back on the winning track would be a lot more doable if there was a day of rest in between and time to reflect and get one's head right, but the Thunder won't have that luxury as they face the best team in NBA less than 24 hours before they left the Staples Center in shock! Oklahoma City is a good team and one that will improve from now until the end of the season in our opinion BUT in this particular spot, they will truly have their backs against the wall. This won't be the best version of themselves and when you go up against the juggernaut that is the defending champions, you need to be at your absolute best just to have a chance of keeping it respectable. OKC players will not only be mentally distressed and dejected but many logged big minutes last night in a game that should ahve been put away so they could rest on the bench in the 4th quarter. Kevin Durant and Westbrook nearly logged 40 minutes while guys like Ibaka also featured heavily!
Golden State Warriors will be fresh on the other hand after getting a much needed day of rest yesterday. They are coming off two overtime games which saw them not perform at their best and not get the job done in regulation. That'll have been a point of emphasis by Steve Kerr for what is an incredibly ambitious squad and one that consistently challenges itself to do even better. After a couple of nail-biters, fans at the Oracle Arena will want to see a double-digit victory tonight, something that they've gotten accustomed to in in recent years. Let's not forget that this is a side that is unbeaten at home this season and has won 43 consecutive games in this venue dating back to last season! With a W tonight, they can match the 1995-1996 Bulls' home winning streak of 44 games! There's no doubt that the defending champs want to make history and accomplish that. This is therefore an even bigger game for them than most others. They have no shortage of incentives in this one as they can improve to 26-0 at Oracle Arena while sweeping a potential contender for their crown and send a strong message. Oklahoma City has lost 5 of 7 games since the All-Star break and while they will eventually get it together, it won't be tonight.
Other notable facts to consider:
- OKC Thunder are just 2-10 ATS after an upset loss as a favorite!
- Warriors have won their home games by an average of 15.2 points this season!
- Warriors are 17-9 ATS as a home favorite of 6.5 to 9 points over the last 3 seasons.
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