March 6, 2016 (11:47 AM ET)
There are two NBA picks.
1) Take Dallas Mavericks at -3 spread against Denver Nuggets for 3% of the bankroll.
Dallas is a team made up of experienced veterans. They respond well to adversity and tend to bounce back from losses, especially ones against inferior competition. That's what they faced in their last game against Sacramento and is also what they're up against tonight in Denver. Chandler Parsons has been playing very well recently and had this to say to the media after the matchup vs. Kings: "This is a team that we should have beaten. This is the type of loss that can hurt you in a couple of weeks." He won't be the only one motivated for this contest against the lowly Nuggets. Former Blazer, Wes Matthews had this to add: "We've gotta salvage this with what we did well and go to Denver and take care of that one!". The last time Rick Carlisle's side tasted defeat, they came out fired up and beat their next 3 opponents! While winning 3 in a row will be difficult this time around, this first one is a winnable game and one that they'll have no shortage of incentives to take.
The fact that the Mavs won't face another team with a losing record (below .500) after this one for nearly 3 weeks makes this one a must-win game! Afterall, they head home to host the likes of Clippers, Pacers and Pistons, all playoff contenders next before even more challenging matchups against the Cavaliers, Warriors, Hornets and Blazers. Their game against Sacramento on March 27th is the next time they'll face a 'poor' team. Given the daunting schedule ahead of them, Mark Cuban's side understands the importance of securing the W tonight.
The Nuggets' slim playoff hopes have evaporated. After a series of indifferent defensive displays, Mark Malone's side suffered its arguably most heartbreaking loss of the season, and that is saying something given that they've had quite a few of those! The Nuggets failed to beat the 2nd worst team in the East, Brooklyn, a club that has nothing to play for but pride. What makes that particular defeat sting even more however is the manner in which it came. Despite an improved second half effort which saw them force overtime, they fell short. For a squad that is already missing its best player, Danilo Gallinari, they had to exert a lot of energy to send the game to OT, and yet it was all for nothing. Because to lose by 1-point at home in an overtime game against a terrible team is nothing short of disappointing. Brook Lopez' tap was the game-winner and it came with just 0.4 seconds remaining in OT after Brooklyn had missed a shot! To say the Nuggets were left deflated and dejected would be an understatement.
The Mavericks won't be overlooking the Nuggets tonight. That's because these two teams faced off recently on Feb 26th, in a game that Dallas needed overtime to clinch victory. They fell behind by as many as 22 points in that contest and had to mount a historic comeback to end up on the winning side! Therefore they know how dangerous Denver can be if taken lightly. Coach Carlisle will also be reminding them of their most recent visit to Colorado, a game that saw the Mavs just barely edge a wild double-overtime game 144-143! That was the game in which Gallinari scored a career-high 47 points but he'll be absent from the lineup tonight and may be out for the rest of the season. Dirk Nowitzki went 0-for 5 with his 3-point attempts in the game against Kings and that is extremely uncharacteristic of the German, one of the top scoring players in NBA history! He and his teammates are keen to put in a better effort tonight and are likely to do just that. Back the better team at this short price against a demoralized squad that is no longer in the playoff race.
2) Take Toronto Raptors at -7 spread against Houston Rockets for 3% of the bankroll.
The Raptors are in the midst of a franchise record 12-game winning streak and will look to continue that against the dysfunctional Rockets tonight! After surviving a late scare in their matchup against the Blazers on Friday, Toronto knows it needs a bigger lead to avoid those nail-biting final moments. The second best team in the East is a dominant 23-6 at Air Canada Center this season and can pull within just 2 games back of the Cavaliers with a victory. It's worth noting that only the top 2 teams in the West (Spurs & Warriors) have a better record than the Raptors since January 6th! This is a squad that is firing on all cylinders and where everyone knows their exact role. The same can not be said for Houston, a roster that their General Manager unsuccessfully tried to shake up at the trade deadline.
The Rockets were overtaken by Portland a couple of weeks ago and are now occupying that 8th and final playoff spot in the Western conference standings. They will face a tough test the rest of the way against a Utah Jazz team that may not has much pure talent as they do but is a lot more disciplined and defensively stout. The fact that they hold a one game lead over them right now means there is still a little bit of room for error despite their poor 30-32 record! And if there's one thing Houston has frequently displayed this season is that they are lazy and only play well when they absolutely need to and the situation favors them. That is not the case tonight. That's because even if they drop this game, they'll still hang on to that 8th place (for the moment) and the situation certainly is not an ideal one given that they are on the second night of a back-to-back schedule.
Despite another high-scoring game from James Harden, Houston fell to its 32nd defeat of the campaign against the reeling Chicago Bulls last night! Not only did they end up on the losing side, they kept their starters in the game until the final seconds because they were still hopeful of late-game heroics. Harden and Arizona logged 40+ minutes while Howard was fairly ineffective in 34 minutes! Fatigue could be an issue tonight. JB Bickerstaff's team plays a fast-paced high tempo brand of basketball and when there is not only travel involved but they are playing on consecutive nights, they naturally aren't at their best. That's evident by the fact that the Rockets are just 3-9 ATS in their last 12 back-to-back games! The Raptors will not only have home-court advantage but they'll be the fresher of the two clubs and that'll have an impact on the scoreboard.
The Rockets have lost their last 9 visits to Toronto and struggle mightily north of the border! Part of that reason is the play of All-Star PG, Kyle Lowry, a player that Houston had understimated the potential of when trading away. Lowry plays with a chip on his houlder and especially so against the Rockets, given that they gave him away, never expecting him to start All-Star games! While DeRozan is the most natural scorer on the team, the point-guard is the heart and soul and captain of this ambitious Toronto squad. After struggling from the foul line in the matchup against Portland, we expect Lowry to fare better from the charity stripe tonight. He's an 85% FT shooter on the season and his free-throws could be the deciding factor at the end as far as covering this spread goes or not. We believe Dwane Casey's side will pull away from the Rockets and build a double-digit lead given that they are the much more defensively organized team and shot 50% from the field against two superior defenses (Jazz and Blazers)! Then it's only a matter of not allowing Houston in thorugh the backdoor for a cover and since Houston played last night, they may lack the energy and desire to rally as they nearly did in the second half last night. Look for Toronto to stretch its franchise-record home winning streak while the defensively lackluster Rockets get punished.
Other notable facts to consider:
- Raptors have won 12 in a row at Air Canada Center, by an average margin of 10.3 points!
- Rockets have covered just 6 of 21 spreads when facing Eastern conference teams!
- Raptors will match a franchise-record 16 wins against Western conference teams, if they are victorious.
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