March 14, 2016 (4:00 PM ET)
There are two picks tonight.
1: Take the UNDER 207 total points in Chicago Bulls vs. Toronto Raptors for 3% of the bankroll.
Jimmy Butler scored 42 points the last time the Bulls visited Toronto. That was the historic performance which saw him top Michael Jordan by getting 40 of those points in the second half! The Raptors remember that and should do a much better job on him this time around. Butler has participated in only two of the last 16 games and will naturally be rusty tonight. While shooting is often about rhythm and will probably take some time to come back, his stout defensive skillset should be on display immediately. Some people forget that long before Jimmy Butler was an outstanding go-to player offensively, he was an amazing defender! His tenacity and determination combined with his physical attributes make him Chicago's top defender and often the player that has the task of guarding the opposition's best player. He won't be able to do it all on his own against All-Star DeMar DeRozan, who's playing very well recently but he should be able to limit DeRozan more than others have.
The Bulls will be without veteran Center, Pau Gasol tonight. The 35-year old Spaniard is one of the smartest and most experienced players in the league and is still among the best in his position! He was just one assist shy of another 'Triple-Double' last time out against the Heat and will be sorely missed tonight. That's because not only is he capable of posting up or hitting that patented mid-range jumper accurately but he's a player that Fred Hoiberg often runs the offense through! That's especially true when starting PG, Derrick Rose is absent. Rose has a 'doubtful' injury status heading into this game and might sit out again like he did in their last game. When he's not on the court, Gasol's presence is absolutely paramount to Chicago's schemes and the fact that neither are likely to feature tonight does not bode well for the Bulls' offense. Gasol has already been ruled out, as for Rose, even if he does play, he's clearly not 100% and that may end up hurting the team more than it helps them.
As if Chicago wasn't dealing with enough injuries, Mike Dunleavy Jr. is battling a virus and missed shootaround. The veteran 3-point specialist is in danger of missing this game or being limited and that takes away further offensive options. If he's absent, Tony Snell may get some playing time and he's not much of an offensive threat. He's averaged just 5.3 points per game on the season and has been in and out of the rotation. With E'twaun Moore likely getting playing time at the PG position, that leaves the Bulls' thin in depth at the shooting-guard position.
The Raptors will have no shortage of motivation tonight. That's because they're in danger of being swept by the Bulls, having lost the precious 3 meetings to them this season! That is embarrassing for a team that sits second in the East, just 2.5 games behind the Cavaliers. The Bulls have had Toronto's number in recent years but are likely to find this game much tougher. Dwane Casey often emphasizes the importance of defense and with his team seeking that elusive W against the banged up Bulls, look for them to guard them tightly and exact revenge. Chicago is missing some of its main offensive playmakers and will rely on a rusty Jimmy Butler who's missed extended time with knee problems recently. Keep in mind that 5 of 6 games in Toronto have gone 'Under' this season when the total was set between 205 to 209.5 points! If the Raptors play the type of defense, they are capable of, they can certainly keep the Bulls under triple digits if not 95 or less and that should be enough to cash in 'Under' tickets.
2: Take Denver Nuggets at +8 spread (buy half a point) against Miami Heat for 3% of the bankroll.
The Nuggets have won 4 straight games and are playing with confidence right now. This is a squad that still dreams of playoff basketball and although the odds of that happening aren't high, it is still a possibility, given that they're just 5 games behind Houston and Dallas! Mark Malone's side will give it their all as long as as they are mathemtically in it and at this point, they definitely are thanks to this recent stretch. Nuggets can actually match their longest winning streak in 14 months with a W tonight! It'll be a tough task in Miami but we believe they'll keep this closer than most expect and challenge for the outright win.
The Heat are coming off an overtime loss in Toronto and that had to be discouraging given that they were 15-7 in the five added minutes past regulation! After rallying in the second half and exerting a lot of energy to mount that comeback, it was disappoing for them to unravel in the manner that they did, in OT. The Raptors are a team that they had revenge in mind against and were hoping to close the gap on. This non-conference game against lowly Denver is a matchup that they may overlook. Afterall, their next two games are far more important as far as the Heat are concerned. That's because they face the red hot Charlotte Hornets next, a team that they are now in direct contention with, for the Southeast division crown before hosting LeBron James and the East-leading Cavaliers! How Miami fares in those two contests will impact their final standings and confidence more than this matchup against the 10th placed team in the West.
Miami may not be fully alert and focused on the task at hand tonight but Denver will be given that they have no margin for error if they are to pull closer to a post-season spot. They have been playing better defense recently and that has coincided with their 4-game winning streak! The fact that they've now had to do without top scorer Danilo Gallinari for awhile as well, means they've finally learned how to play without him without their offense suffering too much. One player that has stepped up is former Michigan State guard, Gary Harris. He's averaged 16.3 points over the last 9 games and bucketed more than 50% of his 3-point attempts in that span! While he may not be able to replicate that tonight, others like Nikola Jokic, DJ Augustin, Will Barton, Darrell Arthur and Emmanuel Mudiay are capable of pitching in and playing well.
Dwyane Wade missed the last game with a bruised thigh and although we suspect he may play tonight, he's unlikely to be at 100%. It's also worth noting that this is a revenge game for the Nuggets. They were beaten by just 3 points in Denver earlier this year and were one turnover away from upsetting the odds. They will be encouraged by that effort and want to do one better tonight and while we're not certain, they will, this should once again be a close game that goes down the wire. These two teams are more evenly matched up right now than the average NBA fan realizes and that makes the points very precious in this spot! This generous spread presents good value on the underdog.
Other notable facts to consider:
- Nuggets are 16-6 after a non-conference game this season!
- Heat are 1-4 ATS as a home favorite of 6.5 to 9 points this season.
- Nuggets are 5-1 and have averaged 115.8 points over the last 6 games!
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