|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|12-16-17||Clemson v. Florida -4.5||Top||71-69||Loss||-122||9 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 22 Florida faces a tough test in the second game of the Orange Bowl Classic, as the 6-3 Gators will take on 8-1 Clemson. Florida had dropped games against Duke and Florida State before suffering a surprising loss to Loyola Chicago but then knocked off Cincinnati 66-60 last Saturday in Newark, N.J, snapping a demoralizing three-game losing streak. "We just focused on ourselves, what we can do better, and especially our mental toughness,” Florida’s senior guard Egor Koulechov told reporters. “I thought we were really soft (during the losing streak). We took a step forward (last Saturday) with a win over a tough team.” Clemson is off to its best start since 2008-09, when the Tigers won their first 16 games, Clemson has won four games by 20 or more points and suffered their only loss of the season to Temple back on Nov. 17.
Clemson: Head coach Brad Brownell goes after his 300th career win with a team averaging 79.8 PPG (97th), featuring five players averaging in double figures. Senior 6-8 forward Donte Grantham tops the team at 16.0 PPG and adds 6.2 RPG. Fellow 6-9 big man Thomas leads in rebounding at 8.8 per game and adds 12.1 PPG. Three guards join them in double digits, Reed (13.8), Mitchell (12.8 & 5.0 APG) and DeVoe (10.9). Clemson always plays good defense and this year's team is allowing just 63.9 PPG (36th).
Florida: Senior guard Chris Chiozza stepped up to score the game’s final six points to finish with 15 against Cincinnati and is dishing out a team-best 6.1 assists per contest in the early going. “I wasn’t looking to take the game over,” Chiozza, who is averaging 11.8 PPG and has made 12-of-23 from three-point range overall, told reporters. “I was just trying to make good plays for my team and a couple fell into my hands.” Junior guard Jalen Hudson tops the team in scoring (19.1) and is hitting 52.7 percent from the floor, while Koulechov (16.1) is second. Both rebound well for guards, especially Koulechov, who leads the team at 6.2 RPG. Allen (11.8) makes it four double digit scorers, all guards. The two biggest contributors in the frontcourt are the 6-8 Stone (5.9 & 2.8) and the 6-9 Hayes (4.4 & 4.6). Florida can score (87.9 PPG ranks 19th) but it needs to with a defense allowing 76.9 PPG (275th!).
The pick: The Gators were ranked among the nation's best after finishing off November by beating No. 17 Gonzaga in double overtime and leading top-ranked Duke in the final minutes before losing by three points in the PK80 Invitational in Portland, Or. However, that loss to the Blue Devils sent the Gators into a tailspin that saw them start December by losing to Florida State by 17 points and 65-59 to Loyola Chicago , both at home. The win over the Bearcats has to be a confidence-builder and while Sunrise, Fl is not exactly a home game, it's close (just outside of Fort Lauderdale). In fact, Florida has won seven straight in the Orange Bowl Classic. Make that eight straight, as the Gators are an 8* play.
|12-16-17||Oklahoma State v. Florida State -5.5||Top||71-70||Loss||-115||7 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: It's the first game of Saturday's Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Fla., as unranked Oklahoma State (7-2) takes on No. 19 Florida State, with the schools meeting for only the second time in their histories (1964 was the first!). Florida State is one of only six undefeated teams in the nation entering Friday, having climbed into the rankings at No. 19 after extending its season-opening start to 9-0 with a 72-53 victory over Tulane on Sunday. The Seminoles now take aim at tying the school record for the best start to a season (10-0 in 2003-04). Oklahoma State has had success of its own this season but its two losses came against ranked opponents. The Cowboys lost 72-55 to No. 10 Texas A&M in November and 78-66 to No. 3 Wichita State on Sunday.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys fell to the Shockers despite career-high performances from Tavarius Shine (20 points) and Mitchell Solomon (17). Shine (11.0 & 4.2) is one of three guards averaging double digits, with Carroll (12.7 & 5.1) and Smith (10.2) being the other two. The 6-9 Solomon (8.2 & 6.2) and the 6-7 McGriff (8.2 & 5.6) are the team's best frontcourt players for a team in which the top-five scorers play on the perimeter. OSU averages a modest 78.8 PPG (113th) but remains competitive by relying on a tenacious defense that produces turnovers. The team has recorded at least 19 in each of its last three outings and the Cowboys are averaging 18.3 points off those turnovers per game. Oklahoma State allows its opponents 64.0 PPG (38th) on 40.2% shooting (65th).
Florida State: The Seminoles did not have a strong shooting effort against Tulane (44.8 percent shooting from the floor, including 34.4 percent in the first half) but Leonard Hamilton's young Seminoles are solid all around. FSU ranks 23rd with 87.1 PPG and 28th in FG percentage at 50.0%. The defense allows 67.0 PPG (just 81st) but the team's defensive FG percentage ranks 16th at 37.5%. The team's margin of victory checks in at 21.0 PPG. The lone returning starter is junior guard Terance Mann and he leads in scoring with a career-high 15.6 PPG and a shooting percentage of 64.5 percent. Senior forward Phil Cofer, who has been a "no-show" the last two years, leads the team in rebounds (5.8) and adds 12.3 PPG. Joining those two in double digits are guards Angola (12.7 & 3.6 APG) and C.J. Walker (11.2).
The set-up: The Seminoles have made it into the top-25 after a big week with victories over No. 22 Florida, Loyola (Md.) and Tulane, but the trick is remaining there. "We're making progress, but we're not a finished product," Hamilton told reporters. "We have 10 guys who are freshmen or sophomores. We're still growing and maturing." That said, FSU is perfect 7-0 ATS and as noted, OSU has lost to both previous ranked opponents, by 17 and 12 points. What I didn't mention earlier is that 1st-year OSU head coach Mike Boyton recently dismissed two contributing players, 6-5 junior wing Davon Dillard and highly-regarded 6-3 freshman Zack Dawson, which leaves the depth-shy Cowboys in even 'deeper' trouble. Lay it and make Florida State a 10* play.
|12-15-17||Denver v. Stanford -11||Top||62-75||Win||100||15 h 32 m||Show|
The setup: The Denver Pioneers won 16 games last season (lost 14) and have averaged a modest 15 wins per season the last four, since last winning 20-plus games. The 5-6 Pioneers will visit Maples Pavilion Friday night to take on Struggling Stanford, which comes in just 4-6. The Cardinal 'booted' Johnny Dawkins two yeas ago but after Jerod Hasse led Stanford to just a 14-17 record last season, the team's 4-6 start this season has many wondering if the Cardinal made the right move.
Denver: The Pioneers will be looking for a bounce-back effort after committing 18 turnovers and trailing by as many as 28 in Wednesday’s 83-63 loss to Northern Colorado. The Pioneers do return four starters from last season and the lone bright spot in Wednesday's loss was the play of junior guard Joe Rosga, who registered 14 points and seven rebounds, becoming the 35th member of the school’s 1,000-point club. The frontcourt is led by 6-10 senior center Daniel Amigo, who averages 16.0 PPG and 4.8 RPG. Denver averages 70.5 PPG (267th) and allows 71.5 PPG (170th).
Stanford: The Cardinal are back from a much-needed break for final exams, hoping a "re-boot' will be able to remedy the team's sluggish start. Stanford enters having lost five of its last six, hardly what was expected in non-conference play. Junior forward Reid Travis was a preseason All-American and leads the team in scoring (21.7) and rebounding (7.8). Dorian Pickens (12.6 PPG last year) and Marcus Sheffield (6.7 PPG) are both injured, in the team's last game (a 76-68 at Long Beach State on Dec. 3.), leaving Stanford with just even scholarship players. The shorthanded Cardinal hope to have Pickens and Sheffield back from their foot injuries in time for the Pac-12 opener against California on Dec. 30, but Haase wasn’t able to say when freshman Kezie Okpala might be cleared academically to return.
The pick: The last time out, Stanford lost to Long Beach State, for the first time in school history. A two-week break should have them highly motivated to "stop the bleeding" against a Denver team that is 0-3 in true road games, getting outscored 83.7-to-65.3 PPG. Make Stanford a 10* play.
|12-15-17||Spurs +7.5 v. Rockets||Top||109-124||Loss||-110||14 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: More than a few teams made major off-season moves in an effort to compete at a level equal to that of the Warriors but so far, only the Boston Celtics (even with the loss of Hayward) and the Houston Rockets, have seemed to "have gotten it right." Houston owns the NBA's best record at 22-4 (.) and will welcome the SA Spurs to the Toyota Center looking for a 12th straiight win (longest active winning streak). The 19-9 Spurs come to Houston having more than 'survived' without their best player, Kawhi Leonard, who is certainly ranked somewhere among the top-five players in the NBA, as the Spurs own the third-best record in the Western Conference. The teams are meeting for the first time since the San Antonio knocked off Houston in six games in the Western Conference semifinals last spring.
San Antonio:Leonard sat out the first 27 games while recovering from quad tendinopathy and scored 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting over 16 minutes in his debut on Tuesday, a shocking 95-89 loss at Dallas. "I thought he was wonderful," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich told reporters of Leonard. "He's trying to get some of the rust off and that kind of thing. Obviously, he's confident. He's a heck of a player, and it was really frustrating for him to just start getting loose and have to come off the court." Leonard's return did not get the San Antonio Spurs into the win column, but both he and the organization are looking at the bigger picture. The Spurs have struggled offensively without Leonard (25.5 PPG last season), averaging only 101.1 PPG (25th). In fact, Leonard's 13 points in 16 minutes on Tuesday is more points than any Spur has averaged per game this season, save for PF Aldridge, who has been the team's lone "go-to" scoring option this season I(22.7 PPG). The surprising stat is that without Leonard, considered the NBA's top defensive player alongside of Draymond Green, the Spurs come in leading the NBA in points allowed, at 97.5 per game.
Houston: The Rockets have yet to lose since Chris Paul returned from a knee injury. Paul was injured in the team' season-opener (a Houston win at Golden St.) and are now 11-0 since his return. The future Hall of Famer scored 31 points and had 11 assists in Houston's 108-96 win over Charlotte on Wednesday and comes in averaging 16.2-5.2-9.6 on the season. . "It's all about building," Paul told reporters. "You can win however many games you want in a row. It means nothing if you're not playing the right way, but we're playing the right way and still trying to get better." Harden is averaging 31.6-5.1-9.4, Gordon (18.9) is an excellent "third scoring option" and center Capela is averaging a double-double (13.5 & 11.0) on the season. Only the Golden State Warriors average more points than Houston's 114.8 per game.
The pick: I doubt in will take teh Spurs long to integrate Leonard into the flow of things and a visit to Houston, the NBA's hottest team right now, should be all the motivation Pop and his veteran team needs. Take the points and make the Spurs a 10*
|12-14-17||Mavs v. Warriors -11.5||Top||97-112||Win||100||15 h 60 m||Show|
The set-up: The 22-6 Golden State Warriors trail the 22-4 Houston Rockets in the West and also find themselves right behind the 24-6 Boston Celtics. However, there are 50-plus games remaining in the regular season,m plenty of time for Golden State to secure the home court edge come mid-April. Stephen Curry (26.3-5.1-6.6) has been out the last three games and is expected to be out the rest of this week (at least) while nursing an ankle injury and Draymond Green (10.1-7.2-7.3) remains day-to-day, after sitting out two of the last three with a shoulder injury, Despite all that, the Warriors won all six games of their recent road trip and will welcome the 8-20 Dallas Mavericks to Oracle Arena on a seven-game winning run. The Mavericks are tied for the West's worst record (with Memphis) but head to Golden State with a positive outlook after earning a 95-89 win over the San Antonio Spurs at home on Tuesday.
Dallas: Dallas suffered single-digit losses at Boston, Milwaukee and Minnesota before coming home and putting it all together against the Spurs. The Mavericks saw guards Wes Matthews, Yogi Ferrell and J.J. Barea score 16 points apiece while holding San Antonio's backcourt trio of Tony Parker, Danny Green and Manu Ginobili to a combined 14 points.
Golden State: Offense is never a problem for Golden State, regardless of which players are in or out of the lineup. The Warriors rank first in scoring (117.0 PPG), FG percentage (51.3%) and three-point percentage (40.0%). Kevin Durant (25.7-6.9-5.3) is averaging 33 points, 10 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 3.3 blocks in the last three games (with Curry out), to keep Golden State in the win column. "Our focus level is just on another level because of the injuries that we have on our team," Durant told reporters. "We have to be locked in on every single play; and that's hard to do in this league, and that's hard to do in December, especially after winning a championship."Klay Thompson (20.7) is scoring 23.3 PPG the last three and with that duo carrying the scoring load with Curry out, Golden State is also getting solid performances from role players like Jordan Bell, David West and Omri Casspi. Those three all scored in double figures in Monday's 111-104 win over the Portland Trail Blazers while going a combined 14-of-18 from the floor. "These night are really powerful for a team where guys are able to get out there who aren't usually in the lineup," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters. "It makes them feel good, it makes us feel good and it just strengthens the depth."
The pick: The Mavericks stunned the San Antonio Spurs 95-89 in Kawhi Leonard's season debut on Tuesday night but now head to the 'lion's den' to face the Warriors. This Thursday game is the Warriors' second in a stretch of 10 in which they never leave the state of California. They play only once on the road, Monday against the Los Angeles Lakers, between now and a trip to Dallas on Jan. 3. The Mavs are 2-10 SU on the road, where they average only 97.2 PPG. Meanwhile, the Warriors are averaging 116.8 PPG at home and have now been back home a few days off that six-game road trip. Look out below! Lay the points and make Golden State a 10* play.
|12-14-17||South Dakota v. Northern Arizona +11.5||Top||90-77||Loss||-105||14 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: The South Dakota Coyotes are 9-3 and will take their act on the road Thursday night to J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff, Arizona to face the struggling Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, who fell to 2-8 on the season after being defeated by the San Diego Toreros, 79-51, this past Saturday night. It;'s been a dramatic fall from grace for the Lumberjacks, who won 23 games back in the 2014-15 season (lost in the CIT championship game at Evansville), before winning just five and nine games, these last two season. The Coyotes were just 18-17 last season but had won 24 and 26 the previous two, so the school's fast start has them on pace for at least, another 20-win season.
South Dakota State: The Coyotes won their second straight game after edging the Eastern Washington Eagles, 75-73, this past Sunday. South Dakota State shot 54.9% from the floor and 81.0% (17-21) from the FT-Line in the win. The team typically shoots well, as the Coyotes enter making 49.5% from the floor on the season (ranks 35th). Leading the way for the Coyotes in the win was guard Matt Mooney. who had 19 points. Mooney (16.5-3.3-3.7) is the team's top scorer, followed by the 6-10 Tyler Hagedorn (13.1 & 5.1), guard Triston Simpson (8.8) and 6-6 forward Trey Burch-Manning (8.6 & 7.5). Defensively, South Dakota St. is holding opponents to an average of 67.2 PPG (86th) on on 40.4% shooting (70th).
Northern Arizona: The lumberjacks were terrible on offensive end in the loss against San Diego and couldn’t fight back after falling behind by a 47-18 margin with 16:46 left in regulation. Northern Arizona shot just 26.7% from the floor, including 20.0% (3-15) from beyond the arc. Northern Arizona is averaging only 64.1 PPG (334th) on 38.4% shooting (341st). Jojo Anderson (10.4 PPG) is the team's lone double digit scorer, although Chris Bowling (9.7) and Torry Johnson (9.2) just miss. Defensively, the Lumberjacks allow 80.3 PPG (311th) on 49.7% shooting (340th). Just a reminder, there ar 351 Division I schools!
The pick: It looks as if South Dakota Sate will be one of the better teams in the Summit League this season, while it's already been a long season for Northern Arizona (see above). However, this is a 'heavy' number for the Coyotes to lay on teh road and I'm calling for the home dog to 'bark loudly' Make Northern Arizona a 10* play.
|12-13-17||Villanova -8.5 v. Temple||Top||87-67||Win||100||11 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: Villanova jumped from No. 4 in the AP poll the previous week to the poll's new No. 1 this past Monday. No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Kansas lost (falling back) and the Wildcats leapfrogged then-No.3 Michigan State to grab the top spot. It marks the third consecutive year in which Villanova has held the No. 1 ranking for at least once during those respective seasons (the Wildcats were No. 1 for three weeks two years ago and for seven weeks LY). The Wildcats wrap up their Philadelphia series round-robin (Big 5) against a 6-2 Temple Owls team that has won three of its last four.
Villanova: The Wildcats moved up in the rankings but head coach Jay Wright knows that his team can improve, particularly after a sub-par performance its last time out. “It’s always an honor to be ranked No.1,” Wright said. “It’s great for the ‘Nova Nation and we appreciate the respect of the writers and coaches. We know it’s early, though, and we need to get a lot better.” Villanova trailed at halftime against La Salle on Sunday before rallying for a 77-68 victory. 'Nova has a sweet six-man rotation, led by guards Bridges (18.1 & 6.4), Brunson (17.2 & 4.8 APG), Booth (12.7) and DiVencenzo (11.8 & 4.5). Up front, 6-9 junior Paschall (9.0 & 4.8) and 6-9 freshman (9.0 & 7.5) are the main contributors. Villanova ranks 27th with 85.6% and 34th by allowing 63.3%.
Temple: The Owls can't come close to matching the Wildcats' depth, although the Owls have two quality scorers in guards Alston (17.3 & 4.1) and Rose (17.3 & 6.1). They also have a good big man in the 6-10 Enechionyia, who averages 12.6 & 6.0. Temple has played one of the toughest schedules in the country and it's reflected in their RPI. 'Nova's Wright acknowledged that when saying, "This is an outstanding team and it's Temple-Villanova at their place. We know how big a challenge this is." The Owls are averaging 74.6 PPG (196th) and allowing 68.8 PPG (111th).
The pick: Villanova’s re-emergence into nation’s elite status has not made Jay Wright forget about taking care of business at home in these Big 5 rivalries. In fact, 'Nova has won 21 straight over local Big Five foes. Sure, Temple is the last team to defeat the Wildcats in Big 5 action but that was a 76-61 victory back on Dec. 5, 2012. Temple is just 2-17 all-time against the top-ranked team in the country (which 'Nova currently is) and Jay Wright has saved some of his team's better recent efforts for Temple, which was ripped by 21 points last season and has lost by double digit margins the past six times, not coming closer than 15 points in any of those six. Make Villanova a 10* play.
|12-12-17||Lakers +3.5 v. Knicks||Top||109-113||Loss||-110||19 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: Is the bigger story LaVar Ball bringing his traveling circus to the Big Apple with a Big Baller Brand pop-up shop in Manhattan or son Lonzo Ball making his NBA debut at Madison Square Garden, when the Lakers take on the Knicks? The Lakers had lost five straight games when they began a four-game road trip with a win at Philadelphia and then picked up another "W" at Charlotte on Saturday. They will take a 10-15 record into tonight's game. The Knicks are 13-13 on the season but are a "tough out" at Madison Square Garden. In fact, New York is tied for the Eastern Conference lead with 12 home wins after Sunday's 111-107 victory over Atlanta (12-5 at MSG, so far).
LA Lakers: "This is a sign of growth for sure," coach Like Walton told reporte.2 PPG, so I'm taking the points with an LA team that's rs after the 110-99 victory over the Hornets. "And even Philly was a sign of growth because even though we blew a 16-point lead, what would've happened in the past was once we blew that lead we would've just completely melted down. ... We've been able to win some of those games at home, but on the road we haven't been able to find a way once that crowd gets into it to get the defensive stops you need to win games. We (won) in Philly and we did that again tonight." Ball is the most divisive NBA rookie in decades (thanks to his idiot father) and comes in averaging 8.6-6.8-7.1. His horrific shooting (32.1%, including 24.6% on threes) draws most of the criticism and it's not unusual for Walton to sit him down at crucial times. Kyle Kuzma (Utah) was drafted 25 spots below No. 2 pick Ball but is averaging 16.0 points and 6.7 rebounds off the bench (he started while Nance was sidelined). He has double-doubles in three of the team's last four games, his best stretch of the season in that regard.
NY Knicks: New York is getting inspired play in recent weeks from its first-round pick, Frank Ntilikina. The PG is averaging 8.4 points in December after averaging 4.7 points in October and November combined. The Knicks are also seeing a development in second-year guard Ron Baker, who played 31 minutes Sunday in New York's 111-107 win over the Atlanta Hawks. The Knicks are getting some quality minutes from their youngsters. However, no New York player gets talked about more than Kristaps Porzingis, who is still just 22 and two years younger than Baker, despite being in the third month of his third NBA season (Porzingis is averaging 25.5 & 6.6).
The pick: Yes, the Knicks have been very good at home but the Lakers come in confident and with surprising depth and balance for a 10-15 team. Eight players are averaging between Ball's 8.6 PPG and leading scorer Ingram's 16.2 PPG, so I'm taking the points with an LA team that's a single point away from being 6-3 ATS its last nine games. Make LA an 8* play.
|12-12-17||Mississippi State v. Cincinnati -11||Top||50-65||Win||100||19 h 47 m||Show|
The set-up: The Bearcats opened 7-0 but lost at crosstown rival Xavier on and then fell short 66-60 for their second straight loss against then-No. 5 Florida in the Never Forget Tribute Classic in Newark, N.J., on Saturday, However, Cincy did manage to remain in the AP poll, grabbing the 25th and final spot in Monday's poll. The Mississippi State Bulldogs ran their season-opening winning streak to eight games with a 95-62 rout of Division II North Georgia in their latest outing and despite being one of just seven Division I unbeatens, the Bulldogs remain unranked (Georgetown is the only other unbeaten to also not be ranked).
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs aren't ranked because the strength of its schedule to date leaves much to be desired. In fact, even with more than a few cupcakes on that schedule, the team is fortunate to be unbeaten, as they are committing an average of 15.3 turnovers per game, which is tied with Idaho State for 279th among 351 Division I schools. However, the team shoots well (49.6% ranks 34th in the nation) and defends well (61.9 PPG ranks 21st and its defensive FG percentage of 37.5 ranks 17th). Tyson Carter leads five players in double figures at 14.0 PPG, joined by a pair of Weatherspoon brothers, Quinndary (13.2-5.6-4.6) and Nick (10.9), plus the 6-10 Holman (11.0 & 7.2).
Cincinnati: The Bearcats were in the thick of it against Florida but committed a whopping 21 turnovers. "We've got good players turning the ball over, which is a big, big problem," Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin said after the game. "It's hard to win when you turn the ball over, nearly impossible to win. If we had won this game somehow with the turnover line it would have been a modern miracle." Six players are part of the main rotation, averaging from 6.9 to 13.2 PPG. The 6-8 Clark leads the way (13.2 & 8.6) with PG Evans (13.1-3.6-3.5) right behind him. Cincy teams always play defense and this year's team is allowing just 61.8 PPG (20th) on 36.8% shooting (11th).
The pick: Mississippi St. is 8-0 but Cincy comes in as a double digit favorite. There IS a reason for that. The Bulldogs are off to their best start since the 2003-04 season but a closer look reveals that their strength of schedule ranks 349th out of 351 Division I teams. This visit to Cincinnati also marks their first true road game of the season so far and will be the team's only road game in its first 14 (some schedule-maker!). The Bearcats' only two losses have come to city rival Xavier (now ranked 10th) on Dec. 2 and on Saturday to then-No. 5 Florida. Cronin clearly wasn't happy with his team's effort in losses to nationally-ranked Xavier and Florida, suggesting that winning made his team "soft" and adding that "it makes you arrogant and it makes your players content." I believe "his kids" got the message. Miss. St. is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Make Cincy a 10* play.
|12-11-17||Celtics -7.5 v. Bulls||Top||85-108||Loss||-103||19 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: The 23-5 Boston Celtics own the most wins in the NBA but the 20-4 Houston Rockets have caught them for the league's highest winning percentage, .833 to .821. The Celtics opened a quick three-game road trip with a 105-102 loss at San Antonio (on Manu's three-pointer!) but then the Celtics shut down the Pistons in a 91-81 victory at Detroit on Sunday. Boston ends it trip in Chicago tonight, facing a Bulls team which owns the NBA's worst record at 5-20 but one that is also coming off back-to-back victories,.
Boston: Al Horford rebounded from a season-worst two-point performance against the Spurs to lead his team with 18 points at Detroit, while chipping in nine rebounds, six assists, two blocks and zero turnovers. Horford (14.0-8.1-5.3) has been an unsung hero for the Celtics, overshadowed by the play of Kyrie Irving. Boston's new PG added 16 points at Detroit but has been every bit an MVP candidate averaging 23.7 PPG and 4.8 APG .Playing on a short turnaround, Boston will again be without forward Marcus Morris (12.1 & 5.5), who didn't play on Sunday and who has already been ruled out for Monday due to a left knee injury. Rookie forward Jayson Tatum was 3-for-5 from 3-point range Sunday to improve his NBA-leading percentage from long distance to 52.3%, while averaging 14.8 PPG on 51.2% shooting overall. Last year's No. 1 choice, Jaylen Brown (14.7 & 5.8), is proving in his second season just why he was Boston's top choice last year.
Chicago: The Bulls had lost 10 in a row but then won 1119-11 (OT) in Charlotte on Friday, They then followed with a 104-102 win at home the next night over the Knicks. Has Nikola Mirotic's return to the lineup been the difference? Mirotic missed the first 23 games due to facial fractures and a concussion resulting from a preseason fight with teammate Bobby Portis. He scored just six points vs. the Hornets on Friday but had 19 points in 20 minutes versus the Knicks. Portis has played 16 games since his suspension from the fight and has averaged 11.7 & 6.6 off the bench. Mirotic's big effort Saturday night was part of a solid showing for Chicago's five reserves, who combined for 54 points on 21-of-37 shooting with 14 assists and two turnovers. PG Kris Dunn (12.8-4.9-5.1) led the starters with 17 points and nine assists and he is averaging 17.5 points, eight assists and 6.3 rebounds during a four-game stretch. Lauri Markkanen, the 7-footer from Arizona, has been as good as any rookie this season, leading the team in scoring (14.7) and rebounding (8.1).
The pick: Chicago has won four straight regular-season meetings with Boston at home but this is a very different Chicago team and very different Boston team. The Bulls are just 3-8 SU at home and on the season, are averaging a modest 103.2 PPG, to rank 27th. The Celtics come in with the NBA's best road record at 11-3 and are also a money-making 11-3 ATS as well. Boston is the league's top defensive team, allowing 96.1 PPG on 43.5% shooting, which ranks second-best. Take the road favorite and make Boston a 10* play.
|12-11-17||Drake v. Minnesota -19||Top||67-68||Loss||-110||19 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: Minnesota returned all five starters from a 24-win team last year and opened the new season 7-0. However, the "not-so" Golden Gophers have lost three of their last four games, including back-to-back double-digit losses at Nebraska and Arkansas. The team's current AP ranking may be No. 14 but that's only until Monday's new poll is released (bye-bye top-25!). The Drake Bulldogs visit Williams Arena tonight and have defeated Wake Forest earlier this season and more recently, snapped a three-game losing streak Saturday with a 19-point win over Omaha. Drake checks in 5-4 on the season but that's pretty good news for a team which hasn't had as many as 10 wins the last three seasons (9, 7, & 7).
Drake: Senior guard Reed Timmer scored 27 points to pace Drake in its win over Omaha. He enters averaging 22.1 PPG (4.1 RPG), while shooting 49.5% (56.1% on threes) and 91.9% from the line. Fellow guards McMurray (11.6) and Woodward (11.4) join him in double figures, as does the 6-8 McGlynn (11.0 & 6.0). However, Drake's defense leaves much to be desired, allowing 78.6 PPG (293rd) on 47.4% shooting (300th).
Minnesota: Head coach Richard Pitino is not in panic mode, at least not yet. "Certainly we have our deficiencies we have to fix, but the sky's not falling," Pitino told reporters after the Gophers allowed the Razorbacks to shoot 57.4 percent from the floor and 43.5 percent from beyond the arc. The 6-6 Jordan Murphy leads the team in scoring (19.9) and rebounding (12.5), posting a double-double in all 11 games. The 6-10 Lynch (11.0 & 8.1 plus 4.2 blocks per game) joins Murphy up front plus the Gophers have a sweet trio of guards in Mason (15.8-4.0-4.5), Coffey (14.2 & 4.6 and McBrayer (8.5). Coffey has scored at least 10 points in six straight games.
The pick: This is a huge number but Drake is 0-3 on the road, while allowing 88.5 PPG. This is a the wrong place and wrong time to visit Minnesota, reeling from back-to-back road losses. Minnesota averages a whopping 93.5 PPG at home and the play is to lay the points. Make Minnesota 10* selection.
|12-10-17||76ers v. Pelicans -4.5||Top||124-131||Win||100||12 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: The 13-13 New Orleans Pelicans are hoping to cap a short four-game homestand at 2-2 when they host the 13-12 Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night. The Pelicans are none too happy after blowing a nine-point lead with only 3 1/2 minutes left, then losing in overtime to struggling Sacramento on Friday night. The 76ers visit New Orleans on a three-game slide, after losing 105-98 at Cleveland last night, while star center Joel Embiid was rested.
Philadelphia Embiid is expected back for this one after sitting out the first game of a back-to-back (for the third time this season) last night. However, forward Robert Covington (15.3 & 6.2) left the loss with a back injury after tumbling into the stands. Covington was 5-for-7 from 3-point range and recorded 19 points before his injury,and JJ Redick (16.1) matched him in the scoring column in the loss to Cleveland. Head coach Brett Brown did not have an immediate update after the game on Covington. Embiid scored 33 points and had seven rebounds, six assists and five blocks in a career-high 36 minutes. in his last game. He has scored at least 20 points in five straight games and is averaging 23.5 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.0 blocks in 30.2 minutes per game. Ben Simmons is a (the?) leading candidate for rookie of the year, averaging 17.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.2 steals. He played his only year of college basketball at LSU, 80 miles from New Orleans, has had a spectacular season after missing his entire rookie campaign. The 6-10 point forward recorded three triple-doubles in his first 23 games. The only other players in NBA history to do that were Oscar Robertson (seven) and Magic Johnson (three).
New Orleans: Anthony Davis returned from a groin injury to provide 18 points in the overtime loss to the Kings on Friday, and head coach Alvin Gentry is well aware his team can't lose games like this (to teams like the Kings), if it is serious about contending for Western Conference playoff spot."You can't give Knute Rockne speeches every night," Gentry told reporters. "You know, as an athlete, it's your job. And it's our job as coaches (to get them ready). We have to have the energy to go out and play against a team like that and make sure we are getting the job done." Davis was expected to play about 25 minutes Friday but was able to give his team 31, and the 24-year-old reported no issues with the groin. New Orleans will hope for Davis to provide a little more support for fellow big man DeMarcus Cousins, who scored 38 points against Sacramento and is averaging 39 in 40.5 minutes over the last two games. The Cousins (26.3 & 12.6)/Davis (24.9 & 10.7) duo is formidable plus guards Holiday (16.6-4.3-5.5) and Moore (12.4) join them in double digits. PG Rajon Rondo was rested on Friday but he's coming around nicely, averaging 11.5 points on 58.8 percent shooting and 9.8 assists over the first four contests in December.
The pick: Cousins joins Embiid as the only NBA players averaging at least 23 points and 11 rebounds per game this season and with Davis back (and Rondo as well), I expect the Pelicans to grab the win here after "giving one away" against the Kings. The 'price is right' to make the Pelicans a 10* play.
|12-10-17||Tulane v. Florida State -13||Top||53-72||Win||100||5 h 30 m||Show|
Tulane" The Green Wave were every bit of a six-win team last season (they earned those 25 losses) but it's been quite a turnaround in the early going of this season. 6-6 guard Melvin Frazier has improved in just about every statistical category over last season and, with a line of 18.8-7.4-2.8, has helped to carry the Green Wave to seven wins and a chance at their first winning season since 2012-13. Fellow guard Reynolds is right behind him (16.9 & 5.4) plus the 6-9 Sehic (12.4 & 7.4) is the team's best frontcourt player. Two more guards, Cornish (10.4 & 4.0 APG) and Ona Embo (9.6) round out the major contributors. Tulane averages 80.2 PPG (86th) on 47.6% shooting (77th).
Florida State: The Seminoles won 26 games before losing the second round of the NCAAs last season. However, four starters are gone from that team, including guards Bacon (17.2), and Rathan-Mayes (10.6 & 4.8 APG) plus the "one & done" 6-10 Isaac (12.0 & 7.8). Mann was the lone returning starter and the 6-6 junior guard leads the team in scoring (16.0), while adding 5.8 RPG. Three more guards, CJ Walker (12.2), Angola (12.0) and MJ Walker (8.6) give FSU an excellent perimeter game. The surprise has been the 6-8 Phil Cofer. After a freshman season in which he averaged 6.9 points and 4.5 rebounds, Cofer appeared on his way to becoming a mainstay for the Seminoles but that hasn't been the case until this season. He averaged fewer than 13 minutes and four points over the last two seasons but he's averaging 13.4 PPG and 5.5 RPG, joining the 6-9 Kabengele (9.0 & 5,1) in the frontcourt. That group helps FSU to an average of 89.0 PPG (15th) on 50.6% shooting (21st). The D on a Leonard Hamilton-coached team is always good and this year's team is allowing 68.8 PPG (103rd).
The pick: Florida State is one of eight unbeaten teams in Division I (number is falling fast, just ask Duke!) and will look to remain among that select company when it plays Tulane Sunday in Tampa, Fla. The Seminoles earned their seventh victory by 15 or more points Wednesday against Loyola Maryland and their 8-0 start is the best for Florida State since opening 10-0 in 2003-04. I'm laying the points here and making FSU a 10* play.
|12-09-17||Portland State v. Santa Clara -4||Top||87-84||Loss||-105||22 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: The Portland State Vikings won their third straight game and improved to 7-2 on the season after defeating the Loyola Marymount Lions 94-85 this past Wednesday. The Vikings will travel to the Leavey Center on Saturday night to face the 3-5 Santa Clara Broncos. Santa Clara opened 1-5 but has won back-to-back homes games, 89-57 over Northern Arizona and 72-57 over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Portland State: The Vikings have a new head coach in Barret Perry and the team's 7-2 start is confidence-building, after the team has won 15, 13 and 15 games the last three seasons, respectively. Portland State was able to pull away from the Lions this past Wednesday, helped by Marymount committing an incredible 33 turnovers! Bryce Canda had a double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds to lead the way. This guard-oriented lineup features four double digits scorers on the perimeter. North is tops with 17.9 PPG, followed by Canda (17.7), who also leads in rebounding at 7.4 per. Mayhew (10.8) and Woods (10.2) round out the quartet, As a team, Portland averages 91.6 PPG, which ranks 6th in the nation.
Santa Clara: After routing Northern Arizona, the Broncos did much the same to Pine Bluff (see above). Leading the way was Matt Hauser (10.1) who had 21 points. He's joined by two other scorers in the backcourt, Feagin (18.2) and Caruso (11.00, who also leads the team in rebounding at 7.1 per. The 6-8 Vrankic (11.0 & 4.4) is the team's best frontcourt player.
The pick: Santa Clara averages more than 20 PPG less than Portland State at 74.3 per but note the Broncos have held back-to-back opponents to 57 points here at the Leavey Center. It's not as if Santa Clara can keep Portland State under 60 points (lowest point total was 69 vs Butler) but the Broncos should at least slow them down. It says something here that Santa Clara is favored over a team averaging almost 92 PPG and whose only losses this season have come against Butler and Duke at the Phil Knight Invitational Tournament. Lay it and make Santa Clara an 8* play.
|12-09-17||Magic +2 v. Hawks||Top||110-117||Loss||-110||11 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: The Magic just beat the Hawks 110-106 Wednesday in Orlando but it took overtime and they did not cover as a 6 1/2-point favorite. The Hawks haven't played since, while the Magic are coming off a 103-89 home loss last night to the Nuggets. Evan Fournier, the Magic's second-leading scorer at 18.3 PPG ,scored 27 points in Orlandos home overtime victory over the Hawks on Wednesday but he won't be available for Saturday's rematch after he sprained his right ankle at the start of overtime. More bad news comes in that Orlando's leading scorer Aaron Gordon (18.7 PPG) will also be out of the lineup. He was injured when he collided with Denver guard Gary Harris in Friday's loss and won't play again until he clears the NBA's concussion protocol.The good news for the 11-16 Magic is that the Hawks are a brutal 5-19 on the season, including just 2-9 at home
Orlando: Losing Fournier and now Gordon is just the latest injury blow for the Magic, who started the season 8-3 before going into a slide. The Magic are also without Terrence Ross (9.0) and rookie defensive standout Jonathan Isaac (6.1 & 4.4). Ross has missed the past five games with a knee injury and Isaac the last 15 with a sprained ankle. Gordon has been a real bright spot admitted head coach Frank Vogel. "Yeah, it's tough, but everybody in the league has injuries," Vogel said after the game. "You know we can't feel sorry for ourselves now. We have to go get a win (Saturday) night."
Atlanta: The Hawks have lost four of their last five games and have injury woes of their own. Center Dewayne Dedmon (11.1 & 7.8) is expected to miss his fifth straight game due to a leg injury.and rookie forward John Collins (11.5 & 7.1) will miss his fourth straight contest with a shoulder injury and is expected to miss another week to 10 days. PG Dennis Schroder has emerged as the club's top scorer (20.5 PPG plus 6.5 APG) and is averaging 24 points over the past four games. Schroder scored 26 points in Wednesday's loss to Orlando for his 13th 20-point outing of the campaign. Second-year forward Taurean Prince is averaging 12.5 points and scored 19 on 6-of-8 shooting against the Magic after being just 11-of-34 shooting over the previous three games.
The pick: The Hawks have won 11 of the last 14 home matchups with the Magic but let's remember, that was with a much different team. The Hawks have been to 10 straight postseasons (only the Spurs own a longer consecutive streak) but this year's team is a playoff imposter and is on pace for a 17-win season. Expect the Magic to win this quick turnaround re-match, as well. Make Orlando a 10* play.
|12-09-17||Minnesota v. Arkansas -3.5||Top||79-95||Win||100||19 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The Minnesota Golden Gophers opened 7-0 but they have not been very 'golden' lately, entering this game 8-2 (ranked No. 14) but losers of two of their last three. The team's first loss was 86-81 to Miami at home in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Nov. 29 ('Canes are currently ranked 10th) and then this past Tuesday at Nebraska. Minnesota shot just 32.4 percent from the floor in that 78-68 loss to the Cornhuskers (Nebraska is 7-3). The Gophers travel to Fayetteville and Bud Walton Arena on Saturday evening to take on 6-2 Arkansas. The Razorbacks bounced back from a 26-point loss at Houston on Dec. 2 with a resounding 92-66 victory over Colorado State on Tuesday.
Minnesota: "They just played better than we did and when we needed to get stops, we couldn't," Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino told reporters after the Nebraska loss. "Offensively, obviously, we didn't have it going. If you don't have it going offensively, you've got to get stops and get out on the break. We did not do that. Credit to them."Minnesota has all five starters back from last year's 24-win team and is being led by 6-6 junior forward Jordan Murphy (19.9 & 12.8). Senior PG checks in at Nate Mason (15.7-4.0-4.4, after averaging 20.3 points over his last four games. Reggie Lynch is a 6-10 senior center and averages 11.6 & 8.6 plus leads the nation with 4.5 blocks per game. 6-8 forward Coffey (13.8 & 4.5) and SG McBrayer (8.8 & 3.4 APG) round out the starting-five.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks won 26 games last season, losing in the NCAAs second round. Three starters are gone from that team, including leading scorer Hannahs (14.4) and the 6-10 Kingsley (12.0 & 7.7). Arkansas has solid balance this year, although four of the team's five double digit scorers are all guards. Barford leads the way with 19.6 PPG (4.1 RPG & 3.4 APG), followed by Macon (14.6), Beard (11.9) and Jones (10.8). The 'outsider' is 6-11 freshman Gafford, who averages 12.0 & 5.8. The Razorbacks average 87.2 PPG (25th) with Barford (46.2 percent), Macon (43.9) and Jones (40.5) coming into this contest as one of two trios in the nation shooting over 40 percent from three-point range with at least 35 attempts.
The pick: The Golden Gophers average 87.3 PPG (23rd) but come in struggling on the offensive the last few games. That not good news when playing at Arkansas, which is famous for its defensive pressure. The Razorbacks forced 19 turnovers, raising its season average to 16.4 per in their win over Colorado State and held the Rams to 36.5 percent shooting. Murphy will face extra defensive attention from Arkansas’s deep, athletic forecourt plus center Reggie Lynch will be challenged by Arkansas’s prized, five-star 6-11 freshman Daniel Gafford, who has lived up to teh hype. The Razorbacks' first eight opponents were a combined 42-25 through Wednesday's games and Arkansas is 4-0 at home, outscoring opponents 92.8-to-62.5 PPG. Make Arkansas a 10* play.
|12-08-17||Oklahoma +1.5 v. USC||Top||85-83||Win||100||24 h 3 m||Show|
The set-up: The 6-1 Oklahoma Sooners will visit Los Angeles to take on the 4-2 USC Trojans on Friday night in the Basketball Hall of Fame's Hoophall L.A. Classic played at Staples Center. The Sooners have the better current record, although it's USC which comes in ranked at No. 25 in the latest AP poll. However, after opening 4-0, the Trojans have lost at home to then No. 16 Texas A&M (75-59) and followed with a 72-55 loss at SMU. USC is now looking to avoid a third straight loss against an Oklahoma team that has lost just once (92-83 to Arkansas in the PK80 Invitational) and is knocking on the top-25 'door' with a four-game win streak that includes a 90-80 neutral-floor win over 2017 Final Four participant Oregon in that same PK80 Invitational in Portland,.
Oklahoma: 6-2 freshman Trae Young scored a season-high 43 points to go along with a game-high seven assists and two steals in not only leads Oklahoma in scoring but his 28.7 PPG also leads the nation! Young, who also averages 8.7 APG, can't wait to play on the same court of former Oklahoma star Blake Griffin of the Clippers, not to mention the Lakers of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. "I've been able to play in the (Chicago) Bulls arena, the Brooklyn Nets arena, obviously Portland and now L.A.," Young said. "It's going to be fun. That's a legendary place to play. ... I can't wait for it." The Sooners ranks second in the nation at 94.4 PPG and shoot 50.5 percent as a team (24th). Junior guard Christian James (11.9 & 4.0) and 6-9 senior forward Khadeem Lattin (11.1 & 9.1) are also are averaging in double figures.
USC; Last year's team set a school-record with 26 victories and made a surprising run to NCAA's Sweet 16 and with all five starters returning, were considered a 'sleeper pick' to make it to the school's first Final Four since 1954. However, after that 4-0 start, USC has been humbled in back-to-back games (see above). The team's current five starters average between 9.0 and 16.0 PPG, led by the 'Twin Tower' duo of the 6-11 Metu (16.0 & 7.7) and the 6-10 Boatwright (15.7 & 7.7). PG McLaughlin also scores in double digits at 13.5 PPG, while leading the team with 5.8 APG.
The pick: USC's loss to A&M is not much of a concern (Aggies are currently ranked 7th) but the Trojans led 30-27 at halftime at SMU last Saturday, before getting outscored 45-25 in the second half by the Mustangs. It was deja vu all over again, as six days earlier Texas A&M used a late 19-3 run to pull away for a 16-point victory at the Galen Center. USC is already without G De'Antthony Melton, who is being withheld because of eligibility issues stemming from the FBI investigation of assistant coach Tony Bland plus will also be without PG Derryck Thornton, a Duke transfer who is expected to miss three-to-four weeks after dislocating his right shoulder Nov. 28. Back-to-back lopsided loss is a concern for Andy Enfield's team, whose offense is not functioning well with USC making just 12 of 44 three-point attempts (27.3 percent) in those contests. Even in the "friendly confines" of Staples Center (just up the 110 Freeway from USC's on-campus Galen Center), a see a third straight loss coming for the Trojans. Make Oklahoma a 10* play.
|12-08-17||Raptors -5.5 v. Grizzlies||Top||116-107||Win||100||22 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: The Toronto Raptors have been dominant at home so far, as after their 126-113 win over Phoenix on Tuesday, the Raptors checked in with a 9-1 mark at Air Canada Centre. In contrast, the team is just 6-6 on the road and tonight's game at Memphis vs. the Grizzlies will kick off a four-game road trip. The Grizzlies did snap their 11-game losing streak Monday against Minnesota but then fell right back in a "losing mode" dropping a 99-88 decision at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday to fall to 8-16 on the season.
Toronto:.Toronto's backcourt of DeMar DeRozan (23.3-4.5-4.9) and Kyle Lowry (16.6-6.3-7.1) led the way in the win over the Suns, combining for 40 points and 18 of Toronto's 30 assists. "When you’re making shots, it's good, and the confidence we all have in each other to take shots and to give the opportunity to shoot the ball and we don’t care, it's always good," Lowry told reporters. Toronto is averaging 111.5 PPG (3rd-best in the NBA and topes in the East) an 48.7 percent shooting (2nd-best). The Raptors have upped that to 121 points during their four-game winning streak while making an average of 13 three-pointers per game and handing out 28.5 assists. "Everybody gets a chance to touch the ball, you don't necessarily got to work so hard," DeRozan told reporters. "Everybody gets a feel for the ball, everybody gets to make the next decision for your teammate, and with that, we still miss a lot of shots, but it's something we're still learning and something we're still trying to get better at every time we practice, every time we play."
Memphis: Center Marc Gasol scored 17 points in Wednesday's loss in New York while his fellow starters combined for just 23, on 7-of-24 shooting. He's the team's leading scorer (18.9) and rebounder (8.8) plus played through a knee issue. "I don't know exactly what happened. It just locked up," he told reporters. "Couldn't really extend it. I never had any knee issues. So it was a new feeling for me." While Gasol's fellow starters 'laid an egg,' the bench provided some positives in the loss. In particular, forward Chandler Parsons, who had missed three of the previous four games with knee and ankle injuries, had 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 22 minutes.
The pick: Memphis was 7-6 and had topped 100 points six times before deciding to shelve Conley (17.1 & 4.1 APG) on Nov. 14 in hopes of relieving the pain in his Achilles. The result has been the Grizzlies having gone 1-10 SU & 2-8-1 ATS since, being held to 98 or fewer points on all but two of the occasions. Toronto has faced only one team (Indiana, twice) with a winning record among its last six contests,and won't see another above-.500 club until meeting the Philadelphia 76ers on Dec. 21, which is eight games from now. The lesser competition has allowed the Raptors to focus on spreading the offensive wealth rather than relying on guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Seven players scored in double figures Wednesday and the club's 30 assists were one shy of their season best. Chalk up another 'victim' here. Make Toronto a 10* play.
|12-07-17||Eastern Washington v. San Francisco -7||Top||71-81||Win||100||14 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: The Eastern Washington Eagles dropped their second straight game 84-65 this past Sunday to the Seattle Redhawks, falling to 3-5 on the season. They will travel to War Memorial Gymnasium in San Francisco on Thursday to take on the San Francisco Dons, who snapped their two-game losing streak and improved to 4-3 on the season after defeating the Central Arkansas Bears 78-76 this past Monday night.
Eastern Washington: The Eagles allowed Seattle to shoot 50.9% from the floor, including 52.9% (9-17) from beyond the arc in Sunday's loss. Clearly, that kind of defense won't cut it for a team which is averaging only 70.1 PPG (273rd) on some very poor shooting (39.7% ranks 324th!). Eastern Washington's leading score is Bogdan Bliznyuk (14.1-4.5- 2.4), a 6-6 guard, plus a trio of guards add 6.9-to-9.0 PPG to the mix. The 6-7 Hunt (6.6 & 5.8) and the 7-0 Gruciunas (6.4 & 5.1) are the best big men.
San Francisco: The Dons held off a late Central Arkansas run to pick up the two-point victory in their last game. San Francisco shot just 38.1% from the floor but did out-rebound the Bears by a 43-30 margin in the victory. San Francisco doesn't score any better than Eastern Washington, averaging 71.4 PPG (246th) and shoots poorly as well, connecting on 39.1 percent (336th). Jordan Ratinho had 17 points in the win and leads the Dons on the season with 12.7 PPG (also 4.3 RPG). 6-5 SF Chase Foster adds 11.3 PPG and a team-high 6.0 RPG.
The pick: Eastern Washington has had a tough early schedule and it is taking a toll. The Eagles limp in just 1-6 ATS in their last seven road games and while San Francisco is "more in their class," the Dons are 6-0 ATS in their last six games vs. a team with a winning percentage below .400. Make San Francisco a 10* play.
|12-07-17||Wizards v. Suns +7.5||Top||109-99||Loss||-110||13 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: The Phoenix Suns opened the season 0-3 with two losses of 40 points or more. That prompted the firing of head coach Earl Watson, who was replaced by Jay Triano. The Suns have been more competitive since that horrific start (nowhere to go but up!), going 9-14 SU but also 12-10-1 ATS. The team just completed a 2-4 road trip but SG Devin Booker went down with a strained left adductor in Tuesday's 126-113 setback at Toronto. However, the Suns hope to have Booker available when they host Washington Wizards on Thursday. The 13-11 Wizards opened their five-game road trip with a 116-69 loss at Utah on Monday but quickly bounced back the next night in Portland, winning 106-92.
Washington: SG Bradley Beal posted a career-high 51 points in Tuesday's win, as with Washington operating without All-Star PGJohn Wall (knee), he's being asked to take on more responsibility. Beal, as well as the entire team, laid an egg in Utah but all was right in Portland, especially with Beal who was 21-of-37 from the floor in his career-best effort. "I was really upset with the way we played, especially with myself individually," Beal told reporters in reference to the Utah debacle. "I just came in (to Portland) with the mindset that I was going to be aggressive, not thinking about anything else but trying to get a win and playing my game." Beal leads with 23.3 PPG with Wall (he has missed six games and remains sidelined because of left knee inflammation) second on the Wizards in scoring at 20.3 PPG (leads in assists with 9.2 per game). The Wizards are 3-3 with Tim Frazier starting in Wall's place.
Phoenix: Booker (24.3-4.5-4.1) had to be helped off the court on Tuesday after scoring 19 points in 39 minutes and will undergo further testing to determine the severity of the injury. Booker had missed the first game of the road trip but was on fire over the rest of the trip, averaging 31.6 points on 50.5 percent shooting, including a 46-point outburst in a 115-101 win at Philadelphia on Monday. The Suns saw eight players score in double figures in the loss at Toronto and will ask even more of players like T.J. Warren (18.4 & 5.7) (9.2 & 3.5) and rookie Josh Jackson if Booker is unable to go.
The pick: John Wall played (scored 21 points) and Bradley Beal scored 40, points back on Nov. 1 in Washington, yet the Wizards were still outscored by the Suns, 122-116 (as an 11-pont underdog). Warren exploded for a career-high 40 points on 16-of-22 shooting while adding 10 rebounds in that one, as Phoenix overcame a 22-point deficit to secure the victory. Center Greg Monroe collected 11 points and 10 rebounds on Tuesday to mark his third double-double in nine games with the team and enters doing a nice job since the trade (10.8 & 7.4). Revenge for Washington? I'm not buying it, as the Wizards are the only team in the Southeast Division with a winning record. The home dog barks loudly in this one. Make Phoenix a 10* play.
|12-06-17||Nuggets v. Pelicans -4.5||Top||114-123||Win||100||23 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: New Orleans Pelicans squandered a 20-point halftime lead on Monday at home against the defending champs, eventually falling 125-115. Frustration seemed to boil over in the final minutes as a slew of technical fouls were handed out and DeMarcus Cousins was ejected (shocking!). The 12-12 Pelicans will try to re-group tonight, when the welcome the 13-10 Denver Nuggets to the Smoothie King Center. Denver opened its six-game trip with a 122-105 loss at Western Conference-worst Dallas on Monday, falling to 3-8 on the road, compared to the team's 10-2 home mark. Both teams are missing key performers, as Anthony Davis (25.2 & 11.0) is sidelined with a groin injury and Nikola Jokic (15.5 & 10.6) with an ankle injury.
Denver: The Mavs rank among the lowest-scoring teams in the league but shot 57 percent from the floor against Denver on Monday. "They get their 3s from dribble penetration," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told reporters of the Mavericks. "When you can't guard their guards and they live in the paint for scores and they live in the paint for kick-out 3s, they got everything tonight. You're not going to beat anybody when you're giving up that kind of productivity in the paint and behind the arc." Is Malone serious? If the Mavs are "tough to guard" for his team, where are the Nuggets headed? The Nuggets fell behind by 25 points in the first half and could not recover despite 22 points from Murray and 21 from Harris. Murray is averaging 14.4 PPG, joining fellow guards Barton (15.8), Harris (14.4) and Mudiay (10.0) in double digits. With Jokic sidelined for at least a few games and PF Millsap (15.7 & 6.2) also out until late-February with a wrist injury, Denver will need help from forwards Chandler and Faried, as well as center Plumlee. Not sure that will happen, though.
New Orleans: "I keep telling our guys, as bad as this loss is, what we keep proving is that we have the ability to play extended minutes with the world champs," Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry told reporters after the 125-115 loss. "We have to now find a way to not do it for 32 or 36 minutes, but for 48." New Orleans is operating without Davis, who had an MRI on his groin reveal no major damage and is now considered day-to-day with a left adductor strain. New Orleans is making up for the loss of production by asking more of its backcourt, and Jrue Holiday (34) and E'Twaun Moore (27) combined for 61 points on Monday. Holiday (16.3-4.4-5.5) is playing off the point with Rajon Rondo (6.6 & 7.3 APG) running the offense and has seen his scoring tick up to an average of 22.6 points in the last five games, with Rondo averaging nine assists in that span. Moore averages 12.6 PPG on the season, the only other player in double digits other than Cousins (25.3 & 12.2).
The pick: Talk about a revenge motive! Denver shot 62.9 percent from the floor in a 146-114 home win over New Orleans back on Nov. 17! It was the team's best shooting percentage since 2012, and the Nuggets made 18 of 35 attempts from long range. They also recorded a season-high 37 assists and their starting five combined for 101 points. Davis played only 21 minutes in the first game against Denver but still led the Pelicans with 17 points. He is listed as day-to-day for Wednesday but he said Monday he was still experiencing sharp pain in his left groin area when making lateral cuts. No reason to expect Davis to play here but let's remember the Nuggets are now 3-8 SU and 3-9 ATS on the road (are allowing 10.9 PPG) and as head coach Malone noted, had no answers for the pathetic Mavs' offense. Lay it and make the Pelicans a 10* play.
|12-06-17||Loyola-Chicago v. Florida -15||Top||65-59||Loss||-110||23 h 32 m||Show|
The set-up: The Florida Gators opened 5-0, including a 111-105 win over Gonzaga. However, Florida then allowed Duke to come back from a 17-point deficit with 10 minutes left to beat the Gators 87-84 for the Motion Bracket championship at the Phil Knight Invitational tournament. Things went from bad-to-worse in Florida's next game, as the Gators were humbled 83-66 in a home loss to the unranked Seminoles on Monday. Mike White's team looks to bounce back tonight against the 8-1 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, who are off to the school's best start since also winning eight of their first nine contests back in 1965-66.
Loyola-Chicago: The Ramblers are 13-2 in their last 15 games versus non-Missouri Valley Conference opponents but of course in No. 5 Florida, it's a bit of a 'horse of a different color.' The team opened the season with seven straight victories before splitting its last two, an 87-53 loss at Boise State and then Saturday's 24-point win over Illinois-Chicago. Senior forward Aundre Jackson spearheaded the attack, hitting 10-of-11 shots for a game-high 23 points, his second-highest total of the season and the second time he has topped 20 points in the last four games. Freshman Lucas Williamson chipped in with a career-high 14 points. Loyola-Chicago averages 79.1 PPG (110th) but shoots 52.2% from the floor, which ranks 8th! Four players are averaging in double figures led by senior forward Jackson (13.8 & 4.2) plus guards Townes (13.4 & 5.2), Custer (13.4 & 4.3 APG) and Ingram (12.3 & 6.9).
Florida: "They (Florida State) threw the first three or four punches and continued throwing most of them and connected on most of them until the final buzzer. Very disappointing effort," coach White told reporters afterward. "… I thought they played harder than us; I thought they were tougher than us for 40 minutes." Like Loyola, four players are averaging in double figures, led by junior guard Jalen Hudson (20.9 &4.4). Joining him are fellow guards Koulechov (16.7 & 6.6), Allen (13.7 & 3.4) and Chiozza (11.7-5.6-6.4). However, the Gators offense couldn't get anything going against Florida State, scoring 33.5 points fewer than its season average coming into the game (99.5). They wound up shooting a dismal 36.2 percent from the floor and hitting just 6-of-25 from three-point range (both their second-worst showings of the young season).
The pick: No reason to think the Gators won't bounce back here, as Mike White's team is 3-1 in Gainesville with a 29.7 point average margin of victory in the three wins. As for Loyola, the Ramblers will be going for their first victory over a team ranked in the top-five since 1984 and in fact, they have not beaten ANY ranked team in nearly nine years. The Gators hope to responded to consecutive losses to Duke and Florida State in early December games last year, ripping off seven straight victories. Same story here, at least for one night (note Loyola's 83-57 loss at Boise State). Make Florida a 10* play.
|12-05-17||Vermont v. Marquette -3||Top||81-91||Win||100||21 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: The Vermont Catamounts lost their season-opener at Kentucky but only 73-69 as 12-point underdogs. They then won six straight before falling this past Saturday 81-77 at Bucknell. Vermont will visit BMO Harris Bradley Center on Tuesday evening when they face the host the Marquette Golden Eagles. Marquette is 5-3, after seeing its three-game winnings streak snapped in 73-66 home loss to Georgia.
Vermont: The Catamounts are led by 6-6 forward Lamb (14.9 & 6.5), who is joined by three other double digit scorers. They are guards Bell-Haynes (12.2 & 5.0 APG) and Duncan (11.9) plus the 6-8 Henson (11.5 & 5.8). Vermont did not look good for most of that Bucknell game and except for a run in the final minutes, the final score would have been a little more lopsided. Vermont will need a much better effort here.
Marquette: Leading scorer Andrew Rowsey (22.6 & 4.2 APG) was held to 15 points in the loss to Georgia but his high-scoring backcourt partner Markus Howard (21.0) scored 29 points. Another guard, Hauser, averages 12.4 PPG and 6.0 RPG, but the scoring drops off from there, as no other player scores more than 6.4 PPG.
The pick: The Golden Eagles won the only prior meeting between the teams but that was some time ago, 89-58 back on Dec. 22, 1995. Marquette has struggled to pick up resume-building wins against ranked teams and major conference opponents early in the season, falling to Purdue, Wichita State and Georgia, The Golden Eagles will be tested by Vermont, a mid-major with past success but this is a game the home team need badly and I'll back them. Make Marquette a 10* play.
|12-04-17||Missouri State -1.5 v. North Dakota State||Top||71-58||Win||100||19 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: The Missouri State Bears will travel to the Scheels Center in Fargo on a five-game winning streak and with an overall record of 7-2. Awaiting the Bears will be the North Dakota State Bison, who come off back-to-back losses leaving them at 43-4 to open the new season.The Bison are off a 19-win season, after four straights years of 20-plus wins, and return eight players. Missouri State has known success in the past (remember Steve Alford?) but last year's 17-win season came after winning just 11 and 13 games the previous two years. However, four starters returned this year and maybe this year's 7-2 start means the Bears are looking at getting back to 20 wins.
Missouri State: Seven players are averaging 21-plus minutes per game with the 6-9 Johnson leading the team in scoring (13.7) and rebounding (10.3). Guard Miller (10.2 & 4.1) is the only other double digit scorer but SF Scurry just misses (9.7), despite averaging only about 15 minutes of playing time. Defense has been the key for Missouri State, which is holding opponents to an average of 62.4 PPG (33rd) on 36.8% shooting (14th).
North Dakota State: The Bison were a little out of their league in losing 83-59 at Mississippi State this past Thursday. North Dakota State had no answers for the Bulldogs and Tyson Carter (35 points), as the Bison couldn’t fight back after falling behind by a 63-38 margin with 11:13 left in regulation. North Dakota State shot just 28.6% (10-35) from beyond the arc ant-d was out-rebounded by the Bulldogs by a 41-28 margin. Leading the way for the Bison was Paul Miller who had 19 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Miller tops a guard-oriented team in averaging 14.7 & 6.6, with three other guards following. They are Ward (11.6), Hunter (10.1) and Jacobson (9.1).
The pick: Missouri State is not quite Miss. State (7-0) but the Bears have looked awfully good in their five-game winning streak. North Dakota State has struggled on the offensive end this season (67.3 PPG ranks 306th) and that's not good news against an excellent Missouri State defense Make the Bears a 10* play.
|12-04-17||Suns +10.5 v. 76ers||Top||115-101||Win||100||19 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The 76ers are finally starting to give some positive signs that "The Process" is beginning to come together. Philly welcomes the Phoenix Suns to ton sporting an overall 13-9 record. The 76ers are 5-1 in their last six games and 7-3 in their last 10, losing only to the Warriors, Cavaliers and Celtics. This just in...Those three teams are pretty good. As for the Suns, Phoenix finds itself 8-16 on the season. The Suns fell to 1-3 on their six-game road trip with a 116-111 loss at Boston on Saturday and have surrendered an average of 122 points in the three losses on the trip.
Phoenix: The Suns rank 30th (last) in the NBA in points allowed at 115.9 per game and after allowing the Celtics to shoot 52.5 percent from the floor on Saturday, rank 26th in defensive FG percentage at 47.1%. The Suns nearly erased a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter at Boston but in the end, it was just another loss. "We competed well, we've just got to not make mistakes and compete for more possessions than we did tonight," interim coach Jay Triano told reporters after the game. "It's just understanding the game and what's available and not making mistakes down the stretch. Our discipline has to be better." Shooting guard Devin Booker poured in 39 points on 16-of-29 shooting in Boston and is averaging 31 points on 55 percent shooting over the last three games. He leads the team at PPG 23.6 PPG, with small forward T.J. Warren adding 18.4 & 5.8 RPG.
Philadelphia: The 76ers are already "thinking playoffs." They rode 25 points and 10 rebounds from center Joel Embiid (23.1 & 11.3) to a 108-103 win over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday, pulling it out in the fourth quarter after squandering a lead in the third. "That's a good win for us," Embiid told reporters. "Getting those wins against what could be (a playoff team) is always good, learning the style of play." Rookie PG Ben Simmons scored just five points on Saturday (his first game scoring in single digits) but on the year is averaging 17.9-9.4-7.1. SG Redick (15.6), SF Covington (15.6) and PF Saric (11.5-6.4) are also in double digits.
The pick: Yes, the 76ers are 7-4 SU (8-3 ATS) at home but laying double digits? To say the least, the 76ers don’t have much of a track record as a double-digit favorite these last four-plus seasons. How about they are 0-0 when laying nine points or more. Take the points and make the Suns (6-3-1 ATS last 10 as a road dog) a 10* play.
|12-03-17||Dayton +9.5 v. Mississippi State||Top||59-61||Win||100||20 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: The Dayton Flyers are coming off a 24-win season and lost four starters from last year's team. Dayton is hoping to find some consistency in the early part of its season but so far has alternated wins and losses through each of its first six games, falling 3-3 on the season after being defeated 73-60 at home by the Auburn Tigers on Wednesday. The Flyers will travel to Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville to take on the 6-0 Mississippi State Bulldogs Sunday night in college hoops action.
Dayton: The Flyers sure know about winning (26, 27, 25 and 24 wins the last four years) but Dayton not only lost four senior starters off last year's team, it also saw head coach Archie Miller leave to take the Indiana job. Miller's loss is mitigated somewhat by Anthony Grant taking over. He was an assistant under Billy Donovan at Florida and then at OKC in the NBA) plus led VCU and Alabama to NCAA tourney wins as a head coach. The lone returning starter is guard Darrell Davis, who has averaged 19.7 PPG. The 6-7 Cunningham, who missed most of LY with an injury, looks healthy while averaging 14.3 & 10.3 plus the 6-8 Williams (8.8 & 5.2) adds size to the frontcourt. Five others are seeing "PT," averaging from 5.0-to-7.2 PPG.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs stayed perfect on the season by defeating the North Dakota State Bison 83-59 this past Thursday. Leading the way for the Bulldogs was Tyson Carter who had 35 points, Carter is a guard who leads the team in scoringat 15.0 PPG, with three fellow guards chippng in 12.0--to-12.3 PPG. That includes PG Quinndary Weatherspoon, whose line reads 12.2-5.5-4.8. Up front, the 6-10 Holman (11.5 & 7.3) and the 6-11 Ado (8.4 & 7.0) add size and are the best producers. Quinndary's brother Nick, is averaging 12.0 PPG. The Weatherspoon brothers are the only players to start every game for the Bulldogs this season and they are one of 29 sets of brothers nationally who are teammates.
The pick: Dayton may be in for somewhat of a rebuilding year but don't sell this program or head coach Grant, short (see above for a reminder). Former UCLA head coach Ben Howland owns a veteran squad and as always, he preaches defense (62.3 PPG allowed ranks 26th). However, while Dayton saw its 16-game home win streak snapped in that 73-60 setback Auburn last Wednesday, the Flyers are 15-4 in their last 19 games versus the SEC, including victories at Alabama 77-72 and versus Vanderbilt 68-63 last season. Take the points and make Dayton a 10* play.
|12-02-17||Pistons v. 76ers -5||Top||103-108||Push||0||19 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: The Philadelphia 76ers are 12-9 but have have been shut down this past week by two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, losing 113-91 at home to Cleveland on Monday and then 108-97 at Boston on Thursday. Philly now gets set to host the Pistons, who are no slouch themselves. Detroit has missed the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons but has every intent to change that dynamic here in the 2017-18 season, opening 14-7. That leaves them tied with Toronto, a half-game back of the Cavs, with all three teams chasing the 19-4 Celtics.
Detroit: The Pistons are coming off a 109-91 loss at Washington on Friday, as Andre Drummond's 15th double-double (14 points & 17 rebounds) was not nearly enough. The Pistons led by six at halftime but were outscored 35-15 in the third quarter, as their three-game winning streak came to an end. "We got killed on the glass," head coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters. "They played so much harder. ... We did nothing. We did nothing. I really don't have an explanation." Four of five starters average in double figures, led by Harris (18.9 & 5.3). Guards Bradley (16.6) and Jackson (15.6 & 5.8 APG) join Harris, as does center Drimmond (14.3 & 15.2). Five others add exclellent deoth, contributing between 6.2 and 9.6 PPG.
Phildelphia. The 76ers had won five of six before 'hitting a wall' against Cleveland and Boston. The Sixers rested center Joel Embiid on Thursday night in Boston, as it was their second game in as many nights and he has not yet been cleared to play in a back-to-back situations after undergoing surgery on his left knee in March. However, Embiid will play here and he's averaging 22.9 & 11.3. Ben Simmons (18.6-9.4-7.2) reminds some of Magic Johnson plus SG Redick (15.4), SF Covington (14.7 & 6.1) and PF Saric (11.2 & 6.4) are all playing well. T.J. McConnell (7.0 & 5.4 APG) missed the Boston game with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder but Bayless (9.7) is an able replacement at PG.
The pick: Tough back-to-back situation here for Detroit, as the team plays its second contest in a four-game road trip. Philadelphia claimed the first meeting between the teams with a 97-86 win in Detroit (Oct. 23), as Ben Simmons recorded his first career triple-double with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists and the 76ers limited the Pistons to 38.8 percent from the floor. Oh by the way, Embiid had 30 points in that first meeting in Detroit, as Drummond couldn't stop him. Nothing different expected here, Make Philly a HUGE 10* play.
|12-02-17||Cincinnati v. Xavier -2||Top||76-89||Win||100||11 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 21 Xavier (6-1) will host No. 11 Cincinnati (6-0) before a raucous, standing-room only crowd at Cintas Center at :high noon!' The time start is appropriate, as over the past 90 years these two Queen City schools have exchanged memorable performances, thrilling finishes, and even a few fists. Since Xavier's program has gained national prominence, the rivalry has drawn wider appeal as well. Cincinnati has steamrolled the competition to date, coming into Friday with an average margin of victory of 30.6 PPG, second-highest in all of Division I. However, the level of competition Cincinnati has encountered can be generously described as "not elite." Meanwhile, Xavier has already faced a pair of top-25 teams, losing a 102-86 decision to Arizona State before breaking out to an early 21-8 lead and winning 76-63 over Baylor.
Xavier: The Musketeers are led by preseason All-Amercian Trevon Bluiett, who averages 19.7 & 6.1. PG Macura (14.6-5.1-3.3) is an excellent backcourt mate plus the 6-8 Gates (11.7 & 4.6) and the 6-9 Jones (9.1 & 6.9) are the team's two best big men. Five others chip in between 5.4 and 8.6 PPG. Bluiett will be looking to get back on track after being held to 21 total points against Arizona State and Baylor but was picked by Macura, who had 42 points in those two games. On the season, Macura is shooting a red-hot 59.3 percent from the floor. Xavier can score with Cincy (89.0 PPG ranks 21st) but can't defend nearly as well (69.0 PPG ranks 116th).
The pick: This is a bitter rivalry In 1994, Xavier head coach Pete Gillen and Cincinnati head coach Bob Huggins refused to shake hands after an 82-76 Musketeers' victory in overtime, an incident they reportedly made amends for years later. In 1996, Xavier guard Lenny Brown's lane jumper at the buzzer lifted the Musketeers to a shocking 71-69 upset of No. 1-ranked Cincinnati in their gym. On December 10, 2011, in the closing moments of a 76-53 Xavier win at Cintas Center, an ugly bench-clearing brawl erupted, resulting in the game being played at a neutral site for two seasons. That vitriol has calmed in recent years, but there's certainly no love lost between the Bearcats and Musketeers. The schools are separated by less than three miles, and the teams and fan bases are united in their hatred of each other.
This is Cincy's first real test of the young season and it is also the Bearcats' first true road game. Cincy won last year's game at home (86-78) but Xavier has largely dominated the series over the past two decades, winning three of the past four meetings, seven of 10, and 14 of the previous 21. Xavier is shooting 55.0 percent from the floor as a team, with only Virginia Tech (56.1) shooting better. The Musketeers are 4-0 SU & ATS at home, outscoring opponents 93.5-to-61.8 PPG. Make Xavier an 8* play.
|12-01-17||Duquesne +7 v. Pittsburgh||Top||64-76||Loss||-110||12 h 5 m||Show|
The set-up:: Duquesne and Pittsburgh (both Pittsburgh-area schools) meet annually in non-conference play and this year's matchup will be contested at PPG Paints Arena, the home of the two-time defending Penguins. Duquesne enters 2-2 and Pittsburgh 3-4. The Panthers lead the series 52-32 but Duquesne won 64-55 last season, as 15 1/2-point underdogs.Dusquesne: The Dukes are off a 10-22 season but made a great off-season hire by bringing in Keith Dambrot as their head coach. He coached LBJ in high school and recently, led Akron to three NCAA berths and five more in the NIT in his 13 seasons at Akron. Duquesne opened 2-0 but lost its second straight game 78-71 to Cornell on Monday. The Dukes led at the half 35-32 but a 15-3 Cornell run gave the Big Red a 65-53 lead with just 6:02 left in regulation and the Dukes never recovered. Duquesne shot just 34.9 from the floor, while allowing Cornell to shoot 56.4%. Shooting poorly has been a problem so far for e thDukes, as they are connecting on just 37.9 percent on the season (ranks 340th!). Four guards lead the way, all scoring in double digits. Castro (20.8 & 3.8) is tops, followed by Williams (13.5), who leads in rebounding at 9.8 plus Smith (12.8 & 4.2) and Lewis (12.0).
Pittsburgh: Kevin Stallings begins his second season at Pitt, coming off a 16-17 season. All five starters are gone from that team and maybe that's a good thing. The Panthers come in off two straight wins and can climb back to .500 after a 1-4 start with a win. Senior forward Ryan Luther scored 15 points and led Pitt with eight rebounds plus added a career-high five assists in Tuesday's 71-63 victory over High Point. Luther (13.4 & 9.1) has cracked double figures in scoring in six of Pitt's first seven games. Luther is Pitt's lone big man of note, as JC transfer Jared Wilson-Frame, a 6-5 wing player, paces the team in scoring at 14.0 PPG. Guards Carr (10.0), Stevenson (9.90)and Milligan (8.7) have been the other notable contributors, so far.
|11-30-17||Cavs -7.5 v. Hawks||Top||121-114||Loss||-110||23 h 0 m||Show|
The set-up: Clearly, reports of Cleveland's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Despite LBJ's first-ever ejection Tuesday vs. the Heat, the Cavs' victory was the team's ninth in a row. As for the Hawks, the last thing they need to see tonight at home is a well-motivated James or a red-hot Cleveland squad after suffering the worst loss of an already down season with a 112-78 home setback to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday. "Our defense was just - they were shooting 64, 68 percent at the half," Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters. "They'd hit enough 3's to make you worry about that and they'd just kick it into drive. I feel like our defense, not just in the paint but everywhere, was just not good enough for an NBA game." The Hawks have made 10 straight playoff appearances (only the Spurs own a longer active streak) but welcome the Cavs to Phillips Arena just 4-16 on the season (only the 3-16 Bulls own a worse record)..
Cleveland: LBJ had 21 points (on 10-of-16 shooting) while adding 12 rebounds, six assists and five steals in 28 minutes against the Miami Heat on Tuesday but his ejection overshadowed a dominant performance from Kevin Love (18.7 & 10.0), who scored a season-high 38 points while going 10-of-16 from the floor and 14-of-17 from the free-throw line. The All-Star came up one rebound shy of his sixth double-double during the nine-game winning streak. The Cavs are now scoring 110.8 PPG (up to 3rd-best) but still have trouble on the opposite end of the court, allowing 108.5 PPG (25th).
Atlanta: The Hawks haven't played since that Saturday's 'embarrassment' vs. Toronto but will the extra practice time help much vs. the Cavs? PG Dennis Schroder (19.7 & 6.8 APG) scored a team-high 14 points in the loss to Toronto and has reached double figures in scoring in seven straight games after bottoming out with seven points on 2-of-16 shooting in a loss at Washington on Nov. 11. Schroder's been pretty much a lone bright spot for the Hawks this season, although five others are contributing between 11.0 and 12,7 PPG (none stand out, though!). The Hawks rank near the bottom in both points scored (102.2 ranks 23rd) and points allowed (108.2 ranks 24th), so it's easy to see why they are struggling.
The pick: It doesn't help Atlanta's chance here that one of the Cavaliers' most unexplainable losses during their disappointing 5-7 start to the current season came at home back on Nov. 5, when an injury-depleted Atlanta team that was riding an eight-game losing streak, won 117-115. Schroder matched a season high with 28 points and added nine assists in that Hawks' win but he'll need plenty of help here, if Atlanta is to "stay close." As noted above, Love is coming off a terrific outing and will now get a chance to wipe away the memory of his worst performance of the season, when he managed four points on 1-of-6 shooting in that home loss to the Hawks. My guess is that LBJ (28.2-8.3-8.3) will be focused off that ejection and I expect the Cavs to extend their winning streak to 10 in a row with plenty of room to spare. The Cavs are both 7-3 SU & ATS on the road this season, Make Cleveland an 8* play.
|11-30-17||Texas Tech v. Seton Hall +1.5||Top||79-89||Win||100||22 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: A pair of quality teams square off tonight in the Under Armour Reunion at Madison Square Garden. Seton Halll lost last week 75-74 to Rhode Island at Barclay Center, before rebounding with a 72-59 win over Vandy the next night. The Pirates were No. 20 in the AP but dropped out in Monday's latest poll. Meanwhile, 6-0 Texas Tech made its first appearance in the AP's top-25, checking in at No. 22
Seton Hall: "The Hall" is off a 21-win season, appearing in the Big Dance for a second straight year (won 25 games, two years ago). Four starters are back this season. Up front, it's the 6-6 Rodriguez (17.8 & 4.0) and the 6-10 Delagdo (14.0 & 9.3) plus guards Powell (14.0 & 3.2) and Carrington (10.2 & 4.3 APG) man the perimeter. 6-8 senior Ismael Sanogo doesn't score many points (3.2) but that doesn't mean he isn't important. Sanogo's oot his first start of the season in last week's win over Vanderbilt and responded with season highs of eight rebounds and four blocked shots. His defensive prowess was critical in the Pirates avoiding a second straight defeat ahead of their meeting with the undefeated Red Raiders in New York City. "Ish sets the tone on defense," Desi Rodriguez told the media. "It takes the weight off our shoulders. That's why we consider Ish to be the best defender in the country."
Texas Tech: Sanogo and the rest of the Pirates will have their hands full with a Texas Tech squad that has shot 50.4 percent as a team during its resurgence under coach Chris Beard. Tech starts starts five seniors and uses a 10-man rotation, with those players averaging between 5.3 and 15.0 PPG. .Keenan Evans (15.0 & 3.5 APG) leads the Red Raiders in scoring despite being held scoreless in the most recent win over Savannah State. Culver, a 6-5 freshman guard, is the only other player averaging in double digits (11.0). Great balance on offense has been 'swet' but defense has been ;king' for the team from Lubbock. Tech allows just 55,3 PPG (3rd) on 33.5% shooting (1st).
The pick: The Red Raiders have won their six games by an average margin of 28 points, including a 36-point victory over a ranked Northwestern team. Texas Tech has held three of its first six opponents to 50 points or fewer and the 49 points against then-No. 20 Northwestern were the fewest that Texas Tech allowed to a ranked team since a 67- 47 victory over No. 11 Oklahoma on Jan. 19, 2004. Also note that Texas Tech has started their five seniors during its six-game winning streak, joining Mercer are the only two schools to start five seniors in a game this season. No knock on Tech but Seton Hall is playing in the familiar surroundings of MSG and since Willard became head coach in 2010-11, the Pirates have posted 13 wins against ranked teams, including seven in their last 11 opportunities. Make Seton Hall a 10* play.
|11-29-17||Auburn v. Dayton +3.5||Top||73-60||Loss||-110||24 h 46 m||Show|
The set-up: Bruce Pearl hasn't had much success at Auburn (entered this season 44-54 in three years at the school) but all five starters are back from last year's 18-14 team. The Tigers come to Dayton looking to build off back-to-back wins that have the team sitting at 4-1 this season. Meanwhile, the Dayton Flyers, who are coming off a 24-win season, lost four starters from last year's team. Dayton is hoping to find some consistency in the early part of its season but so far has alternated wins and losses through each of its first 5 games (3-2).
Auburn: The Tigers crushed Winthrop in its last outing, with Mustapha Heron leading the team with 31 points on 11 of 17 shooting, while adding 10 rebounds for the double-double. Bryce Brown had 21 points on 7 of 12 shooting with six 3-pointers. Malik Dunbar added 13 points, DeSean Murray added 12 points and 8 rebounds plus Chuma Okeke added 11 points to give Auburn five players in double figures. PG Jared Harper had seven points and seven assists. Brown is the team’s leading scorer this season with 18.8 PPG and Murray is the etam's leading rebounder a 8.8 per. Heron adds 16.4 & 5.2, Murray 12.2 PPG and PG Harper averages 10.6 & 5.2 APG. Auburn is sure putting points on the board, averaging 93.4 PPG to rank 9th in the nation.
Dayton; The Flyers sure know about winning (26, 27, 25 and 24 wins the last four years) but Dayton not only lost four senior starters off last year's team, it also saw head coach Archie Miller leave to take the Indiana job. Miller's loss is mitigated somewhat by Anthony Grant taking over. He was an assistant under Billy Donovan at Florida and then at OKC in the NBA) plus led VCU and Alabama to NCAA tourney wins as a head coach. The lone returning starter is guard Darrell Davis, has come out averaging 20.0 PPG. The 6-7 Cunningham, who missed most of LY with an injury, looks healthy while averaging 16.0 & 10.2 plus the 6-8 Williams (8.8 & 5.2) adds size to a formidable frontcourt. Six others are seeing "PT," averaging from 3.6-to-7.4 PPG. Dayton scores nowhere near like Auburn but is a solid defensive team, allowing 69.8 PPG (137th).
The pick: Dayton has "stepped up" to the challenge when playing SEC teams, going 12-4 ATS in its last 16 games against the Power-5 conference. In fact, Dayton has won all four all-time meetings between the schools, most recently 73-63 in the 2012 Charleston Classic. Make Dayton a 10* play.
|11-28-17||Suns v. Bulls||Top||104-99||Win||100||10 h 60 m||Show|
The set-up: The "new look" Chicago Bulls are into a full-blown rebuilding process and after dropping five straight, as well as 10 of its last 11 games, stand at an NBA-worst 3-15. Chicago welcomes the 7-14 Phoenix Suns to the United Center on Tuesday, a team which has lost three in a row and 10 of their last 13 games, overall. This contest is a quick turnaround from a Nov. 19 game at the Talking Stick Arena, when Suns won 113-105.Phoenix: Star guard Devin Booker(22.5-4.2-4.2) suffered the injury during Friday's loss to the New Orleans Pelicans before sitting out Sunday's setback against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He hopes (big toe) hopes to return from a one-game absence but struggled with just 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting during that Nov. 19 home win over the Bulls .Booker's absence against the T-wolves led to increased playing time for rookie guard Mike James (11.4), who responded with a career-high 26 points in 30 minutes. "I think it's a little bit skewed because obviously Booker didn't play," James told reporters while downplaying his solid effort. "Most of the shots I took were more his shots." First-round pick Josh Jackson moved into the starting lineup with Booker out and he struggled to five points on 2-of-10 shooting to mark his eighth single-digit outing in 11 games. Jackson has so far been a disappointment, averaging 8.2 & 3.8. A bright spot (besides Booker) has been TJ Warren (18.6 & 5.6), who has scored in double digits in 12 straight games, reaching 20 points six times during that stretch. Chicago: The Bulls' Sunday loss emphasizes many of the problems the team has. Chicago held the Heat to seven first-period points but then allowed 38 in the second! "Nobody on our team wants to learn from losing," second-year forward Denzel Valentine (10.6 & 5.2) told reporters. "Everyone wants to learn by winning. But at the same time, all you can do is go out and compete." Jerian Grant (9.3 & 5.1 APG) lost his starting PG spot to Kris Dunn (10.6-4.7-3.9) but responded with outings of 21 points against the Golden State Warriors and a career-best 24 against the Heat. "I feel like when I'm out there with the second unit guys, I have that opportunity more," Grant told reporters about being able to look to score. "Coming off the bench I have to be aggressive and I feel like that helps our team. Being out there with that lineup, it's the punch I can give them." Dunn is averaging four points on 2-of-17 shooting in those same two games but coach Fred Hoiberg reiterated that he will remain the starter. Another example of a team with no sense of direction. The pick: Chicago currently owns the better first-round draft pick, as Lauri Markkanen (14.4 & 8.3) has looked 'light-years' better than Jackson (see above). In fact, Markkanen scored a career-best 26 points and collected 13 rebounds in the recent matchup with the Suns. Then again, the Bulls lost. Second verse, same as the first. Make the Suns a 10* play.
|11-28-17||Louisville +7.5 v. Purdue||Top||57-66||Loss||-110||13 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 17 Louisville has opened 4-0 and will travel to West Lafayette for Tuesday's ACC/Big Ten Challenge to face the 5-2 Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena. The Cardinals really haven't been tested yet, opening the season with wins over George Mason, Omaha, Southern Illinois and St. Francis (Pa.). However, in Friday's win over St. Francis, when junior Ray Spalding left in the second half with an ankle injury, a 22-point lead was whittled to eight in the 84-72 triumph. Purdue rolled to victories in its first four games by a combined 157 points while averaging 102 points but lost 78-75 (OT) to Tennessee 78-75 in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Boilermakers then got upset 77-73 by Western Kentucky in the next round. However, Purdue recovered nicely against Arizona, shooting 57 percent and draining 11-of-22 shots beyond the arc in the 89-64 victory.
Louisville: The Cardinals have had NCAA-related problems this fall, including the FBI investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball, a mess that cost veteran coach Rick Pitino his job, replaced by former Cardinal player David Padgett on an interim basis. The 6-10 Spalding (12.0 & 9.3) matched his career high with 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting and set a new personal best with 13 rebounds and five blocks in just 26 minutes against the Red Flash before getting hurt (he is questionable for Purdue). This will be Louisville's first road contest and interim coach David Padgett told reporters, “It's going to be an eye-opening experience for the young guys just because they've never done it before, “It’s going to be welcome to the jungle a little bit because there are not many places in college basketball that are tougher to play in than Purdue.” Senior guard Quentin Snider (8.3 & 4.0 APG) and 7-0 senior Anas Mahmoud (7.5 & 7.8) plus 6-7 junior Deng Adel (team-high 17.5 points plus 5.5 RPG ) will be counted on heavily, especially if Spaulding can't go.
Purdue: The win over then No.2 Arizona was Purdue's second-largest margin of victory against a ranked foe in school history. "It's good that they were resilient and they bounced back and they won a game," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "But I don't think it answers what happened in the other two games. The other two games, we didn't make shots. You have to be able to win versus good people when the ball doesn't go in." Also of note is that the Purdue beat an Arizona team which went 0-3 in the Bahamas, becoming the first team ranked No. 2 to fall out of the top-25 in one week's time since the the 1986-87 season (ironically, that team was Louisville!). The Boilermakers return four starters from their 2016 Big Ten championship team, making them as experienced as any team in the country. Sure, Caleb Swanigan (18.5 & 12.5) is a huge loss but 6-8 senior forward Vince Edwards (12.6 & 4.9 LY) is the only active player in the nation with at least 1,000 pints, 500 rebounds and 300 assists. Guards Edwards (18.0 & 4.4) and Mathias (16.1-4.7-4.7) lead in scoring from the perimeter with Edwards (14.0 & 9.0) and the 7-2 Haas (14.4 & 5.3) taking care of business inside. Then there is the 7-3 Matt Harms (6.3 & 4.1), who has blocked 21 shots in just 125 minutes this season.
The pick: Purdue leads the all-time series 11-6 but Louisville won last year’s matchup 71-64 at home, ending Purdue's seven-game winning streak in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Will Purdue start another winning streak here? I think not, as the Boilermakers have done quite a bit of traveling and this Louisville team is rested plus is playing with a chip on its shoulder from all the "off-the-court" issues. Make Louisville a 10* play.
|11-27-17||Lakers +4.5 v. Clippers||Top||115-120||Loss||-105||24 h 11 m||Show|
The setup: The Los Angeles Clippers opened the season 0-4 but the team quickly unraveled. A nine-game losing streak from Nov. 4-20 left them at 5-11 but the team's 116-103 win in Atlanta (11/22) finally stopped the bleeding. A 97-95 win at Sacramento followed, so now the 7-11 Clippers are looking to make it three in a row when they take on their Staples Center co-tenants, the LA Lakers. Those Lakers missed out on their own chance at a three-game winning streak with a 113-102 loss at Sacramento on Wednesday and have been off, since. The Lakers enter this game with an 8-11 mark, which is not bad at all for a team which has won 27, 21, 17 and 26 games the last four seasons, respectively.
Lakers: Having some extra time off has given the Lakers time to work PF Larry Nance Jr. back into shape in practice after he missed 11 games with a fractured hand. “It was good to have him back out there,” Lakers coach Luke Walton told reporters. “I think he’ll be good to go by Monday. ... If he’s good to go and cleared and ready, I don’t see any reason to not put him back in the starting lineup." Nance's return could push rookie PF Kyle Kuzma back into a reserve role despite his strong play this month. The rookie from Utah is averaging 18.1 points and 7.5 rebounds in 11 games as a starter and 15 points and 4.8 boards in eight games as a reserve. Fellow rookie Lonzo Ball (you may have head of him and his family?) has recorded at least a double-double in each of the last three games and went 4-of-8 from the floor in Wednesday's loss at Sacramento, marking the second time in his brief career that he shot at least 50 percent from the field in a game. Ball is averaging 9.0-7.4-7.1 but as alluded to, makes just 31.5% on FG attempts, including 21.5% on threes. Kuzma's 16.8 PPG leads seven double digit scorers.
Clippers: Blake Griffin (23.4-7.7-5.0) is the team-leader and five others average in double digits, including center Jordan (10.1 & 13.9), who shoots 65.5% from the floor plus anchors the defense. Jordan's contributions are subtler than Griffin but are no less impactful to the win column. He capped off a 16-rebound effort on Saturday agiants the Kings by using his length to alter a shot in the final seconds by Sacramento's Buddy Hield. Backing up, those "other five averaging in double digits" is now down to four, after First Team All-NBA defender Patrick Beverley was lost to a season-ending knee surgery.
The pick: The Clippers have won 15 of the last 16 in the series but "The Times They Are A-Changin!" For the first time quite a few years, "the Lake Show" may just be the equal of "Lob City!" Take the points and make the Lakers an 8* play.
|11-27-17||Yale -2.5 v. Delaware||Top||76-66||Win||100||21 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: The Yale Bulldogs won a school-record 23 games in the 2015-16 season. It led to the school's first NCAA appearance in 54 years and culminated in the first NCAA win in the school's 121-year history! All things considered, an 18-11 record last year, which ended with a loss in the Ivy League championship game (the league's first-ever conference tourney), wasn't half-bad! Yale (3-4) will travel to Newark, De. to take on the 4-2 Delaware Blue Hens Monday night at the Bob Carpenter Center. Delaware is off a 13-20 season (had won seven and 10 games the previous two seasons) but has four starters back.
Yale: The Bulldogs lost Makai Mason (transferred to Baylor) but the 6-7 Oni (15.8-5.8-3.7) is a terrific all-around player. Balance abounds, with six others averaging between 8.0 and 10.4 PPG, topped by returning PG Copeland (10.4 & 3.4 APG).
Delaware: Guard Ryan Daly (15.8 & 5.30 is th team's leading scorer with three other guards scoring in double digits. The frontcourt is patrolled by the 6-9 Carter (12.8 & 9.0) and the 6-8 Woods (7.8 & 4.7).
The pick. the bottom line here is that Yale is the much better team and its record would be better if the Bulldogs hadn't opened the season with road games at Creighton and Wisconsin. Delaware's easy-season schedule has been quite easy with games against Wesley, North Carolina Wesleyan and Longwood (among three of the team's four wins) and even so, the team has still struggled to space the floor offensively, averaging only 73.5 PPG. Yale has better depth and has a history of winning on the road. Yale won last year's meeting 81-63 and while this game is at Delaware, I'll still make Yale a 10* play.
|11-26-17||Oklahoma v. Oregon +2||Top||90-80||Loss||-105||6 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: The 3-1 Oklahoma Sooners and the 5-1 Oregon Ducks square off on Sunday in a fifth-place game as part of the PK80 tournament from Portland, Oregon. The Sooners rode Buddy Hields' scoring to a Final Four appearance two seasons ago but the Sooners "fell off the map" in the 2016-17 season, going 11-20 (had won 29 games the season before). Meanwhile, Oregon made it ll the way to the Final Four last season, before finishing 33-6. However, four starters are gone from that team, so the team's 5-1 start has been a mild surprise.
Oklahoma: Freshman Trae Young was still in high school when Buddy Hield propelled Oklahoma past Oregon and into the Final Four two years ago. Young exploded for 33 points against the Pilots during a win, becoming the first freshman in the Lon Kruger era (2011-present) to score 30 points. His performance marked the highest-scoring game by a Sooner freshman since Tommy Mason-Griffin tallied 38 points on Jan. 27, 2010. Young leads the way ins coring (24.5) and assists (9.0) plus 6-9 forward Khadeem Lattin (14.7 & 10.3) is the lone senior on the team. The Sooners are averaging 98.0 PPG (3rd-best) but are giving up too points, allowing 80.2 PPG (298th).
Oregon: The Ducks needed OT to earn an 89-79 win over DePaul, upping the Ducks to 5-1 this season. Guard Payton Pritchard, the lone returning starter, led the team with 29 points on 9 of 16 shooting. Elijah Brown (12.0) added 19 points on 6 of 13 shooting. 6-7 Freshman Troy Brown had 11 points along with nine rebounds and leads the team at 7.0 RPG (is scoring 11.0 per). Like Oklahoma, Oregon can light up the scoreboard (88.5 PPG) but unlike Oklahoma, Oregon is allowing 66.3 PPG.
The pick: I believe Oklahoma can put up points on most teams, but Oregon has enough offensive 'punch' to match the Sooners' point-for-point. Make Oregon a 10* play.
|11-25-17||Loyola Marymount v. Boise State -11||Top||48-68||Win||100||20 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: The Loyola Marymount Lions will travel to Boise, Idaho to take on the Boise State Broncos in a non-conference college basketball matchup on Saturday night. The Lions opened the season with a loss at UT-Arlington but a 91-87 win over Incarnate Word the last time out gives them three straight victories and a 3-1 record to open the season. In contrast, the Broncos opened 4-0 Broncos but will be looking to bounce back from their first loss of the campaign, a 75-64 loss to Iowa State back on Nov. 19th in South Carolina (Puerto Rico Tip-Off).
Loyola-Marymount: It's been awhile since Marymount has put a competitive team on the court and head coach Mike Dunlap opened his fourth season as the school's head coach with just a 37-55 record. Just two starters are back from last year's 15-15 team and Dunlap needs to replace seven of his top-eight scorers. The leading returning scorer from last year is the 6-6 Haney (9.4) and he's scoring 11.7 PPG. However, three newcomers are the key to this year's success (or lack thereof). JC transfer guards Batemon (19.0-5.0-3.8) and Allen (11.0) are already making an impact, as is 6-5 freshman Scott, who is averaging 16.2 PPG and a team-high 8.8 RPG. The Lions are averaging 84.8 PPG (54th) but will need to tighten a defense which allows 80.5 PPG on 47.5% shooting (both rank 29th!).
Boise State: Head coach Leon Rice has been at Boise for seven years and has won 20-plus games in all but his second season. His 2013 and 2015 teams made NCAA appearances. Two starters are gone from last year's 20-win team but the 6-7 guard Chandler Hutchison entered the season as arguably the MWC's best player. However, he's gotten off to a modest start (12.0-8.2-3.6) plus missed the Iowa St game (questionable here). The Broncos have shown excellent balance with fellow guards Hobbs (14.0-3.2-3.4) and Jessup (12.0 & 7.0) off to very good starts plus 6-9 graduate transfer (from Rice), Christian Sengfelder (13.4 & 4.6) has been an excellent addition.
The pick: If Hutchison can’t go again it's not great news but here at home, the Broncos can put plenty of points on the board against a Marymount defense allowing some "big numbers" against so-so competition so far. Lay the points and make Boise State an 8* play.
|11-24-17||Heat v. Wolves -4||Top||109-97||Loss||-105||20 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: The 11-7 Minnesota Timberwolves will welcome the 8-9 Miami Heat to the Target Center of Friday night, as all NBA teams were able to enjoy a Thanksgivings Day "off night." The Heat just knocked off the Celtics 104-98 Wednesday night, ending the NBA's longest winning streak at 16. However, Miami (at just 8-9), will have no time to rest on its laurels, as the Heat open a four-game road trip tonight in Minnesota. The Timberwolves won 124-118 win over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, after back-to-back losses. However, it was hardly smooth sailing, as they squandered a 26-point lead in the fourth quarter. "We have to work at it," Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters of fourth-quarter woes. "You have to be tough-minded."
Miami: Head coach Erik Spoelstra put his team through a pair of tough practices leading into the matchup with the Celtics, after getting blown out 120-95 at home by Indiana on Sunday. The strategy seemed to pay off. "I don't even care about the result," Spoelstra told reporters after Wednesday's 104-98 triumph. "Right now, it's all behavior and habits." PG Goran Dragic has led the team in scoring all season (18.8 & 4.6 APG) but entered the Boston game having totaled 14 points on 6-of-19 shooting in his two previous games, before breaking out for 27 points in the win over the Celtics. The 31-year-old did not attempt a free throw in the previous three games but got back to attacking the basket against Boston and went 9-of-10 from the line. SG Dion Waiters (15.9) wasn't far behind, as he scored 26 points on Wednesday, after going scoreless on 0-of-10 shooting in Sunday's loss. Center Whiteside has been bothered by a thumb issue and had a modest with eight points and 10 rebounds but continues to be a double-double machine, averaging 15.5 & 13.2 on the season.
Minnesota: The T-wolves had held six of eight games opponents under 100 points (won all six of those games) but let up some on the defensive end over the last three contests, dropping two in a row before pulling out Wednesday's 124-118 win. "My concern is what we're doing defensively," Thibodeau told reporters. "If we're going to go anywhere, we have to correct that." The Timberwolves make up for some of those defensive issues on the other end of the floor vs. Orlando, as Jimmy Butler matched a season high on Wednesday with 26 points, Three others, Taj Gibson (24), Jeff Teague (22) and Andrew Wiggins (20) all reached the 20-point plateau as well. All five starters are averaging in double digits for the T-wolves, led by center Towns (20.4 & 11.5). He's followed by Wiggins (18.8 & 4.1) plus newcomers Butler (16.9-5.5-4.2), Teague (14.0 & 7.5 APG) and Gibson (10.4 & 7.8). However, Thibodeau has always emphasized strong defensive play and Minnesota is falling woefully short of that goal, allowing 108.2 PPG (25th) on 48.6 percent shooting (30th).
The pick: The Heat are looking to turn the tables on a Minnesota team that beat them 125-122 in overtime on Oct. 30 at AmericanAirlines Arena but even with a Thanksgiving Day 'holiday' in between, I expect there to be a letdown off that win over Boston. The T-wolves were on a 7-2-1 ATS run before failing to cover three in a row but this seems like just the "wrong place at the wrong time" for Miami. Make Minnesota a 10* play.
|11-24-17||Gardner-Webb v. Wright State -4||Top||47-67||Win||100||18 h 13 m||Show|
The set-up: The Wright State Raiders are the host team for the Wright State Tournament (who could have guessed?). Gardner-Webb will play Wright State in the nightcap of Friday's doubleheader and the Raiders will again play the second game on Saturday (against Jacksonville), win or lose tonight. Nutter Center is the site, which is naturally, the Raiders' home court. The Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs come in 2-3 and the Wright State Raiders check in at 1-3.
Garner-Webb: The Runnin' Bulldogs Gardner-Webb started out the year with three straight losses to Miami, Florida and UCF, but then beat Warren Wilson and Brevard College in their last two. Gardner-Webb plays in the Big South (is off a 19-14 season) and head coach Tim Craft is currently in his fifth season (76-63, including this year's start). The transfer of guard LaQuincy Rideau (14.2-5.7-5.2) was no small deal but David Efanayi has played well early on, averaging 18.4 PPG. The graduation of All-Big South forward Tyrell Nelson (12.9 & 7.0) was also a blow but the 6-6 DJ Laster has been terrific so far, averaging 16.8 & 10.0. However, Craft's team doesn't have much depth.
Wright State: 20-win seasons are not exactly news for Wright State fans and the Blue Raiders went 20-12 last season but didn't play in a postseason tourney, after losing in the Horizon quarterfinals. Three starters are gone from last year's team, with three freshman leading the way so far this season. 6-6 forward Winchester (13.0 & 5.3) is the leading scorer and the 6-9 Love (9.5 & 7.0) leads in rebounding. A third frosh, guard Mitchell, checks in with 10.7 & 6.7. Senior guard Benzinger (12.5) and junior guard Hughes (10.0) give the Raiders a solid core. PPG).
The pick: Wright St. head coach Scott Nagy is in just his second season and his team should have few problems getting to .500 (3-3) on the season, against this level of competition the next two nights. First things first. Lay the points Friday and make Wright St. a 10* play.
|11-23-17||Butler +2 v. Texas||Top||48-61||Loss||-110||19 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: The Butler Bulldogs won 25 games last year and made it to the Sweet 16. However, head coach Chris Holtmann (Stevens' replacement) jumped at the Ohio St. job when Matta was suddenly let go, with Milwaukee's LaVall Jordan stepping in. Butler has opened 3-1 with its lone loss coming 79-65 at Maryland, as the team travels to Portland for the Phil Knight Invitational and a meeting with 3-0 Texas.Shaka Smart is off an 'ugly' 11-22 season last year but his team has racked up thee victories by double figures with the defense yet to allow more then 60 points to open the current season.
Butler: Jordan will miss the versatile Chrabascz (11.4-4.6-3.7) from last year's team but a solid nucleus returns, led by the 6-7 Martin (15.0 & 8.3). Baldwin (13.8) is a sophomore guard building on his solid freshman season and the 6-8 Wideman (12.3 & 4.0) is an All-Big East talent. McDermott (12.0), GW transfer Jorgensen (9.8) and Thompson (7.0 & 4.3) round out the main contributors.
Texas: The Longhorns lost their top-two scorers from last season in Mack (14.8 & 4.8) and Allen (13.4 & 8.4) but guards Jones (13.0) and Roach (12.7) plus big men Bamba (14.0 & 9.0) and Ostekowski (11.3 & 9.) have looked very good early. Bamba is a 6-11 freshman center who few thought Smart could lure to Austin, while Ostekowski is a 6-9 junior.Mo Bamba missed the team's second win with a concussion but was back the last time out, chipping in 13 & 10. Texas has been winning with defense as it's held its opponents to 60 points or fewer in every game (58.7 PPG to rank 21st) on 32.8 percent shooting (5th-best).
The pick: The Longhorns needed a strong start after last year's disaster but look closer and you'll see wins over Northwestern State, New Hampshire and Lipscomb. That trio has nothing in common with a Butler team (remember, 25 wins and a Sweet 16 trip LY!) or program which has gone 39-11-2 ATS in its last 52 neutral-site games. Make Butler an 8* play.
|11-22-17||Clippers -3.5 v. Hawks||Top||116-103||Win||100||13 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: The LA Clippers were riding high at 4-0 SU & ATS, after Blake Griffin hit a game-winning three-pointer to edge Portland back on Oct. 26 . However, the "new look" Clippers have been in a free-fall ever since, going 1-11 SU. That includes bringing a nine-game losing streak (1-8 ATS) to Atlanta and this game with the Hawks, after Monday’s 107-85 defeat in New York. the Knicks. Not sure many are aware that the Hawks own the second-longest active postseason streak (second only to the Spurs) but there have not been many positives this season for Atlanta Hawks, who enter this game just 3-11 SU and 7-9 ATS. The 2018 postseason seems like nothing but a pipe dream at the moment.
LA Clippers: “Bottom line, we just can’t sustain anything,” Los Angeles head coach Doc Rivers told the media after Monday's loss. “Right now, we get it going a little bit and one thing happens and it just implodes.” The Clippers’ guard play was not strong Monday, as Austin Rivers, Lou Williams and Jawun Evans combined to shoot 5-for-25 from the floor. Griffin is averaging 22.7-7.8-4.7 and is joined by five other double digit scorers, including center Jordan at 10.1 & 13.7 (one of 12 NBA players currently averaging a double-double). However, LA is just about "average or below" in scoring 104.9 PPG (16th) and allowing 106.6 PPG (19th)..
Atlanta: Similar to LA, the Hawks have six players averaging in double digits, led by new starting PG Dennis Schroder (19.7 & 7.1 APG). However, the Hawks rank even lower than the Clippers in both scoring (102.8 PPG which is 22nd) and points allowed (107.8 ranks 24th). The Hawks have been competitive against some of the better teams in the NBA, including an 11-point loss at San Antonio on Monday. Rookie John Collins (11.6 & 7.4) grabbed attention in that one by scoring 21 points and collecting nine rebounds off the bench.
The pick: Atlanta’s last four games have featured a one-point loss, a franchise-record 46-point victory plus close calls against Boston and San Antonio.The Hawks are surely playing better than the Clipps but if LA can't win here, one wonders just how far this team will fall. I'm in on the Clippers and will make them a 10* play.
|11-22-17||Celtics -3.5 v. Heat||Top||98-104||Loss||-110||13 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: It seems as if no deficit is too large for the Celtics to overcome. Boston has rallied from double-digit deficits for victories in each of its last three contests to keep the team's now 16-game winning streak alive (4th-longest in franchise history). The Celtics trailed by 13 with less than eight minutes to go Monday before storming back for a 110-102 overtime victory at Dallas, as Kyrie Irving scored a season-high 47 points. 16-2 Boston can tie the third-longest streak (1959-60) in franchise history with a win here at AmericanAirlines Arena and hope for a similar effort to the one on Oct. 28 when the Celtics took care of the Heat 96-90 in Miami. The 7-9 Heat have dropped three of their last four after getting crushed 120-95 at home against Indiana on Sunday, a game in which they allowed 60 percent shooting from the floor.
Boston: Irving's been everything and more for Boston, averaging 22.5 & 5.3 APG plus taking over as team-leader. “He’s got every move imaginable, but on top of that he’s one of the best shooters in the league,” head coach Brad Stevens told the Boston Herald. “Everybody gets caught up in the moves and dribbling and everything he can do the ball, but his touch is beautiful with both hands.” Nearing the quarter-pole of the regular season, Irving is making his case as league MVP. Stevens knows a little something about "moves," as he's quickly risen to the top-tier of the NBA coaching ranks. Jaylen Brown is averaging 23.7 points over the last three games to push his season mark to 16.2 PPG, while making 10-of-20 from three-point range. He's showing just why he was drafted 3rd overall in 2016 by Boston.
Miami: The Heat's leading scorer is also the team's PG, Goran Dragic. He's averaging 18.3 & 4.7 APG on the season but just seven points over his past two games, while missing 13 of 19 shots from the floor. Meanwhile backcourt partner Dion Waiters (2nd-best scorer at 15.1 PPG) is coming off an 0-for-10 shooting performance in Sunday's game. To state the obvious, that's bad news when getting set to host Boston. Center Hassan Whiteside continues to put up big numbers (16.2 &13.5) and forward James Johnson is the fourth player averaging in double figures (12.3).
The pick: The Celtics have trailed by double digits in five of their 16 wins, making a habit of playing well "in the clutch.".In stark contrast, Miami has faded down the stretch. The Heat are the worst second-half team in the league so far this season. Miami's first-half FG percentage (51.1) is sixth-best in the league but the Heat's second-half shooting percentage (39.6) is last. Boston is 9-1 SU & ATS on the road, while the Heat are 2-6 SU and 0-6-2 ATS at home. Not a tough call. Make Boston an 8* play.
|11-22-17||Troy State +4 v. East Tenn State||Top||73-65||Win||100||12 h 58 m||Show|
The set-up: It's an interesting matchup tonight in Johnson City, Tn, as Troy takes on East Tennessee St. Troy won the Sun Belt tourney last season and made the NCAAs, while East Tennessee St. won the Southern Conference and went 'dancing' as well. Troy enters 2-3 and East Tennessee St. at 2-2.
Troy: Head coach Phil Cunningham made quite a splash in his fourth season, as after winning just 11, 10 and 9 games, led the team to 22 wins and an NCAA berth in 2016-17. He returns four starters, including two of the Sun Belt's best players, the 6-6 Jordan Varnado (18.6 & 7.8) plus Wes Person Jr, a guard averaging 17.0 PPG. The team did lose some quality contributors but the one-two punch of Varnado and Person is a good one.
East Tennessee State: Steve Forbes led the Buccaneers to 'the promised land' in just his second season as the team's head coach but unlike Cunningham's Troy team, he lost four starers from last year's team. Four guards average between 7.0 and 12,5 PPG, led by Payne (12.5) and Bradford (11.8-5.8-3.8), who is the lone returning starter. The 7-0 Jurkin (10.0 & 6.7) gives East Tenn. St. the game's best big man.
The pick: East Tennessee St. is the home team but it's my belief that Troy is the better team and proves it here. Make Troy a 10* play.
|11-21-17||Alabama A&M +37.5 v. Minnesota||Top||57-100||Loss||-110||13 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: The latest AP poll came out Tuesday and the 4-0 Minnesota Golden Gophers were ranked No. 14. The Golden Gophers passed a big road test last week at Providence and followed that up by knocking off two opponents at home. Tuesday night, the Gophers welcome Alabama A&M (0-3) to Williams Arena. The Bulldogs are a member of the SWAC and after going 2-27 last season, are expecting no more than a 'pay day' out of this contest.
Alabama A&M: Head coach Donnie Martin is in his first season at Huntsville and surely has nowhere to go but up, taking over a team which had just two wins last season (both in league play). The Bulldogs have averaged just 62.7 PPG (323rd) on 39.2 percent shooting (312th) in opening 0-3. Junior guard Arthur Johnson leads the team in scoring (14.7) and rebounding (6.3), while making 6-of-11 from three-point range. Sophomore guard De’Ederick Petty has chipped in 13.0 PPG and while.freshman guard Amari Goulbourne did not score in his first two collegiate games, he broke out with 17 points and four assists in 36 minutes against Alabama (that's the promise Ala A&M needs). Defensively, the team allows 84.0 PPG (305th) on 50.0 percent shooting (323rd).
Minnesota: When the Big Ten announced its 10-player preseason all-conference team, senior PG Nate Mason and sophomore swingman Amir Coffey represented Minnesota. However, heading into Tuesday's game against Alabama A&M, 6-6 forward Jordan Murphy might have a line on the conference's player of the year award based on his early performances. Murphy averaged 11.3 points and 8.3 rebounds last season but is averaging 24.8 & 12.8 this season. That's not to say Mason and Coffey are not contributing. Mason is averaging 14.0-6.2-4.5 and Coffey 14.0 & 4.2. Each of Minny's other two starters are also in double digits, the 6-10 Lynch (12.8 & 8.8 plus 22 blocks!) and guard McBrayer (11.0).
The pick: Pitino's 'ride' at Minnesota has been of the roller coaster variety. A 25-win season in his first year (won NIT!), 18 wins in his second but then just EIGHT in his third. Minnesota bounced back with 25 wins last year (lost in the 1st round of the Big Dance) and now owns a 4-0 start and a top-25 ranking early in this season. It's safe to say that regardless how the Gophers' season plays out, the 2017-18 season will have gone much better for Richard Pitino, than for his dad, Rick. Minnesota is averaging 94.2 PPG and allowing 74.0. Sure, Alabama A&M is here for the 'paycheck' and has just one starter listed over 6-7 but just look at the size of this pointspread. Make Alabama A&M an 8* play.
|11-20-17||Blazers -1.5 v. Grizzlies||Top||100-92||Win||100||12 h 22 m||Show|
The set-up: The Memphis Grizzlies earned a 98-97 win in Portland on Nov. 7 to reach 7-4 but have surrendered an average of 110.5 PPG in losing four in a row (0-4 ATS) to fall under .500 at 7-8. The Grizz will welcome the Portland Trail Blazers to Memphis Monday night in hopes of snapping their current slide. However, the Blazers are moving in the opposite direction of the Grizzlies, having won three of four to move to 9-7 on the season. Then again, the Blazers, who will play their next five games on the road, have lost three in a row away from home with their last road victory coming way back on Oct. 20 when they bested Indiana 114-96 in just their second game of the season.
Portland: The Blazers scored a season low in an 86-82 loss at Sacramento on Friday but returned the favor with a 102-90 triumph at home over the Kings the next night. “I liked our demeanor,” Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts told reporters after the win. “After being disappointed last night and struggling with the offense, to come back and the way we set the tone — I think our first five baskets were assisted — I thought that set a good tone for the rest of the night." The offense has been led all season by guards Lillard (25.6-5.4-6.4) and McCollum (22.5) plus 7-0 center Nurkic (14.6 & 7.2). That said, Portland's real improvement so far this season has come defensively, with the Blazers allowing just 97.5 PPG (2nd) on 43.1 percent shooting (3rd).
Memphis: The Grizzlies were solid defensively at home against Houston on Saturday, holding one of the league's top scoring offenses to 44.9 percent shooting (Grizzlies allow 101.3 PPG to rank 7th) but could not figure out a way to get anything done at the other end in a 105-83 loss. "We couldn’t get organized in the basic sets that we run, for whatever reason," Grizzlies coach David Fizdale told reporters. "I know a couple of the guys that are just getting back are running around with their heads cut off a little bit. We just couldn’t get organized." Memphis is searching for a leader on the court with PG Mike Conley (Achilles) out until at least next month. Center Mark Gasol leads in scoring (19.7) and rebounding )9.3) but without Conley's 17.1 PPG, only swingman Evans (17.7 & 5,4) is averaging in double digits, Mario Chalmers, who missed all of last season because of a ruptured Achilles tendon he sustained in March 2016 started at PG on Saturday and had only six points.The Grizzlies are averaging only 100.7 PPG, which ranks 25th.
The pick: Without Conley, Memphis too limited offensively and as noted above, after allowing108.5 PPG last season, the Blazers are allowing just 97.5 PPG so far this season, an 11.0 PPG improvement (that's a BIG deal!). Make Portland a 10* play.
|11-20-17||Creighton v. UCLA +2.5||Top||100-89||Loss||-110||11 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were arrested more than a week ago on suspicion of stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store while their team was in the Chinese city of Hangzhou. They did not accompany the team on the trip home but were released later. UCLA finally started to resemble the type of team it hoped to be this season, pulling away in the secsond half of Friday’s 96-68 victory over South Carolina State, after owning just a six-point halftime advantage. This coming after a pair of narrow victories over Ga. Tech and Central Arkansa The No. 23 Bruins play Creighton in Kansas City on Monday in the Hall of Fame Classic. The Blue Jays are off to a strong start and enter the week off an upset of No. 20 Northwestern on Wednesday, 92-88. Creighton is 3-0.
UCLA: Freshmen Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes fueled the second-half surge against South Carolina State. “It was really helpful to us to get that momentum,” Hands told the media after scoring a team-leading 22 points, combining with Wilkes to score 17 of the Bruins’ first 19 points after halftime. The 6-8 Wilkes (17.3 & 7.3) and 6-3 guard Hands (15.3-4.7-37) lead the team in scoring, while junior PG Holiday (14.3 & 5.3 APG) plus 7-0 senior Welsh (13.0 & 11.1) join them in double digits.have. Another freshman, the 6-9 Chris Smith, scored a season-high 15 points in just 21 minutes against South Carolina State.
Creighton: The Blue Jays won 25 games last season and eback in the "Big Dance" after a two-year absence. However, after a 17-1 start, Creighton went a modest 8-9 the rest of the way, including a first-round loss in the NCAAs. Three starters return and the junior guard Khyri Thomas scored a career-high 24 points to go with 11 rebounds as Creighton blew an early 15-point lead, but maintained its composure to pull off the road upset at Northwestern. “Our guys fought,” Thomas told reporters. “That’s what we preach. Just fight, be tough and be the better man.” Martin Krampelj, a 6-9 sophomore who averaged just 2.8 & 2.2 LY, added 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting. All-Big East first-team pick Marcus Foster leads the Blue Jays in scoring at 19.3 points per game, and is the first Creighton player since 1970 to score 23 or more points in the first two games of a season. Freshmen Ty-Shon Alexander and Mitch Ballock combined for 20 points against Northwestern.
The pick: These are two undefeated and high-scoring teams which will square off in the first semifinal game of the 2017 CBE Hall of Fame Classic Monday night at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. The Bruins are averaging 88.3 PPG, while the Blue Jays average 97.7 PPG. Kansas City is not exactly a neutral floor but it's also not CenturyLink Center in Creighton. The Bruins seemed to "come together" against SC State in the second half and now should be ready to take the next step, a pointspread uin after opening 0-3 ATS. Make UCLA a 10* play.
|11-19-17||Pacers v. Heat -4.5||Top||120-95||Loss||-103||10 h 58 m||Show|
The set-up: The Indiana Pacers are just 8-8 and the Miami Heat only 7-8 as the two teams get set to meet this afternoon at American Airlines Arena in Miami. However, both are coming off impressive wins on Friday night. Indiana overcame a 22-point deficit in a 107-100 home win over the red-hot Detroit Pistons, while Miami built a 25-point lead at Washington before holding on for a 91-88 victory. The Heat welcome the Pacers to town, having won six straight home games against Indiana, including picking up their first win of the season at home against the Pacers back on Oct. 21.
Indiana: The Pacers outscored the Pistons 36-19 in the fourth quarter, making 6 of 7 three-pointers. SG Victor Oladipo,who leads Indiana in scoring at 23.1 PPG, posted 21 points (despite by going 6-for-19 from the floor) plus added a career-high 15 rebounds with four assists, one steal and one block in a stellar 39-minute, all-around effort. Lance Stephenson (6.6 & 4.40) scored all 13 of his points in the fourth quarter Friday and chipped in eight rebounds and two assists in 18 quality minutes. Behind Oladipo, the Pacers have five players chipping in between 13.0 and 13.6 PPG. Indiana averages 108.4 PPG (9th) but also allows 108.8 PPG, which ranks 25th.
Miami: The Heat looked bad down the stretch against the Wizards, nearly coughing up a 25-point lead in Friday's win. However, they held Washington's star PG John Wall to just eight points. "Our defense is tighter, and our penetrators are getting in the paint," said Heat center Hassan Whiteside when asked by Sun Sports for the key to the victory that snapped a two-game losing streak. "We are not settling for jump shots." Whiteside (16.3 & 14.1) was huge for Miami, posting his seventh double-double in just 10 games this season, going for 22 points (made 10 of 12 shots from the floor) with 16 rebounds and two blocks. Forward James Johnson (12.4 & 5.5) scored 20 points off the bench plus swingman Justise Winslow (6.8 & 5.3) had 10 points, seven rebounds and two steals in just 18 minutes. Miami's starting guards have led the way all season, with PG Dragic averaging 19.0-4.2-4.7 and SG Waiters adding 16.3 PPG. Miami has not scored well (100.6 PPG ranks 26th) but has defended well, allowing 102.0 PPG (8th).
The pick: Miami has won six straight meetings at home, including that Oct. 21 meeting this year. In that one, Miami was cruising with a 21-point lead with just 16 1/2 minutes to play, but the Pacers wouldn’t go away. Indiana closed to within just two points with 12 seconds left, before Miami won 122-118. It's true that the Heat are 0-5-2 ATS at home so far but they shot 51.7% in their last game against the Pacers and this time around, won't blow a big lead. Make Miami a 10* play.
|11-19-17||Old Dominion v. Dayton +2.5||Top||75-67||Loss||-110||9 h 22 m||Show|
The Dayton Flyers and the Old Dominion Monarchs face off in final round tournament action at the Gildan Charleston Classic. Both teams lost their first game but ODU will look to finish the tournament on a high note after improving to 3-1 on the year with a 62-44 win over Indiana State and Dayton hopes to do the same, after defeating Ohio 79-65 in moving to 2-1. Dayton is off a 24-win season and lost four senior starters off that team plus head coach Archie Miller left to take the Indiana job. ODU is off a 19-12 season and in his fifth season at ODU, head coach Jeff Jones returns three starters.
Old Dominion: PG Caver (11.5 & 4.5 APG) led the team with 22 points on 5 of 12 shooting with three triples and a 9 for 11 mark from the foul line in addition to handing out a team-high six assists in the win over Indiana St.and 3 steals. The 6-10 Trey Porter (11.8 & 6.5) added 16 points (on 6 of 9 from the floor). Jones has a pair of Stith brothers as well, as guard B.J. leads the team in scoring at 12.2 PPG with his 6-7 older brother Brandan adding 7.2 & 5.8 PPG.
Dayton: Miller's loss is not all that huge as Anthony Grant takes over (was an assistant under Billy Donovan at Florida and then at OKC in the NBA) plus led VCU and Alabama to NCAA tourney wins as a head coach. The loos of four senior starters can't be dismissed but the lone returning starter, guard Darrell Davis, has come out averaging 20.3 PPG. The 6-7 Cunningham, who missed most of LY with an injury, looks healthy while averaging 15.7 & 9.3 plus the 6-8 Williams (10.0 & 6.3) adds size to a formidable frontcourt.
The Monarchs were a disappointment last season (19 wins and no postseason tourney), coming off seasons of 27 and 25 wins. However, I'm not sure this year's team will be much better. ODU ranked 331st in effective FG percentage last season and averaged just 64.5 PPG. In four games so far this season, ODU is averaging 63.2 PPG (322nd) on 40.0% shooting (293rd). Make Dayton a 10* play.
|11-18-17||Bucks -8 v. Mavs||Top||79-111||Loss||-105||14 h 44 m||Show|
The set-up: Mark Cuban decided to bypass Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2013 draft as a means to protect salary cap space in an effort to go after then-free agent Dwight Howard. Dallas traded down and eventually drafted guard Shane Larkin. And so it goes. The 8-6 Milwaukee Bucks are sure glad they have Antetokounmpo, who has been the talk of the league in the early going of the 2017-18 season. Cuban and his NBA-worst Mavericks (2-14 SU & 4-12 ATS) will get a front-row view of the "Greek Freak" when the Bucks visit American Airlines Center in Dallas tonight.
Milwaukee: The Bucks arrive in Dallas on a season-best four-game winning streak. Antetokounmpo is averaging 30.6-10.0-4.6 on the season and has topped 20 points in 13 of 14 games this year. It's also worth mentioning that Milwaukee hasn't lost since PG Eric Bledsoe joined the team. He is averaging 13.3 PPG, despite shooting a 36.7 percent, including a woeful 3-of-18 from three-point range. A healthy Middleton is averaging 18.4 PPG and last year's ROY Brodgdon is averaging 14.8 & 4.0. Milwaukee is shooting well (48.2% ranks 3rd) but not scoring enough (103.9 PPG ranks 20th).
Dallas: The Mavs are a mess and going nowhere. Dallas suffered a disappointing 111-87 home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday as it built a 12-point halftime lead before being drubbed 68-32 in the second half. The Mavericks are an NBA-worst 1-8 at home and Friday's scoring output was their lowest of the campaign. The Mavs badly need a victory after losing four straight and 10 of their last 11 contests. However, are they already running out of time to turn the season around? Rookie PG Dennis Smith has shown flashes of the type of player he might become, averaging 15.2-4.2-4.6. However, the aging Dirk Nowitzki is averaging just 10.5 PPG and the Mavs are struggling to keep up offensively. Dallas is scoring 98.2 PPG (28th) on 42.0 percent shooting (29th).
The pick: Bledsoe will get his shooting touch straightened out but for know, the Bucks have said his energy has helped spark his teammates. The Mavericks have excelled against the Bucks in recent seasons by winning eight of the last nine meetings and the Bucks have dropped their last four games in Dallas (most recent victory occurring Feb. 26, 2013). However, that was then and this is now! Make Milwaukee a 10* play.
|11-18-17||Harvard -3.5 v. Manhattan||Top||69-73||Loss||-110||6 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: The Harvard Crimson opened with back-to-back home wins but fell 73-69 at Holy Cross when the team's late rally (down 10 in the first half) fell short. The Crimson will visit NYC Saturday afternoon to take on the Manhattan Jaspers, who opened their 2017-18 season by edging St. Francis (NY) 80-79 in overtime.
Harvard: The Crimson are off seasons of 14 and 18 wins (well down from previous Amaker teams) but return four starters, including PG Bryce Aiken. Aiken leads the team at 18.3 PPG (4.0 rebounds & 3.3 assists) plus the 6-7 Towns (16.3 & 6.7) and the 6-9 Lewis (10.0 & 5.3) are also contributing double digit scoring. Big guard Justin Bassey chips in 5.7-6.3-3.0. Holy Cross out-shot Harvard 50.0 to 42.3 percent but the Crimson kept the game close by winning the battle of the boards, 34-19. However, in the end, the Crimson just made too many mistakes, as they had 23 TOs!
Manhattan: The Jaspers are off a lousy 10-22 season but do return four starters, including 6-5 senior Rich Williams, who is back for a fifth season off last year's injury. He had 21 points and six rebounds in the team's opening-game win, joined by three other double-digit scorers. Fellow guard Zavier Turner had 16 points off the bench, although he played 35 minutes. Up front, the 6-8 Crawford had 11 & 5 and the 6-9 Waterman added 10 & 9.
The pick: Manhattan will be much more competitive this season with a healthy Williams but Harvard is the better team with a solid core of experienced players. Make Harvard a 10*
|11-17-17||Pelicans +4.5 v. Nuggets||Top||114-146||Loss||-103||22 h 37 m||Show|
The set-up: The 8-7 New Orleans Pelicans are coming off a 125-116 home loss to the Toronto Raptors and now head to the Pepsi Center in Denver to take on the 8-6 Nuggets, who couldn't 'buy a basket' in Monday’s 99-82 loss in Portland against the Trail Blazers. The Pelicans allowed the Raptors to shoot 59.2 percent from the floor plus Toronto went 16-of-34 from three-point range. As for the Nuggets, Denver scored 11 points fewer than their previous low this season Monday in Portland, while shooting just 35.7 percent from the floor.
New Orleans: “The rotations were bad, communication was pretty bad,” New Orleans leading scorer DeMarcus Cousins told reporters after the home loss to the Raptors. “We let guys that are known shooters get wide open shots. That’s on us. We were a bit limited.” however, there was some good news on Wednesday, as PG Rajon Rondo made his first start of the season Wednesday in his second appearance since returning from core muscle surgery in the preseason. He contributed four points and eight assists in 14 minutes. “I’m just taking my time and trying to do the right thing,” Rondo told the Times-Picayune. “I haven’t had any practices and these games are like practices. I’m just trying to make sure I manage it correctly. It’s a marathon not a sprint.” It's no surprise that the Pelicans' version of "the Twin Towers," Cousins (28.0 & 13.7) and Davis (25.6 & 11.4) are doing what they have been expected to do.
Denver: The Nuggets 'ugly' offensive effort Monday in Portland "came out of nowhere," as Denver entered that contest averaging 113 PPG in Its previous three contests. 6-10 center Nikola Jokic had averaged 22.7 PPG in that stretch and was named Western Conference Player of the Week. “We were in a very good offensive rhythm coming in here,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told reporters. “And they took us out of our rhythm right away.” Jokic (16.4 & 11.6) leads six players averaging in double figures in scoring. PF Paul Millsap (15.7 & 6.4) has picked up his production by scoring 17 per game over the last four and those two frontcourt guys are joined by guards Barton (14.9 & 5.4), Murray (13.2), Harris (12.4) and Mudiay (11.6).
The pick: The Denver Nuggets gained confidence by going 5-1 on their recent homestand but that positive mojo was dealt a blow with that humbling loss at Portland on Monday night. The Pelicans scored a 25-point upset in the Pepsi Center last season and the team comes into this game having gone 4-1 SU & 5-0 ATS in their last five road contests. Make New Orleans an 8* play.
|11-17-17||Thunder v. Spurs||Top||101-104||Loss||-105||19 h 7 m||Show|
The set: The Thunder's "new look" of adding Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to reigning MVP Russell Westbrook has not been a smooth transition. However, a favorable portion of the schedule (three home games against sub-.500 teams) has allowed OKC to get back to .500 at 7-7. However, "the degree of difficulty" is about to go up, starting with tonight's visit to the AT&T Center. The 9-6 San Antonio Spurs had won five of six before falling flat in a 98-86 loss at Minnesota on Wednesday.
Oklahoma City: The Thunder come in off wins over the Clippers, Mavs and Bulls. Carmelo Anthony (back) returned from a one-game layoff to notch his first double-double with Oklahoma City against the Bulls (18 & 11) but he struggled from the floor along with fellow stars Paul George and Russell Westbrook. The trio shot 13-for-38 against Chicago, which left them taking pride in a defensive effort that held Chicago to seven first-quarter points and a 34.7 percent mark from the floor for the game. The Thunder are still trying to find the best use of their Big 3. Is the combo of George (21.9 & 5.9) and Anthony (20.1 & 6.2) added to Westbrook (20.3-8.1-9.6) making OKC a better team? As one can see, Westbrook's numbers are down across the better and the team's three-game winning streak leaves them at just 7-7.
San Antonio: The Spurs will not be "the Spurs" until Kawhi Leonard gets back. Wednesday's loss at Minnesota represented the team's worst offensive effort of the season, 79 points on 41.8% shooting. Foul trouble limited Aldridge to 28 minutes in the loss to Minnesota, his second-lowest total of the season. The team's leading scorer at 22.0 PPG, was held to 15 points on 5-of-14 shooting. Gay (12.0), Green (10.6) and Gasol (10.5) are barely scoring in double digits for the Spurs.
The pick: The Spurs are having real trouble finding reliable offensive options, while waiting for Leonard and PG Tony Parker to make their season debuts. I'm not sure that changes here against the Thunder, who are playing well defensively (OKC ranks 2nd in both PPG allowed at 97.1 and defensive FG percentage at 43.1) while having their own problems figuring out the new dynamic of how best to utilize its "Big 3." The Thunder will visit a dangerous New Orleans team next, then return home to host the Warriors and the surprising Pistons, giving them a difficult four-game stretch. Starting off that stretch "on the right foot,' is important. That's the bet. Make OKC a 10* play.
|11-17-17||Fordham v. Florida State -14.5||Top||43-67||Win||100||17 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: 1-0 Florida State and 1-1 Fordham get to travel to Montego Bay to face off in a 2017 Jamaica Classic matchup on Friday night. The Seminoles got their season off on the right foot with an 87-67 home win over George Washington on Tuesday, while Fordham rebounded from an opening 55-54 home loss to Miami-Ohio with an 81-68 victory over LIU, also at home..
Fordham: The Rams are coming off a 13-19 season and lost three starters. A bunch of players are back but most lack quality playing time. Third-year head coach Jeff Neubauer will be expecting big things from preseason All-Atlantic 10 third-teamer Joseph Chartouny, who set a school record last year with 94 steals and already has nine in two games, while averaging a team-high 14.5 points and 6.0 rebounds. Fellow guard Will Tavares, the school's only scholarship senior with Division I experience, is leading the team with 7.0 rebounds per game and is tied with the 6-7 Raut (a freshman) for scoring at 14.0 points per game. 6-10 junior Prokop Slanina recorded personal highs in the win over LIU with 19 points and 11 rebounds for his first career double-double (he's averaging 12.0 & 6.0).
Florida State: The Seminoles are off a 26-win season, earning the school's first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2012. However, four starters are gone, including the team's top-three scorers. Guards Bacon (17.2 & 4.2) and Rathan-Mayes (10.6 & 4.8 APG) are among the missing, as is the "one & done" 6-10 Isaac (12.0 & 7.1), who was drafted sixth in the first round by Orlando. Junior guard Terance Mann lived up to preseason expectations in the team's season-opening win with team highs of 17 points and eight rebounds (six offensive). "The sky's the limit for him," head coach Hamilton said at the postgame press conference. "He has a knack for putting the ball in the basket. I thought he was extremely aggressive tonight. He had five blocks. He must have chased several more. I thought he went after rebounds. ... I think he's taken a lot of pride, and over the season he's going to get better and better." However, he was just one of five players in double digits, including starters Koumadje (14 & 7), who is a 7-4 junior center and Cofer (15 & 4), a 6-8 senior PF.
The pick: FSU lost plenty off LY's team but Mann is poised for a big year plus the duo of Koumadje (the tallest player in FSU history) and Cofer should fill in nicely for Isaac. Fordham does not have the overall talent nor depth to 'hang' with the Seminoles. Make FSU a 10* play.
|11-16-17||Warriors -7 v. Celtics||Top||88-92||Loss||-101||13 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The Celtics opened the season with back-to-back losses plus lost prized FA addition Gordon Hayward for the entire year in the team's first game (at Cleveland). However, Boston has ripped off 13 consecutive wins (11-1-1 ATS) to give them an NBA-best 13-2 record. It prompted Golden State head coach Steve Kerr to proclaim that the Celtics are "the team of the future in the East." The Celtics welcome the NBA's ""team of the present" tonight to TD Garden, as the Warriors come to town winners of seven in a row and the West's best record of 11-3. The Celtics own the best defense in the NBA by limiting opponents to an average of 94.5 PPG, while the Warriors are scoring an average of 119.6 PPG, to lead all NBA teams.
Golden State: The Warriors' "Core Four" of Curry (25.2-4.7-6.7), Durant (24.8-7.5-5.2), Thompson (20.6) and Green (10.9-7.5-6.6) stand "above the crowd," as does Golden State's depth. The backcourt depth features Young, Stephenson and McCaw (listed in order of scoring averages), while the wings and frontcourt consists of West, Casspi, Iquodala, McGee, Looney and Pachulia (again, arranged in order of scoring prowess). PG Stephen Curry sat out Monday's 110-100 win over the Orlando Magic with a thigh contusion but is probable to return when the Warriors kick off a four-game road trip on Thursday. Golden State also leads the NBA in FG percentage (51.9%) and assists (31.3 per game).
Boston: The Celtics owned the East's best record last season but knew they needed "change" to compete with the Cavs and eventually, with the Warriors. The rebuilt Boston Celtics lost Hayward (see above) but new PG Kyrie Irving (20.6 & 5.2 APG) has been terrific, as has rookie Jason Tatum (14.0 & 5.3). Boston gave up Avery Bradley to get Marcus Morris and over the last four games, he's averaged 15.3 PPG and grabbed 10 rebounds in his last game (Boston needs him to rebound, especially without Hayward). Veteran center Horford (15.3-8.8-4.5) has been superb plus plus second-year SF Brown (14.7 & 6.7) is now a starter and looking every bit as good as Boston had hoped he'd be when was the team's first pick of the 2016 draft.
The pick: The Celtics currently own the NBA's best record but Golden State owns a better point-differential, plus-11.9 to plus-8.1. That's because in Golden State's current seven-game winning streak, the Warriors have won by an average margin of 19.9 PPG! The visiting team has taken the last five in the series plus the Warriors have won their last four trips to Boston. Make Golden State a 10* play.
|11-15-17||Cavs -1.5 v. Hornets||Top||115-107||Win||100||13 h 22 m||Show|
The set-up: Are the Cavs finally rounding into form? We do know this. Cleveland enters tonight's game at Charlotte having won consecutive games for the first time since opening the season 2-0. Monday's win over the Knicks in MSG was a special one, as the Cavs overcame a 23-point deficit en route to a 104-101 victory. Still, the Cavs are a hard-to-believe 7-7 on the season and look for their first three-game winning streak of the season tonight against the 5-7 Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets 'limp' home after an 0-4 road trip that ended with a 90-87 setback at Boston on Friday (team's lowest point total of the season).
Cleveland: LBJ got into a war of words with Knicks center Enes Kanter during and after Monday's trip to Madison Square Garden but got the last laugh with the comeback win, scoring 23 points, grabbing nine rebounds and handing out 12 assists. Here's a shocker, James is logging a league-high 38.1 MPG while averaging 28.1-7.4-8.8. James got some help on Monday from SG Kyle Korver, who scored 21 points (19 in the fourth quarter while making five 3-pointers!). However, Korver is averaging a modest 10.9 PPG. Love (17.6 & 10.4) is said to be unhappy about his move to center but he's the only other regular contributor. Rose has played in just half of the team's 14 games and Green (10.5) is the only player also averaging in double digits. Defense has been a major issue for the Cavs, as they are allowing 112.5 PPG on 47.5% shooting (both rank 28th in the league!).
Charlotte: The Hornets are planning (hoping?) on guard Nicolas Batum (elbow) making his season debut on Wednesday after he spent the last three days practicing with the team. “If it’s my call, yes,” Batum told the Charlotte Observer after practice on Tuesday of playing against the Cavaliers. “If the coaches and the training staff are OK with it, it should be a go tomorrow." Batum averaged career highs of 15.1 points and 5.9 assists in 2016-17 while adding 6.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals. PG Walker is off an All Star season but comes off a road trip in which he shot 33.9 percent from the floor, including 5-of-25 from three-point range. His scoring is down this season (21.7) but Lamb's is up at 16.7, as he's gotten more opportunities with Batum sidelined. Then there is FA center Dwight Howard, averaging 14.4 & 13.2 but has he really helped the Hornets "get better" as a team.
The pick: I realize that the Cavs are just 4-9-1 ATS through their first 14 games but one has to admit, this team is way better than that. Meanwhile, the Hoinets don't look improved at all and Howard seems happy putting up solid (excellent?) numbers, while playing without any pressure to win (arguably, the story of his career). The Cavs seem ready to me to shake out of their doldrums, Make Cleveland a 10* play.
|11-14-17||Purdue v. Marquette +4.5||Top||86-71||Loss||-110||13 h 3 m||Show|
The set-up: The 2-0 Purdue Boilermakers were ranked 19th in the AP's first regular season poll (released Monday) and will travel to Milwaukee on Tuesday night to take on the Marquette Golden Eagles, who defeated Mount St. Mary's 80-59 on Friday,to improve to 3-1 in season openers under Steve Wojciechowski. Marquette is off a 19-win season which included a loss in the NCAA's first round. As for Purdue, the Boilermakers are off a 26-win season which include winning the Big Ten regular season title and a trip the the NCAA's Sweet 16. Purdue faces its first real test of the season tonight, as it plays at Marquette in the Gavitt Tipoff Games series. It's the first-ever meeting between the schools.
Purdue: The Boilermakers return starters from their 2016 Big Ten championship team, making them as experienced as any team in the country. Sure, Caleb Swanigan (18.5 & 12.5) is a huge loss but 6-8 senior forward Vince Edwards (12.6 & 4.9 LY) is the only active player in the nation with at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists. The Boilermakers have scored a combined 216 points in defeating Southern Illinois-Edwardsville 105-74 in their opener and dismantling Chicago State 111-42 on Sunday. Chicago State's 21.5 percent shooting marked the lowest shooting percentage by a Purdue opponent in school history, while the Boilermakers scored 100 or more points in back-to-back games for the first time in 43 year. Guards Edwards (20.2) and Mathias (18.0 $ 4.5 APG) lead in scoring from the perimeter with Edwards (14.5 & 8.8) and the 7-2 Hass (12.0 & 6.5) taking care of business inside.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles defeated Mount St. Mary's 80-59 on Friday but led by as many as 37 points and had four players score in double figures. Andrew Rowsey is the the team's lone senior and the guard led with 23 points but he was on the bench for much of the second half, enabling Mount St. Mary's to chip away at the deficit. Fellow guards Cheatham (13 & 5) and Howard (11) joined Rowsey in double digits, as did the 6-10 Heldt.
The pick: Matt Painter enters his 12th season at Purdue and expectations are rightly high but after two 'cupcakes,' the going gets much tougher here at the Bradley Center. Take the points and make Marquette a 10* play.
|11-13-17||Nuggets v. Blazers -1||Top||82-99||Win||100||24 h 57 m||Show|
The set-up: The Denver Nuggets have won three in a row (and seven of nine) to reach 8-5. The offense is clicking, as all five starters scored in double figures in Saturday's 125-107 home win over the Orlando Magic. Denver will make a brief one-game road trip to visit Northwest Division rival Portland on Monday with the Trail Blazers checking at 6-6,
Denver: The Nuggets' backcourt duo of Barton (15.1) and Murray (12.8) combined for 58 points against the Magic plus center Nikola Jokic (17.2 & 12.0) flirted with a triple-double, scoring 12 points with 17 rebounds and nine assists. Harris (12.4) and Mudiay (12.2) give Denver four guards averaging in double figures on the season plus PF Millsap (15.5 & 6.5) is a quality veteran sidekick up front for Jokic.
Portland: After a 101-97 home loss to injury-riddled Brooklyn on Friday night, Portland checks in just 2-4 in games decided by four points or fewer. "What makes it so frustrating is we could very easily be 10-2," PG Damian Lillard said after the Nets game. "It makes losses like this hurt even more, because you've already let some games slip that we should have won. We shouldn't be having our heads down. We've been in worse situations. But being here is our fault. We've had our chances." Lillard is averaging 25.2 PPG on the season but is mired in a bit of a shooting slump and failed to reach 20 points in either of the last two games. Lillard's left hand got banged up in the final minute against the Nets but he said, " I don't plan on missing any games. I think I'll be all right." His backcourt partner McCollum (22.9) give Portalnd one of teh league's highest-scoring duos plus as noted at the top, Nurkic has sure found a home in Portland (he's averaging 15.6 & 7.3 this season).
The pick: Sure, Denver's off back-to-backs wins (and covers) but note the team was just 3-8 ATS before those consecutive covers. Portland has also had its own ATS woes (just 2-6 at home) but the Blazers took three of the four meetings last season (now six of the last seven in the series). Also, don't downplay the effect Nurkic may have here. When the teams last met last March, Nurkic went for 33 points (made 12 of 15 shots from the floor & and 9 of 11 from the FT line) plus added 15 rebounds in a 122-113 victory over his former team. Make Portland a 10* play.
|11-12-17||Massachusetts v. Harvard -10||Top||67-70||Loss||-110||7 h 56 m||Show|
Two Boston-area Massachusetts schools meet Sunday as UMass (situated in Amherst) of the A-10 will visit Cambridge to take on Harvard of the Ivy League. Both schools come in 1-0. Harvard defeated MIT 73-64 at home on Thursday ina sloppy win and UMass struggled to beat Division II UMass-Lowell 74-69 on the same night. UMass won last year's game 70-66 at home, although Harvard won the ATS 'battle,' as a 4 1/2-point underdog.
UMass: The Minutemen are coming off a 15-18 season and lost three starters from last year's club. Unique McLean, a 6-2 freshman, and Rashaan Holloway, a 6-11 junior, shared the team lead with 12 points apiece in the team's unimpressive opening win. Also making contributions were the 6-10 Hines (11 & 13), PG Pipkins (11-7-5) and another guard, Anderson (9-4-5). UMass gave a very unsteady performance in the team's opener, trailing by two at the half , before eventually winning by only five points. The Minutemen shot 47.1% plus held their opponents to 39.2% shooting, but they also committed 15 turnovers and shot just 3-of-15 from beyond the arc. The Minutemen needed an 11-2 run to make it 66-58 with 2:31 to play to finally take control.
Harvard; The Crimson are off seasons of 14 and 18 wins (well down from previous Amaker teams) but return four starters, including PG Bryce Aiken. Aiken had 12 points in the opener but the best efforts came from the 6-7 Towns (20 & 7) and the 6-9 Lewis (13 & 10). Big guard Justin Bassey added seven points to match his seven rebounds and a team-high four assists in the win.
The pick: Harvard struggled in its opener but this is a good team with experienced players. The Crimson are 10-3-1 ATS in their last 14 as a favorite and have gone 8-2 ATS in their last 10 home games. Make Harvard an 8*!
|11-11-17||Wolves -9.5 v. Suns||Top||110-118||Loss||-106||13 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: The Minnesota Timberwolves saw their five-game winning streak end Wednesday night at Oracle Arena when they fell 125-101 to the Warriors. Losing to and particularly at Golden State, is something that will happen to most teams but overall, the T-wolves have proven they are capable of making noise in the Western Conference. Minnesota's 7-3 start was its best 10-game start since going 9-1 in 2001-02 but an 18-4 third-quarter run proved to be its undoing in a 125-101 loss to the Warriors on Wednesday. “We got humbled … that’s the kind of level we want to get to, the way they’re playing over there,” Timberwolves forward Taj Gibson told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Minnesota: Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague were outscored by the Warriors' backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson 60-25 on Wednesday. "I just know what I can bring to the table in all aspects of the game. I know the reasons they wanted me here and a big part of it is scoring, closing out games, guarding, getting everyone involved. So I'll be a new player from here on out," Butler told the Star-Tribune. The Timberwolves had held the previous three opponents to under 100 points. "That's what a championship team looks like," head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "They play hard. They play together. They make plays. Their defense over the last five games has been back to what their defense is. That's why they've been able to win the way they've won. Their willingness to sacrifice and play for each other is what makes them great." Towns leads the Timberwolves in scoring and rebounding, averaging a double-double with 21.0 points and 11 rebounds per game. He is tied for seventh with 1.82 blocks per game. Wiggins is averaging 19.6 PPG, with the team's veteran guard duo of Butler (14.-5.0-4.5) and Teague (13.5 & 8.1 APG) comprising this team's "Core Four."
Phoenix: The Suns are led by guard Devin Booker, who averages 22.1 points a game but was held to nine points in the loss to Orlando on Friday. While Booker had his worst game of the season, first-round pick Josh Jackson gave Phoenix what it hopes becomes a regular occurrence. He made 9-of-18 from the floor for a season-high 18 points and tied another personal best with six rebounds while playing only 22 minutes. Jackson is averaging 10.1 & 3.4 on the season. Center Alex Len (making his second start of the season in place of Tyson Chandler, who is out with back spasms), managed to stay out of foul trouble against Orlando for one of the first times this season and finished with season highs in points (21) and minutes (40) while also corralling 13 rebounds. Mike James continued to be one of the Suns' few bright spots during their losing streak, posting his third straight game with at least 16 points He is averaging 14 points over his last seven outings despite a two-point effort on Nov. 3 and 12.7 PPG on the season.
The pick: Minnesota was not up to the task of matching up against the Warriors but is that really the issue? I think not. The T-wolves entered their Wednesday at Oracle on a five-game winning streak, while holding three of their previous four 'victims' under 100 points.The Suns dumped Earl Watson after an 0-3 start and initially played like an NBA team, going 4-1 and 5-0 ATS. However, they enter this contest having returned to the early form that got Earl Watson fired by going 0-5 SU & ATS. Make the T-wolves an 8* play.
|11-10-17||Georgia Tech v. UCLA -7.5||Top||60-63||Loss||-110||26 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: The Baoshan Sports Center in Shanghai, China is host to a game between the UCLA Bruins (No. 21 in teh AP's preseason poll) of the Pac-12 and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets from the ACC. UCLA went 31-5 last season and Ga. Tech just 21-16, but the Yellow Jackets made it all the way to the NIT champiosnhip game last season, before losing. This contest was one of a handful of marquee matchups on CBB's opening night but off-the-court issues have dominated the storyline. Just who isn't aware that three UCLA players, freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, will not play following arrests in an alleged shoplifting incident Tuesday in Hangzhou. However, earlier that same day, CBS Sports published allegations a friend made against Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner, accusing Pastner of knowing about exchanges of impermissible benefits. Georgia Tech previously self-reported violations involving Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson to the NCAA, with the caveat being that Pastner was unaware until Oct. 2, and the violations totaled less than $1,300.
|11-10-17||South Alabama v. Texas Tech -24||Top||50-75||Win||100||23 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: The South Alabama Jaguars will visit the United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Tx. to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders. The Jaguars were just 14-18 last season, after winning 14, 12 and 11 games, the previous three seasons. The goal for head coach Matthew Graves is to finish .500 or better for the first time since 2012-13 (before he arrived). The Red Raiders are off an 18-14 year in Chris Beard's first season at the school.
South Alabama: The Jags return just one starter from last year and that's the 6-7 Josh Ajayi, who averaged 10.6 PPG on 48.7% shooting, while adding 5.4 RPG. He expects to up that scoring average this year plus sophomore guard Herb McGee (3.6) has a chance to produce more after playing in 31 games last season and 6-6 sophomore forward Trhae Mitchell brings experience at the forward position. The X-factor for the Jaguars is Pittsburgh transfer Rozelle Nix, who played 20 games last season and brings a massive frame of 6’11”, 300 pounds.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders were young last season, leaving a lot of potential for this year. Guard Keenan Evans (15.4 PPG) and the 6-8 Zach Smith (12.1 & 7.2) are a solid returning duo. Justin Gray is a 6-6 forward who made 27 starts last season and has shot above 50 percent the last two years, Niem Stevenson shot 37.5 percent from three-point range last season and made seven starts in the team's last 10 games (averaged 8.6 PPG for the season).
The pick: Chris Beard, in his first and only season at UALR, led the Trojans to 30–5 seaso. He won the regular season and Sun Belt tournament titles and then knocked off fifth-seeded Purdue 85–83 in double overtime to advance to the Second Round, where the Trojans fell to Iowa State. The Red Raiders have no excuse not to seriously compete in the Big 12 and reach the Big Dance (for just the second time since the Bob Knight days), as they're one of the more experienced teams in the country. The Red Raiders have won 12 of their last 15 home games, while the Jaguars have lost 10 of their last 13 road games (note: Tech is 7-2 ATS in their last 9 games as a favorite of 13.0 or more). "Blowout Alert!" Make Texas Tech an 8* play.
|11-10-17||Pacers -3 v. Bulls||Top||105-87||Win||100||10 h 37 m||Show|
The set-up: The Chicago Bulls began the season with Bobby Portis punching Nikola Mirotic in the face, hospitalizing Mirotic and earning himself an eight-game suspension. Not much has gone right since for Chicago which will host the Indiana Pacers tonight. The Bulls own a 2-7 record and the Pacers come to town as losers of four in a row following a 5-3 start, giving them a 5-7 mark. Both teams have made major personnel changes but it may be noteworthy that Chicago has won 22 of the last 26 vs. Indiana at the
Indiana: The Pacers have not just lost four in a row, they've allowed 115.0 PPG in those setbacks to also go 0-4 ATS. "It sucks that we haven't won in a while, but it's part of the game and it's a part of the NBA," Indiana guard Victor Oladipo told reporters. "How teams respond separates the good teams from the great teams, and we've got to figure out what kind of team we want to be." Oladipo leads the Racers in scoring (22.8) and it's good news that center Myles Turner got back on the court last Friday (15.2 & 9.0 on the season). However, the offensive side of the ball hasn't caused Indinia trouble, it's been the team's defense. Indiana now ranks 25th in scoring D (110.2 PPG) and 28th defensive field-goal percentage (48.3%). The Pacers allowed the Detroit Pistons to shoot 51.8 percent from the floor and knock down 12-of-27 from beyond the arc in a 114-97 setback on Wednesday. "They made some plays, and once again, we didn't get the stops that we needed," Indiana head coach Nate McMillan told reporters. "It looked like we were a little fatigued tonight and just didn't have enough."
Chicago: Bobby Portis returned from his suspension at Toronto on Tuesday, scoring 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting while adding 13 rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench in a 119-114 loss to the Raptors. "Just tried to go out there and play the best I could and have fun," Portis told reporters. "It's been a long time since I played the game of basketball. I'm not going to stop being myself; situation happened. But at the end of the day, I have to be myself no matter who is around, who is my teammate, what team I'm on." Although one couldn't tell it by Tuesday's loss, the Bulls are actually one of the better defensive teams in the league, limiting opponents to 100.6 PPG (5th) on 44.3 percent shooting (8th). Arizona rookie Markkanen (15.8 & 8.2) is currently the team's top scorer, although guard Holiday (15.6) and center Robin Lopez (15.3 & 6.1) are right there with him.
The pick: Sure, series history says the Bulls in this one (especially, at this venue) but both teams look "nothing like" the teams of the recent past (or even further back!). The Pacers have seen a huge drop-off in their defensive effort during their four-game slide (see above) and following Wednesday night's loss in Detroit, held a closed-door team meeting which emphasized that players understood that something had to give after starting the season by winning five of their first eight games. "You can't have a negative mindset this early in the season, but we definitely have to get the ball rolling," Pacers center Myles Turner told reporters following Wednesday's loss, according to the Star. "Chicago is a must win for us." I'm "buying into" Turner's sentiment. Make Indiana a 10*
|11-09-17||Thunder -1 v. Nuggets||Top||94-102||Loss||-105||22 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: The Denver Nuggets have two more games to go on the team's current six-game homestand, including tonight's contest against OKC. "We set this goal to go 6-0," center Nikola Jokic said. "We're not going to do that (Nuggets are 3-1), but we have two games,left so we're going to try to do our best to achieve something." The now 6-5 Nuggets welcome the Thunder to Pepsi Center tonight and just might be catching OKC at the right time. Oklahoma City has struggled in trying to fit forwards Paul George and Carmelo Anthony around Westbrook, the reigning MVP. All three are averaging 20.1 points but inconsistency has been an issue, especially against Western Conference teams, as the Thunder are 0-5 against Wes opponents.
Oklahoma City: The Thunder are coming off a 94-86 loss to the lowly Sacramento Kings on Tuesday and afterward Westbrook vowed the Thunder would be better. "I take ownership of how we're playing, and I will be better," he said after the loss to the Kings. "We will be better, so I'm not worried." OKC insists that the team is just going through some growing pains as its superstars and supporting staff learn to play alongside each other. However, in the loss to the Kings, the team shot 33.7 percent from the floor with Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Russell Westbrook combining to go 15-of-54. "We have a whole year to figure it out," George told reporters. "We can't really rush into this. It's something that step-by-step, day-by-day, at this point game-by-game we have to slowly get on the same page. It sucks to drop games like this. We look back down the road in March and April, we'll be pretty sick about it, but this isn't when we want to play our best basketball."
Denver: Meanwhile, the Nuggets are starting to come together. They have won five of their last seven games and center Nikola Jokic broke out for a career-high 41 points in a 112-104 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday. after managing just eight points in a loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. Jokic is averaging 17.9 points on 53.5 percent shooting, while adding 11.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists. "The guy can do it all," Denver coach Michael Malone told reporters. "It was one of those nights for him, We needed it. ... He is ultra-skilled. Obviously, the way he's been shooting the ball from 3-point range this year has been magnificent. I'm going to stop saying he's a (heck) of a young player. I don't care how old he is. Nikola Jokic is one of the best players in the NBA." Joining Jokic are free agent PF Millsap (15.4 & 6.3) plus four guards (Barton, Harris, Mudiay and Murray) who are all scoring between 11.5 and 14.3 PPG.
The pick: The Thunder may be 0-5 vs. the West so far but they have won five straight at Pepsi Center, dating back to Feb. 9, 2015. It is also a homecoming for Anthony, who played his first 7 1/2 seasons in Denver before being traded to the New York Knicks. Sure, he's been back as a Knick, but now he's playing for a division rival that needs to make a statement. Make OKC a 10* play.
|11-08-17||Wolves +11 v. Warriors||Top||101-125||Loss||-108||22 h 4 m||Show|
Minnesota: The T-wolves believe their team is only scratching the surface. "This is still a work in progress," Teague told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "We're still trying to figure out each other. It can be a lot better. We all know that. We're starting to get into a groove here. But we have miles to go to be the team we want to be." Teague recorded 18 points and 12 assists in a 112-94 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday to continue his own groove with a fourth double-double in five games. Karl-Anthony Towns leads in scoring (21.8) and rebounding (10.9), while Wiggins checks in right behind him at 19.9 PPG (also 4.6 RPG). The two new 'key' additions are Butler and Teague. Butler checks in at 15.1-5.2-4.0 and Teague at 13.4 & a team-high 8.4 APG. Minnesota is averaging 109.4 PPG (7th) but allowing 109.8 PPG (25th).
Golden State: The Warriors wow their fans with their offensive exploits and that's the case again this season. Golden State is No. 1 in scoring (118.5 PPG), FG percentage (51.2%) and three-point shooting (40.9%). You may just have heard of Durant, Curry, Thompson and Green. The Warriors led the NBA in defensive FG percentage en route to the championship last season gut ranks sixth in the early going this season (44.0%) and more troubling, 22nd in scoring D (108.5 PPG).
The pick: The Warriors have righted their ATS 'ship,' covering four in a row after a 1-6 ATS start but the T-wolves are enjoying the franchise's first five-game winning streak since 2009. The Warriors have beaten the Timberwolves in 17 of the past 20 meetings. However, this year's team surely looks more than ready to end a streak which has seen them miss the playoffs for each of the last 13 seasons. The T-wolves may have lost three of four to the Warriors last season but covered three of the four, including winning outright once here in Oakland. Take the points and make Minnesota an 8* play.
|11-08-17||Lakers +9 v. Celtics||Top||96-107||Loss||-109||20 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics lost Gordan Hayward to a season-ending injury in Game 1 of the current season and then lost Game 2 to the Bucks. However, they then became the first team in NBA history to lose its first two games and then win its next seven. Boston didn't stop there though, as Monday Boston made in nine straight wins with 110-107 victory in Atlanta. Boston's puts its winning streak and the NBA's best overall record (9-2) on the line tonight, when the 5-5 LA Lakers invade TD Garden. At .500, the Lakers can't be too unhappy (coming off seasons of 27, 21, 17 and 26 wins) rookie PG Lonzo Ball is shooting 29.9 percent from the floor on the season, including 23.4 percent on threes.
LA Lakers: Ball will have to learn to shoot but he is averaging 6.9 assists and 6.4 rebounds in 33 minutes, leading the team in both categories. He handed out nine assists in Sunday's 107-102 win over Memphis but he went 1-of-8 from three-point range in that game. “He’s been a little down on himself a little bit with the season he’s having,” fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma told the LA Daily News of Ball. "Of course he wants to play a lot better. I just try to tell him to be more aggressive on the floor. ... Once he’s confident in his game he’s pretty hard to guard." Kuzma has had no problem scoring and shooting well, as he has taken over the rookie scoring load for the Lakers by averaging 13.4 PPG on the season, while shooting 56.2 percent from the floor.
Boston: Monday's win over Atlanta snapped a string of eight straight games of holding opponents under 100 points for the Celtics, who lead the NBA in scoring defense at 94.5 PPG. Boston could have drafted Ball with the No. 1 overall pick but instead traded down to the No. 3 spot and picked up forward Jayson Tatum, who is averaging 14.3 points on 50.0 percent shooting, including 52.9 percent from three-point range. The Celtics are getting contributions from everyone on the roster, but Kyrie Irving (22.3 & 5.7 APG) is the unquestioned team leader plus veteran center Al Horford had his fourth double-double of the campaign on Monday. He is averaging 14.6 PPG and 9.2 RPG, while shooting 47.4 percent from beyond the arc.
The pick: the TD Garden always presents a hostile environment for the Lakers but they have improved their defense, which ranked dead last a year ago but was 11th in efficiency into last weekend. LA allowed 111.5 PPG last season but it's down to 107.3 PPG so far this season, which ranks 20th. The Ball-led offense remains a work in progress as Luke Walton tinkers with lineup combos but while Ball averages just 8.8 PPG, seven other Lakers are averaging in double digits (newly acquired center Brook Lopez leads with 16.4 PPG). One can't argue with the Celtics' 9-2 SU & ATS record but the Lakers come into this game having covered four in a row and I expect them to 'hang around' the number here in Boston. Make the Lakers an 8* play.
|11-07-17||Grizzlies v. Blazers -3.5||Top||98-97||Loss||-105||15 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: The 6-4 Memphis Grizzlies visit Moda Center tonight for a matchup with the 6-4 Portland Trail Blazers. The Grizzlies beat the Los Angeles Clippers 113-104 Saturday but lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 107-102 Sunday to open a five-game road trip that continues Tuesday against the Blazers. Portland enters off two close home wins, 113-110 on Thursday against the Lakers and then 103-99 over the Thunder on Sunday.
Memphis: The Grizzlies have to be sick about losing to the Lakers. Memphis roared back from a 22-point deficit to close to within 103-102 inside the final minute before the Lakers closed out the win, 107-102. "We just waited too long to have a sense of urgency," said PG Mike Conley, who led the Grizzlies with 23 points. "We have to do better, especially on the second of back-to-back games. We didn't start the way we wanted to. You can't spot any team in this league that many points. We didn't have what it took early on." Conley (18.4 & 4.0 APG) notes that he has seen mixed results from a roster in transition. "I have been pleased with our effort. I think our team is learning," he said. "We still have a very long way to go, we have a lot of young guys who are learning the game. We are trying to do our best to bring everybody up to speed but we are going to have nights where we don't seem to have everything going for us." One newcomer who is thriving is veteran guard Tyreke Evans (17.1 PPG), who has posted three straight 20-point outings and is averaging 26 points on 59.2 percent shooting during the hot stretch. Veteran center Marc Gasol had 15 points and 10 rebounds against the Lakers for his fifth double-double of the season and checks in leading the team in scoring (19.9) and rebounding (9.3).
Portland: Guard Damian Lillard is on a scoring spree and the Portland star looks to top 30 points for the fifth straight game when the Trail Blazers host the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday. Lillard is averaging 34.3 points during his run, and tallied 36 points in Portland's 103-99 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday. Lillard is averaging 27.1-5.4-6.6 on the season, teaming with fellow guard McCollum (22.1 & 4.7) to give the Blazers one of the league's top backcourts. Portland is also receiving solid offensive play from center Jusuf Nurkic (16.0 & 7.8), who has played especially well over the past three games while averaging 24 points, eight rebounds and 3.3 assists and shooting 60.4 percent from the floor.
The pick: Conley is recovering from a recent quad strain and doesn't quite seem 100 percent. The Grizz allow just 98.1 PPG (3rd) on 42.2% shooting (1st) but have trouble scoring, averaging only 101.8 PPG (24th). However, shutting down Lillard and McCollum is quite a task plus Portland is allowing almost 10 fewer points per 100 possessions than it did last season. Make the Blazers a 10* play.
|11-06-17||Celtics -8.5 v. Hawks||Top||110-107||Loss||-110||11 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The Celtics may have lost Gordon Hayward for the season in their first game but it's nearly impossible to imagine the team getting off to a better start even if Hayward was playing. The Celtics pulled away from the Magic on Sunday in Orlando, posting a 104-88 victory to extend the team's winning streak to eight games. Speaking of an eight-game streak, the Hawks opened the season with a victory but then lost eight in a row, before ending their skid with Sunday's 117-115 over the Cavs in Cleveland (what to make of the Cavs, so far?)
The pick: Atlanta coach Budenholzer said "To get a win in Cleveland is not easy to do" but we may want to remind him that the Cavs are just 4-6 on the season, including 2-4 at home. The Hawks may be at home in this one but they are 0-3 SU at home so far, going 2-8 SU & 3-6-1 ATS on the season, overall. Meanwhile, Boston's owns the NBA's best overall record (8-2 SU & 9-1 ATS), including going 5-1 SU and 6-0 ATS on the road, Make Boston a 10* play.
|11-05-17||Thunder v. Blazers +2.5||Top||99-103||Win||100||15 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: The Thunder squandered an 18-point lead in a 101-94 Friday home loss to the Celtics, indicating that there is still some work to be done in blending their trio of superstars on both ends of the court. OKC will take a 4-4 record into Portland on Sunday night, where they'll meet the 5-4 Blazers. Portland ended a brief two-game skid on Thursday, but just barely! A late three-pointer from Damian Lillard allowed the Blazers to escape with a 113-110 home win over the Lakers.
Oklahoma City: Blending Russell Westbrook with newcomers Paul George and Carmelo Anthony was never expected to be seamless. That was sure the case Friday, as OKC seemingly had Boston on the ropes but squandered an 18-point lead. "It's good to struggle now, this is our first year together," Paul George told reporters. "This is a long run, we'll be fine. We're starting to shoot it well, we're starting to find some rhythm. We're starting to figure out how to attack and be aggressive. ... we'll be totally fine." Anthony told reporters after the contest, “We took the foot off the gas a little bit,” . “We didn’t put a full game together tonight." Anthony went 1-of-12 from the floor in the second half and finished with a season-low 10 points. As everyone knows, Westbrook averaged a triple-double for eth eyar last season but hsi line reads 19.5-9.4-11.8, so far through eight games.
Portland: “It’s good to get a close game win," Portland head coach Terry Stotts told reporters. “We need that, especially on the heels of not only last night but some of the other games. Dame’s shot was huge. He really carried us in the second half." The bckcourt duo of Lillard (26.1-5.4-5.9) and McCollum (22.1 & 4.9) is set but Portland has been searching for an inside scorer to compliment them since LaMarcus Aldridge left. Center Jusuf Nurkic is trying to prove he can be"the man" and scored 28 points on 12-of-20 shooting in Thursday's win and is averaging 15.0 points and 7.8 rebounds.
Portland: Not only is Westbrook averaging more than 12 PPG less this season but his percentages from the floor (.453 from .425) and the three-point line (.375 from .343), are also down. The Blazers got the best of the Thunder last season, taking three of the four and while Westbrook clearly has more help this season, it's yet to be determined how that will all play out. Make Portland a 10* play.
|11-05-17||Jazz v. Rockets -6.5||Top||110-137||Win||100||13 h 37 m||Show|
The set-up: Of the handful teams which attempted to upgrade their rosters in the off-season in an attempt to compete with the Warriors, the Houston Rockets are off to the best start. Houston's 119-104 victory at Atlanta on Friday gives them an NBA-best 6-1 record on the road and the team's overall 7-3 mark is tops in the Western Conference and behind only the 7-2 Boston Celtics, among all NBA teams. The Rockets will be home tonight though, when they welcome the 5-4 Utah Jazz to the Toyota Center. . The Jazz opened 5-0 at home but the team's hot start came to an end with a 109-100 loss to Toronto on Friday in Salt Lake City. The Jazz will visit the Rockets, who are just 1-2 at home, looking for their first road win of the young season (0-3).
Utah: The Jazz allowed 109 points to Toronto, the team's worst defensive scoring performance of the season. "Well, it wasn't the best defensive effort. That's got to be there for us," head coach Quin Snyder told reporters. "A lot of individual breakdowns where guys were getting beat put us in some compromising positions and they were able to score. We're not going to win if we don't play defense better than that." Utah comes into thsi contest allowing 96.0 PPG (2nd) and the team relies on its defense, as the Jazz are scoring a modest 98.1 PPG, to rank 27th.
Houston: The Rockets preceded their 15-point victory over the Hawks on Friday with an 18-point win over the Knicks on Wednesday. Houston made 19 three-pointers against the Knicks, then made 16 more vs. the Hawks. Houston jacked up 146 three-pointers over the last three games and is beginning to make a few more after some early accuracy issues. James Harden has averaged 29.7 points and 19.0 assists to lead the charge these last three games. Harden is averaging 26.8 PPG and 9.4 APG on the season, while the team's main off-season acquisition, Chris Paul, hasn't gotten back on the court since leaving with an injury in the team's season-opener. Center Clint Capela leads the NBA in FG percentage (69.0%), averaging 13.2 PPG and 10.9 RPG.
The pick: Utah has won and covered two of last three visits to Toyota Center. (had lost eight of nine prior to that) but remember, Gordon Hayward (27 PPG vs. Rockets) and G George Hill (22 PPG) left via free agency. After enduring a schedule that featured seven road games over a 10-game stretch, the Rockets will host the Jazz tonight, in the first of three successive home games and nine in 12 games at Houston, overall. The Jazz are 0-3 SU on the road, losing at Minnesota, the LA Clippers and Phoenix. It doesn't get any easier, here. Make Houston an 8* play.
|11-03-17||Celtics v. Thunder -5.5||Top||101-94||Loss||-115||15 h 59 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics lost their season-opener at Cleveland plus FA acquisition Gordon Hayward to a season-ending injury, as well. Boston then lost its second game to Milwaukee but the Celtics have since won and covered six in a row. Boston will play tonight in OKC (second-half of the ESPN doubleheader), going up against the "new-look" Thunder, who may be just 4-3 but own the NBA's top point-differential at plus-10.9 PPG (Celtics check in at No. 2, at plus-9.2 PPG).
Boston: Brad Stevens has well-established himself as one of the league's elite head coaches but he's adding to his resume in the early going of the current season. Boston, without Hayward, has been led by PG Irving (21.8 & 5.5 APG) and a strong performance from its starting frontcourt. Second-year forward Brown (16.2 & 5.9) and rookie forward Tatum (13.8 & 6.6) surround center Horford (14.0 & 9.1). Returning to Irving for a minute, he has scored at least 20 points in each of the six straight wins and he is ranked second in the league in steals (2.63 per game). Supplying solid support in the backcourt for Irving are Smart and Rozier (both are averaging 9.8 PPG), who are also combing to add 9.3 RPG. That said, defense has been the key, as Boston has held each of its six straight 'victims' to 94 points or fewer and enter this game allowing a league-low 93.8 PPG.
OKC: After averaging a triple-double for the season last year, Russell Westbrook won the MVP. However, OKC knew its team was nowhere near ready to compete with the Warriors. Two big trades brought Carmelo (NYK) and Paul George (Ind) to the Thunder. Interestingly, Westbrook (19.6-9.9-11.7) is just shy of averaging another triple-double but
The pick:The Celtics are not the only team playing excellent defense, as OKC ranks third in the NBA, allowing 95.7 PPG, which is more than 10 points fewer than last season. Offensively, the scoring distribution has played out seamlessly, at least so far. I noted earlier that OKC is just 4-3 to open the season but a closer look reveals that all four of the team's wins (AND covers) have come against Eastern Conference opponents. Boston my be 'the best in the East" for now but I'll make OKC a 10* play.
|11-02-17||Lakers +7 v. Blazers||Top||110-113||Win||100||14 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: The 3-4 LA Lakers will be up in Portland tonight to take on the 4-4 Blazers at Moda Center. The Lakers enter off a 20-point home win over the Pistons, who were coming off a shocking 115-107 win at Golden St. in their previous game. The Blazers lost 112-103 last night in Salt Lake City to the Jazz in OT but get right back on the court tonight, as they open a six-game homestand. Recent (and not so recent) history is on Portland's side, as the Blazers have won 12 straight meetings with the Lakers', whose last victory over Portland came back on March 3rd of 2014. The Blazers were 4-0 against the Lakers last season, winning by an average margin of 13.3 PPG.
LA Lakers: Lonzo Ball was one of seven Lakers to score in double figures against the Pistons and chipped in six rebounds, three assists and two blocks without a turnover in a stat line that did not show his true value. "Take away the Phoenix game, this is the best game he's played, I thought," Los Angeles coach Luke Walton told reporters of Ball, who scored 29 points against the Suns earlier in the season. "The way that his pace was, the way he pushed the ball all the time. He was in the other team's paint. He just set the tone, and I thought the whole team fed off the way he was playing." LA is well-balanced, as eight players are averaging between 10.4 and 14.7 PPG. Clarkson (14.7) leads in scoring and Ball checks in at 10.4, along with 7.3 RPG and 7.0 APG. However, he'll have to shoot better than the 33.3 percent he's currently making on shots from the floor, including 28.6 percent on threes.
Portland: The Blazers have lost two straight with Lillard (25.4-5.4-6.0) getting limited support during the team's two-game skid. He's scored 69 of the team's 186 points or more than 37 percent of its outcome. Only one other player reached double figures in Monday's 99-85 loss to Toronto (McCollum had 16) and just two, Jusuf Nurkic (19 points) and C.J. McCollum (16), scored in double digits in Wednesday's loss.
The pick: Sure, the Blazers have won 12 straight in the series but offense has been a problem for the Blazers to open the 2017-18 season, with Portland shooting 42.4 percent from the floor, which ranks 28th in the NBA. Portland shot only 39.8 percent from the floor against the Jazz, making 9 of 34 shots from three-point range, that's 26.5 percent. Portland opened 3-1 (3-0-1 ATS) but limps in having lost three of four and on an 0-4 ATS run. Take the points and make the Lakers a 10* play.
|11-01-17||Raptors +1.5 v. Nuggets||Top||111-129||Loss||-105||13 h 43 m||Show|
Toronto: DeMar DeRozan scored 25 points in the win at Portland, his fifth straight outing with at least 24 following an 11-point effort in the season opener. He's averaging 23.7 PPG on the season, while backcourt partner Kyle Lowry chips in 13.5-5.9-7.3, after he had a season-high 19 points to go along with 10 assists against the Blazers. Toronto is showing excellent depth early on, with 10 players averaging between 5.8 and 15.0 PPG behind DeRozan, led by PF Ibaka (15.0 & 5.0). Center Valanciunas was averaging 14.0 & 9.5 but has missed four straight games with an ankle injury. The Raptors are averaging 109.0 PPG (7th) but have shown an ability to play better defense in the early going as well, allowing 98.2 PPG (5th).
Denver: The Nuggets rallied from a 22-point halftime deficit to take a brief third-quarter lead on Sunday at MSG but in the end fell 116-110 to the Knicks, as Kristaps Porzingis scored a career-high 38 points. Center Jokic leads with 17.3 & 11.1, backed by five others in double digits. That group includes guards Harris (14.4), Barton (13.9), Murray (12.3) and Mudiay (11.6) plus PF Millsap (14.1 & 7.9).
The pick: Denver has played five of its first seven games on the road and now is home for awhile. Defense and turnovers have been a problem for the Nuggets, while the Raptors played tough at the Spurs and Warriors to open their six-game trip, before winning two in a row (have covered three straight). Toronto won two close games over Denver last season and this pointspread makes them a 10* play in this first meeting of this season.
|10-25-17||Spurs -3.5 v. Heat||Top||117-100||Win||100||12 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: The Spurs have opened 3-0, despite missing all-everything forward Kawhi Leonard, who remains out while dealing with right quadriceps tendinopathy. The Spurs have also made do without long-time PG Tony Parker (left quadriceps tendon surgery). San Antonio travels to South Beach Wednesday night to face the Miami Heat, who have opened 2-1. Miami center Hassan Whiteside is expected to miss his third straight game with a bone bruise on his left knee. Ironically, Whiteside went for 26 & 22 in Miami's season-opener at Orlando but the Heat lost. Without Whiteside, the team has won home games over the Pacers and Hawks.
San Antonio: LaMarcus Aldridge has stepped up with Leonard out, averaging 24.3 & 9.3. He is also helping out on the defensive end and provided the highlight of Monday's 101-97 win over the Raptors with a chase-down block of Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry as the Spurs held their third consecutive opponent under 100 points to start the season. Dejounte Murray surprisingly beat out Patty Mills in training camp for the right to replace Tony Parker as the team's starting PG and he's been up to the challenge, averaging 13.3-9.7-4.7. Danny Green 14.3) and Rudy Gay (12.3) also averaging in double digits.
Miami: Along with Whiteside, PG Dragic (quad bruise) and SG Waiters (ankle) are also hurting for Miami. Dragic plans to be available for Wednesday's game and if Waiters is unable to go, the Heat have plenty of other options at the shooting guard spot. Josh Richardson had a team-high 21 points in Miami's win over Atlanta and is averaging 14.3 PPG, while Wayne Ellington came off the bench and buried 6-of-8 from three-point range against the Hawks, after going 2-of-10 from beyond the arc in the first two games.
The pick: Both teams are dealing with injury issues but the absence of Whiteside is a bigger concern in this game. Jordan Mickey started the last two games in place of Whiteside and averaged five points and six rebounds in 14.5 minutes. That worked vs. the Pacers and Hawks but will not vs. the Spurs, who are holding opponents to just 91.0 PPG, despite playing without Leonard (arguably, the league's best defensive player). San Antonio enters this contest having won nine straight in the series, going back to Game 3 of the 2014 NBA Finals. Make the Spurs an 8* play.
|10-24-17||Nets v. Magic -4||Top||121-125||Push||0||15 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: The Brooklyn Nets are 2-1 to open the new season, despite allowing 121.7 PPG, which ranks 29th, ahead of only the Suns. The Nets are pushing the pace, driving and crashing the lane plus firing away from three-point range. The result has been a scoring average of 124.7 PPG, which is tops in the NBA. The Nets placed six players in double digits in Friday's 126-121 home win over the Magic and tonight will visit Amway Arena to take on the Magic, who have also opened a surprising 2-1.
Brooklyn: The Nets were just 20-62 last year and lost PG Jeremy Lin (for the season) in the team's opener of this new season. D'Angelo Russell has taken on the role of playmaker with Lin sidelined and he handed out a season-high 10 assists in Sunday's 116-104 win to boost his averages to 21 .0 PPG and 7.0 APG. Allen Crabbe had a team-high 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting on Sunday. However, Crabbe is still on a minute restriction due to a preseason ankle injury. Brooklyn is second in the NBA going into Monday's action in free-throw attempts (33.7) while shooting 37.6 percent from three-point range but one thing the Nets could do better is cutting down on fouls. Opponents are averaging 27.7 foul shots per game against the Nets after the Hawks took 36 free throws Sunday.
Orlando: The Magic are coming off one of the most impressive victories of this young season, a 114-93 triumph at Cleveland on Saturday. Center Nikola Vucevic scored a career-high 41 points on 17-of-22 shooting in the loss at Brooklyn on Friday, then followed by scoring 23 points on 11-of-16 from the floor at Cleveland. Vucevic is averaging 27.7 points and 10.7 rebounds on 68 percent shooting from the floor (34 of 50), including 50 percent from three-point range (7 of 14). His efforts on the interior opened up space on the perimeter and the Magic were able to knock down 17 three-pointers at Cleveland. "We’re starting to play offensively consistently the right way in terms of not settling and understanding that we want to attack early and the ball is really hopping," coach Frank Vogel told reporters. "We’re scoring the ball well and shooting the ball well as a result of the ball movement and the quality of our shots."
The pick: At 2-1, the Nets are above .500 for the first time since they were 4-3 on Nov. 12, 2014 and the Nets are now in a position to start 3-1 for the first time since the 2007-08 season. Is that asking too much? As for the Magic, who were just 29-53 last year, they are seeking their first 3-1 start since the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. "Again, it's too early to make any big judgments about this (team), but it's an early positive sign for us," Orlando coach Frank Vogel said. "With how we're playing offensively and moving the basketball, we're facilitating everything and everybody feels good about our chemistry. Everybody is playing with the basketball the right way, thinking extra pass and playing for each other. That's how chemistry is established." The home team has won each of the last five meetings in the series and revenge (from Friday) works here for the Magic. Make Orlando an 8* play.
|10-23-17||Kings v. Suns -1.5||Top||115-117||Win||100||26 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: It's one thing to open 0-3 and another to have lost all three games by an average margin of 30.7 PPG (two losses by 40-plus points) while allowing league-worsts of 128.7 PPG on 51.5 percent shooting (including 50.0 percent on threes). Head coach Earl Watson began his second full year on the job this season after being promoted from assistant coach to interim coach when Jeff Hornacek was fired on Feb. 1, 2016. Watson signed a three-year contract as head coach on April 19, 2016 but the team announced Sunday night that associate head coach Jay Triano is taking over for Watson as interim head coach. The Suns went 33-85 on his watch. Triano's first game will be against the Sacramento Kings on Monday night, who visit Phoenix after opening 1-2.
Sacramento: The Kings are finishing up a three-game, four-day road trip that has seen them win 93-88 at Dallas but then lose 96-79 at Denver on Saturday. Zach Randolph was the lone Sacramento starter to score in double figures and he finished with only 11 points as the team's starting-five combined to shoot 10-for-38 from the floor. Rookie De'Aaron Fox made a splash off the bench with 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go along with five rebounds in a team-high 29 minutes. Fox currently leads the etam in scoring (13.7 PPG) and assists (5.3 per), while adding 5.0 RPG. Forward Skal Labissiere chipped in 13 points but there were very few other contributions for a team the Suns may just be able to beat.
Phoenix: Guard Eric Bledsoe followed up a 28-point performance in a two-point loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday with a four-point, four-turnover effort against the Clippers on Sunday. Bledsoe summed up his frustration in a tweet before Sunday's announcement of the coaching change surfaced. "I Dont wanna be here," it read. The Suns are the second-youngest team in the league in terms of average age, with four players still 20 and another 19. Watson tinkered with the lineup this season, putting power forward Marquese Chriss on the bench and starting two small forwards, TJ Warren and rookie Josh Jackson. Among many other things, that hasn't worked. Triano spent parts of four seasons (2008-11) as head coach of the Toronto Raptors. He is in his second season with the Suns after spending four years as an assistant with the Portland Trail Blazers, one when Watson was a player there.
The pick: It would be impossible for the Suns to play any worse but as noted, the Kings may just be exactly "what the doctor ordered." The NBA's worst defensive team (Phoenix) will welcome a team averaging just 90.7 PPG (second-lowest scoring average in the NBA) and playing its third road game in four nights. Take the points and make the Suns a 10* play.
|10-22-17||Hawks +2 v. Nets||Top||104-116||Loss||-105||5 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: How many realize that behind the San Antonio Spurs, the second-longest streak of consecutive NBA playoff appearances belongs to the Atlanta Hawks. Yes, the Hawks have been to 10 staright postseason but that run will be tested in 2017-18. Atlanta got no favors from teh schedule-makers, as the Hawks must begin the seaon with five straight games on the road. The Hawks looked impressive in a 117-111 win at the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday but shot 37.9 percent in a 109-91 loss at Charlotte on Friday, squandering a 20-point first-half lead. The Hawks will be in Brooklyn tonight, to take on the 1-1 Nets. Brooklyn opened with a 140-131 loss at Indiana on Wednesday and then, playing its their first game since learning that PG Jeremy Lin will miss the rest of the regular season with a ruptured patella tendon on Friday, beat the Orlando Magic 126-121 in the team's home opener.
|10-20-17||Blazers -3.5 v. Pacers||Top||114-96||Win||100||11 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: The Portland Trail Blazers travel to Indianapolis tonight and will try to play "Can you Top This" in their meeting with the Pacers. The answer is likely no, as the Blazers are coming off a 124-76 win at the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. It was the second-largest margin of victory in franchise history and also, the largest margin of victory in any opener in NBA history! The Pacers opened their season as well on Wednesday and while their margin of victory was a more modest nine points, Indiana scored 140 points at home against the Brooklyn Nets, placing eight scorers in double figures!
Portland: The Blazers cruised to their win over the Suns despite playing without their second-best scorer (player?). Portland will welcome C.J. McCollum back from suspension when they visit the Indiana Pacers on Friday. Damian Lillard knocked down 4-of-6 from beyond the arc en route to a team-high 27 points, while reserve guard Pat Connaughton stepped up with a career-high 24 points (made it 4-of-7 three-point attempts). Portland made 14-of-24 from three-point range but was already looking ahead after the game. Probably don't read too much into (the win) because it's a long season," Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts told reporters. "Obviously we're pleased with it, but Indiana is a new day. You can't rest on it. It's a great way to start the season, particularly the manner in which we did it, but the next game is the next game." T
Indiana: The Pacers installed a faster-paced offense which will move ball more after trading away ball-stopping star Paul George. The results were positive on opening night, as three players scored 20 or more points and the team totaled 29 assists while shooting 52 percent from the floor. PG Darren Collison, one of three new starters, handed out 11 of those assists and scored 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Former Indiana Hoosier star Victor Oladipo led the way with 22 points and returning center Myles Turner added a double-double (21 & 11). "It was a great first night and hopefully Pacers fans get a chance to see what we're capable of and what type of basketball team we are," Oladipo told reporters. "Obviously, it wasn't perfect and there are some things we want to get better and improve at; but it's always great to get a win in the NBA."
The pick: Both Portland and Indiana 'beat up' on teams which will both be looking to gain the most ping pong balls possible in the upcoming draft (Suns and Nets, respectively), so neither has gotten too carried away with their big opening night performances. Bottom line here is that McCollum will be back in the starting lineup for this game and last season, he and Lillard combined for 57 PPG and shot 49% against Indiana. Meanwhile, the two Indiana players who led the way for the Pacers against Portland last year, Paul George and Jeff Teague, have both left for 'greener pastures' (OKC and Minny, respectively). Make Portland an 8* play.
|10-18-17||Rockets v. Kings +8||Top||105-100||Win||100||15 h 28 m||Show|
The set-up: Riddle me this. If I told you that the Warriors would shoot 53.8 percent from the floor (including 16 of 30 on threes), while making 19 of 21 FTs, would anyone have though that they'd lose their season-opener at home to the Rockets? Wait, before you answer, let me add that Chris Paul would go 2 of 9 in his Houston debut (scoring four points) and that Harden would make just 10 of 23 from the floor. Now, would anyone have taken Houston on the moneyline? OK, you all are likely well aware that the Warriors blew a 17-point lead last night and by out-scoring Golden State 34-20 in the 4th quarter, Houston upset the defending champs 122-121, when KD's apparent game-winner was disallowed, as the ball left his hand just AFTER the buzzer went off. The Rockets hope not to be still celebrating when they head to Sacramento tonight, to take on the Kings. The Kings were 32-50 last season, while missing the playoffs for the 11th straight season.
Houston. The Rockets featured a well-balanced attack last night, as six players scored in double digits, including two reserves with 20 or more points. Backup guard Eric Gordon had 24 points and backup forward P.J. Tucker, signed for his defensive toughness, added 20. "We got some dogs on this team, man," Houston star guard James Harden said during a post-game television interview. "We're versatile, probably the most versatile team since I've been in Houston. We've got a chance." Chris Paul did record 11 assists in his Houston debut but sat out the final 4:47 as he is battling knee soreness.
Sacramento: The Kings moved talented but problematic center DeMarcus Cousins at last yea's All Star break and I'm not sure many believe this year's team is ready to break the franchise's current playoff drought. Zach Randolph was brought in and he played under current Kings coach Dave Joerger for three seasons in Memphis. 40-year-old swingman Vince Carter, who also played in Memphis, is expected, along with Randolph, to provide some much-needed leadership to a club that too often lacked it during the Cousins' era. Veteran PG George Hill also was added but he may not be at full strength for the opener after recently suffering a groin injury. As for Randolph, he's questionable after oral surgery. First-round pick PG De'Aaron Fox will get increased time if Hill is hindered, while shooting guard Buddy Hield aims to follow up his solid showing of averaging 15.1 PPG in 25 his games after being the main acquisition in the deal that sent Cousins to New Orleans.
The pick: There is a "wide divide' between these two teams but with Houston coming off what had to be a very satisfying win over the Warriors last night in Oakland, the home dog is the way to go. Make Sacramento an 8* play.
|10-18-17||Bucks +3.5 v. Celtics||Top||108-100||Win||100||13 h 58 m||Show|
full analysis soon
|10-17-17||Celtics +3 v. Cavs||Top||99-102||Push||0||61 h 5 m||Show|
The set-up: The NBA schedule-makers surely have a sense of humor. Kyrie Irving played six seasons with Cleveland with the four-time All-Star guard helping Cleveland reach three NBA Finals, including winning the 2016 title. However, he reportedly tired of playing with LBJ and "requested" (basically forced) a trade this past off-season. Irving ended up in Boston for a package that included PG Isaiah Thomas and the highly under-appreciated Jae Crowder. Boston actually earned the No. 1 seed in the East last season over Cleveland (53 wins to 51) but the Celtics were no match for the Cavs in the conference finals, losing 4-1. Cleveland revamped its roster over the summer as well, adding veteran guards Dwyane Wade (James' BFF), Derrick Rose and Jose Calderon in addition to newcomers Thomas (out due to hip surgery) and Crowder. LBJ has been bothered by a sprained left ankle and his availability may not be determined until close to tip-off in the season opener, as Kyrie makes his much-anticipated "return to Cleveland" as a member of the Celtics.
Boston: Irving wasn't the only big off-season acquisition by the Celtics, as they lured All-Star small forward Gordon Hayward away from the Utah Jazz to reunite with Brad Stevens, his former college coach at Butler. All it took was a four-year, $128 million deal. The move to Boston allows Hayward to build off a career-best 2016-17 campaign in which he averaged 21.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Al Horford, second-year swingman Jaylen Brown and rookie forward Jayson Tatum are the other likely starters with Hayward and Irving.
Cleveland: LBJ missed four of Cleveland's five preseason games but he did participate in Monday's practice. "You know I never hide stuff from you guys, I really don't know," Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue told reporters. "I mean, just depends on how he feels after (Monday), but I really don't know." Thomas is not expected to make his Cleveland debut until around the All-Star break, so veterans like Rose, Wade and J.R. Smith will be counted on to help James and Kevin Love (who now is expected to start at center, with Thompson coming off the bench) on the scoring side.
The pick: There is plenty of drama brewing for tonight, as the Cavs are planning a video tribute to Irving, who made the game-winning 3-pointer in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals to hand the organization its first championship. That said, expect plenty of boos directed Irving's way. As for LBJ, he has never missed a season opener in his first 14 years in the league and of course wants to pay here but he has to realize this is just one game and all the Cavs care about is getting back to the Finals, to get another shot at the Warriors. Especially, considering most believe that this will be LBJ's last season in Cleveland. Something tells me that the Celtics will be better-prepared to win this game and note that if LBJ doesn't play, the numbers don't bode well for the Cavs. Cleveland is 4-23 over the past three seasons when James doesn't play, including losses in the last 11. Make Boston a 10* play.
|06-01-17||Cavs v. Warriors -7||Top||91-113||Win||100||130 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: The same two teams (Cavs & Warriors) meet in the NBA Finals for the third straight year, something that's never happened before. With Steve Kerr's health issues, the Warriors are led by Mike Brown, who formerly coached LBJ and the Cavs from 2005-2010. Brown (and of course, LBJ) led the Cavs to the Finals in 2009 (got swept by the Spurs), in just his second year with the team and then to 66 wins and 61 wins in his final two seasons. He was fired and coached the Lakers for two years before returning to Cleveland for the 2013-14 seas onbut LBJ was in Miami by then. The Cavs won just 33 games and Brown was fired again, Circumstances have Brown now facing off against his ex-team and head coach Tyronn Lue, making it the first time two black head coaches have faced each other in an NBA Finals since 1975 (Al Attles and KC Jones!).
Golden State: Curry's been the Warriors' best player this postseason, averaging 28.6-5.5-5.6. Durant has fought through some minor injury issues (he missed two games) to average 25.2 & 7.8, while Green has been a major force, averaging 13.9-7.8-7.2 and playing shut-down defense. Lagging behind this postseason has been the fourth member of this "team of All Stars," Klay Thompson, who after averaging 22.3 PPG (on 46.8% shooting) during the season, has averaged 14.4 PPG on 38.3% shooting. However, Thompson is an outstanding defender and his defense (along with Green's) could easily be a key to this series.
The pick: The Warriors haven't lived down the memory of blowing a 3-1 lead in last season's Finals and with the addition of Durant, are a better team this season than last. I noted at the top that these Finals feature the best of each conference but considering the West (in Golden St, SA & Hou) owned the three-best regular season records and Cleveland actually won fewer games than Boston in the East, one could argue that the Warriors are clearly the superior team (won 16 more games, 67-to-51) and deserve to be a solid favorite. There's no doubt that LBJ will be primed for the challenge but remember, Curry has a lot to prove as well, as does Durant. Curry under-performed when the Warriors won in 2015 and last year was downright bad in The Finals. As for Durant, if after joining the Warriors to form this "Super Team," what's his excuse if the Warriors don't win? I always try to avoid picking a series winner (my job is to pick the series game-by-game and here's a tid-bit that has me on Golden St. Like most, I feel the East has nowhere near the overall talent of the West and the last NINE times an Eastern Conference team has opened an NBA Finals on the road, it has gone 0-9 SU & ATS! Make the Warriors a 10* play.
|05-25-17||Cavs v. Celtics +11||Top||135-102||Loss||-115||13 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: It wasn't a cakewalk but the Cavs won Game 4 against the Celtics, 112-99. The Celtics actually led by 10 points at the half but Cleveland shot 71 percent in the second half to take a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals. Kyrie scored a playoff career-high 42 points, LBJ overcame four fouls in the first half to add 34 points and Love produced his fourth consecutive double-double with 17 & 17. The Celtics now need to win at home, where they lost the first two games of this series by an average of 28.5 points, to stay alive. "We're humble enough to know that we haven't played well at home, and we want to give our home crowd a better outing than we did the past two games," forward Jae Crowder told reporters. "We're right there where we want to be, we're locked in."
Cleveland: Irving tweaked an ankle in Game 4 but he didn't seem to be the least bit affected, scoring 33 of his points during an impressive 19-minute stretch. LBJ overcame early foul trouble to make 15-of-27 shots after suffering through a poor Game 3 in which he scored only 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting. As noted, Love's been brilliant, averaging 24.5 & 12.8 through four games. However, an area of concern for Cleveland has to be the fact that its bench has contributed just nine (Game 3) and seven (Game 4) points!
Boston: Game 3 hero Marcus Smart (27 points) returned to earth with a thud in Game 4, going 1 of 9 for eight points. Olynyk got the Game 4 start and had 15 points. He had 15 off the bench in Game 3, after scoring just two total points in the first two games! Crowder battled through a groin injury in Game 4 and produced 18 points and eight rebounds. He is averaging 15.5 points and 7.8 rebounds in the series. Thomas is done for the year and winning three straight is not a realistic hope for Boston.
The pick: However, the Celtics recovered from a 21-point deficit to win Game 3 in Cleveland and incredibly, had the Cavs in a 16-point hole in the second quarter of Game 4, a contest in which almost all thought the Cavs would dominate. Cleveland head coach is warning his team about looking ahead to the Warriors. "(The Celtics are), like I told you guys before, it's like we're preparing for a whole new team. Like, we didn't know what they were going to run. Isaiah (Thomas) goes down and they're running a totally different offense than we prepared for so it's been tough on us. And defensively, they're a lot better. They don't have a lot of weak links to go to, to go at." The Celtics pulled off the improbable comeback upset in Game 3 and are more than capable of at worst, taking the Cavs to the wire in this one. Take the points and make Boston a 10* play.
|05-21-17||Celtics +17 v. Cavs||Top||111-108||Win||100||13 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers have had their way with the Celtics in both games in Boston, winning 117-104 (wasn't as close as the final) and 130-86 (it was as bad as the score indicates). They now return home and look (expect?) to take a 3-0 series lead when they host the Celtics in Sunday's Eastern Conference finals' matchup. Things have gone from bad to worse for Boston since that Game 2 blowout, as PG Isaiah Thomas (hip) has been ruled out for the rest of the postseason.
|05-17-17||Cavs v. Celtics +5||Top||117-104||Loss||-110||13 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers have rolled to eight straight wins this postseason, averaging 114.5 PPG. After failing to cover their first two games against the Pacers, the Cavs are 5-0-1 or 6-0 ATS their last six. In fact, Cleveland has now won 11 straight playoff games since being down 3-1 against the Warriors in last year's Finals, going 8-2-1 or 9-2 ATS with some guy LeBron averaging 34.9-9.7-7.8. Boston was considered the weakest No. 1 seed in a long time (maybe ever, since the league went to a 16-team playoff format) and right away, lost its first two home games in the first round, against the 41-41 Bulls (No. 8 seed). However, Rondo's injury gave the Celtics 'life' and they won and covered the final four games of that first-round series. Against Washington, the home team won all seven games (6-1 ATS) and Boston now draws the defending champs but has the homecourt edge.
Cleveland: The Cavaliers haven't played since May 7 and hope to continue to ride the red-hot duo of forward LeBron James (34.4-9.0-7.1) and PG Kyrie Irving (23.8 & 5.8 APG) as they look to shake off the rust. Head coach Tyronn Lue says he hopes to get PF Kevin Love more involved in this series after he averaged just 13.8 points and 9.1 rebounds during the first two rounds. Love did averaged 23.7 points and 13 rebounds in three games against the Celtics this season (Cavs took three of the four). However, the Cavs may need more help from outside of their "Big Three," as Channing Frye is the fourth-best scorer at 8.8 PPG this postseason for Cleveland.
Boston: The Celtics just survived a tough seven-game series against the Wizards to reach the conference finals for the first time since 2012. That series just ended Monday and now it's the defending champs on one days' rest. Boston knows it will be a huge underdog in this series. "We gotta get ready for the defending champs, we know that," PG Isaiah Thomas said after Monday's game. "The good thing about it is we've got homecourt advantage, so we're going to be ready on Wednesday to try to take care of home court. We know it's going to be tough but at this point, anything can happen, we really believe that." Thomas has carried Boston through most of the playoffs in an inspiring manner, averaging 25.4 PPG and APG this postseason. He had 29 points, 12 assists and just two turnovers in the Game 7 win over the Wizards and has had four 30-point outings (including 52 in Game 2 vs. Washington). Kelly Olynyk established a playoff career-best with 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting in the Game 7 win over the Wizards but the unsung Horford is also having a very good postseason, averaging 16.1-7.5-5.8 while shooting 64.0 percent.
The pick: It's hard for most to ignore the Cavs going into Boston late this regular season (on April 5) and just 'toying' with the Celtics. LBJ had 36-10-6 in a 114-91 Cleveland win. However, let's not forget that the Warriors found themselves down 23 points in the third quarter of their Game 1 against the Spurs after a long rest and that game was in Oakland! I'm going to take the home dog and make Boston a 10* play.
|05-15-17||Wizards v. Celtics -4.5||Top||105-115||Win||100||33 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: Two of the four second round series ended in four-game sweeps (Cavs and Warriors) while the Spurs took out the Rockets in six games, but this Washington/Boston series will need all seven games to be decided. That should come as no surprise as the home team won all four matchups during the regular season and through six games of this playoff series, has come out on top each time. The first five games saw the home team also cover but then in Game 6, the Wizards eked out a 92-91 win over the Celtics. Boston squandered a five-point lead in the final minute of Game 6, saw John Wall nail a three-pointer with 3.5 seconds left on the clock to give Washington the lead and then got victimized by some fuzzy clock management in the final seconds of the contest. After Wall's three-pointer, Kelly Oubre Jr. used Washington's foul to give with 2.7 seconds remaining, according to the NBA's Last Two Minute report,but Boston only got 1.7 seconds left on its final chance as Isaiah Thomas heaved up a three-point attempt that missed the mark. On to Game 7.
Washington: Wall is averaging 26.3 points and 10.2 assists in the series and combines with Bradley Beal to form a backcourt that is not afraid to take the big shots. Beal scored a series-best 33 points in Friday's win but is still trying to find his shot from long range while shooting 26.3 percent from beyond the arc in the series. Washington's frontcourt continues to give uneven efforts. Gortat has rebounded well all series (11.7 per) but in the last three games, has scored a total of just 17 points. SF Otto Porter Jr. averaged 15.8 points on 60 percent shooting in the first five games of the series but went scoreless on 0-of-5 shooting in Game 6. PF Morris was a "no-show" in Games 1 and 5 (both Boston home wins) but in Washington's three home games (all wins), he's averaged 14.0 & 8.7. Sixth man Bogdanovich has shot erratically, scoring 32 points in Games 3 and 4 (on 11 of 19 shooting) but averaging just 5.0 PPG in the other four games on 6 of 20 shooting.
Boston: Isaiah Thomas is not complaining about Monday's situation. "To have Game 7 back in Boston in the Garden," Thomas told reporters after the game 6 loss. "If you had said that back in October, that there'd be a Game 7 in the second round, a lot of people probably wouldn't even believe that. So we're excited. I mean, it hurts right now because we just lost. We have nothing to hold our heads down about, we're going to take a few days to figure out our adjustments and win Game 7."Thomas had 33 points in Game 1 and then exploded for 53 points in Game 2. However, he is averaging just 19.3 points on 39 percent shooting in the four games since. Then again, Thomas is getting plenty of help the last two games from SG Avery Bradley, who followed up a playoff career-high 29 points in Game 5 with 27 in Game 6 and is 22-of-37 from the floor in that span. Center Al Horford was in line to be the "hero" in Game 6 (his 'bank' shot gave Boston a two-point lead with 10 seconds left) but Wall's three-point shot ruined that scenario. Still, Horford has been very good for Boston this postseason, averaging 16.2-7.6-5.8 while shooting 64.2% from the floor.
The pick: It's another Game 7 at the legendary Boston Garden (now the TD Garden) and the Celtics sure have history behind them (Celtics are 18-3 all-time at home in Game 7s). However, all those banners in the rafters won't help this team, which has no connection to the past. Washington's history doesn't bode well, as the Wizards will be trying to reach the conference finals for the first time since 1979,. Forget ancient history, just look at this season. The home team has won all 11 meetings between the two teams and over the first 10 (prior to Game 6), the home team had covered each time. Stick with the home team here and make Boston a 10* play.
|05-14-17||Spurs v. Warriors -10||Top||111-113||Loss||-110||31 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: The Spurs owned the second-best record West at 61-21 (and in the entire NBA, as well) and will meet the No. 1 seed Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals starting this afternoon in Oakland. The Warriors went 67-15 during the regular season and have won all eight playoff games, outscoring opponents on average, 115.3-to-98.8 PPG. After rolling over Portland and Utah in the first two rounds, the Warriors also have the advantage of being well-rested, with an entire week off between series. Conversely, the Spurs didn't have an easy time in either of their series, as they were tied at two-all against both the Grizzlies and the Rockets, before winning both Game 5s at home and then their respective Games 6's as well, at Memphis and Houston.
San Antonio: Kawhi Leonard is nursing a sprained left ankle that kept him out of the clinching Game 6 win over the Houston Rockets on Thursday but the good news for the Spurs is that Leonard will have had a full four days off before Sunday's opener. He is expected to play against Golden State today. Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge took a more prominent role in Leonard's absence in Game 6 at Houston. He produced his best performance of the postseason with 34 points and 12 rebounds, well above his average 16.8 points and 8.0 rebounds this postseason. PG Tony Parker (quadriceps tendon) is out for the rest of the playoffs and the Spurs will likely start Patty Mills, with rookie Murray also seeing increased "PT." Also, SG Jonathan Simmons averaged 13.2 points against the Rockets, after averaging only 3.6 in the first round against Memphis.
Golden State:Golden Curry (27.1) and Durant (23.3) have played very well so far, although the team's third "big scorer," Klay Thompson, has struggled. Thompson averaged 22.3 points during the regular season but has reached 20 points just twice in the first eight playoff games, averaging 16.3 PPG on 40.7% shooting. However, Draymond Green is picking up the scoring slack, averaging 14.9 PPG (on 51.2% from three-point range) plus adding 8.5 RPG and 9.1 APG while always playing great defense.
The pick: The Spurs took two of three from the Warriors during the regular season, with one of those wins being a 129-100 stunner on opening night at Golden State. Hard to believe taht the Warriors won't be well aware of that and with no Parker and a less than 100 percent Leonard, the Spurs don't figure to stay withing 'shouting distance' of the Warriors here in Game 1. Lay the points and make the Warriors a 10* play.
|05-12-17||Celtics +5 v. Wizards||Top||91-92||Win||100||12 h 13 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics are one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference finals but will that victory come in Washington? So far, the home team is 5-0 SU & ATS this series, after the teams did the exact same thing in their regular season series, with the home team posting a 4-0 SU & ATS mark. The only 'twist' to Boston's Game 5 win was that for once (in a home win), the Celtics didn't rely completely on Isaiah Thomas. With Washington's defensive focus squarely on the 5-9 All-Star PG, Boston's Avery Bradley recorded a playoff career high 29 points (25 in the 1st half, alone) plus frontcourt players Horford (19-6-7) and Crowder (18 & 8) also has excellent games. The Wizards shot only 38.5 percent as teeam and while Wall had 21 points, he had just four assists ending his NBA record streak of 11 consecutive playoff games with at least 20 points and seven assists!
Boston: Thomas showed his skills as a facilitator in Game 5, becoming a screen-setter and passer, which kept the Wizards off balance. It's likely Boston will need more of the same from Thomas in Game 6 but while the Celtics can't expect another 29-point game from Bradley, they will need strong play from him on both ends of the floor, offensively and defensively, Al Horford is shooting 69.4 percent from the floor, including 58.8 percent from three-point range in the series and it would be nice if he could keep that up.
Washington: The Wizards had all the momentum going into Game 5 after winning the previous two games by a total of 46 points but were flat as a pancake in Game 5. "It started with the focus," Wizards head coach Scott Brooks told reporters. "That was our No. 1 mistake. We didn’t have the focus that it would have taken to win in this building." Shooting guards Beal and Bojan Bogdanovic (off teh bench) combined to go 8-of-26 from the floor, including just 1-of-8 from beyond the arc. Washington used a 22-0 run in Game 3 and a 26-0 spurt in Game 4 to create separation in a pair of home wins but failed to get the defensive stops that led to those runs in Game 5. "All we can do is focus on Game 6 at home," Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal told reporters.
The pick: The question then becomes, will the Wizards be able to regain their composure and swagger? I took the Spurs (even without Kawhi) last night and watched Houston fail miserably in attempting to bounce back from its Game 5 loss. Other than Wall, the remainder of Washington's starters have been erratic throughout the entire series, As for the bench, we saw Kelly Oubre Jr. return from a one-game suspension following a Flagrant 2 foul in Game 3 to score 13 points off the bench but Washington's other reserves shot 3 of 16 from the floor in Game 5. I just have ZERO faith in Washington, especially laying points. Make Boston a 10* play.
|05-11-17||Spurs +7.5 v. Rockets||Top||114-75||Win||100||12 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: The Spurs took a 3-2 lead in this series by winning Game 5 in OT (110-107), with All-Star small forward Kawhi Leonard on the bench due to a left ankle injury. Manu Ginibili "turned back the clock" with his best game of the series, which included a line of 12-7-5 and then capped his performance with a block of Harden's possible game-tying three-point attempt at the OT buzzer. Harden had 33 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in Game 5 but it wasn't enough..He was just 4-of-15 from three-point range plus Gordon, inserted into the starting lineup for Game 5, shot 4 of 13 from the floor (11 points) and reserve guard Lou Williams score only six points on 3 of 10 shooting.
San Antonio: Leonard vows he'll be in the starting lineup tonight saying, "Yeah, I'm going to be able to play," when asked during Wednesday's off-day media availability. Patty Mills also figures to draw the start at PG for the second straight game, after scoring 20 points and knocking down five 3-pointers in Game 5. Then there is PF LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored 18 points and added 14 rebounds on Tuesday, recording his first double-double of the series.
Houston: Head coach Mike D'Antoni not only "went small" by starting Gordon, he also opted for just a seven-man rotation, with veteran center Nene (groin) done for the postseason. Ryan Anderson and Lou Williams being the only reserves to play in Game 5. Anderson had a strong game with 19 points but as noted already, Williams shot poorly. In Houston's three losses this series, Williams has gone 5 of 21 (23.8%) from the floor, scoring a total of just 10 points!
The pick: The results of D'Antoni's decision to go with a seven-man rotation were NOT good. Harden and Gordon each played 43 minutes, Beverley was out there for 41 minutes and Ariza for 40 minutes. As fatigue mounted, offensive execution waned. Down the stretch, the Rockets began standing around and settled for tough shots instead of challenging the Spurs' scrambling defense. "Probably got tired," D'Antoni said of the lack of pace and production. "We just couldn't quite push it. We had our opportunities with about three minutes to go in the game to knock a couple 3s down I thought were good shots. We just didn't make the big play at that moment." You think! I've noted often that this year's San Antonio team does not have the depth of past editions and now Parker is out plus Leonard may be too, or playing at less anna 100 percent. However, the Spurs still have Popovich plus a champion's mentality entering a game of this magnitude. In contrast, Houston's D'Antoni is no Popovich (who is?) plus are the Rockets really ready for prime time? The Spurs are 3-1 at Houston in 2016-17, going 2-0 in the regular season while splitting the two games in this series thus far. Take the points and make the Spurs a 10* play.
|05-10-17||Wizards v. Celtics -4||Top||101-123||Win||100||11 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: The Warriors just finished off the Jazz (Monday) in a four-game sweep, a series in which the visiting team covered all games. That's something you rarely see. The Boston (No. 1 seed) and Washington (No. 4 seed) series continues tonight with what's so far, been a more traditional series, as home court has held. The Celtics won Games 1 and 2 at home to open things up, covering both games, although Boston needed OT (plus 53 points from Thomas) to do so. The series shifted to Washington for Games 3 and 4 and in a YUGE understatement, the momentum has shifted. The Wizards won Games 3 and 4 by a combined 46 points and used a 22-0 in the first quarter of Game 3 and a 26-0 run in the third quarter of Sunday's game to go from being into an 0-2 'hole' to blowing out the Celtics for a second straight game, sending the series back to the TD Garden tied at two-all.
Washington: "We played inspired basketball for each other," Wizards coach Scott Brooks, who called the 26-0 run in Game 4 his team's best stretch of the season, told reporters. "Defensively we were in the right position. ... We didn't make silly mistakes that we made early in the game, and it pays off." The Wizards go where PG John Wall takes them, as he's averaging 27.8 points, 12.3 assists and 2.8 steals in the series. However, SG Bradley Beal played his best game of the series on Sunday with 29 points. Forwards Porter (18 & 8) and Morris (16 & 10) also played well, as did Bogdanovich off the bench for the second straight game (had 13 points in Game 4, after getting 19 in Game 3).
Boston: PG Isaiah Thomas scored 33 points in Game 1 and then 53 in Boston's OT win in Game 2. However, points were much harder to come by for him in Washington, where he averaged just 16.0 points in the two losses. SG Bradley is hurting with a hip pointer and scored only five points on Sunday, plus is shooting just 34.0 percent for the series. Key frontcourt players Horford and Crowder have been hit-and-miss, something head coach Brad Stevens knows all too well. "We played pretty good in stretches but then two stretches killed us on this trip to D.C.," Stevens said after Game 4. "One in the first quarter (in Game 3), one in the third quarter (in Game 4). We have to play better throughout the whole game (in Game 5).
The pick: The Wizards were in both of the games played in Boston but could never "finish the job." After two dominating home wins, will the Wizards "get it right" in Boston? Thomas suggested after Game 4 that he wasn't getting the benefit of foul calls while going without a free-throw attempt in the loss. "The refs were allowing them to hold and grab and do all those things," Thomas told reporters. "I think, especially in the third quarter, I might have hit the ground five or six straight times, and I'm not the one that likes hitting the ground. ... I can't be allowed to be held and grabbed every pin-down, every screen." Something tells me that Thomas will not only play MUCH better in Game 5 but that he'll also be getting some of the calls he failed to get in Washington. This series has not just been home court-dominated in the playoffs but the home team won all four games played during the regular season as well, with Boston winning and covering the two regular season games in the TD Garden against the Wizards. Make Boston a 10* play.
|05-09-17||Rockets +5.5 v. Spurs||Top||107-110||Win||100||12 h 52 m||Show|
The set-up: While first the Cavs and now the Warriors have made short work (four-game sweeps) of their respective second round series, the other two series are both tied at two-all. Both the second-seeded Spurs and third seeded Rockets in the West and the top-seeded Celtics and fourth-seeded Wizards have turned their series into a best-of-3 situation. While the Bos/Was series has seen the home team go 4-0 SU & ATS, this SA/Hou series has seen each team win a game on the others home court with each home team also owning a blowout home victory.
Houston: The Rockets drained 19 three-pointers in their Game 4 victory, turning a close game into a 125-104 rout by scoring 68 second-half points! "This is a big stage they did it on," Houston head coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters. "We have a lot of work left, but there's no reason why we can't go down to San Antonio and repeat the performance." The Rockets did just that in Game 1, making 22 three-points (on a record 50 attempts!) in a 126-99 road win. However, Houston suffered a huge blow in Game 4, as backup center Nene suffered a torn left groin and will miss the rest of the playoffs. Nene and starter Clint Capela were giving Houston solid production in the middle and the Rockets will be forced to use power forwards Montrezl Harrell and Ryan Anderson at center. The good news for Houston is that after averaging just 16.5 PPG over the first two games of this series, MVP-candidate James Harden has averaged 35.5 points over the last two contests.
San Antonio: The Spurs must now "turn the page" after missing (in a big way) an opportunity to come back to San Antonio up 3-1. The point guard situation is a huge issue (problem?), after the season-ending quadriceps injury to Tony Parker in Game 2. Rookie Dejounte Murray started the past two games and averaged five points and 1.3 assists while backup Patty Mills averaged 12.5 points and 3.5 assists but made just 8-of-21 FG attempts. Star SF Kawhi Leonard scored just 16 points in Game 4 after averaging 27 over the first three games plus PF LaMarcus Aldridge is enduring a mostly quiet series (and postseason), save for his 26-point outburst in Game 3 (on 12 of 20 shooting). Pau Gasol, a two-time NBA champions while with the Lakers, has also been a non-factor, averaging just eight points in the series with just one double-digit effort in four games.
The pick: The Rockets looked lost in Game 2 on the road and Game 3 at home, but played a complete game on Sunday. Harden scored 28 points and handed out 12 assists in the win but maybe even more importantly, the Houston bench stepped up, getting 22 points from guards Eric Gordon and 13 from Lou Williams, after the entire reserve unit scored just 10 points in its Game 3 loss. Bottom line in this series just may be that Houston is the better team. However, since moving to the AT&T Center in 2002, the Spurs are 81-28 (.743) in home playoff games, giving them the most such wins by any team in the league during that time span. That said, the Spurs have not been a great home team this season, going 35-11 SU (including the postseason) but just 23-23 ATS. Meanwhile, the Rockets are 27-18 ATS on the road. Take the points and make Houston a 10* play.
|05-07-17||Celtics +5 v. Wizards||Top||102-121||Loss||-115||10 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: The Washington/Boston series is the highest-scoring second round series (games have averaged 229 points) and it's also the lone series in which the home team has won and covered each game, after the Wizards emphatically announced they are still in the series with a blowout win in Game 3. However, the Wizards need to keep the intensity without the technicals. Washington rolled to a 116-89 win in a Game 3 but the contest featured eight technical fouls, three ejections and one flagrant foul that came when Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. reacted to a hard screen by Boston's Kelly Olynyk by running and shoving him to the ground. Oubre is suspended for Game 4. The Celtics overcame big early deficits to win each of the first two games of the series but never recovered after a 22-0 run led to Washington taking a 39-17 lead after the first quarter of Game 3.Boston: "I think that it’s a lot less about talking about it and just doing it," Boston head coach Brad Stevens told reporters of the need for better starts. "That’s the bottom line: We have to play better out of the gate than we’ve played. And that’s not just (Game 3); that’s all three games of this series and a few of the games during the regular season." PG Isaiah Thomas had 53 points in Game 2 but was limited to 13 points in 29 minutes in Game 3 and did not start the second half while staying in the locker room undergoing dental work. Boston's entire team shot poorly in Game 3, making just 35.1 percent from the floor, including going only 10 of 32 on threes. Washington: John Wall reminded all that there is another PG in this series beside Thomas, scoring 24 points and handing out eight assists. However, it was a team effort by Washington in Game 3, as all five starers scored in double digits (Gortat had a double-double with 13 & 16) plus Bogdanovic finally made some 'noise' with 19 points off the bench, including shooting 4 of 7 on threes.
The pick: The Wizards finally made their strong start hold up in Game 3 (led 39-17 after the 1st quarter) and clearly turned up the physicality. However, as noted, Washington needs to find a balance. Also, Bradley Beal needs to find his shooting touch, as he's shooting only 27.4 percent from three-point range in the postseason, including just 2-of-13 over the last two games of this series. Brooks made the needed adjustments in Game 3 and it's now Stevens' turn. Stevens has done a great job coaching this team, as the Game 3 loss ended a 6-0 ST & ATS run for Boston. I expect the road team to break through for the first time in this series and I'll make Boston an 8* play.
|05-07-17||Cavs v. Raptors +7.5||Top||109-102||Win||100||8 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers needed six games to beat the Toronto Raptors in last year's Eastern Conference finals, although the four wins came by an average margin of 28.5 PPG. The two teams are meeting a round earlier this season and after sweeping the Pacers in the first round, the Cavs now own a 3-0 series lead over the Raptors in this series. Cleveland won Game 1 by "just" 11 points but note that the Cavs led by 22 points entering the fourth quarter in that contest. Cleveland then won Game 2 by the score of 125-103 and then Game 3 by 115-94. Cleveland received some much-needed rest after sweeping the Indiana Pacers in the opening round and will receive another break if it can close out the Raptors on Sunday. Toronto was outscored 36-17 in the fourth quarter of Game 3 when it needed a supreme 12 minutes to make it a series and will likely be without starting point guard Kyle Lowry (ankle) for the second consecutive contest. "I'm probably doubtful, honestly," Lowry told reporters on Saturday. "I don't think I'll be able to play. ... It's not looking great, but I'm not giving up on it."
Cleveland: "For myself, I just focus on that game," Cavaliers forward LeBron James said after Game 3. I don't really think about the sweep, I don't think of anything but how can I as leader of the ballclub put our guys in a position to be successful." The Raptors haven't come close to stopping LBJ, who is averaging 36.3 points and shooting 60.4 percent from the floor in the series. He has been superb overall in seven games this postseason with averages of 34.3 points, nine rebounds, 7.3 assists and 2.4 steals.
Toronto: SG DeMar DeRozan produced a career playoff-best 37 points in Game 3, after he had scored just five points on 2-of-11 shooting in Game 2. It looks like Lowry will be out again, so DeRozan will need another huge effort. Cory Joseph started for Lowry in Game 3 and was awful, scoring only four points (on 2-of-12 shooting) with six assists in 33 minutes. He'll have to do better and so will every other Raptor getting "PT" in Game 4.
The pick: Maybe I'm just "spitting into the wind" but the Raptors were 2-for-18 on 3-point shots on Friday, missing their first 12 of the game. That's far from typical. "I thought we did an excellent job of moving the basketball, finding the right person," Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. "But again, it's something we've done, knocking down 3s all year and, for whatever reason, it's escaping us right now." Casey added, " ... At one point, we were one of the better offensive teams in the league, depending on the 3s, knocking down the 3, and now we have to transfer it from regular-season basketball to playoff basketball." Make Toronto an 8* play.
|05-06-17||Warriors -5 v. Jazz||Top||102-91||Win||100||31 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: The Warriors haven't really been tested yet by Utah in taking the first two games of this series but in winning by 12 and 11 points, Golden State is 0-2 ATS. The Jazz fell behind by six points after the first quarter in Game 1 and the fell behind by 18 points after the first period in Game 2. Utah has yet to lose complete touch in any of the first two games but the Jazz haven't really threatened yet, either.
Golden State: The Warriors' hot start in Game 2 was led by Draymond Green, who knocked down four of his five 3-pointers in the first quarter and finished with 21 points before leaving after a scary fall in the fourth quarter. However, he seemed unconcerned about the injury following the contest. "I knew my knee was just locking up a little bit," Green told reporters. "I had it before. A little tweak. It wasn't like this huge sigh of relief because I kind of knew exactly what it was from the jump. But it's always good to know you're OK."
Utah: The Jazz know they need to get off to a better start at home. "I do think we have to start the game better," Utah head coach Quin Snyder told reporters. "Hopefully we can do that at home. But we also want to try and be ahead at the end. If you don't start well, you're climbing an uphill battle. I think that means being more aggressive on offense. If you're not, they really capitalize going the other way." Gordon Hayward scored a game-high 33 points in Game 2 after slumping to 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting in Game 1 but PG George Hill sat out Game 2 with a toe injury and remains day-to-day. Joe Johnson was a star against the Clippers (15.7 PPG) but he's scored just a total of just 19 points in two games against the Warriors, shooting 7 of 18 from the floor (38.9%). Also, Favors made big contributions off the bench in support of and in relief of Gobert against LA, but has been a non-factor against the Warriors.
The pick: The Warriors made comments prior to the series about wanting to face the Clippers instead of the Jazz in the second round due to the more varied nightlife options in Los Angeles. That could mean that the lack of nightlife on the road will keep the Warriors focused on Game 3! The Warriors have played very efficiently offense, handing out 32 assists on 40 FGs in Game 1 and 33 assists on 42 FGs in Game 2. They have shot a combined 49.1 percent from the floor through two games and defensively, have forced 14.5 turnovers per game while averaging 22 points per game off of turnovers. The Warriors are too good for the Jazz. Make Golden State a 10* play.
|05-05-17||Cavs v. Raptors +3.5||Top||115-94||Loss||-115||11 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers needed six games to beat the Toronto Raptors in last year's Eastern Conference finals, although the four wins came by an average margin of 28.5 PPG. The two teams are meeting a round earlier this season and after sweeping the Pacers in the first round, the Cavs have again opened their series with the Raptors by easily winning Games 1 and 2 of this series at home. Game 1's margin was 'just" 11 points, although let's note that the Cavs led by 22 points entering the fourth quarter in that contest. Cleveland led by 18 heading into the fourth quarter of Game 2 and extended the lead to win by 22. The Cavaliers are 6-0 in this year's postseason and have averaged 1115.3 PPG. Toronto had its hands full with Milwaukee (won in six games) and now hope its deja vu against the Cavs. Cleveland steamrolled Toronto in the first two games of last season's playoffs as well, before the Raptors thrived in their home environment and won the next two contests at Air Canada Centre.
|05-04-17||Celtics +5.5 v. Wizards||Top||89-116||Loss||-109||12 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: It's been the "Isaiah Thomas Show" in the first two games of this second round series between the top-seed Celtics and fourth-seeded Wizards. Washington opened Game 1 on a 16-0 run but lost by 12 and then scored 42 points in the first quarter of Game 2 (led by 13), only to lose (and fail to cover) in OT, 129-119. Thomas has persevered through personal tragedy to score 33 points in Game 1 and then 53 points in Game 2 (one shy of Hondo's franchise record for a single playoff game), with 29 of his points coming in the fourth quarter and OT. Washington PG John Wall collected 40 points and 13 assists for the Wizards in Game 2, after scoring 20 points with 16 assists in Game 1, but he's been overshadowed by Thomas. "It was a heck of a basketball game," Washington head coach Scott Brooks told reporters. "Two teams played their hearts out. Two great players played well. I thought both teams competed, played their hearts out, nothing to be ashamed of. We lost both games. Now we got to go home and take care of Game 3."
Boston: Sure, Thomas has been the definitive star but center Al Horford had 21-9-10 in Game 1 and then 15 & 12 in Game 2. SF Crowder has averaged 19.0 & 6.5 in the first two games and Thomas' backcourt partner Bradley, has averaged 16.0 PPG, although he has shot just 13-of-36 from the floor in the series. Who knows what might have been if Rondo hadn't gotten hurt after Chicago took a 2-0 lead? However, we do know that Boston has now won six in a row, averaging 112.2 PPG.
Washington: John Wall darted, dashed and dished from all over the court in Tuesday's Game 2 but nothing was enough to conquer Boston's Thomas. It sure didn't help that after scoring 27 points and shooting 4-of-7 on threes in in Game 1, Bradley Beal went 1-of-9 from three-point range in Game 2 while scoring only 14 points. Washington led 110-104 with 2:43 remaining in regulation but couldn't close out the Celtics. "It was tough. We had opportunities to win this game," Wall said. "Last 2/3 minutes, (we) had the opportunities to make shots, but we missed some good looks. They came down and made some tough shots. They made shots that we missed."
The pick: Will playing on familiar turf help Washington's defenders better deal with the 5-foot-9 Thomas? Washington did win both home regular-season games against Boston but I'm not stepping in front of this Boston 'train,' led by Thomas 'the conductor.' Boston head coach Brad Stevens was just 2-10 in this playoff career after the Celtics lost the first two games against Chicago at home. However, he has since led Boston to six consecutive wins and covers. Can you say SEVEN in a row? Make the Celtics an 8* play.
|05-03-17||Raptors +8 v. Cavs||Top||103-125||Loss||-115||11 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers played very poor team defense in going 10-14 from March 1 through the end of the regular season but the team's answer to that come the playoffs has been...Outscore its opponents. The Cavs have averaged 113.4 PPG in winning their first five playoff games, scoring a low of 106 and high of 119. Second-seeded Cleveland made it a four-game sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the opening round and built a 12-point lead after one quarter against the Raptors, then took a 22-point lead into the 4th quarter in cruising past the Raptors 116-105 on Monday. Cleveland knocked off the Raptors in last season's Eastern Conference finals when its four victories were by an average of 28.5 points and Toronto players know they need to prevent a landslide. "We've just got to play defense and not let them go up and down and do what they do, play defense for 48 minutes," Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry told reporters after Game 1. "We got to find ways to limit their spurts."
Toronto: The Raptors could tinker with the lineup by going back to guard Norman Powell instead of center Jonas Valanciunas, which was how they won the last three games of their first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks. However, Powell may have had 12 points in Game 1 off the bench, but shot just 3 of 11. Or they could swap P.J. Tucker with DeMarre Carroll. Tucker had 13 points and 11 boards off the bench Monday. DeRozan and Lowry were fairly quiet (combined 39 points) but the bottom line is, the team must shoot better than 43.8% from the floor, including only 10 of 26 on threes.
Cleveland: LBJ had 35 points and 10 rebounds in the opener and needs just 25 points to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (5,762 points) for second place on the all-time postseason scoring list. He also has 88 career 30-point outings in the postseason, matching Kobe Bryant for second place on the all-time list. The records just keep falling. PG Kyrie Irving had 24 points and a career playoff-best 10 assists in Game 1 plus center Tristan Thompson collected 14 rebounds to raise his playoff average to 11.6 and he has reached double digits in all five of Cleveland's playoff games.
The pick: Will the Cleveland 'express' just keep rolling? Losing Game 1 of a playoff series is hardly new for Toronto, as the Raptors now own a 1-12 record all time in those contests. History doesn't exactly bode well here either, as they are 1-5 in Game 2s on the road in postseason play. However, maybe Toronto can gain some measure of hope in noting that In their five playoff losses to Cleveland dating back to last year's conference finals, Game 1 on Monday was the closest. If the Raptors want any chance in this series, a win tonight is almost a must. Take the points and make Toronto a 10*.
|05-02-17||Wizards v. Celtics -5.5||Top||119-129||Win||100||11 h 10 m||Show|
The set-up: The Washington Wizards jumped out to a 16-0 lead in Game 1 but by game's end, the Celtics had their fifth straight playoff win (and cover!) since losing the first two games (at home!) of their first round series against the Bulls. Washington was outscored 71-42 in the second and third quarters, as Boston went on to a 123-111 victory. Thomas led the way with 33 points plus Crowder (24 & 6) and Horford 21-9-10) each had their best games of the 2017 postseason. Washington shot 50 percent as a team but made 10 three-pointers, compared to Boston's 19.
Washington: Power forward Markieff Morris went down in the first half of Game 1 with an ankle injury and while he insisted after the contest that he would play Game, others are skeptical after he was seen noticeably limping and reportedly struggled to put on his shoe over the swollen left ankle. Wall had 20 points and 16 assists but wasn't dominate. SG Beal scored 27 points on Sunday and is now averaging 29.3 in the last four games. However, Washington knows it has to defend the three better. "Their 3-point shooting is a problem," head coach Scott Brooks said of the Boston Celtics, who tied a franchise record with 19 treys in Game 1. Bradley Beal added; "We gave up 19 threes, on the road. ... It's just a matter of us defending, man."
Boston: Isaiah Thomas flew home to Tacoma, Wa., on Saturday for his sister's funeral and flew back across the country in time for the game, during which he delivered 33 points. "I mean, it's tough but it's the playoffs," Thomas told reporters. There's no excuses. I decided to play and I just tried to give it all I got for my team, and we came out with the win." Brad Stevens depends on Thomas but had to be even more thrilled with the play of both Crowder and Horford (see above).
The pick: The Celtics may not yet be ready to challenge the Cavs but for now, Boston seems to be establishing itself as at least, the East's second-best team and by a significant margin. Boston owns five straight wins and covers this postseason, winning by a margin of nearly 14 PPG (108.4-to-94.6). Make Boston an 8* play.
|05-01-17||Rockets +6 v. Spurs||Top||126-99||Win||100||13 h 59 m||Show|
analysis by 12 pm et
|04-30-17||Jazz v. Clippers -3.5||Top||104-91||Loss||-105||18 h 39 m||Show|
The set-up: The Jazz and Clippers each finished the regular season 51-31, so it only seems fitting that the teams will play a Game 7 (only first round series to go the distance) to decide which team will advance to meet the Golden State Warriors. The Clippers will get to play Game 7 at home, due to having won the season series between the two teams. It's been a back-and-forth series plus one that's been influenced by injuries. First it was Utah center Rudy Gobert going down in the first minute of Game 1 and then LA's Blake Griffin was injured in Game 3. Gobert returned in Game 4 but Griffin is out for the remainder of LA's postseason. Gobert twisted his left ankle late in Friday's Game 6 (LA won to force Sunday's contest) but X-rays ruled out a serious injury, so he will be available for Game 7.
Utah: Utah SF Gordon Hayward has four 20-point outings in the series and is averaging 27.4 PPG, not including his Game 4 stint, which was limited to nine minutes due to food poisoning. Gobert is averaging 13.7 points and 11 rebounds since returning in Game 4.. Reserves Joe Johnson and Rodney Hood were having superb series until Game 6, when the Jazz squandered a great opportunity to close out the Clippers. Johnson had nine points on 3-of-9 shooting and Rodney Hood had four points on 2-of-10 shooting.
LA Clippers: PG Chris Paul registered 29 points and eight assists in Friday's 98-93 do-or-die victory at Utah to even the series. "He is as competitive as a human being as I've ever been around," Clippers head coach Doc Rivers told reporters. "When you put that with the talent and the will, that's why he has performances like this in big games." This is a common refrain when people talk about Paul but is it an accident that he's never been on a team that has won a second round playoff series? No Griffin is not good news but center DeAndre Jordan has averaged 14 points and 13.8 rebounds in the series, while recording a double-double in each contest.
The pick: The Clippers (as well as Paul) have had a checkered playoff resume but the Jazz haven't won a playoff series since 2010. However, bottom line is this. Home teams are 101-25 (.802) all-time in Game 7s. Dating back to to 1990, home teams are 52-14 SU and 39-25-2 ATS (60.9%) in Game 7s. Make the Clippers a 10* play.