I'm gonna bold my picks in case you don't care to read through the blurb in search of who I pick.
Chicago -4 pts at Atlanta----- Word on the street is that Joe Johnson will play tonight. Josh Smith has been on a tear, Claxton had a very nice game last night. Yes, Chicago has now won 10 of their last 11, but as I noted before, none of those teams were over .500 at the time (Indiana is now at 13 and 12). Atlanta hasn't been the Bulls since the 03-04 season. Crazy. I have to go with Chicago here, even with the Claxton/Johnson/Smith momentum going for Atlanta. It's a tight one though.
Boston +2 1/2 at the Bobcats----- Yesterday against Denver Tony Allen scored 30 points on 11/13 scoring. Al Jefferson also contributed 28 on 13/19 shooting. They managed to gut out a 5 point comeback win against a slightly above average Denver team. Now they are on the road at Charlotte after playing last night at home. Let's just say the AI trade rumor adrenalin will wear off soon. When the buzz is gone you play worse than before the buzz came on. Those players that were lazy before (al jefferson) will revert to being lazy again. Those players that were morons before (tony allen) will revert to being morons again. Coaches that sabotage their team (Doc Rivers) will eventually succeed in causing their team to lose. Sean May is on a tear and Charlotte is coming off a 10 point win over the Grant Hill-less Magic. Brevin Knight, the glue guy for this team, returned for the victory and played 33 minutes. Look for lots of steals off of bad passes by jefferson and Allen. Knight and Gerald Wallace are two of the best thieves in the league. I go with the Bobcats here.
Cleveland -2 at Orlando----- Orlando has been weak, Cleveland is at full strength and they dominated in their last game. Orlando still hasn't proven that in the end they will be more than a 45 win team. The Cavs have the track record and it is correct to read the Magic's recent struggles as, not a little blip, but a return to the average team that they are. Dwight Howard is a dominating player at times, but it's clear that particularly on offense, he doesn't have the skills yet to bring it every night. They are also missing the underrated Hedo Turkoglu. Go with Cleveland.
Denver -5 at New York----- Last night was not a good night for the Knicks. Not only did they lose by 16, but Eddy Curry only managed 10 points on 3/6 shooting with 5 turnovers, Quentin Richardson left after 8 minutes with back spasms and did not return (he's questionable for tonight), Marbury bruised his knee and sat the last 24 minutes. The Knicks were breaking down defensively all over the place. They are at home though and the did win in Denver earlier this season. They are also on a pattern of alternating wins and losses over their last 7 games. Now Jared Jeffries will probably start at SF (assuming Q is out) and will cover carmelo anthony. Last year Carmelo averaged only 18.5pts against Jeffries and the Wiz. They won both games and Anthony shot decently, but holding carmelo to 8 pts below his average is notable. As marbury has been the one unselfishly and patiently getting Curry the ball, and he may not get that many minutes, and as the knicks needed some serious late game heroics by Crawford to win the last game at Denver, I have to pick the Nuggets to win and cover.
Memphis +6 at Miami----- Pau Gasol came back last night and in 17 minutes scored 4 points on 1/5 shooting. They will probably keep his minutes at or below that number since it's a back to back. Wade has been out two games because he had his wisdom teeth taken out, and he's expected back tonight. Gasol will be more of a hindrance than a help until he gets his rhythm back. Six points is a big spread for a team missing one of its only two good players, but Memphis is probably the least dangerous team in the league. I have to go with Miami here.
Philly +16.5 at San Antonio----- The spreads keep getting bigger and bigger here for Philly. They managed to cover in their last game against Dallas. The Spurs dismantled the Hornets in their last game, winning by 26 points on the road. The question to ask is how long does the momentum from the Spurs' comeback domination of Minnesota two games ago last? It's hard to stay focused when you play two consecutive bad teams. I'm gonna have to say the spurs take a vacation for about 30 of the 48 minutes and that they go home with a 10 point victory.
Detroit -1 1/2 at New Jersey----- The nets lost to a Raptors team without Chris Bosh last night. The Raptors didn't even play that well, the nets just couldn't hit shots. It was a pretty sad effort. That being said, Detroit will be without their engine, Rasheed Wallace, who is likely to miss this game and the next with an ankle injury. The nets will be without Richard Jefferson. I think Rasheed may be the second most important player to the pistons after Chauncey and the Pistons bench is crap. Unless New Jersey can't make a shot again, they should win this one.
Dallas -8 at New Orleans----- Well Dallas hasn't lost to the Hornets in 18 games. The longest streak in the NBA. Not that that means much since the hornets have changed a lot in the last 7 years. Unfortunately like half their team is hurt. That means Dallas (6-4 on the road) should destroy the hornets again and extend their streak to 19.
Minnesota -1 1/2 at Milwaukee----- Two weeks ago the bucks would have definitely been favored in this game. Minnesota, like Boston, has been rejuvenated by the AI trade buzz. The bucks are back at full strength and villanueva has had enough time that he should be close to 100%. Look for the AI trade adrenalin to dissipate a bit and watch the Bucks win this game against a Minnesota team that really sucks and has no future.
Phoenix -3 at Sacramento----- Sacramento is coming off a big win at Utah, but the continued struggles of Kevin Martin have to be a concern. After scoring 20 or more points in 10 of Sac's first 12 games, Martin has only scored 20 in 2 of Sac's last 9 games. He has had several stinkers starting with a 1/8 performance at the clippers on nov 28, then 3/15 at Miami on dec 7 and 2/12 last night at Utah. Is this guy the next reggie miller or not? He wasn't that impressive in his last game against Phoenix when the Kings were blown out by 25 points. With Martin and Bibby shooting poorly, this team is going to have a lot of trouble scoring, and against Phoenix that is a formula for getting blown out in a monumental, nuclear fashion. Eric Musselman has got the team playing some D (evidenced against Utah), but against Phoenix D can't win you the game. They are going to score and you are going to have to keep up. I think Phoenix goes in to Sacramento tonight and blows them out of the water, perhaps by 30 or more.