Free Sports Picks: Christmas NBA Doubleheader On ABC
by Matt Severance - 12/24/2009
Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic, 2:30 p.m.
The line: Magic -5 (192)
How they enter: Boston has won two in a row after the Sixers ended their 11-game winning streak last Friday. The Celtics have only covered two of their past seven overall. The Magic have won three in a row, with the latest being a 102-87 home win over the Rockets on Wednesday. They covered against Houston but haven't had back-to-back covers since the beginning of the month.
Scouting reports: The Celtics will be at a major disadvantage as Paul Pierce is out for up to two weeks with a knee infection that required arthroscopic surgery. Pierce is averaging 18.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game this season but had scored more than 20 points in just three December games - he had that many single-digit games as well. Pierce also is shooting less than 40 percent this month. Meanwhile, Boston's Kevin Garnett sat out Tuesday's win over the Pacers as he was dealing with a thigh bruise. He is expected to play in this one, although he is being called a game-time decision.
Dwight Howard had 20 rebounds against the Rockets, the second time in three games that Howard pulled down 20 boards and it was his fifth such game of the season, the most in the NBA. Obviously if Garnett doesn't play, Howard should dominate like he did in last year's playoffs when Garnett was out.
Perhaps the best sign for Orlando on Wednesday was that point guard Jameer Nelson was back in the starting lineup for the first time since knee surgery. He had 15 points and four assists in 29 minutes.
The Magic won the first meeting this season, 83-78, in Boston on Nov. 20. Pierce led the Celtics with 21 in that one, but they shot only 34.5 percent from the field. Vince Carter had 26 to lead Orlando.
Key trends: Boston is 5-2 ATS in its past seven road games.
Orlando is 2-5 ATS in its past seven vs. a team with a winning record.
The 'under' is 5-0 in the past five meetings.
The pick: Always take the home team in a Christmas Day matchup. Sure, these guys are professionals, but no one wants to be away from home on Christmas. The host Magic spanked New Orleans last Christmas. Give the points with the Magic.
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Cleveland Cavaliers at L.A. Lakers, 5 p.m.
The line: Lakers -5 (194)
How they enter: Cleveland beat Sacramento on Wednesday night but needed overtime to do it - the Cavs outscored the Kings 13-0 in the extra session. LeBron James had his second triple-double of the season. Cleveland is now 2-1 (2-1 ATS) on its four-game road trip that ends with this game. The Lakers returned home off a five-game road trip and beat the Thunder on Tuesday night for their fifth win in a row. L.A. has only covered in two of its past seven games.
Scouting reports: The Lakers have been near invincible since Pau Gasol made his season debut from injury - they are 15-1 with Gasol in the lineup. The Spaniard, who signed a three-year, $64 million extension this week, has had a double-double in the past eight games and is shooting better than 54 percent from the field.
While the Lakers and Gasol have been tremendous in their 16 games together this season, Lamar Odom has struggled since moving back to a sixth-man role when Gasol returned. He has had double-figure points just four times and is averaging barely better than eight points this month - Odom has never averaged less than 10 ppg during a season.
Cleveland had problems with Sacramento's size on Wednesday, as the Kings had 52 points in the paint and 21 second-chance points. And there is no team in the NBA with more size with the Lakers. Shaquille O'Neal is in a major slump for Cleveland, totaling just 25 points in the past four games - but he hasn't played more than 22 minutes in those four.
Also, don't expect many Kobe-LeBron individual matchups. The Lakers brought in Ron Artest specifically to guard guys like James and help save Kobe for the offensive end.
The Lakers swept the season series with Cleveland last year, both by double digits. They did that despite Bryant only shooting 17-for-39 from the floor and totaling 39 points in the two games. Bryant was very ill during one of the games.
Key trends: Cleveland is 4-1 ATS in its past five road games.
The 'under' is 7-2 in the Lakers' past nine. The 'under' is 4-0 in the past four meetings between these teams.
The pick: See the home Christmas note in the Celtics-Magic story. The Lakers handled Boston on Dec. 25 last year, so go with L.A. again.