NBA Free Picks: Thursday Doubleheader On TNT
by Matt Severance - 1/21/2010
It’s an all-L.A. doubleheader tonight on TNT (the only two games on the NBA schedule Thursday), with the can’t-miss game obviously being the nightcap between the Clippers and Nuggets – you might as well skip the 8 p.m. game as it won’t have any players you’ve heard of.
Los Angeles Lakers at Cleveland Cavaliers, 8 p.m.
The line: Cavaliers -3 (total at 193)
How they enter: L.A. has won three in a row since losing at San Antonio last Tuesday. That includes a six-point win over the Magic on Monday in the first rematch this season of the 2009 NBA Finals. The Lakers won despite a season-low 11 points from Kobe Bryant, who sat out the fourth quarter with a stomach virus. Cleveland has won two straight since a loss in Utah last week that ended a West Coast swing. LeBron James just missed triple-double No. 10 this season in Tuesday’s eight-point win over the Raptors.
Scouting report: No team has played fewer road games than the Lakers’ 15 (11 fewer than Cleveland). In fact, the Lakers are last in the league in ATS road wins with five – even the historically bad Nets have seven, albeit in 22 games. Tonight begins L.A.’s season-long eight-game, 14-day road trip. And they definitely need to get Kobe going, as he is averaging just 15.8 points per game in the past five games and is 19 points shy of reaching 25,000 for his career. L.A. and Cleveland met on Christmas Day, with the Cavs delivering a surprising 102-87 beating (as six-point dogs) in which they shot 53.5 percent from the field – L.A. only allows opponents to shoot 43.5 percent from the field this season, tops in the NBA. Pretty much everything went wrong in the Christmas Day matchup other than Kobe scoring 35 points, as Andrew Bynum scored only four points, Ron Artest fouled out and Lamar Odom got ejected. LeBron had 26 points and nine assists in that one, with Artest failing to slow him much. Of course, L.A. swept the regular season series last year, ending Cleveland's 23-game home winning streak in its one visit to Ohio. Overall, LeBron is 7-5 vs. Kobe and is averaging 26.7 ppg, 7.3 rebounds per game and 6.9 assists per game compared to Kobe’s 25.1, 5.4 and 4.3 in those head-to-head matchups.
Key trends: The Lakers are 1-4 ATS in their last five road games.
The Cavs are 0-3-1 ATS in their last four games overall.
The underdog is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings.
The pick: Kobe still doesn’t seem 100 percent, both because of that injured finger on his shooting hand and the stomach issue (he was sent home from practice Tuesday). And the Cleveland big men, led by Shaq, neutralized Bynum and Pau Gasol last time. Take the Cavs. (Note: Mo Williams is a late scratch for this game and Delonte West will start in his place).
Los Angeles Clippers at Denver Nuggets, 10:30 p.m.
The line: Nuggets -10 (total at 210)
How they enter: The Clips went 0-4 last week but have responded with two wins to open this week, both coming at home and with center Chris Kaman back in the lineup. L.A. is a good home team, having won eight of nine at Staples Center (lone loss by one to Cleveland) but just 5-13 (8-10 ATS) on the road. Denver, meanwhile, has an argument as the best home team in the NBA at 18-3 (11-9-1 ATS). The Nuggets have won four in a row overall, with three of those coming in the Mile High City. But they played at Golden State last night and were stretched to overtime before winning behind Chauncey Billups’ career-high-tying 37 points.
Scouting report: Los Angeles’ last road win came Dec. 12 in overtime at Philly – the Clips have dropped seven straight away games since. Denver has won five in a row at home, including impressive wins over playoff teams Cleveland, Orlando and Utah. And in the six games since returning from a groin injury, Billups is averaging 26.3 points and Denver is 5-1. The Nuggets are 16-0 this season when scoring 110 points or more and 21-2 when leading after three quarters. These two teams met in L.A. on Nov. 20, with the Clippers winning, 106-99, despite 37 points from Denver’s Carmelo Anthony. That win ended a seven-game losing streak for the Clippers in the series. Starting shooting guard Eric Gordon sat that game out for L.A., and he is questionable tonight after suffering a toe injury in last night’s win over the Bulls.
Key trends: The Clippers are 10-2 ATS in the past 12 games overall.
The Nuggets have covered just three times in their past 10 games overall and are 0-3-1 in their past four on the second night of back-to-backs.
Denver has covered just three of its past 15 as the favorite and once in the past 11 against Western Conference foes.
The pick: Since both teams are playing the second of a back-to-back, that might limit the advantage of one over the other, but traveling to play in the thin air of Denver is hard enough – having to do it 24 hours after a previous game makes it that much tougher. Obviously the Nuggets will be more acclimated to that than the Clippers. Denver wins in a blowout.