Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 31 inclusive:
They might not end up meeting in the Eastern Conference playoffs. But if that turns out to be the case, at least we had Wednesday’s matchup (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN) between the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks. It’s going to seem like a playoff game; Brooklyn is trying to nail down home-court advantage in the first round, while New York is within a game of the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 8 seed.
Could be a fairly close matchup at Madison Square Garden, too. The Knicks are 2.5-point home favorites on the NBA odds board as we go to press, with a total of anywhere between 196.5 and 199 points, depending on where you shop. The away team won both their earlier meetings this year, SU and ATS at –1.5, although neither game turned out to be close at the end. What does Wednesday have in store for us?
Fresh, So Clean
The Knicks (32-43 SU, 33-42 ATS) have at least one advantage besides playing at home: They were idle on Monday after beating the Utah Jazz (+3.5 at home) 92-83. Thank you, come again. Amar’e Stoudemire (18.3 PER) didn’t play against the Jazz, since it was the second of back-to-back games, so he should be extra-fresh on Wednesday. Cole Aldrich (17.7 PER) helped make up for STAT’s absence with six points, six rebounds and three blocks in 13 good minutes off the bench.
While New York had Tuesday to get back home, shake off the jet lag and prepare, the Nets (40-33 SU and ATS) were busy beating the short-handed Houston Rockets, 105-96 as 3.5-point home faves. It was a decent-enough performance from Brooklyn; six different players scored in double figures, and nine guys played at least 17 minutes. Houston didn’t have three of its starters, though, including Dwight Howard, so temper your enthusiasm.
Brooklyn’s got a built-in advantage of its own for Wednesday: head coach Jason Kidd, who played point guard for New York last year and should know a few things about his ex-teammates. Knicks center Tyson Chandler (17.2 PER) admitted to reporters that his team was “out-schemed” by the Nets in their previous meeting, a 103-80 loss at the Garden on Jan. 20. That was part of a 1-5 SU and 0-6 ATS slump for the Knicks. Confidence was in short supply,
But so was Stoudemire. He missed that Nets game and six others with a sprained left ankle, just one of several injuries that have dogged the Knicks this season. Not that Brooklyn hasn’t had its share of man-games lost. The Nets didn’t have Deron Williams (18.2 PER) or Paul Pierce (16.9 PER) available when the fully-stocked Knicks humiliated them 113-83 on Dec. 5. Ah, such a simpler time it was, back when the Nets were 5-14 and Kidd’s coaching reign was being called a disaster.
Funny how we haven’t heard much of that narrative since the Nets healed up and started winning. The Knicks haven’t been consistently healthy all year, and it shows in their market volatility, but Brooklyn has been a strong money winner since New Year’s Day, going 28-14 ATS while never stringing together more than two ATS losses in a row. That includes each of the last three Nets games. And here’s one more reason to bet on Brooklyn: 20-13 ATS versus losing teams, while New York is 12-21 ATS versus winning teams. May the sphere be with you.
NBA Pick: Take the Nets +2.5 (–104) at Marathon