Three Locks to Add to Saturday's NBA Picks

David Lawrence

Saturday, December 20, 2014 2:00 PM UTC

Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014 2:00 PM UTC

The NBA season moves to its final weekend before Christmas. Which games look like gifts and stocking stuffers for a bettor? Here are three NBA picks from Saturday’s card.

Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Odds: Pelicans -5
These teams are both moving up in the Western Conference standings. The Blazers have advanced to third place in the West, thanks to a three-game winning streak and an 8-2 record in their last 10 games. Portland has a positive 6.7-point differential, whereas New Orleans has a positive point differential of only one point. The Blazers are also 8-4 on the road, which is nothing to sneeze at.

However, for all the reasons you can use to pick Portland, you have to acknowledge that the New Orleans Pelicans are playing well, too. New Orleans has won two in a row and is 6-4 in its last 10 games. Over the past two weeks, the Pelicans have beaten Cleveland and Houston while taking Golden State to overtime. The team has passed Phoenix for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, and spirits are definitely picking up in that corner of the NBA nation.

The deciding factor in this game is that Portland had a demanding road game on Friday night against the San Antonio Spurs. Having to come right back to a court the night later could leave the Trail Blazers quite vulnerable. New Orleans is salivating at the prospect of welcoming Portland to town, and the Hornets are going to seize the opportunity.

Free NBA Pick: New Orleans

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Atlanta Hawks vs. Houston Rockets
Odds: Rockets -5
The backdrop to this game became a lot more interesting when Atlanta destroyed the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road by 29 points, and the Rockets lost at home to the New Orleans Pelicans. Atlanta really has to be taken seriously as an Eastern title contender. The Hawks don’t appear to be going anywhere (downward) – they’re here to stay. Now, can they beat a Houston team which has done really well without Dwight Howard for extended portions of the season and is now trying to reintegrate its big man into the lineup?  

Atlanta is first in the league in assists and seventh in the league in defense. Houston is eighth in the league in rebounding and third in defense. What will probably make the difference here is that Houston has James Harden playing the best basketball of his career. Harden is averaging close to 27 points and seven assists, and he’s playing the best defense of his career after being exposed to top-level talent in the summer during the FIBA World Cup of Basketball. Harden’s excellence gives Houston a dimension Atlanta doesn’t have.

Free NBA Pick: Houston

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Milwaukee Bucks vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Odds: Clippers -10
The Milwaukee Bucks have surpassed all expectations this season. Coach Jason Kidd is clearly proving that he’s a highly capable coach. He has guided Milwaukee to a winning record through 27 games. The Bucks are about to surpass last season’s entire win total before January comes. Milwaukee NBA odds tells us they have a very good shot at making the playoffs, which would be a tremendous success for the organization, especially now that high-profile rookie Jabari Parker has been sidelined with an injury for the rest of the season.  

As well as the Bucks have played, though, they’re 4-6 in their last 10. Parker is gone for the season. There’s a lot of vulnerability to be found in Milwaukee right now. The Clippers, meanwhile, are 8-2 in their last 10 games and have an offense that’s averaging over 106 points per game. Milwaukee’s offense averages 99.4 points per game. This is the Clippers’ game to lose, by far. Take them with your NBA picks.

Free NBA Pick: Clippers -10 at Bookmaker

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