Thursday’s best NBA bets take us to Cleveland, where the down-and-out Cavaliers will try to shake off their holiday hangover and cool off the smoking-hot Atlanta Hawks.
Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013, up to December 25 inclusive:
Everyone here at the Super Genius compound hopes the holidays were good to you this year. And if you were caught in the big ice storm, we certainly wish you a speedy return to life as normal. Let’s see if we can get up to speed for 2014 with a few sharp basketball picks, starting with the opening game on Thursday’s schedule. All the NBA odds presented here are from the early lines in Vegas.
Atlanta vs. Cleveland (7:00 p.m. ET)
The Cavaliers (10-17 SU and ATS) could use some holiday cheer right about now. They had a good start to December, but have slid right back down the chimney with four losses in their last five games. They’ve also failed to beat the NBA odds in their last three straight, all without SG Dion Waiters (14.2 PER), who has tendinitis in his right wrist and doesn’t have a specific due date for returning to action. C.J. Miles (13.2 PER) has been starting in Waiters’ absence.
I’ve been pounding the Hawks (15-13 SU, 17-11 ATS) for a while now, and they paid out very generously this past week at 3-1 SU and 4-0 ATS. Not a lot of people are paying attention Atlanta’s lunchpail crew, which is too bad for them, because they’re missing out on center Al Horford (22.1 PER) playing the best basketball of his seven-year pro career. Being paired down low with PF Paul Millsap (19.9 PER) can do that for you.
NBA Pick: Take the Hawks –2
Memphis vs. Houston (8:00 p.m. ET, TNT)
It’s not easy to get a handle on Houston (19-11 SU, 16-13-1 ATS) because you never know which players are going to suit up. SG James Harden (20.7 PER) was uncertain to play on Christmas Day against the San Antonio Spurs, but he put on his holiday-themed low-tops and scored 28 points to lead the Rockets to a 111-98 victory. Houston cashed in as an 8-point road dog to continue a zigzag pattern that has now reached eight games.
The Grizzlies (12-15 SU, 9-17-1 ATS) know how tough it is to miss a top player. They’re 5-10 SU and ATS since center Marc Gasol (20.3 PER) sprained his right knee; he’s not expected to play for at least another week. You can also add SF Tayshaun Prince (7.1 PER) and SF Quincy Pondexter (10.7 PER) to the injured list, which has necessitated the signing of Hawks cast-off James Johnson (12.5 career PER) and his insertion into the starting lineup. Johnson has played well for the Grizz, though. Will it last? I’m not betting on it.
NBA Pick: Take the Rockets –7.5
San Antonio vs. Dallas (8:30 p.m. ET)
It was strange seeing the Spurs (22-7 SU, 15-14 ATS) get spanked at home by the Rockets – especially in those ugly monotone gray uniforms. San Antonio had all kinds of trouble containing center Dwight Howard (15 points, 20 rebounds) and PF Terrence Jones (21 points, 14 rebounds), who combined for nine offensive boards against the No. 2-ranked team in the NBA on the defensive glass (76.4 percent DRR). Will Tim Duncan play in this contest? Maybe not, since this would be his third game in four nights.
If you love basketball, you have to love what the Mavericks (16-12 SU, 15-13 ATS) have been able to accomplish this year. They’re in the top half of the Western Conference, overcoming the NBA lines in six of their last nine games and dumping the Rockets (–4 at home) 111-104 on Monday. The OVER is definitely worth a look whenever Dallas (No. 8 offense, No. 24 defense) is on the court. But it might be better to snag the Mavs ATS here with Duncan possibly taking a maintenance day.
NBA Pick: Take the Mavericks +3.5