Blazers vs. Magic Pick NBA – December 18th

We are closing in on 60% ATS for the NBA season as the run kept rolling last night with the Cavaliers holding on at home, even without Shumpert, to cool off the red-hot Oklahoma City Thunder. LeBron was simply sensational, notching 33 points, 11 boards and nine assists. I absolutely love betting on him in games where there is a little extra motivation to remind everyone that he is still here and still the MVP of the league. Granted, I’d vote for Steph this year too, but ignoring the greatness of LBJ is simply foolish. As he reminded all of us last night.

There’s a full slate of NBA action to choose from tonight, including some great Eastern Conference matchups between the Hawks at Boston, Toronto at Miami and Detroit at Chicago. The ESPN game is fun too, pitting the disappointing Clippers at the suddenly-chic Spurs. But the game I can’t miss is the return visit from the Bucks out to the Bay Area. The line is NINETEEN. Which is insane. And I’d still lean towards the angry Dubs tonight exacting their pound of flesh. It’s going to be entertaining to say the least…

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Today’s Free Pick:

Portland Trailblazers at Orlando Magic -5

The Magic enter tonight at a pleasant 14-11 on the season and right in the mix for a long-awaited Eastern Conference playoff berth. Victor Oladipo has been a revelation off the bench, free to score and a little relieved of the pressure to be a tad more efficient than he appears capable at this stage of his game’s evolution. The Magic have won 8 of 11 and have been brilliant in their last two outings, shooting 53.5% against Brooklyn in a 23-point road win and 55.8% in a 15-point home win over Charlotte. That’s impressive progress – and whether you like him or not, that’s also a hallmark of a Scott Skiles taken-over team.

Meanwhile, Portland has lost seven straight games and has lost 10 of their last 11 games to Eastern Conference foes on the road. It is hard to see them winning tonight with so much opposite momentum. The biggest key is Orlando staying focused despite having a rare game they are “expected” to win. I’ll trust Skiles to keep his young team hungry, and trust the homecourt edge to get us more than the five points we need to safely cover a seventh straight NBA game.

Even more comforting in my Magic support is the fact that Lillard sprained his ankle in the second half of the game this weekend. He is expected to play with no ill-effects, but he was 0-9 from the floor after turning the ankle. If he is even a TAD off, this team has NO shot.

I’m not sure they have much of a shot even with a healthy Lillard. The Magic are legitimately good this year, and I expect them to handle their business at home against a lesser opponent.  The Magic are a stunning 18-7 ATS on the season, yet their lines are still very reasonable – like tonight. Let the betting public’s skepticism be our gain.

Free Pick: Orlando Magic -5

Chris Scheeren / Author