Celtics vs. Blazers Pick NBA – Jan 22nd

Oklahoma City got a much-needed win last night on a furious last-second layup drive from Russell Westbrook in overtime to knock off the Washington Wizards. The game was played at a playoff-level in the second half, which is ironic, because the Thunder are still three games out of the final playoff spot. The problem for the Thunder is that the Suns never seem to lose. The Suns are 8-2 over their last ten games, and the Thunders’ excellent 7-3 run has actually COST them a game in the standings. While it seems like a foregone conclusion that OKC and the best duo in the NBA will make the playoffs now that they are healthy, let’s just assume that all the teams ahead of them continue to play at least a 60% clip – the Thunder would need to go no worse than 31-9 over their final 40 games, or a 78% winning clip, to get into the tourney.

That’s why last night’s game mattered so much for the Thunder.

Meanwhile, the back half of ESPN’s awesome NBA doubleheader last night saw the Warriors win their 17th straight home game and stake a 4.5 game lead for the top seed in the West. They are on a pace to go 70-12. So, as far as award season at the midpoint? Um, Steph Curry for MVP and Steve Kerr Coach of the Year (sorry James Harden and Budenholzer at Atlanta).

Let’s see if we can bounce back from yesterday’s failed cover (the Hornets played a stinker of a 78-76 game against Miami that still reluctantly counts as a win, but did not cover the spread).

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Today’s Free Pick:

Boston Celtics at Portland Trailblazers -7.5 (Total: 203)

The Blazers are slumping and fading quickly from top-seed consideration. That is the danger of going 5-5 over a ten game stretch in the West. Now their primary challenge will be holding off the hungry pack and maintaining the coveted #2 spot, which will be tough now that San Antonio is healthy and Memphis has Jeff Green to give them a scoring wing for the first time since… since…yeah. Tonight should be a good chance to get right against the road-lousy Celtics. Boston is 4-19 away from the Garden and is unlikely to knock off Portland tonight. I am not wild about the 8 point spread given both teams recent play; Boston has covered in half their last ten games, Portland has been less-good than their impressive points scored/allowed splits indicate.

The pick I really like tonight is the OVER 203. Boston plays very little defense, allowing 104.2 points per contest. Portland is efficient offensively, averaging 103.3 ppg scoring. That has a nice ring of a 110+ plus performance tonight from the Blazers. That would mean Boston could stagger in with just 94, nearly ten below their average, and still get us OVER the total tonight.

I like Video Game Dame and LA to get loose tonight, combining for 50+ and maybe even a Nicholas Batum sighting (which needs to happen quickly if the Blazers want to stay in the West’s top four). Boston’s roster is in full-out tank mode with Ronda and Green jettisoned. Ironically, their offense has remained fine, but their defense hasn’t held an opponent under 103 points since, allowing over 110 a contest. I’d lean Portland covers this game, but I’m even more expecting to look for lots of points scored by both sides tonight.

Free Pick: Point TOTAL OVER 203

Chris Scheeren / Author