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NBA Free Picks and Predictions for January 2nd

Injuries, injuries, injuries. The list of the battered and bruised around the NBA has continued to lengthen considerably over the past few weeks. Not surprisingly, it has had an impact not only game results, but the lines as well. However, for the discerning eye it can provide a nice edge – an edge we have ridden with the past three day’s free NBA picks, going 5-0-1 in the process.

Today’s free picks focus on more of the same with a couple of matchups that hinge as much on who is not playing as much as who is.

Boston -5 @ Toronto (Total: 197.5)

Kevin Garnett’s injury has been the one garnering the most attention but the absence of point guard Rajon Rondo might have more to do with the Celtics recent slide. The C’s have dropped three of their last four, and haven’t looked real pretty doing it. Garnett may be the heart and soul of the Celtics, but it is Rondo who makes the offense go. During the recent four-game stretch Boston has struggled to create quality shots and score points, averaging just over 85 ppg.

The saving grace for Boston is that they are travelling to face a team that makes their injuries seem petty by comparison. No team has had to endure quite as many games lost by significant contributors as the Raptors. In addition to the standard cast of characters, Andrea Bargnani is again listed as questionable for today’s game. If he is unable to go the Raptors will have just eight healthy bodies available as they try and knock of the East’s top team.

Boston hasn’t endured many three game losing streaks since the arrival of the Big Three. And there’s not many cures for an ailing offense much better than 48 minutes against the Raptors.

FREE PICK: Boston -5

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Dallas Mavericks -5.5 @ Cleveland Cavaliers (Total: 188.5)

Much like Boston, the Mavericks have hit a slide since losing their star to injury. However, while Garnett is Boston’s heart and Rondo is the offensive catalyst, for Dallas there is no delineation of duties. It’s much simpler. Dirk is everything, the heart, the soul, the engine, pick your noun – if it’s Dallas Mavericks it’s Dirk Nowitzki.

They’ve dropped three straight since Dirk went down, and the news might be getting even worse. Shawn Marion is out for tonight’s game and Caron Butler is listed as doubtful after missing the final three quarters of Friday’s loss to New Orleans after suffering a knee injury.

Despite all the strikes against the Mavs, can you really feel comfortable laying a dime on the hapless Cavaliers? I know I can’t. What I can feel confident in is that tonight’s game has the potential to be an affront to the eyes.

To complicate things even further, Cleveland, who is offensively challenged when healthy is going to be without Anderson Verejao and leading scorer Mo Williams is listed as “day-to-day.”

With so many scorers out or injured it seems highly unlikely there will be much of a sustained offensive flow to the game. It has all the earmarks of an ugly 1990’s-style 80-78 eyesore. I’d set the over/under closer to 180-182, making the Vegas 188.5 seem pretty safe.

FREE PICK: Under 188.5

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