NBA Picks and Predictions for February 2nd

The Lakers aren’t doing much to dispel the trade talks and the “what’s wrong with the Lakers?” whispers that have been whirling around lately. Last night the Lakers narrowly avoided another embarrassing home loss, needing overtime to beat the non-playoff bound Houston Rockets.

Even Magic Johnson has fueled the fire, speculating that something was missing from his team, citing the poor efforts against Boston and Miami – not “poor effort” as in “bad play”, rather poor effort, as in “these guys just aren’t playing hard enough.”

It isn’t something I ever expected to hear about a Kobe Bryant-led team, but Magic might just be right. It will be interesting to see if the Lakers are able to pull the trigger on a move over the coming weeks, and who, if that move is made, will it involve?

Today’s Free NBA Picks:

Indiana Pacers -5.5 @ Cleveland Cavaliers (Total: 204)

It is practically comical at this point. Not only have the Cavs failed to win in more than a month; they’ve failed to compete. Every week the spreads get larger, recently they were an unheard of eighteen point underdog in a game with the Heat. Those kind of spreads are generally reserved for college games when Duke is playing some low-major in Durham in early December. Not in the NBA.

That makes tonight’s 5.5 pretty inviting for the Pacers. Granted, Indiana is certainly not without flaws, but one thing they can’t be accused of is tanking it. Despite a roster with limited talent, the Pacers have still hung within shouting distance of the eighth spot in the East; even with Phily and Charlotte playing very good basketball over the last month.

The Cavs haven’t played a team within double digits in several weeks. I don’t think they start tonight. Suffice it to say the home “crowd” might be be in full throat for this one. I imagine a lot of fans will be dressed as empty seats for another likely Cavs loss

PICK: Indiana Pacers -5.5 (-110) @ SportsInteraction.com

Charlotte Bobcats @ Detroit Pistons -2.5 (Total: 186)

The lowly Pistons have quietly been playing decently the past month, thanks in no small part to a surprisingly un-small contribution from Tracy McGrady. He’s nowhere near the T-Mac of old, but he is showing there still might be a place for him in the league for a few more years.

The Pistons have won three of their last four at home, including a win over Dallas. Their most recent two game road trip resulted in two losses, but dropping a 1-point squeeker at Miami followed by a blowout loss at New York isn’t exactly an “embarrassing” trip. I’m sure they will be happy to be back at the Palace tonight.

The Bobcats also enter on a small losing streak, having dropped their last two games, however it was the final two games of a five game West Coast road trip that saw the Bobcats go 3-2 with wins over Sacramento, Phoenix and Golden State. It’s not exactly a Western Conference Murderer’s Row, but three road wins in a row is always impressive in the NBA.

Charlotte has shown a propensity for beating the teams they are supposed to beat. That is largely what got them back into the playoff picture. Tonight classifies as one of those games that they “should” win. I think they will – it’s a good matchup personnel-wise with very exploitable matchups on the inside with Gerald Wallace and a a size advantage in the backcourt with Stephen Jackson over Ben Gordon.

I like the Bobcats getting two and half – and also to win the game on the road and begin to solidify their playoff standing.

PICK: Charlotte Bobcats +2.5 (-110) @ Bodog.com

Chris Scheeren / Author