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NBA Picks and Predictions for January 17th

For years NBA fans have wanted to see a little fight out of the Los Angeles Clippers. Yesterday they got what they were asking for; literally. The Clippers outscored their more heralded arena mates 31-21 in the 4th quarter before things reached an emotional boiling point with six seconds remaining.

Blake Griffin gave Lamar Odom a little bit of a shove from behind going for a rebound on a free throw (which is a little superfouous at that juncture in the game, even from an eager rookie) and Odom reacted, giving Griffin a push in return.

Griffin walked away, but Baron Davis didn’t. Davis, whose emotional output can often be described as somnambulistic, was definitely awake – and not having anyone beating on the Clippers franchise big man. A little pushing and shoving ensued leading to four ejections (and the perplexing running of the actual innocent Ron Artest) and a nice punctuation mark to a rivalry desperately in need of one.

It also highlighted how interesting things are getting out West. The Clippers have no chance of making the Playoffs…this year. The same can be said of Memphis and Minnesota, but suffice it to say no one is circling those three as “gimmes” anymore. It all adds up to the most competitive and balanced Western Conference we’ve seen in many years.

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Today’s Free NBA Picks:

Orlando Magic @ Boston Celtics -4 (Total: 192.5)

This is just one of the many treats David Stern and the schedule makers are offering up for their Dr. Martin Luther King Day extravaganza. Starting at 1pm, it’s a full day of high caliber NBA hoops – the 8pm faceoff between the Magic and the C’s is the punctuation mark.

Orlando has been fantastic since the blockbuster trade, going 9-2 since Christmas Day, coincidentally starting with an eight-point comeback home win over Boston. Orlando is one of the most prolific scoring teams in the NBA, while Boston is one of the stingiest defensively. It is always a contrast of styles when these two square off. Those of you who read regularly know my rule; when styles contrast the tenor of the game is usually set by the home team. That leans this contest more to the defensive aspects.

The interesting thing, while Orlando is thought of as the offensive team, both they and the Celtics average an identical 99.5 points per contest. The difference is in the nearly two and half less points Boston allows.

Boston has stumbled a bit lately, just 7-4 since the Holiday, however that record is a bit skewed due to the injury to Garnett. KG is back and healthy, and Boston rarely loses at home with him in service. With Garnett their only loss in the Garden was to Oklahoma City back in November.

I like the Celtics flexing their defensive muscle in a nationally televised game and holding the Magic under 90 and grinding out a hard-fought win.

PICK: Boston Celtics -4

Minnesota T’wolves @ Portland Trailblazers -8.5 (Total: 199)

Minnesota has been somewhat of a reliable cover for us this season. Perhaps it is their terrible won/loss record that keeps Vegas cautiously low on Minnesota, but it just seems like the most inviting lines consistently beckon me to the Minnesota contests.

Then again, perhaps it is the 15 consecutive wins the Blazers have notched over Minnesota that inspires the large degree of confidence…

Tonight the Wolves get a hefty 8.5 points in their trip to Portland. The Blazers have downed them by roughly 13 per game in their four-season long win streak. So why would tonight be any different?

Generally I like the Wolves giving tough teams fits; they’ve done it to the Celtics, Spurs, Lakers, Heat – a who’s who of NBA elite. However, those games were all with the emergent Michael Beasley pouring in twenty-plus along side Kevin Love’s MVP-like scoring and rebounding bonanza.

Beasley is expected to miss his third straight game tonight, and replacement Corey Brewer who has filled in admirably in Beasley’s absence, missed practice yesterday with a sore ankle – though he is expected to play today.

Sometimes teams just match up really poorly. This is obviously one of those cases. The Blazers will miss Brandon Roy, and ultimately I think Memphis catches them in the standings and Portland ends up back in the draft lottery. However tonight, the numbers are just too compelling in Portland’s favor. Take the Blazers in the Rose Garden laying the points.

PICK: Portland Trailblazers -8.5

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