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NBA Picks and Predictions for January 3rd

Just when it seems we have a pretty good read on the season, things get turned upside down. It’s seems fair to start asking what’s going on with the champs. After getting routed at home by the improving but certainly not contention-ready Memphis Grizzlies there’s a lot of head scratching in Los Angeles. There is also some cause for concern in Dallas after learning Caron Butler could be out as long as two months with a knee injury. Dirk Nowitzki should be returning this week, but the loss of Butler is significant for the Mavericks.

Does this mean that “aging” San Antonio is suddenly the clear-cut favorite out West? Healthy and rolling along at 29-4 it certainly appears to be the case. No player is averaging more than 18 ppg for the Spurs, Tim Duncan is at a career-low in production and it just doesn’t seem to matter. Anyone omitting Greg Popovich from their Coach of the Year ballot has some serious issues…

On to today’s (Jan. 3rd) Free NBA Picks:

Philadelphia 76er’s @ New Orleans Hornets -6 (Total: 188)

New Orleans has cooled off considerably since their surprising league-best 7-0 start to the season. However they appear to be getting back on track winning 4 of their last 6, including wins over Boston and Atlanta. New Orleans is 13-4 at home on the season.

More importantly, all four of their home losses have come to playoff-caliber teams. When facing lesser opponents at home, like Philadelphia, the result is usually a double-digit victory.

New Orleans is healthy, and Chris Paul is not only scoring but running the team with tremendous efficiency, averaging nearly 10 assist per game with an assist/turnover ratio of 4:1. With him at the controls David West has returned to his previous All-Star form, and three other Hornets are averaging double figures. Paul should be able to control the tempo and the game and be able to exploit the matchup with Phily’s young point guard J’rue Holiday.

Despite their poor overall record, Philadelphia has been surprisingly good against the spread, both home and away on the season. Their 12-6-1 road mark (a.t.s) is cause for a second look, however on the road in New Orleans without Andre Igulodala is certainly a tough cover. At +8 or +9 I’d be a little more intrigued, but at only +6, all the recent play on the floor leans heavily to the Hornets.

PICK: New Orleans -6

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Golden State Warriors @ Orlando Magic -10.5 (Total: 212.5)

Orlando has revitalized their lineup with the blockbuster deal that brought Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu to town. Tonight is a chance for the Magic to get out and play with all their shiny new toys against the no-defense Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are giving up a staggering 106.1 points a night to their opponents, and few teams bring as much offensive fire power to the party as Orlando.

During the Magic’s current five game winning streak they have been averaging 107 ppg on 54% shooting from the floor. And that is against teams that actually play defense, like New York, Boston and San Antonio.

There is no question Golden State can score in bunches with Monte Ellis, Steph Curry and crew. However, tonight is a very tough matchup for the guard-centric Warriors. In addition to the offensive firepower, Orlando has solid perimeter defenders in Jason Richardson and Mikael Pietrus, and the under-rated JJ Reddick to contend with…and of course the big guy in the middle.

Orlando is laying a bunch tonight, but it is still not enough. Look for the Magic to enjoy an offensive explosion tonight and win running away.

PICK: Orlando -10.5

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