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NBA Picks and Predictions for January 5th

Yesterday I questioned how the Knicks would adapt to life without Danilo Galinari helping to keep defenses honest for the next two weeks. The answer was pretty apparent. Wilson Chandler. The anonymous swingman poured in a game-high (and personal season high) 31 points as the Knicks hammered the Spurs 128-115.

I’ll admit, I’m surprised and impressed with how well the Knicks rose to the challenge easily beating the team with the top record in the entire league. Despite the swing and miss of a pick yesterday, I’m still 9-2-1 on the week with the free picks, so hopefully I’ll be permitted a mulligan…

Tonight’s slate features the marquee matchup of San Antonio @ Boston, but also a few very interesting matchups on the undercard as several east coast teams visit the west, and vice versa. It should be a great night to pick a couple winners, sit back and watch some great hoops.

On To Today’s (January 5th) Free Picks:

San Antonio Spurs @ Boston Celtics -2 (Total: 190)

Having the best record in the NBA is impressive and certainly commands some respect, but winding up in Boston for the second night of a back-to-back is certainly no favor from the scheduling committee. Kevin Garnett is likely still out for the C’s, but they do have Rondo back and ready for action after kicking off some of the rust in Monday’s Minnesota contest.

Boston has been nearly unbeatable at home this season, dropping only two contests all year and of the losses was without Rondo and Garnett last week to New Orleans. The Hornets have run hot and cold this season, but it is pretty clear to see how a Chris Paul-led team could exploit the absence of Rondo and his octopus-like defensive tentacles.

On paper, missing Garnett when Tim Duncan comes to town sounds a lot worse than it is. The truth is the C’s don’t lose much offensively with Glen “Big Baby” Davis playing the four, and he is at least a passable defender. The Spurs offensive attack relies much more heavily on balance in 2011 than it has in the past, but Boston has a team of smart, capable defenders, especially at home, that can make up for the slight decline in defensive talent on the floor.

My statistical metrics, points for/against, home/road splits, etc. – nearly everything comes out pretty evenly. What tips the scale in Boston’s favor is far simpler than fancy statistics; it’s really hard to beat an elite team on their floor on the second night of a back-to-back. The opportunity to take Boston at home and lay only two against ANY team is a pretty fortunate line.

PICK: Boston -2

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Chicago Bulls -4 @ New Jersey (Total: 185)

Forget tonight being the second straight game for Chicago, last night’s glorified scrimmage hosting the hapless and injury-riddled Raptors doesn’t count much in the energy expended column. Discarding that wagering axiom, is there any other explanation for a sizzling Chicago team laying ONLY 4 against one of the most pitiful teams in the NBA??

Let’s take a look at some of the condemning numbers for the Nets. This season they are 0-8 against Top 10 teams in the NBA. For the entire year they have won only five games at home. Over their past five games they have limited the losing margin to single digits only once (a 9-point loss to Chicago).

The stat that jumps off the page for me is the 49.5% opponent field goal percentage the Nets have allowed this season. That shows that the consistent effort on defense just isn’t there. Allowing a high number of points can be predicated on the pace of the game and not necessarily an indictment of defensive ability; Allowing near 50% shooting on a nightly basis means it is just too easy for teams to get quality looks at the basket.

Perfect for a Bulls team who might be looking a little past their opponent to still pull out a road win.

I love the Bulls laying the four in Jersey.

PICK: Chicago -4

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