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Jonathan Macri previews Monday's NBA games and gives us his picks

The first weekend of March Madness may be in the books, but the NBA’s version of March Madness is just beginning with the trade deadline now just three days away. We’ll start with two teams who may be doing some business before Thursday:

Atlanta Hawks vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Unbelievably, these two teams entered play on Sunday as part of the respective 4/5 matchups for their conferences despite markedly different expectations heading into the season.

The Clippers were supposed to be co-title favorites with the defending world champion Lakers, and have played like anything but. They sit fourth in the West with a record of just 7-8 in their last 15 games. Over that time, LA has positive 0.6 net rating – worse that the Bulls, Pelicans and Knicks in that span of times. Worst of all for wagering purposes, they haven’t covered two straight games since Valentine’s Day.

All that means is for as convincing as their 125-98 win over the Hornets was on Saturday night, we should be cautious about projecting any sustained success emerging from a single strong showing. They are still a playmaker away from being a serious contender.

Their competition here is the Atlanta Hawks, who remain owners of the longest winning streak in the NBA at eight games following their 99-94 victory over the Lakers. But like every one of their previous seven wins (the best of which was their first against a middling Miami team), this one was only so impressive, as LeBron James went down with a high ankle sprain in the first half.

Still, it’s hard to be playing better than the hawks right now, and given the inconsistency of Los Angeles’ other team, it’s hard to justify giving this many points.

The Pick: Atlanta +6.5 @ -110 (Click To Bet)

Charlotte Hornets vs. San Antonio Spurs

Ah yes…about those Hornets.

They were darlings of the NBA seemingly less than a week ago after a four-game winning streak had them sitting at 20-17 and within shouting distance of home court in the first round of the playoffs.

But because almost no Eastern Conference fan base is allowed to have nice things, Charlotte has come crashing back down to earth with three straight losses by an average of 21 points.

We probably shouldn’t be shocked. Their four wins came against the Wolves, Pistons, Raptors and Kings, four teams in the bottom 10 of the league. On the year, the Hornets have a negative 0.7 net rating and even though they have a winning record in their last 15 games, they’re getting outscored by 3.4 points per 100 possessions over that stretch – 24th in the NBA.

Their opponent on Monday is a Spurs team that is also 8-7 in their last 15 games, but unlike the Hornets, the Spurs are outscoring teams by 1.2 points per 100 possessions in that time. That stretch includes a 122-110 win in Charlotte. They’ve also covered four straight and seem intent on hanging around a brutal Western Conference playoff field.

The best reason to take them here though? They’re 11-2 against the spread against East team – the best non-conference betting record in the entire league. This is an easy choice.

The Pick: San Antonio -5 @ -110 (Click To Bet)

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Other NBA Games

Sacramento Kings at Cleveland Cavaliers

Every time you think maybe the Kings have righted the ship, they remind you not to believe in them. Following two straight road wins over the Wizards and Celtics, they came out flat against a Sixers team missing it’s two stars and Seth Curry, getting doubled up 42-21 in the first quarter and falling behind by 35 at one point. Cleveland has been bad but feisty, and this should be close.

Oklahoma City at Minnesota Timberwolves

OKC is too competitive to pick against when they’re playing the team with the worst net rating in the league, even if they have been playing better of late. Throw in that the Thunder are 14-8 on the road against the spread, and this is an easy call.

Utah Jazz at Chicago Bulls

Maybe two straight days off were enough to right the ship for the Utah Jazz, who are just 2-7 against the spread and 4-5 overall in their last nine games. Both teams enter this game with a 15-7 record against the spread in non-conference games, but only one is playing on the second night of a back to back. Go with the well-rested team who has shown the ability to be elite for most of this season.

Toronto Raptors at Houston Rockets

The Rockets have lost 20 in a row. Need we say more?

Boston Celtics at Memphis Grizzlies

Heading into Sunday’s game versus Orlando, the Celtics had dropped nine of 12 games against the spread. Now they’re on short rest coming into Memphis to face a Grizzlies team with the third best non-conference betting mark in the NBA at 11-5. Go against the green here.

Indiana Pacers at Milwaukee Bucks

It’s tough to gauge exactly where the Pacers are since getting Caris LeVert back. They played three straight against some of the best teams in the NBA, grabbing a victory in Phoenix and then losing to the Nuggets and Nets. They then beat Miami twice in a row, and are coming into this one feeling good. Take the points, if you must.

NBA Expert Picks

(Click Odds To Bet)

Atlanta +6.5 @ -110 (Click To Bet)

San Antonio -5 @ -110 (Click To Bet)

NBA Free Picks

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Article Author


Dean of Knicks Film School, host: KFS Pod, co-host: Pick N Pod. There isn't much about Knicks basketball that Jonathan doesn't know and he's here to break down the big games each and every week.


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