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GAMBLING AGAINST GREATNESS: ALL-STARS LILLARD, TATUM, BEAL, RANDLE, JOKIC AND MORE LOOK TO HEAD TO THE BREAK ON A WINNING NOTE

@TheWillBaldwin

What’s popping on Air-Ball

Season: 62.9%

Last Week: 5-1

Raptors vs Celtics

Line: Celtics -8

Pick: Celtics -8

Normally this game would be a great way to send us into the All-Star break. Two division rivals fresh off a seven-game war in the bubble, sounds awesome right? Well since the Raptors will be missing Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and more and are coming off getting blown out by the last place Pistons, can’t say I’m ecstatic about this game. This feels like an easy Celtic win that sends Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to All-Star on a four-game win streak. 

Clippers vs Wizards

Line: Clippers -5.5

Pick: Wizards +5.5

Unlike many of the other players on the list above, Kawhi doesn’t really have the sweat equity to make me believe at all he’ll play in this game. With it the last before the break and against the low-level Wizards, I expect Leonard to sit out in favour of Paul George and co. Due to this, I actually like the Wizards a lot in this game. Russell Westbrook has been much better of late and as I always say, when in doubt bet on the team who needs the game more in the NBA regular season and well, the Wizards can’t really afford to throw away games anymore. 

Pistons vs Knicks

Line: Knicks -7

Pick: Knicks -7

We saw this game just a week ago and it was an easy win for the Knicks. With them much like the Wizards and Celtics above needing wins in a tight conference and Detroit effectively packing it in on the season, this needs to be a win for New York. Detroit’s only real hope of a win in this one is a Dennis Smith Jr revenge game which would be funny. However, this isn’t a game that Tom Thibodeau’s teams lose, take the Knicks tonight. 

Nuggets vs Pacers

Line: Nuggets -4.5

Pick: Nuggets -4.5

With Domantas Sabonis listed as questionable and the Nuggets starting to play better on this road trip, I absolutely love the Nuggets and the points tonight. After dominating Giannis’ Bucks a couple of days ago, Nikola Jokic’s MVP campaign doesn’t feel likely to slow down in Indianapolis tonight. Even with a defensive player of the year candidate in Myles Turner on the other side, Joel Embiid had his way with Turner earlier this week and I expect Jokic to do the same. Give me Denver to win and cover tonight. 

Bucks vs Grizzlies

Line: Bucks -6

Pick: Bucks -6

After seeming to finally get back on track the Bucks got it handed to them at home earlier this week by Denver. That result is why I’m in on Giannis, Khris Middleton and the squad tonight. Maybe if they were still on their long streak I could argue a lethargic effort was in order in a one-off in Memphis but coming off a disappointing loss and it being the final game before the break, I expect the Bucks to be locked in tonight. Frankly, it also helps that Ja Morant’s squad is coming off a big win in Washington last night and will be on a back-to-back despite playing at home. Give me Milwaukee in a relatively close and competitive game that they pull away late in. 

Heat vs Pelicans

Line: Pelicans -2.5

Pick: Heat +2.5

Unlike Kawhi earlier in this column, I expect Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo to play. A big part of this is with it being the last game before an All-Star break neither Butler nor Adebayo is attending, they’ll be able to leave it out on the floor more realistically. For New Orleans, Zion has been unbelievable of late and is a strong reason for picking them. With me though, I just come back to Miami being sneakily one of the best teams in the league of late when healthy and expecting their two stars to suit up tonight in NOLA. 

Thunder vs Spurs

Line: Spurs -6.5

Pick: Spurs -6.5

Just a week ago Luguentz Dort won this matchup on a buzzer-beater at home. Now in San Antonio for the rematch, I expect All-Star snub DeMar DeRozan, the game’s most underrated player in Dejounte Murray and the Spurs to exact revenge tonight. I love Shai Gilgeous-Alexander maybe more than anyone but you just can’t get me to pick against San Antonio tonight. In a loaded West, the Spurs can’t afford to lose winnable games.

Kings vs Trail Blazers

Line: Trail Blazers -4.5

Pick: Trail Blazers -4.5

Despite their win last night, the Kings have been struggling of late. Every night we all are expecting the Luke Walton fired tweet and still here he is. Damian Lillard continued to do Damian Lillard things last against the Warriors, look for him to continue his MVP-type season against the worst defensive team in basketball. Much like the Spurs, Portland can’t afford to drop winnable games and with that added motivation plus the fact the Kings are struggling mightily these days, give me the Blazers comfortably at home tonight. 

Warriors vs Suns

Line: Suns -11.5

Pick: Suns -11.5

With both Stephen Curry and Draymond Green not playing, I don’t need to analyze this game more than that. The Suns big as they head to the break second in the Western Conference. 

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