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GAMBLING AGAINST GREATNESS: CELTICS, HEAT, RAPTORS, BUCKS AND MAVERICKS LOOK TO KICK START SECOND HALF RESURGENCE

@TheWillBaldwin

What’s popping on Air-Ball

Overall- 61.1%

Last week- 5-4

Piston vs Hornets

Line: Hornets -4.5

Pick: Hornets -4.5

With Devonte’ Graham back and shooting it better since his dreadful start, this game feels like the perfect win to kickstart a solid Hornets second half. Gordon Hayward is refreshed, LaMelo Ball seems to be getting better every week and Terry Rozier is back to being scary Terry. Give me the Hornets comfortably against the depleted Pistons. 

Celtics vs Nets

Line: Nets -2.5

Pick: Celtics +2.5

After going on a quiet win streak to head into the All-Star break, the Celtics come out of it the healthiest they’ve been all season. Marcus Smart is expected to return for Boston and him back with a rested and motivated Kemba Walker is exactly the kind of help Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been begging for. Throw in the fact Kevin Durant remains out with the hamstring and I like Boston in a surprising win to join Charlotte in a positive start to the second half. 

Hawks vs Raptors

Line: Hawks -3 

Pick: Raptors +3

Listen, I understand Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and co. are out tonight because of the health and safety protocols. But, with Kyle Lowry recharged from a rare free All-Star break, this is the kind of game the Raptors have made a habit of winning the last few years. Atlanta has hardly looked better after firing Lloyd Pierce and the pressure is officially on Trae Young. I like the Raptors to catch Atlanta off guard tonight as the pressure on that franchise mounts. 

Magic vs Heat

Line: Heat -9

Pick: Heat -9

Sure, Bam Adebayo is out tonight and the Meyers Leonard debacle is still in full effect but dammit I like the Heat tonight. They’re 12-4 with Jimmy Butler and that’s all that matters to me, especially against the injury-ravaged Magic. Give me Miami and the points tonight. 

76ers vs Bulls

Line: Bulls -3.5

Pick: Bulls -3.5

On the surface, you may be surprised to see the Bulls favoured against the conference-leading Sixers. That is until you dive in and realize it’s because the Sixers will be without both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons thanks to their favour barber. Given the Bulls are desperate for wins as is, I expect a big Bulls performance against a depleted Sixers team. 

Knicks vs Bucks

Line: Bucks -10.5

Pick: Knicks +10.5

I know the Bucks are famous for blowing teams out in the Giannis era but hear me out. For whatever reason, the Knicks matchup and play well against them this season. Sure, the Bucks may have a motivated Khris Middleton off an All-Star snub and a healthier Jrue Holiday but for some reason, I’m liking the Knicks to at least keep it close in Milwaukee tonight. 

Timberwolves vs Pelicans

Line: Pelicans -8

Pick: Timberwolves +8

For the first time under new head coach Chris Finch, the Wolves got some time to practice over the break. After a whirlwind first half where everything went wrong, no team more needed a break than them. I expect a more competent-looking team led by Karl-Anthony Towns, particularly on offence, to come in and give the Pelicans and their 29th ranked defence troubles. My guess is New Orleans holds on to win but the Wolves keep it close. 

Mavericks vs Thunder

Line: Mavericks -5.5

Pick: Mavericks -5.5

I know the Thunder have been killing me all season but hear me out. Last night was arguably Kristaps Porzingis’ best game of the season for a finally healthy Mavs team. Now that Luka Doncic is finally getting help this is a completely different team. Sure, Luguentz Dort will be in Luka’s jersey all game long but with the Porzingis and Josh Richardson potential return to form, I kind of like Dallas to go on a bit of a run to start the second half. 

Warriors vs Clippers

Line: Clippers -7

Pick: Warriors +7

After resting both Stephen Curry and Draymond Green to close the break, the Warriors have their full allotment of talent tonight in Los Angeles. Sometimes, gambling in the NBA comes down to who needs a game more and in this one, it’s inarguably the Warriors. Currently, in the ninth seed, they can’t afford to play around with games as the fourth-seeded Clippers can. The best part is seven points is so many, all I need is the Warriors to keep it competitive, this pick feels like an easy one (which definitely means I’ll get it wrong). 

Suns vs Trail Blazers

Line: Suns -4.5

Pick: Trail Blazers +4.5 

This pick may end up making me look like an idiot if Devin Booker plays and lights up the Blazers like he did a couple of weeks ago but it’s worth the risk. 4.5 points for an at-home Damian Lillard in the midst of a career season is too many, especially if Book isn’t going to see the court. Chris Paul has been great this year but all of a sudden with no Booker, this matchup looks about 30 per cent fairer with no CJ McCollum still and due to that, give Dame to take advantage of those odds. 

Rockets vs Kings

Line: Kings -4.5

Pick: Kings -4.5 

So, not only does it seem like Tyrese Haliburton will return to the lineup but also Christian Wood will miss again? On that one fact alone, the Rockets feel destined to have their losing streak hit 14. Barring a “holy crap I need to pick it up if I want to get traded” performance from Victor Oladipo, this feels like an easy pick for a Kings team desperate to get back in the play-in discussion. 

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