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NBA ♦ 'Chritsmas Day! ♦ Friday 12/25/15

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    Merry Christmas!!!

    Have a great day!


    Christmas Day NBA Betting Preview and Odds

    New Orleans Pelicans at Miami Heat (-5, 200)

    The New Orleans Pelicans have looked a lot like a playoff contender the last two games instead of the last-place club that struggled through the first eight weeks of the season. The Pelicans will try to prove the latest improvements are no fluke in front of a national audience when they visit the Miami Heat on Friday.

    New Orleans seemed to find another low in a 104-88 loss at Phoenix on Dec. 18 that dropped the team to 7-19. The Pelicans, who shot 36.6 percent from the field in that loss, turned things around as Anthony Davis fought off an illness in a 130-125 win at Denver on Sunday and put it together on both ends in Wednesday’s 115-89 home triumph over the Portland Trail Blazers. Davis will get a challenge on the inside from the Heat frontcourt of Hassan Whiteside and Chris Bosh, who are combining to average 30.4 points and 18.8 rebounds. Whiteside grabbed 16 boards and blocked four shots on Tuesday but could not keep the team from squandering an 18-point lead in a 93-92 loss to Detroit.

    TV: Noon ET, ESPN, FSN Sun (Miami)

    The Heat opened as 5-point home favorites and have been bet up to -5.5. The total has opened at 200.


    Pelicans – C A. Ajinca (questionable Friday, calf), PG N. Cole (questionable Friday, knee), SF Q. Pondexter (out indefinitely, knee).

    Heat – SG T. Johnson (questionable Friday, shoulder), PF C. Andersen (questionable Friday, illness), SG G. Dragic (questionable Friday, hand), J. McRoberts (out Friday, knee).

    Pelicans (+3) – Heat (-7.7) + home court (-3) = Heat -13.7

    ABOUT THE PELICANS (9-19, 11-17 ATS, 12-16 O/U):
    Davis, Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday have all battled nagging injuries at times this season, and all three went over 20 points as New Orleans shot 56.4 percent in the win at Denver. The three nearly reached the mark again on Wednesday, but Holiday was held to just 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting in 21 minutes off the bench. Davis recorded 28 points and Evans narrowly missed a triple-double with 24 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, and the trio will try to guide the Pelicans to their second three-game winning streak on Friday.

    ABOUT THE HEAT (16-11, 12-14-1 ATS, 8-19 O/U):
    The loss to the Pistons dropped Miami to 1-2 on its four-game homestand, but the team still feels like it’s moving in the right direction. “It’s competitive and it’s disappointing to lose those games at the end,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters after Tuesday’s setback. “We’ll just regroup and learn from it and just keep on plugging away. You know, this is the way this season’s been, though, for a lot of teams this year and you just have to forge ahead until you get your breakthrough.” Bosh scored 20 points in the loss and has reached that plateau in five of the last seven contests.


    * Over is 6-1 in the last 7 meetings.

    * Home team is 8-2 ATS in the last 10 meetings.

    * Under is 13-6-1 in the last 20 meetings in Miami.

    * Pelicans are 1-4 ATS in the last 5 meetings in Miami.


    Chicago Bulls at Oklahoma City Thunder (-9, 205.5)

    The Oklahoma City Thunder are looking to notch their sixth consecutive home victory over Chicago when they host the Bulls on Christmas Day. Chicago hasn’t left Oklahoma City victorious since delivering a 96-86 victory on Jan. 27, 2010.

    The Bulls limp into town on the heels of three straight losses, including a lethargic 105-102 home loss to the lowly Brooklyn Nets on Monday. “The only way we are going to win basketball games is if we come together as a team and stay together, through the good times and bad,” shooting guard Jimmy Butler told reporters. “We’ve got that group of guys, we’re talented enough. We just have to buy into it.” Oklahoma City has won three straight games and nine of its last 10 after rolling to an easy 120-85 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. Thunder small forward Kevin Durant had 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting and has scored 20 or more points in 15 straight contests.

    TV: 2:30 p.m. ET, ABC

    The Thunder have opened as 9-point home favorites. The total opened at 205.5.


    Bulls – C J. Noah (Mid January, shoulder), SG M. Dunleavy (Mid January, back).

    Thunder – None.

    Bulls (-4.2) – Thunder (-12.5) + home court (-3) = Thunder -11.3

    ABOUT THE BULLS (15-11, 9-17 ATS, 10-15-1 O/U):
    Center Joakim Noah sprained his left shoulder in the loss to Brooklyn and will miss at least two weeks. “The shoulder pooped out of joint for a brief second, so he’s going to be sore and stiff,” Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters. “So it’s rehabbing for the next couple of weeks, and then re-evaluated from there.” The 30-year-old Noah has struggled this season with a career-low 4.5 scoring average as the switch from Tom Thibodeau’s system to Hoiberg’s faster pace isn’t a good for fit for his game.

    ABOUT THE THUNDER (20-9, 13-16 ATS, 9-20 O/U):
    Durant’s economical performance against the Lakers was impressive in the eyes of first-year coach Billy Donovan. “I thought Kevin could have taken a lot more shots,” said Donovan, “but he was really insistent on doing a great job of finding people, setting people up and making the game easy.” Point guard Russell Westbrook had 23 points, eight rebounds and eight assists against Los Angeles and is averaging 28 points over the past two games.


    * Bulls are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 road games.

    * Favorite is 8-2 ATS in the last 10 meetings.

    * Under is 7-0 in Thunder last 7 home games.

    * Over is 4-1 in Bulls last 5 overall.


    Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors (-7, 210)

    The Cleveland Cavaliers have been waiting for another shot at the Golden State Warriors and will finally get it on Christmas Day. The Cavaliers, who lost the NBA Finals in six games to the Warriors, will visit Golden State on Friday with the two clubs again atop their respective conferences.

    Cleveland will have to make some history to beat the Warriors, who ran their home regular-season winning streak to 31 straight with a 103-85 triumph over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday. “The memories will come back as soon as we walk into the building,” Cavaliers superstar LeBron James told reporters. “But also understand that it’s one of 82, and I’m not going to put everything into this game.” While the Warriors have not lost a regular-season game at home in nearly 11 months, they did drop Game 2 of the Finals in their own building as James led Cleveland to a 95-93 overtime victory with 39 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists. James averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists but Golden State took the best-of-seven set in six games.

    TV: 5 p.m. ET, ABC

    The Warriors opened as 6.5-point home favorites and have been bet up to -7. The total is still at the opening number of 210.


    Cavaliers – None.

    Warriors – SF H. Barnes (doubtful Friday, ankle), SF K. Looney (Late January, hip).

    Cavaliers (-9.5) – Warriors (-18.7) + home court (-3) = Warriors -12.2

    ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (19-7, 11-15 ATS, 13-13 O/U):
    The big difference between the Finals and Friday’s matchup for Cleveland will be the presence of forward Kevin Love and point guard Kyrie Irving, who missed all or most of the series. Irving, who suffered a fractured kneecap in Game 1 of the Finals, made his return this week and will be monitored closely as the Cavaliers begin a stretch of four games in five nights. “It’s a great opportunity for our fans to have five games on Christmas and for our game to continue to get so much exposure, but for us as a team, Friday will not be the end of our season, like it was in June,” James said. “…We want to play well, going against a great caliber team, the best team in our league right now, but it’s not like the season ends if we lose or if we win, or whatever the case may be.”

    ABOUT THE WARRIORS (27-1, 18-9-1 ATS, 17-11 O/U):
    Golden State’s players are not singling out the matchup, either, and continue to roll through their schedule. “Our players are great about staying present and staying in the moment and taking the next game ahead of them,” Warriors interim coach Luke Walton told reporters. “Honestly, I haven’t heard a single thing (about the Cleveland game) from any of them. … “That’s the way it should be, because we know in this league that you can lose on any night, to any team. You show the other teams the proper respect by paying attention to them.” The Warriors do not expect to get coach Steve Kerr (back) or forward Harrison Barnes (ankle) back by Friday.


    * Cavaliers are 3-13 ATS in their last 16 games following a ATS loss.

    * Warriors are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 home games.

    * Over is 7-0 in Warriors last 7 games following a ATS win.

    * Under is 4-1 in Cavaliers last 5 overall.


    San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets (+6.5, 200.5)

    The streaking San Antonio Spurs seek their eighth consecutive victory when they visit the Houston Rockets on Christmas Day. San Antonio has won by an average of 21.4 points during its hot stretch and pummeled the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-83 on Wednesday.

    The rout of Minnesota was the Spurs’ fourth victory by 20 or more points during the streak and they also defeated Washington by 19. “I think we’re competing at a high level,” San Antonio power forward LaMarcus Aldridge said after Wednesday’s victory. “We’re paying attention to detail, playing good defense and as long as we keep doing that, things should go well for us.” Houston is 10-5 since starting 5-10 but dropped a disappointing 104-101 decision to the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. “We can’t have mental lapses where we do everything the right way for a couple possessions and go back to just taking it easy on teams,” center Dwight Howard said after the loss. “We have to do a better job of playing the same way for 48 minutes.”

    TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, CW35 (San Antonio), ROOT (Houston)

    The Rockets haven’t moved off the opening number of +6.5. The total also haven’t moved off the opening number of 200.5.


    Spurs – None.

    Rockets – SF S. Dekker (Mid February, back).

    Spurs (-17.5) – Rockets (-1.6) + home court (-3) = Rockets +12.9

    ABOUT THE SPURS (25-5, 21-9 ATS, 12-17-1 O/U):
    After holding Indiana star Paul George to seven points on 1-of-14 shooting on Monday, reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard was at it again by helping hold Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins to 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting on Wednesday. Leonard finished with 19 points but was headed toward a rare low-scoring effort until he scored 12 fourth-quarter points on 5-of-7 shooting. “Nobody’s perfect all the time in 48 minutes,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters. “I don’t worry about why he didn’t score in this quarter or that quarter. That happens to every player. He got his 19 points and he was great in the fourth quarter.”

    ABOUT THE ROCKETS (15-15, 12-18 ATS, 13-17 O/U):
    Small forward Trevor Ariza is experiencing a shooting funk and is just 6-of-20 from the field and averaging 6.5 points over the last two games. He missed all eight of his 3-point attempts in the loss to Orlando and is shooting a meager 31.8 percent from behind the arc this season while shooting a career-worst 38.3 percent overall. Standout guard James Harden is averaging 33.5 points on 21-of-34 shooting over the past two contests.


    * Spurs are 0-5 ATS in the last 5 meetings in Houston.

    * Home team is 6-0 ATS in the last 6 meetings.

    * Under is 5-0 in Rockets last 5 overall.

    * Under is 4-1 in the last 5 meetings in Houston.


    Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers (+11.5, 205)

    The Los Angeles Clippers own the title as professional basketball’s best team in Southern California and they look to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth consecutive time when the clubs meet on Christmas Day at the Staples Center. The Clippers have won the past seven meetings by an average of 24.6 points, including victories by 48, 36, 28, 25 and 23 points.

    Lakers small forward Kobe Bryant will be playing on Christmas Day for the 16th and final time. Bryant holds the NBA record for points (383) on Christmas and is enjoying his best stretch of the season with a 23.8 average over his past five games. Bryant fell one point short of his fifth straight 20-point outing on Wednesday as he scored 19 in a 120-85 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Clippers have suddenly dropped into a funk with three straight losses after winning nine of their previous 11 games.

    TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Prime Ticket (Clippers), TWC SportsNet (Lakers)

    The Lakers opened as 12-point home dogs and have been bet down to to +11.5. The total hasn’t moved from its opening number 207.


    Clippers – SF P. Pierce (probable Friday, back), PF B. Griffin (probable Friday, knee), SG A. Rivers (out Friday, ankle).

    Lakers – PF J. Randle (questionable Friday, ankle), SF N. Young (questionable Friday, illness).

    Clippers (-5.8) – Lakers (+8) + home court (-3) = Lakers +10.8

    ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (16-13, 10-16-3 ATS, 14-15 O/U):
    The Clippers have been off since Monday’s 100-99 loss to the Thunder and are hoping a few days of practice will help cure their woes. “It’s all about synergy,” point guard Chris Paul told reporters. “It’s all about the team. If all of us know something and everybody else doesn’t, it doesn’t matter, because this is the ultimate team sport.” Paul has been getting everybody involved and also providing consistent scoring with six double-doubles in the past eight games.

    ABOUT THE LAKERS (5-24, 10-19 ATS, 13-16 O/U):
    Bryant had been shooting the ball better over the past 10 days but was just 7-of-22 from the field in Wednesday’s contest. He is averaging 19.4 points in 12 December games while scoring in double digits 11 times and appears to have accepted that his final season will be a long one for the team. “Listen, you have to be realistic about what we’re facing and where we are right now as a team and as an organization,” Bryant said after Wednesday’s loss. “I mean, you can train a cat to bark all you want, but the damn cat’s not going to bark. So there’s no sense in yelling at it.”


    * Clippers are 0-8 ATS in their last 8 games following a ATS win.

    * Favorite is 9-3 ATS in the last 12 meetings.

    * Under is 4-1 in the last 5 meetings.

    * Over is 6-1 in Clippers last 7 vs. NBA Pacific.


    NBA Odds: Friday, December 25 2015 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
    by Alan Matthews

    I’m of the opinion that Christmas is the best day of the NBA regular season, hands down. And I also think it’s when the Association should start the season as it did during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign. That way, you are clear of the college football regular season completely and near the end of the NFL’s. And you could extend the NBA playoffs into late July, early August when the NFL training camps open. That way there’s no dead month or two in summer where it’s just baseball, golf, tennis and soccer (although this year we have the Olympics). That’s probably never going to happen, although we might be looking at labor strife again following the 2016-17 season and maybe another lockout that pushes the season back.

    The NBA again has Christmas to itself this year with no NFL, NCAA football or NHL games (there are a few blah college basketball games in Hawaii). And once again, we will be treated to some special uniforms. Some of these have been total flops. This year’s Adidas creations are pretty interesting if you haven’t seen them. No more sleeves or player nicknames. The normal tops have a classic feel with scripted team names. The uniforms include a decal on the back that’s a nod to holiday greeting cards. The socks are awesome with each team’s colors incorporating a snowflake design. The whole look is really good.

    Every game is on national TV — ABC or ESPN — and should have live betting at sportsbooks.

    Pelicans at Heat (-6, 200)

    New Orleans is finally healthy for the most part and starting to play a bit better. It beat Portland 115-89 on Wednesday for its second straight win. Anthony Davis had 28 points and 12 rebounds and the Pelicans have won consecutive games for only the second time and are 8-8 since starting 1-11. Miami lost 93-92 at home to Detroit on Tuesday, blowing an 18-point lead. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh missed jumpers in the final three seconds for Miami. Goran Dragic sat out with a wrist injury. He’s questionable for this one. New Orleans had lost five straight in the series before sweeping last year. The Pelicans did so despite Davis playing just one game and only nine minutes in that. Eric Gordon averaged a team-high 22.0 points and 7.0 assists. Wade averaged 15.0 points, 6.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds in the two.

    Key trends: New Orleans is 6-2 against the spread in its past eight vs. teams with a winning record. The Heat are 8-3 ATS in their past 11 following a loss. The “over/under” is 6-1 in the past seven meetings.

    Early lean: Heat and over.

    Bulls at Thunder (-8, 206)

    Chicago is in a bit of disarray right now and on a three-game losing streak, inexplicably losing at home to Brooklyn on Monday, 105-102. Jimmy Butler said before the game that he didn’t regret his critical comments of first-year coach Fred Hoiberg two days earlier. Hoiberg altered his starting lineup again by putting Nikola Mirotic in at small forward and benching Tony Snell, who didn’t play at all. However, Hoiberg might have to do something else now that Joakim Noah is out 2-4 weeks with a shoulder injury suffered Monday. That will open more minutes for rookie forward Bobby Portis. Oklahoma City won a third in a row Wednesday, 120-85 at the Lakers. Russell Westbrook had 23 points, eight assists and eight rebounds. The Thunder are 14-2 against Western Conference teams. The Bulls tend to play up to their competition and they beat the visiting Thunder 104-98 on Nov. 5. Derrick Rose had maybe his best game of the year with 29 points, including 10 in the final three-plus minutes. Durant had 33 for OKC and Westbrook 20 and 10 helpers.

    Key trends: The home team is 7-3 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The under is 7-0 in OKC’s past seven at home.

    Early lean: Thunder and under.

    Cavaliers at Warriors (-7, 210.5)

    This is in the coveted 5 p.m. ET slot and should draw boffo ratings — it is a shame that the Warriors weren’t unbeaten as that might have set an NBA record for a regular-season game, at least this century. Of course the Warriors beat the Cavaliers in six games in last year’s NBA Finals, but Cleveland only had All-Star guard Kyrie Irving for Game 1 and forward Kevin Love not at all. The Warriors are 7-4 in their history at home in Christmas games. Cleveland is the first Eastern Conference opponent the Warriors are facing on the holiday since New York in 1971. The Cavs won a fifth straight Wednesday, 91-84 over the Knicks. Cleveland was very sloppy — clearly looking ahead to this game as I mentioned it probably would. In his second game of the season, Irving was just 1-for-7 in 19 minutes. I thought Golden State might be caught looking ahead Wednesday too, but the Warriors blew out Utah 103-85 for their 31st straight home win. Center Andrew Bogut was questionable but did play and had 10 points and 13 rebounds. The Warriors remain +125 Bovada favorites to win the NBA title with Cleveland second at +300.

    Key trends: The Cavs are 3-13 ATS in their past 16 following an ATS loss. The over is 10-2 in Golden State’s past 12 overall.

    Early lean: Cavaliers and over.

    Spurs at Rockets (+8, 204)

    San Antonio won its seventh consecutive game Wednesday, 108-83 in Minnesota. The Spurs have scored in triple digits in all of those wins. Just can’t wait until they play the Warriors. Kawhi Leonard is a defensive monster and to see him on perhaps Steph Curry? Yes please. Alas, we have to wait until Jan. 25. Houston lost 104-101 in Orlando on Wednesday. Marcus Thornton’s 3-pointer missed at the final horn, ending Houston’s three-game winning streak. James Harden had 31 as Houston rallied from a 14-point deficit to briefly lead late. Ty Lawson returned from a two-game suspension, playing about 27 minutes and scoring 11 points. San Antonio was 3-1 vs. Houston last regular season, winning the final three. Both teams scored a total of 405 points. Harden averaged 21.5 points vs. San Antonio. Dwight Howard averaged 21.0 ppg (71.7 percent shooting) and 14.5 rpg.

    Key trends: The home team is 6-0 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 4-1 in the past five in Houston.

    Early lean: Rockets and under.

    Clippers at Lakers (+11, 207.5)

    It’s the final Christmas Day game for Kobe Bryant, so expect to be inundated with that. He holds the record for most Christmas points with 383. The Lakers are 6-11 on Christmas in the Bryant era, though he hasn’t played every time. He got last year off, for example. No way he sits here. Kobe had 19 points in Wednesday’s 35-point home loss to Oklahoma City. The Lakers’ Julius Randle did not play because of an ankle injury and Nick Young was sidelined because of gastroenteritis. The Clips lost 100-99 at home to the Thunder on Monday as Chris Paul’s potential winner was partially blocked by Kevin Durant. Only five of the Clippers’ 16 wins have come against teams currently over .500. This is the first of five straight on the road for the Clippers, although this is obviously a road game in name only (and color scheme at Staples Center). The Clippers have won seven straight over their co-tenants. And the average margin of victory in those seven is nearly 25 points per game. The Clips didn’t score fewer than 105 points in the four games last year.

    Key trends: The Clippers are 9-3 ATS in the past 12 meetings. The over is 9-1 in the past 10 when the Lakers are the home team.

    Early lean: Clippers and over.


    Inside the Paint – Christmas
    By Chris David

    The NBA takes center stage on Christmas Day with its annual holiday slate and this year’s card will be highlighted with a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals between Golden State (27-1 straight up, 18-9-1 against the spread) and Cleveland (19-7 SU, 11-15 ATS).

    Oddsmakers opened Golden State as a seven-point favorite for the holiday clash and it’s just the fourth time this season that Cleveland has been installed as an underdog. In this role, the Cavaliers have gone 1-2 SU and 2-1 ATS.

    In case you forgot, the Warriors knocked off the Cavaliers in six games of the finals and bettors should make a note that the point-spread didn’t play a factor in any of the games. You just need to pick the winner and those buying that angle again can take a shot with Cleveland on the money-line, which is hovering around 5/2 odds (Bet $100 to win $250).

    Some pundits believe the Cavalier would’ve been more competitive in last year’s championship if it wasn’t for injuries and our NBA expert Tony Mejia is buying that narrative headed into the Christmas showdown.

    He said, “Kyrie Irving’s 1-for-7 shooting night against the Knicks on Wednesday was certainly not encouraging. Although there were some flashes of brilliance in his debut on Sunday, there was none of that against New York, inspiring little confidence that he’ll be anywhere near the presence he was in Game 1 of the Finals before he fractured his kneecap.”

    “In fact, look for Iman Shumpert to be the guard that has the most impact on this contest, not Irving or Matthew Dellavedova. He’s best equipped to make life difficult on Stephen Curry and comes in off a +14 effort in the 91-84 win, the highest number for any of the Cavaliers.”

    Containing Curry and the Warriors has been next to impossible this season, especially in the Bay Area. Golden State has gone 13-0 SU and 8-5 ATS at Oracle Arena this season and face a Cleveland team that has staggered to a 6-6 SU and 5-7 ATS mark as a visitor.

    The bigger tests for the Cavaliers could come against their other weapons that no longer go unnoticed.

    Mejia explained, “While all eyes will be on the Splash Brothers, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala could steal this show as x-factors like they did in last year’s Finals. Green, who saved his best for the 2015 Finals clincher in Game 6 after struggling for much of the series, has been brilliant through this 27-1 start and absolutely tremendous of late. Over the last 12 games, he’s averaged 16.4 points, 10 rebounds and 7.5 assists while juggling roles as agitator and motivator. Curry often says he’s the heart of the team.”

    Along with Irving being healthy, the Cavaliers will have forward Kevin Love, who also missed last year’s finals with a shoulder injury.

    “With Kevin Love healthy and producing well for the Cavs, Green will have a chore he won’t have as strong a reference point for since he’s only been on the floor with LeBron and Love once. In that game, he couldn’t manage to make enough of a dent to prevent a 110-99 loss. Although Curry and Thompson combining to shoot 10-for-30 is easiest to blame, James and Love combined for 58 points and 19 rebounds,” noted Mejia.

    “Green will have to get a better grasp on how to prevent that combo from finding a comfort zone. While he won’t guard them both at the same time, he’ll see them extensively.”

    The Cavaliers have only played five games versus the West this season and they’ve gone 4-1. Golden State is 10-1 SU and 5-5-1 ATS versus the East, the lone loss coming at Milwaukee on Dec. 12.

    ABC will provide national coverage of this game at 5:05 p.m. ET.

    Along with this matchup, there are two other non-conference games that precede the headliner and they’re both nationally televised as well.

    New Orleans (9-19 SU, 11-17 ATS) at Miami (16-11 SU, 12-14 ATS) – ESPN, 12:00 p.m. ET

    The Heat opened as 5 ½-point home favorites for this early tip and it’s not an easy matchup to handicap.

    Miami has gone 12-6 SU and 8-9-1 ATS at home but its dropped two of its last three at American Airlines Arena. Meanwhile, New Orleans got off to a horrible start but it’s won and covered three of four games and Tony Mejia believes that health is the reason for the recent success.

    “Although Tyreke Evans just returned Dec. 1 from offseason knee surgery, Wednesday’s 115-89 win over Portland means the Pelicans have won more games (5) the 11 times he’s been active than they managed to during a dreadful 4-13 start, said Mejia. “Over the past two games, both wins, he’s averaged 22.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 9.5 assists. He’s a tough matchup for Dwyane Wade because of his physical frame too. The Heat legend can’t push him and the stocky Eric Gordon around like he does others.”

    While Wade is definitely on the back nine in his career, he’s thrived on Christmas with the Heat. Miami are 9-2 as a franchise when playing on the holiday and Wade is 9-1 in 10 games. They’ve won six straight on X-Mas, which includes last year’s 101-91 victory against LeBron and the Cavaliers.

    New Orleans have won and covered three straight against Miami, which includes a season sweep last year. Both games were played six days apart and the Pelicans scored 104 and 105 in the two victories, helping the ‘over’ cash in each contest.

    Miami has gone 8-1 SU and 5-3-1 ATS versus the West this season and the lone loss came in a mid-November collapse to Minnesota at home. While the Heat have thrived in non-conference games, New Orleans has struggled mightily versus the East. The Pelicans are 2-7 both SU and ATS and that includes a 0-4 road mark. As visitors in non-conference games, New Orleans is only averaging 90 PPG, which has led to four easy ‘under’ tickets.

    Total bettors are looking at a number of 200 in this game and that seems high considering the Heat have been a great ‘under’ bet at 18-9 (67%) this season. Make a note that Miami is 8-1 this season when they score 100 or more points.

    There are a handful of players listed as ‘questionable’ for this game, including a pair of Miami guards in Goran Dragic (thumb) and Tyler Johnson (shoulder).

    Chicago (15-11 SU, 9-17 ATS) at Oklahoma City (20-9 SU, 13-16 ATS) – ABC, 2:35 p.m. ET

    Outside of the Clippers-Lakers matchup, this game looks like the biggest mismatch on Friday. Oklahoma City opened as an 8 ½-point favorite and the line has been pushed up to -9 at most shops and deservingly so.

    The Thunder have been on fire, winners in nine of their last 10 and they’re a respectable 6-4 ATS during this span. On the other side of the court, the Bulls have dropped three straight games and the team has failed to grasp the new offense installed by rookie head coach Fred Hoiberg.

    Plus, Derrick Rose can’t buy a shot (37%) this season and second-year player Nikola Mirotic is having a serious sophomore slump. The Bulls did defeat the Thunder 104-98 on Nov. 5 as one-point home favorites and Rose actually dropped in 29 points in the victory.

    Still, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Oklahoma City has won five straight (4-1 ATS) against Chicago at Chesapeake Energy Arena and four of the five wins were by double digits, the other came by nine points.

    Chicago has gone 8-3 SU and 6-5 ATS against the West but they only played two of those games on the road and went 1-1. Total bettors should make a note the Bulls have seen the ‘under’ go 10-1 in these games. The Thunder have been mediocre versus the East this season, going 6-7 SU and 4-9 ATS but they have won their last three non-conference battles at home and all of the wins were by double digits.

    The Bulls won’t have Joakim Noah (shoulder) available for Friday.


    The gift of Christmas Day NBA Betting Trends
    By Marc Lawrence

    With presents stacked under the Christmas tree, here’s my gift to you, for all NBA fans to see. With the Cavs and Warriors taking off in flight, a Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!


    Here’s a breakdown of the 10 teams playing on Christmas Day this season and how they’ve performed in games played on Dec. 25 since 1990:

    • Chicago Bulls:
    9-2 SU and 7-4 ATS and 3-7-1 O/U
    Trending: 1-5-1 UNDER last seven games

    • Cleveland Cavaliers:
    3-2 SU and 2-3 ATS and 1-4 O/U
    0-4 UNDER last four games

    • Golden State Warriors:

    2-2 SU and 1-3 ATS and 2-2 O/U
    Trending: the favorite in Warriors games is 4-0 SU

    • Houston Rockets:
    3-3 SU and 5-1 ATS and 2-2-2 ATS O/U
    Trending: 5-0 ATS last five games

    • L.A. Clippers:
    3-4 SU and 4-3 ATS and 3-4 O/U
    0-6-1 UNDER last seven games

    • L.A. Lakers:
    7-11 SU and 10-7-1 ATS and 5-11-2 O/U
    Trending: 5-0 ATS last five as a dog

    • Miami Heat:
    9-2 SU and 6-5 ATS and 2-9 O/U
    Trending: 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS last six games

    • New Orleans Pelicans:
    0-1 SU and 0-1 ATS and 0-1 O/U
    Trending: not enough games to assess

    • Oklahoma City Thunder:
    4-3 SU and 4-3 ATS and 3-4 O/U
    Trending: 2-0 SUATS home Xmas games

    • San Antonio Spurs:
    3-4 SU and 3-3-1 ATS and 2-5 O/U
    Trending: the dog is 3-0 SU and ATS last three Spurs/Xmas games


    Most recent noteworthy team trends wrapped inside each Christmas Day game…

    • Bulls:
    3-1 SU and ATS as non-conference dogs, but 1-4 SU and 0-5 ATS on Fridays this season.

    • Cavs:
    LeBron James is 7-2 SU on Christmas Day, including 5-0 SU and 4-0-1 ATS vs. non-conference opponents; and 5-1 SU on Fridays this season.

    • Clippers:
    11-1 SU and 9-3 ATS vs. the Lakers, and 5-1 SU and 4-1-1 ATS off 3 losses-exact.

    • Heat:
    6-0 SU and 4-1-1 ATS home off a loss this season; and 16-6 ATS home off a SU home favorite loss.

    • Lakers:
    1-14 SU and 2-13 ATS vs. conference foes this season; and 2-7 SU and ATS in Fridays. (*note: add Wednesday result vs. the Thunder)

    • Pelicans:
    14-4-1 ATS vs. Miami; but 3-10 SU and 2-11 ATS away on Fridays.

    • Rockets:
    4-0 SU and ATS last 4 home games off an away; and 8-2 ATS vs. Spurs.

    • Spurs:
    14-2 SU and 11-4-1 ATS on Fridays; and 16-2 SU and 14-4 ATS vs. sub .545 opponents this season. (*note: add Wednesday result vs. the Timberwolves)

    • Thunder:
    1-7 ATS after facing the Lakers; and 2-4 ATS vs. foe off SU favorite loss this season.

    • Warriors:
    12-0 SU and 10-2 ATS home on Fridays; but 8-14-1 ATS off a win vs. non-conference opponents.


    Christmas Day has not been a gifting experience for NBA’s defending champions.

    That’s confirmed by their lousy 1-6 SU and 0-7 ATS mark since 2000 when facing an opponent playing with one-day rest exact.

    The Cavs hope to add to that number when they visit the reigning champion Warriors at Oracle Arena Friday.


    Non-conference games certainly bring the best defensive effort out in teams on Christmas Day.

    Only 4 of the nineteen games played on Dec. 25 involving Eastern and Western Conference foes have managed to top the total, bringing the tally to 2-14-1 UNDER in these games since 1991.


    Since 2000 teams on Christmas Day playing off back-to-back SU and ATS losses (Chicago Bulls), the last as a favorite, are 8-0 SU and ATS.

    Now, who said Santa Claus isn’t real?


    Christmas Night Tip Sheet
    By Kevin Rogers

    Spurs (-6 ½, 200 ½) at Rockets – 8:00 PM EST

    The biggest story through the first two months of the NBA season has been the Golden State Warriors, who have lost just once in 28 games. However, the Spurs (25-5 SU, 21-9 ATS) are right behind the Warriors in the Western Conference not only in the record department, but also winning in dominating fashion. San Antonio owns a +13.6 point differential, which is one-tenth of a point better than Golden State, while winning 11 of its past 12 games (nine victories by double-digits).

    During this current seven-game winning streak, Gregg Popovich’s club has covered in all seven contests, although only two of those victories came away from the AT&T Center. The most recent triumph came on Wednesday at Minnesota as 11-point favorites in a 108-83 blowout of the Timberwolves, in spite of receiving only two points from Tim Duncan in 24 minutes. San Antonio’s defense has stepped up this season, allowing less than 100 points in 16 of the past 18 games, even though that has resulted in only 10 ‘unders.’

    The Rockets (15-15 SU, 12-18 ATS) fell back to the .500 mark after losing at Orlando on Wednesday, 104-101 to snap a three-game winning streak. Houston shot 49% from the floor, led by James Harden’s 31 points, but Orlando knocked down 52% of its shots to hand the Rockets their third loss in their last four road contests. The totals keep dropping for the Rockets of late, going from 221 ½ at Sacramento on December 15 all the way down to 207 at Orlando in a five-game span, with all five contests going ‘under’ the total.

    Handicapper Antony Dinero feels one of the big factors in this contest is how the Spurs are going to handle Hack-a-Howard with Rockets’ center Dwight Howard, “Since Howard’s career free-throw percentage against the Spurs (.543) is tied for the third-lowest among all 32 NBA teams he’s faced, it appears to get to him. Popovich sent him to the line 25 times in a Jan. ’14 game and 13 times once last season, albeit both in losses. At .514 percent, he’s currently sporting the third-worst clip of his career. This is a guy that shot It 67 percent as a 19-year-old rookie. It gets to him. Howard has shot it .458 thus far in December and has shot 7-for-21 (33 pct) in the last three games.

    These two Texas rivals are meeting for the first time this season as the Spurs won three of four matchups last season. The Rockets have covered six of the last eight meetings dating back to the start of the 2013-14 season, while Houston has won four of the past five matchups with San Antonio at the Toyota Center.

    Clippers (-11 ½, 207) at Lakers – 10:35 PM EST

    The battle of Los Angeles closes out the Christmas card as the Clippers (16-13 SU, 10-16-3 ATS) look to end a three-game losing streak. Doc Rivers’ squad lost in the final seconds to the Thunder on Monday night, 100-99, as the Clippers have allowed at least 100 points in five of the past six contests. The Clips begin a five-game road trip (although technically they’ll be playing in their home building on Friday), as they have lost their last two away games at San Antonio and Houston.

    The Lakers (5-24 SU, 10-19 ATS) should be happy not to see the Thunder anytime soon, as Los Angeles lost to Oklahoma City for the second time in a week by at least 35 points. In the first matchup last Saturday at OKC, the Lakers lost by 40 points to the Thunder with Kobe Bryant sitting out. Bryant played on Wednesday night in the rematch at Staples Center, but the Lakers fell behind early and were trounced in a 120-85 setback as 14-point underdogs. Los Angeles was held to 36% shooting from the floor, while Bryant shot just 7-of-22 from the floor for a team-high 19 points. Byron Scott’s team fell to 0-5 SU and 1-4 ATS off a victory this season, failing to capitalize off Tuesday’s comeback win at Denver.

    The Clippers have won seven straight meetings with the Lakers, including pulling off a four-game sweep last season. The Lakers managed to record a 2-2 ATS mark against the Clippers, as the Purple and Gold was listed as a double-digit underdog in all four games. Since 2004, the Lakers own a 3-8 SU and 6-5 ATS record on Christmas Day, although Bryant sat out last season’s Christmas blowout loss at Chicago.

    Dinero notes that Bryant will be playing for the third time in four nights, which will be tough for the future Hall of Famer, “The Lakers can’t beat anyone if he’s ineffective because the rest of his team is either raw and young or old and marginal, so Bryant playing for a third time in four nights doesn’t inspire much confidence. To be fair, he did play well in a fourth-game-in-five-nights situation when L.A. won in Washington on Dec. 2, but that was an anomaly. In his third-in-four-nights situations, which he avoided all of November, the Lakers are 0-4, including losses to the 76ers and Timberwolves.”



    Hot teams
    — Pelicans won three of last four games (6-10AU). Miami won four of its last six (1-4 last five HF).
    — Thunder won nine of their last ten games (4-2 last six HF).
    — Cleveland won its last six games (2-0AU). 27-1 Warriors are 4-2-1 vs spread in last seven games.
    — Spurs won their last seven games (6-0-1 last seven AF). Rockets won three of their last four games (3-1HU).

    Cold teams
    — Bulls lost their last three games (2-3AU).
    — Clippers lost their last three games (8-12-1F). Lakers lost seven of their last nine games (3-5HU).

    Series records
    — Pelicans won last three games with Miami.
    — Thunder won six of their last eight games.
    — Cavaliers lost their last three games with Golden State.
    — Spurs won last three games with Houston by 4-12-1 points.
    — Clippers won last seven games with the Lakers (5-2 vs spread).

    — Last three Miami games went over the total.
    — Four of last five Chicago games went over; seven of last eight Thunder games stayed under.
    — Four of last five Cleveland games stayed under.
    — Last five Houston games stayed under the total.
    — Four of last five Laker-Clipper games stayed under total.

    — None


    StatFox Super Situations™ – FoxSheets

    Play Over – Any team in a game involving 2 up-tempo teams (>=82 shots/game), in a game involving two poor rebounding teams (-3 to -5.5 reb/game)
    46-18 over the last 5 seasons. ( 71.9% | 26.2 units )
    4-8 this year. ( 33.3% | -4.8 units )

    Play On – Any team vs the money line (HOUSTON) an excellent offensive team (>=102 PPG) against a good defensive team (88-92 PPG), after scoring 100 points or more 2 straight games
    41-24 over the last 5 seasons. ( 63.1% | 27.3 units )
    2-7 this year. ( 22.2% | -2.5 units )

    Play Under – All teams where the first half total is 100.5 to 105 good shooting team (45.5-47.5%) against an poor defensive team (45.5-47.5%), good ball handling team (<=14.5 TO's) against a poor pressure defensive team (<=14.5 TO's) 70-33 over the last 5 seasons. ( 68.0% | 33.7 units )



    100* Heat -5.5

    100* Lakers +11.5



    Basketball Crusher
    New Orleans Pelicans +5
    over Miami Heat
    (System Record: 28-1, won last 3 games and a push)
    Overall Record: 28-26-2

    Cleveland Cavaliers + Golden State Warriors – OVER 209.5

    San Antonio Spurs + Houston Rockets – OVER 201

    Oklahoma City Thunder -9 over Chicago Bulls



    25* Cleveland Cavaliers +7

    20* Under 205.5 – Chicago / Oklahoma City

    15* New Orleans Pelicans +6

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