Pick 'n' roll: Monday's best NBA bets

Mar 10, 2008 |

Denver at San Antonio (-7, 204)

 

The Spurs (43-19), owners of the fourth-best home record in the NBA at 26-5, lead the Southwest by one game over red-hot Houston and New Orleans. The Rockets are going for their 19th consecutive win against New Jersey - losers of five straight - on Monday, while the Hornets are idle.

 

San Antonio will try to avoid matching a season-high three-game slide after falling 94-87 at Phoenix on Sunday. The Spurs squandered a five-point lead with 3:40 to play.

 

"I had two turnovers and two missed layups down the stretch," said the Spurs' Tim Duncan, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds. "We're up five with three-something left-a situation where we usually play a lot better than that."

 

Sunday's defeat came two nights after a 109-96 loss at Denver (37-25), which ended San Antonio's 11-game run. The Spurs have dropped two of three to the Nuggets this season, and have not lost a season series to them since 1987-88.

 

San Antonio, which is seeking a sixth consecutive win at the AT&T Center, has alternated wins with Denver in the last six home meetings, including a 102-91 victory on Dec. 15.

 

The Spurs hope Manu Ginobili, the team-leader with 20.7 points per game, can help snap that trend. He had 22 points Sunday after putting up 24 against the Nuggets. The guard is also averaging 25.8 points on 52.6 percent shooting (110-for-209) over the last 13 games.

 

The Nuggets, losers of five of their last six road games, are looking to close the two-game gap on idle Golden State for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference after losing 132-105 at Utah on Saturday.

 

Pick: Spurs

 

Boston at Philadelphia (+6, 195)

 

Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce have been leading Boston (49-12) through a special season. The Celtics have already clinched their first playoff berth since 2005, and after going 24-58 last season, is in position for its first 50-win season since 1991-92 (51-31).

 

The Celtics cruised to their eighth straight win, 119-89 over Memphis on Saturday. Allen scored 23 points, Pierce added 19 and Garnett chipped in with 17 and became the 32nd player in NBA history with 20,000 career points.

 

"It's a bit more meaningful being a Celtic when it happened and it seems like things are lining up for something more beautiful, like a championship," said Garnett, who never won a NBA title in 12 seasons with Minnesota.

 

Boston's defense has tightened up recently, holding opponents to an average of 89.0 points in its last three road games after allowing 109.3 in the previous three. The Celtics have won three straight road games by an average of 22.7 points since dropping a season-high three straight on the road, and their offense has been red-hot against the 76ers this season.

 

In its 113-103 win at Philadelphia on Dec. 5, Boston shot 52.6 percent from the field and made 10-of-22 3-pointers. In their 116-89 home win on Jan. 18, the Celtics shot 58.9 percent and connected on 14-of-22 shots from beyond the arc.

 

Pierce has 41 points and 15 assists in two games against the Sixers this season, while Allen has scored 35 points on 7-of-15 shooting from 3-point range in those contests. Garnett is averaging 16.5 points and 6.5 boards in the two games versus Philadelphia.

 

Boston has not won two games in Philadelphia in a single season since 1995-96.

 

The Sixers have playing at an extremely high level at the Wachovia Center lately, though, winning their last eight home games by an average of 18.9 points since a 108-106 loss to Southeast Division-leading Orlando on Feb. 1.

 

Philadelphia has not won nine straight home games since opening the 2002-03 season with 10 straight wins there.

 

Pick: 76ers

 

Portland at Cleveland (-6, 191 ½)

 

With a flare for late-game heroics and having led the Cleveland Cavaliers to one of the best records in the Eastern Conference, LeBron James is a favorite to win the MVP award this season.

 

On Saturday, James scored 18 points in the third quarter as Cleveland extended its lead to 21. The 2008 All-Star game MVP finished with 38 points and 11 rebounds, and went 5-of-8 from 3-point range.

 

"The first five minutes in the third quarter is key, so I wanted to try to make sure we came out aggressive," James said. "I came out aggressive and started knocking down shots. Once I get into a zone like that, it's tough to try to stop me from what I want to do."

 

The 23-year-old superstar has been in that zone throughout his team's four March games. James is averaging 41.0 points - 10.1 better than his league-best scoring average - and has gone 14-of-34 (41.2 percent) from beyond the arc this month.

 

"He's been making them lately from all angles and all ranges,'' said forward Joe Smith, acquired by Cleveland just before the trade deadline. "I'm still getting used to it because you just don't see it. I just stand there and say, 'Wow.'''

 

Smith was not with the Cavs for James' last performance against Portland (33-30), but he almost certainly would have had a similar reaction.

 

In Cleveland's 84-83 win over the Trail Blazers on Jan. 30, James scored 17 points in the fourth quarter - two more than the entire Portland team - and his reverse layup with 0.9 seconds left gave the Cavs the win. He finished with 37 points and 14 rebounds.

 

Pick: Cavaliers

 

Check out yesterday's Pick 'n' Roll here.

With files from Associated Press.

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