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Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, January 4

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Matt FargoFOR  FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Houston vs. South FloridaFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: South FloridaFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Houston is playing its first game since pulling off a huge upset at home to close 2013 as it defeated Connecticut by four points as an 8.5-point underdog. It was the second straight win for Houston, both coming at home, and the Cougars hit the road for just the fourth time this season where they are 1-2. The most impressive part is that they upset the Huskies without two backcourt starters as L.J. Rose and Danuel House were both out and no timetable is set for their return. South Florida is coming off a loss against Memphis as it fell by 15 points in its AAC opener. That snapped a three-game home winning streak which included a very impressive win over Alabama and after the Tigers debacle, I expect the Bulls to make a statement here, especially with a trip to Temple on deck. Houston is 0-6 ATS in its last six January road games and if ever there was a letdown situation, this is it.

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Jesse Schule
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Columbus vs. St. Louis
Pick: Under
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The Blue Jackets are expecting Sergei #Bobrovsky to be back between the pipes as they take on the #Blues in St. Louis on Saturday. Bobrovsky is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner as the league's most valuable goaltender.
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It's been a difficult season so far for Bobrovsky, and he's still looking to get back to where he was a year ago. He'll be fortunate enough not to have to face Alex Steen and David Backes, who are #1 and #2 in scoring for the Blues. That dynamic duo has combined for 40 goals and 68 points so far this season, and that's a lot of offense to be missing.
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Seven of the last 10 meetings between these two teams have yielded five goals or less. Both teams are coming off shutout victories in their last games.
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Brian Elliot was between the pipes for the Blues, making 30 saves for his third clean sheet of the season. He's now 6-0-1 with a 1.40 GAA in his last seven starts. He's also 5-0-1 with a 1.97 GAA in his last six meetings with the Blue Jackets.
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I think these teams will struggle to put pucks in the net, with the Blues missing all that firepower in a dual that features a pair of elite goaltenders.

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PlayersbetFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Houston / VanderbiltFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Under 53FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Vanderbilt played its most impressive football of the season down the stretch, especially defensively, but playing with its backup quarterback against the nation’s premier ball-hawking defense is a recipe for disaster.

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Carlos Salazar

New Orleans at Philadelphia
Play: Over 535

Carlos see this one going over the total as both teams will have big days throwing the ball. The temperature will be below 30 but winds should be on the lite side. Look for a fast paced game from both teams.

Carlos Salazar's Featured Package

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Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis ColtsFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Prediction: Kansas City ChiefsFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The simulator shows a high probability that the Chiefs will win this game and advance to the Divisional Championship set to start at 4:35 PM ET. Supporting this graded play is a proven system posting a 37-13 mark for 74% winners since 1983. Play on any team (KANSAS CITY) revenging a loss where team scored less than 9 points and off an extremely close loss by 3 points or less to a division rival. Here is a second system that has gone 30-9 ATS for 77% winners since 2002. Play on road teams where the line is +3 to -3 (KANSAS CITY) after 2 consecutive games where they forced 1 or less turnovers and is now facing an opponent after a game where they committed no turnovers. Remember always that my supporting cast of metrics, hard facts, matchup analyses, and technical systems/game situations, serve only to reinforce the grading from the SIM. These must be supportive though and not in direct contrast to the SIM projections. Jamaal Charles is by far the best remaining RB in the AFC playoff picture with only Philadelphia's McCoy ranking higher in my metric ratings. LB Houston returns to the defense that played extremely well when he was in the lineup. I really like the power and elusive running game that Charles and the OL bring to this game. The Chiefs OL ranks second in OL run blocking efficiency and have produced an adjusted RB quotient of 4.35 yards-per-carry. The Chiefs have been successful running the ball off of either tackle, but have been very successful running to the right. They rank 4th best in the NFL averaging 4.35 yards-per-carry versus an NFL average of 3.60 YPC. Now, the Colts defensive front ranks 28th in run stoppage and 26th at the second level. The Colts are strong ranking 7th attacking the passer with 41 sacks and adjust sack percentage of 8.0%, but the strong running game of the Chiefs will all, but eliminate the pass rush by the Colts.

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Carolina Sports

Georgia Tech vs. Maryland    
Play: Maryland -8½

G Tech is 0-8 ATS in road games after playing 2 consecutive games as a road underdog since 1997. Maryland is 35-16 ATS in home games after having won 4 of their last 5 games since 1997. Michael Blake has Maryland -11 in his ratings. Take Maryland today.

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Doug Upstone

Colorado State vs. New Mexico    
Play: Colorado State +12

Though they haven't faced the level of competition New Mexico has, the Rams have a slightly higher scoring differential over their opponents than New Mexico does, roughly a third of the way into the season. Even with that, they have been a bit disappointing as expectations are higher for this team. This game should tell a lot for Colorado State, whether they can compete near the top of the powerful Mountain West conference. Take the 12 points. Good luck.


DePaul vs. Marquette    
Play: DePaul +11½

On Saturday, Play On underdogs of 10 to 19.5 points like DePaul, after going under the total by more than 18 points in two consecutive games. The thinking here is teams like the Blue Demons are thought to get back to normal scoring-wise and are of value as a double digit underdog. This free college hoops play is a sensational 29-5 ATS the past five years and the average score differential is 7.8 points a game.

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John Wilson

Houston vs. Vanderbilt    
Play: Houston +2½

Vanderbilt is still a favorite with the oddsmaker despite losing QB Austyn Carta-Samuels, leaving them with Patton Robinette, a player with a 10% lower completion percentage who gets sacked twice as often and intercepted at a higher rate. We had a tight race going in without even considering the QB change, and that pretty much clinches it for us.

Neither offense seems like it has its shit together right now. Neither team can run the ball well, and the defenses are good against the pass. But Vanderbilt has quarterback issues, and that probably docks them about a touchdown at least.

The yardage estimate started with Vandy ahead by 3 but in the end they were down by 7. And that has no adjustment for missing a senior quarterback and replacing him with a freshman. Our power rating doesn't call it an upset, but I guess it counts; we take Houston to win.

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Dave Price

New Orleans Pelicans +11

This line is an overreaction to Ryan Anderson's injury. New Orleans still has a competitive team without Anderson on the floor with the likes of Al-Farouq Aminu, Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. The Pelicans played last night, but they have two days off following this game so they will go after it with all they've got in an attempt to reach the .500 mark. The Pacers are rested and will be hungry to get back in the win column after getting upset at Toronto in their last game, but these things have also been factored in to them being overvalued. New Orleans has played the Pacers tough. It played them to a five-point game in the season's previous meeting. It has played them to within eight points in each of the last three meetings and has won or lost by fewer than 11 points in 11 of the last 12 meetings. The Pelicans are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 versus Eastern Conference foes and 5-2 ATS in their last 7 meetings at Indiana. Take the points.

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New Orleans Saints vs. Philadelphia EaglesSERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Philadelphia Eagles -2.5FOR REE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Saints are 0-6 ATS on the road. It will be windy and cold in Philly so expect Drew Brees to struggle against the Eagles defense. LeSean McCoy the NFL's leading rusher will run wild on the Saints defense and Nick Foles who only had 2 INT's all year will get his first playoff victory on Sunday.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, January 4

Andre Gomes
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Chiefs / Colts Under 46
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I expect this contest to be a low scoring game due to the nature of both team's offensive mindsets and their improved defenses going to today's matchup.
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It's no secret that KC will try to establish their running game w/ Jamal Charles and control the flow of the game w/ Alex Smith. Meanwhile, the Colts are also a run-heavy oriented team, although lately they are more a pass-control offensive team. Both teams simply don't want to commit Turnovers and they were great during the regular season in this department w/ IND ranked #1 w/ 0.88 TO/game while IND was #2 w/ 1.12 TO/game.
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The h2h between these two teams a couple of weeks ago was exactly decided in the TO battle, because the Colts played a free game, while KC committed a season high 4 TO's that prevented them to control the clock (only 21:40 vs. 38:20 from IND) and naturally they lost the game.
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After some bizarre and humiliating losses against inferior level teams, the Colts played better down the stretch and it was their defense the main catalyst for such improved play as they have allowed only 3, 7 and 10 pts L3 games.
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KC defense had a natural letdown in the last weeks as their competition got stronger, but I it's impossible to ignore the fact that two of their best defensive players Tamba Hali and Justin Houston got injured. The good news is that both will play today and so, we can expect a KC improved defense on the field that had basically two weeks to prepare for today's game.
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With two offenses focused in not committing TO's and manage the game & two improved defenses, I feel that we are dealing w/ an inflated totals line and that's why I'm taking the Under in here.

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Bryan LeonardFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Arkansas -30FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Sometimes the lines maker simply cannot make a number high enough. That's the case here as the Roadrunners are about to get crushed. Ranked near the bottom on Division 1 basketball this team has only beaten the likes of Texas A&M Community College, Huston-Tillotson, Texas-Pan American and Cameron. The Roadrunners are allowing over 80 points per game against a very questionable schedule.
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Arkansas has already shown the ability to annihilate the opposition. Wins by 34, 46, 29, 46 and 41 points. The only reason this wasn't included in our Saturday paid package is that Texas A&M is on the schedule in four days. The Razorbacks average just shy of 86 points per game. They could put up 120 if Arkansas doesn't go deep on the bench.

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Wunderdog

Kansas City at Indianapolis
Pick: Kansas City +1

I think the wrong team is favored here. The way the line has moved, it seems some agree. Indianapolis has not looked like the same team that ran the table on arguably the best teams in the NFL early in the season. Early on, the Colts beat Seattle, San Franciscoand Denver over the course of a five week span. But, let's not forget that they also lost to Miami, San Diego, St. Louis, Arizona and Cincinnati. And, those big wins were with Reggie Wayne in the lineup. While the Colts have won their last three games, this team is not built for the playoffs. They don't run the ball well and without Reggie Wayne, this offense isn't the same. 26.7 After Wayne went down, this offense lost 4 points per game. Last year Indy went 11-5 despite being outgained by opponents on the season. That caught up with them as soon as the playoffs started as they lost their opening playoff game 24-7. Kansas City won just two games a year ago. This season they put their first nine in the win column, but finished just 2-5 and looks now to be a fading team. But, this team is the better team on the field today. Their offense is better and their defense is better and they have the better coach. And, they are healthy and rested with many starters taking last Sunday off. The big difference here is Jamaal Charles and the Chiefs' running attack. Teams that can run the ball well are generally good bets in the playoffs, and Kansas City generates 4.66 yards per carry. Remember, Charles went for 106 yards and a TD on just 16 carries in the loss to Indianapolis earlier this season. And because the Chiefs were behind, he did not get utilized as much as he will in this one. But the Chiefs lost to Indianapolis just a few weeks ago you say? KC didn't have Justin Houston for that game. He is an elite pass rusher and hasn't played since week 12, so the Chiefs will instantly become better defensively. Revenging playoff teams are good bets. But this game is on the road you say? The Chiefs are 7-1 ATS on the road this season and Andy Reid teams are 78-49 ATS on the road including 42-23 ATS as a road underdog. Oh yeah - Reid-led teams are also 27-10 ATS on the road revenging a loss. Take Kansas City.

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Jeff Scott

3 UNIT PLAY

Kansas City/Indianapolis Over 46: These teams met just 2 weeks ago and neither team seemed to how too much on off for fear of meeting in the playoffs and just 30 points were scored in that game. That is now how these teams really played down the stretch. The Chiefs really opened up their offense down the stretch and their defense struggled as 5 of their last 6 games all put up 51 points or more, with the only game that didn't being that Indy game. The Colts defense has been solid down the stretch, but their last 3 games vs vs Jacksonville, and Houston, plus that KC game where the Chiefs just shut it down after their first score. The Chiefs defense was very good during their 9-0 start, but in their last 7 games they have allowed 27.1 ppg, while their offense has exploded down the stretch, putting up 23 or more in 7 of their last 9 games, while averaging a healthy 33 ppg in their last 6 games. The Colts offense has been solid this year and they average 24.9 ppg at home, and they have averaged 25.6 ppg in their last 5 games overall. This game will have no weather factors as they are playing indoors and that will help the offenses put up enough points vs these struggling defenses to get the Over here. I expect a 27-24 type final.

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Kansas City/Indianapolis Over 46FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Don’t be fooled by the game between these two teams in the regular season, played just two weeks ago. Indy prevailed 23-7 as a 7-point underdog, but as we pointed out here on the Free Pick page on that day when we released the “under,” both teams knew it was more than likely they would be squaring off in the Wildcard Round of the playoffs and neither team wanted to show anything on offense. The result was a vanilla game plan from both teams and low scoring game. Look for the offenses to open it up a bit today. In fact, KC has basically tanked the last weeks, playing mostly back-ups last week against San Diego, but in the four games prior to that it averaged 41 points per game. KC averages 30 points per game on the road and Indy has put up an average of 25 ppg at home this year. Look for both teams to hit right around their average as this one sails over the total.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, January 4

Jeff Scott Sports

3 UNIT PLAY

Houston/Vanderbilt Under 53: Vanderbilt is not a high octane offense and they have dealt with injuries down the stretch and thus have really struggled on offense scoring just 19.7 ppg in their last 3 games. The 3 defenses they faced in those three games? Wake Forest, Kentucky and Tennessee. Not very good defenses for sure. Now they get to face a defense that played very well this year, especially down the stretch, where they allowed just 16.7 ppg in their last 6 games. That stretch included allowing zero points to SMU, 20 to Louisville and 19 to UCF, which are all high powered offenses.   Overall this Houston defense is bend but don't break as they are 85th in yards allowed (420 ypg), but 12th in points allowed (20.2 ppg). The Vandy defense has really been solid overall this year, allowing just 352.3 ypg and 24.7 ppg, while ranking 21st in the nation vs the pass (204.3 ypg), but even more impressive has been their last 3 games of the year, where they have allowed just 255 ypg overall, 109.3 ypg through the air and 12.3 ppg. Now when people think of Houston they think offense, but this team was really stymied down the stretch, averaging just 279.3 ypg and 21.3 ppg in their final 3 games. The defenses have had extra prep time and with the long layoff that should lead to rust on offense. Both defenses have been very good this year, while the offenses have slumped of late and that should lead to a game in the low 40's at best.

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Drake at BradleyFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Drake -4.5FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Bradley comes into this contest as one of the worst money burners in college hoops thus far with a 1-9-1 ATS mark. They have dropped seven straight games SU and ATS as they continue to struggle to put the ball in the basket (36.5% from the field in those seven losses). Head coach Geno Ford went so far as to cancel on court practice yesterday because he was “tired of looking at guys make shots in practice that miss them in games.”
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Bradley may have hit rock bottom in their last game, a conference opening 80-46 loss at Northern Iowa. They now face a Drake team that has gotten off to a nice 10-3 start and has covered in 8 of its 11 lined games. Drake lost guard Gary Ricks Jr., (12.3 ppg) to a broken foot on December 7 but has rallied to go 4-1 SU without him. They are coming off their best game of the year; a 94-66 trouncing of Evansville at home. The Bulldogs have been able to make shots, as they hit 40.5% from the three-point line and 45.5% overall. Drake has also shown that it can win on the road with three true road wins and two more on neutral courts. They are 6-1 ATS in games away from home and have quality losses at Iowa and St. Mary’s.
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Bradley has no quality wins and several bad losses to teams much worse than Drake. No reason to stop fading the Braves until they can show they are able to turn it around on the offensive end.

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Oklahoma State at Kansas StateSERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Oklahoma State is 12-1 and ranked but it hasn't been a very good week for the Cowboys. Their big man in the paint tore his achilles and the back point guard was suspended after a problem with the law. Bruce Weber has righted the ship in Manhattan winning eight straight wins (including over Gonzaga) after a 2-3 start. The Wildcats pay great perimeter defense holding opponent to 26% from beyond the arc. Marcus Smart is a great player for Okie State but he can't do it all by himself. K State improves series run to 5-1 with a straight up home win here.

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Larry Ness
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San Diego at BYU
Prediction: BYU
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BYU returns home to the friendly confines of the Marriott Center after four straight road games, all of which resulted in losses. BYU was beaten badly at Utah on Dec 14 and then a week later (Dec 21), lost a great opportunity to hand the Ducks their first loss of the season, but fell in OT, 100-96. That loss seemed to deflate the Cougars more than just a little, as they lost at Loyola-Marymount and Pepperdine (each time as a road favorite), to open the WCC season at 0-2.
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Dave Rose is in his 9th season at Provo and the Cougars, who opened 8-3, now sit at 8-7. The loss inside of Brandon Davies (17.7-8.0) has been a tough blow. Two big freshman had high expectations but only the 6-10 Mika has met those expectations, averaging 13.9 & 6.6. The 6-9 Worthington has been useless. That said, 6-11 junior Nate Austin has been capable, averaging 4.2 & 8.2. A huge addition to this year's team has been 6-6 swingman Kyle Collingsworth, who returned from a two-year mission. He averaged 5.8-5.1 as a freshman when he made 27 starts. He?s been excellent so far for BYU, averaging 13.1-8.3-5.3.
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BYU's backcourt is terrific, led by Haws and Carlino. Haws averaged 29.5 & 10.5 in BYU?s 1st two wins, then missed the next two with a an abdominal strain. He hasn?t missed a game since and leads the team in scoring at 22.0 PPG (also 5.1 RPG). Carlino averaged 18.0 PPG with 8.0 APG in four NIT games last year, and has opened this season averaging 15.1-4.9-4.5. Three other guards are making contributions as well, in Bartley (7.0), Halford (6.9) and Winder (5.9).
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This game is "gut check time," as BYU is in desperate need of a victory and playing its first home game since December 11th. San Diego has also opened up 0-2 in the WCC, as it also lost at Pepperdine and Loyola-Marymount. San Diego owns a very nice guard trio in Dee (18.9), Sanadze (12.6) and Anderson (10.5-4.1-6.6) but the 6-11 Kramer (11.2-7.3) is the lone big man of note.
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The Toreros rank last in the conference in scoring offense (69.9 PPG) and offensive efficiency, but are first in the league in scoring defense (62.0 PPG). The trouble for San Diego here is, the Toreros will need to match the high-scoring Cougars, who should be in a very determined an angry mood, coming off FOUR straight losses, playing at home for the first time in almost a month and looking to avenge a 72-69 OT loss to San Diego in last year's WCC tourney.
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San Diego is in the WRONG place at the WRONG time. Lay the points.

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Steve Janus

Chicago Bulls -4½

For the same reasons I took the Hawks last night against the Warriors, I'm backing the Bulls at home as a small favorite. Atlanta laid it all on the line against Golden State at home on Friday and I just don't see them coming out with the intensity needed in a back-to-back set to cover on the road against Chicago. The Bulls have won 4 of 6 overall and are a solid 5-2 ATS in their last 7.

Atlanta is just 6-10 on the road this season and have had little success in recent visits to the United Center. Chicago has 24 of the last 37 meetings overall and each of the last three home games vs the Hawks over the last three seasons. Adding to this is the fact that Atlanta is 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games played on Saturday and 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games played on 0 days of rest.

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