Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

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Manhattan vs. LouisvilleFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Under 143FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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This total gets the call as our Complimentary Total Selection of the Day for Thursday as Manhattan and Louisville face off in Orlando. For Manhattan they will want to try and control the pace of this contest and slow the game down so they have a much better chance of staying in the game. The Jaspers are 0-4 Under versus teams that allow sixty-four or fewer points after fifteen or more games have been played and 5-11 Under the last sixteen in that situation. Louisville is 2-4 Under their last six versus teams that score seventy-seven or more points per game and 25-38 Under the last sixty-three in that situation. Pitino not likely to run his team up and down the floor scoring on former assistant, Jaspers head Coach Steve Masiello. Play this one to fall below the posted total.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

Bruce MarshallFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Wofford vs MichiganFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: WoffordFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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There are some factors to consider before laying the hefty points with Michigan (2). The well-coached Wolverines ended their season on a downer, losing the Big Ten Tourney final to Michigan State, after UM had swept the season series vs. the Spartans. The Wolverines indeed surprised by winning the Big Ten regular-season title, but few would deny that this year's team missed the dynamic play of PG Trey Burke (gone to the NBA) and rapidly-ascending 6-10 soph Mitch McGary (out due to back surgery). Those two were key factors in LY's run to the Final Four, where the Wolverines lost the Final to Louisville. 6-6 soph Caris LeVert (13.3 ppg) has been a surprise contributor, and 6-6 soph Nik Stauskas (17.5 ppg; 45% triples) has been doubly-clutch all season. But decent-shooting Wofford (15) hit 37% treys for the season, took on a rugged non-conference slate, is playing in its third Big Dance in the last five years, and represents the often-underrated Southern Conference (17-10-1 vs. the spread the last 20 NCAAs). The Terriers (who covered vs. Wisconsin in 2010 and vs. BYU in 2011) have come together at the right time, winning 13 of their last 15 games.

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Dayton at Ohio StateFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Ohio StateFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Ohio State (25-9) is in better in most power ratings than their six-seed would suggest. The Buckeyes also outscored their opponents in the tough Big Ten by +0.05 Points-Per-Possession in the regular season which is better than their 10-8 record would suggest. Dayton (23-10) was 10-6 in the Atlantic-10 but only outscored those opponents in the regular season by +0.02 PPP. The Flyers have nice depth and balance -- but they don't do the things to threaten superior teams. Dayton doesn't force turnovers nor take a ton of 3s -- and they have a below average defense both inside and outside the arc. Ohio State may struggle to score at times without a go-to scorer outside of LaQuinton Ross -- but their defense is elite by allowing 89.4 points per 100 possessions which is 4th in the nation. The Buckeyes will pull away in this one -- take Ohio State minus the points.

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Minnesota Timberwolves at Houston RocketsSERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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When the high-flying Rockets host the Timberwolves Thursday evening in a key Western conference clash, Houston will take the floor off a hug 38-point revenge victory over Utah on Monday. That sets the table for tonight's play as our database points out the fact the Rockets are 4-14 SU and ATS in games off a win of 30 or more points when facing a .500 or greater opponent. With Minny looking to avenge a pair of same season losses in this series, the points become the play here tonight. We recommend a 1-unit play on Minnesota.

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Scott Spreitzer

Washington Wizards vs. Portland Trail Blazers    
Play: Washington Wizards +4½

The Blazers have done a tremendous job turning things around since the end of last season. But they're a season away from truly making the next big leap. Portland heads into tonight's home game having lost five of their last seven games, allowing 109 ppg in the process. Washington is off an OT loss last time out. But while Portland is struggling on the defensive end, Washington remains one of the best deep perimeter shooting teams in the NBA. The Wizards have won three straight meetings, including this season's 100-90 win in February. John Wall led three Wizard players, all scoring at least 19 points. They have been an outstanding money-maker of late on the road against teams with a winning home record, going 8-1 ATS the last nine times. Meanwhile, the Blazers are just 1-5 ATS at home against teams with a winning road record. Portland is hitting a pocket of resistance of late, despite the OT win last time out and tonight they may be without LaMarcus Aldridge, who has been downgraded to doubtful with a back injury at the time of this post. I believe Washington will win outright, but my recommendation is to take the points.

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Art Aronson

Pittsburgh vs. Detroit
Play: Under 5½

The Red Wings do not have the “fire power” to compete with the Pittsburgh Penguins right now because of injuries; look for the home side to be fully aware of that and to game-plan a little differently tonight. Detroit is in a dog fight for one of the last playoff spots in the East and is having to do it without offensive stars in Pavel Datysuk Henrik Zetterberg. Note that the Red Wings have arguably the best coach in the NHL in Mike Babcock who can coach offense and defense and right now there’s no question he’ll be preaching a clamp-down defensive style of play to his team. It has shown in the score total’s of Detroit’s games of late, as the lower number has hit in six of the teams’ last seven games and five straight overall. Strong defensive play is paramount as Detroit has scored just 1.4 goals per game over its last five. Pittsburgh meanwhile got back to playing better defensively in its last game by holding the Dallas Stars to just one goal after allowing four goals a game in back to back losses to the Flyers. Look for the Penguins to be strong in their own end as they of all teams have respect for a Red Wings team that they played in back to back Stanley Cups a few years ago. Detroit's Jimmy Howard has won two of three starts after stopping 31 shots against the Leafs. Howard, 5-1-2 with a 2.12 GAA in his last eight home games, is 2-0-1 with a 1.93 GAA against the Penguins. He will know he will have to be at his best if his team has a shot at winning this game. Take the “under".

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Dennis Macklin

Albany NY vs. Florida    
Play: Florida -21

The Great Danes are a gritty bunch but that's as far as it goes. They lost but covered against Duke last year losing by 12 (+20.5) but UAlb was life and death to beat Mount St Mary's Tuesday in Dayton and now face the No.1 Gators off travel and a 45 hour turnaround. Florida and Billy Donovan aren't really known for benevolence as they've won their last three first round games by 28-26-32 points. The Danes will give it a go in the first 10 minutes and then look for Florida to pull away and extend in the second half to easily cover this number.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

Marc Lyle

North Dakota State vs. Oklahoma    
Play: Oklahoma -3

Marc Lyle Sports is releasing a free play today on Oklahoma -3 over North Dakota State. Oklahoma was 18-11-1 ATS this season and as we all know, can score at will on any time. This line is as close as it is because of the defense of North Dakota State. The problem is your looking at a conference that doesnt put up a ton of points. They havnt played high scoring teams like Baylor,Kansas and Oklahoma State. I see this Oklahoma team playing at way to high of a tempo for North Dakota State.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

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ALBANY VS. FLORIDAFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
PLAY:FLORIDA -21.5FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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It’s easy to overlook NCAA games with very large spreads. It’s generally a given that the favorite will win, but few are willing to lay any inordinately high numbers. I expect that to be the case today as Florida basically plays host to Albany.
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The underdog here has nothing to lose. The Great Danes have to be thrilled with their First Four win and should be totally loose for this game. If there’s any pressure, it’s on Florida. They’re supposed to cruise to an easy win, and sometimes that can get a team either tight or overconfident.
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I don’t think the Gators will fall prey to either of those potential pitfalls. Here’s why. 32, 26, 28, 43, 26. Those are the last five first game win margins for Florida in the NCAA Tournament. In other words, Billy Donovan has done about as good a job as possible at getting his Gators ready to be at their best, regardless of how easy that first game of the tourney is supposed to be.
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Obviously, the game is a huge mismatch. Albany would need to play out of its mind and the Gators would need to be extremely flat for this to be anything other than a lopsided result. That’s always a possibility, as anyone who has watched this game lately can attest. But it’s just not very likely.
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Albany is not the worst team on the planet, and their one game this season against a top flight opponent was a 58-46 loss at Pittsburgh. Of course, that was a meaningless early season exercise, which this certainly isn’t. The Great Danes are likely to try and milk the clock here in an effort to stick around. But this is a Gators team with some serious killer instinct and I envision them making that usual opening game statement. It’s a huge impost to be sure, but I’ll lay it with Florida.

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DELAWARE (+14) over Michigan StateFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Michigan State has become a popular pick to win the national championship and while we expect the Spartans to make a deep run, this is a bad spot for them. The Spartans have had all kinds of accolades and praise thrown their way since taking down rivals Wisconsin and Michigan in impressive fashion on its way to the Big 10 Conference Tournament crown. It's only natural for them to letdown here against a Colonial Conference foe and simply play the game with the mindset of "survive and advance." Meanwhile, you can be sure the Hens will be primed to put forth their very best effort as they make their first Big Dance appearance since 1999 and that will be enough to cover the inflated number. Delaware shoots the ball very well, boasts five players that average double digits and has already covered double-digits pointspreads this season against Villanova, Ohio State and Notre Dame. In fact, the Hens are 8-3 ATS as a dog this year and they do it again here.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

Steve Janus

NC State +3

The Wolfpack crushed Xavier 74-59 in their play-in game on Tuesday. NC State has won 5 of their last 6 with the only loss coming to Duke in the ACC Tournament semifinals. It’s not just a play on NC State as it a fade of Saint Louis. The Billikens got off to an impressive 25-2 start and were ranked as high No. 10 in the country, but they come in having lost 4 of their last 5, including an ugly 68-71 defeat to St. Bonaventure in the opening round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Saint Louis is also fortunate to have as strong as record as they do. The Billikens went 8-1 in games decided by 4-points or less in regulation or in overtime. NC State also has the best player on the floor in TJ Warren.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

Joe Duffy

North Dakota State vs. Oklahoma    
Play: North Dakota State +3

Yes, it makes me nervous that we are agreeing with the chic upset pick. Frankly that is not usually a good sign. But NDSU has what an upset team generally possesses: a high scoring team with a very good margin of victory, plus a clear cut star player. The Bison have a very good +7.3 scoring margin and are led by Taylor Braun who averages 18.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.6 SPG and a 44 percent clip from the 3-point line.

NDSU is No. 1 among all 351 NCAA Division I basketball teams in field goal percentage this season at 50.9 percent. Experience can be overplayed, but not when it is backed by talent. The six Bison seniors have combined to play in 660 career games and have logged over 13,300 minutes, scoring more than 5,500 points and grabbing more than 2,300 rebounds.

The current NDSU roster has combined to play in 958 career games and make 510 starts, making the Bison one of the most experienced teams in the nation. This is a case where both sharps and squares have the same popular upset pick. Too many respected opinions agree with us.

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N.C. State at Saint LouisFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Prediction: N.C. StateFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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They say the NCAA Tournament is all about matchups - and that certainly is a big part of it - but timing is also a big factor to consider and nobody wants to face NC State right now. After a rather uneventful season the Wolfpack caught fire down the stretch, having big upset wins as underdogs on the road (or on a neutral court) vs. Pittsburgh, Miami FL, Syracuse, and most recently Xavier in the First Four round. And that list is just for the month of March!
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St. Louis breezed through their season and enter this tournament with 26 wins, but unlike NC State they are not streaking right now and have lost almost all of their momentum. Four of the six losses on the year have come in their last five games overall, and going back further they are just 1-8 against the spread in their last nine. NC State is a dominant 16-4 ATS playing on a neutral court, and we have them advancing outright on our bracket against St. Louis!

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Jesse SchuleFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Columbus vs. MontrealFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: UnderFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Blue Jackets currently occupy the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, but they sit tied in points with the Washington Capitals. Columbus desperately needs points from this game in Montreal tonight, but the Habs are going to be tough to beat at home.
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Carey Price has won back to back starts since returning from injury, and he's likely going to get the start tonight. He's been much sharper on home ice than he has been on the road, with a record of 19-9, 2.12 GAA at the Bell Centre.
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He could be opposite reigning Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky, who is 3-2 with a 1.60 GAA in his last five starts.
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This will be the first meeting between these two teams in 2014, and the Habs took both meetings last year. The under has been the trend, going 8-3-2 in the last 13 meetings.
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The Jackets offense struggled in their last game, scoring just once on 47 shots, losing 3-1 to Carolina. They've gone 0-for-18 on the power-play during a six game slump.


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Dayton vs Ohio StateFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Daytob +6.5FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Dayton finally faces Ohio State, but this time it's in Buffalo. The Flyers haven't taken on their in-state rival since 2008. The Buckeyes are very tough defensively but Dayton won't be intimidated. They won 10 of their last 12 games. Jordan Sibert (12.5 pints) leads a balanced attack. They are also deep led by feisty coach Archie Miller, the younger brother of Arizona's Sean. Ohio State tends to go into prolonged offensive funks and that will be enough for Dayton to win this one outright against a slightly overrated Buckeye squad.


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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

Big Jay Dotson

Manhattan vs Louisville
Play: Manhattan +16.5

This game features the 25-7 Manhattan Vs the 29-5 Louisville. The public is heavily on Louisville here as they have been on quite a roll, but I look for the public to get buried on this one. Manhattan is an experienced team that will be prepared and will protect the ball Vs the Cardinals. Manhattan is 6-0 ATS in tournament games over the last 2 seasons. Hit Manhattan plus the points.


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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

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Michigan - over WoffordFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Wofford won the Southern Conference tournament without having to play any of the top three teams in the conference as other teams did the dirty work to pull off upsets. Davidson dominated the conference in the regular season going 15-1 compared to an 11-5 mark for Wofford but in overtime the Wildcats lost to Western Carolina. Getting to play them the day after the big overtime upset Wofford held on for the title. Davidson won both regular season meetings with Wofford by double-digits and the Terriers also lost both regular season meetings with the second best team in the league Chattanooga. In the tournament Wofford got to play the two teams that upset both of the top two seeds the very next day for an incredibly fortunate set-up. Wofford played a tough non-conference schedule but they were blown out in most of the games, losing by 20 against Georgia, by 21 against Iona, by 22 against Minnesota, by 14 against St. Louis, and by 15 against VCU. Wofford's best win of the season was a narrow win at Elon, the team tied with Wofford for third place in the Southern Conference. The Terriers will face a brutal first round matchup against last year's national runner-up Michigan and the game will be in a Milwaukee venue favorable for the Wolverines.  Michigan has some of the best adjusted offense numbers in the nation and Michigan has played well as a heavy favorite as one of the best shooting teams in the nation from all areas and a team rarely turns the ball over. Michigan played six non-conference games against smaller conference schools and won all six by an average margin of 34 points per game. Michigan won the Big Ten regular season title with relative ease and the Wolverines went 5-1 against the three best foes in the Big Ten this season. Wofford gave fits to Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament in 2010 but that team had a top 25 defense and an impressive resume, this year's team is one of the youngest and smallest teams in the nation and frankly was lucky to get into the this position with upsets around them in the conference tournament. Wofford plays smart, sound basketball but the Terriers won't get the poor shooting or turnovers from the heavy favorite to make an upset bid possible.

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Jeff Scott Sports

Wisconsin/ American Over 121: Yes this is an Over play. The Wisconsin Badgers have been playing at a faster this year and it has resulted in the highest scoring Wisconsin team in the Bo Ryan era. The Badgers have averaged 75.3 ppg overall and 70.3 ppg away from home and while American has allowed 61.1 ppg away from home we note that Patriot League offenses and not the same as big 10 offenses. We also note that the Badgers defense has been allowing more points than usual this year (64.6 ppg) and American has scored 63.2 ppg away from home this year. The Eagles are also a great shooting team, hitting 49.4% of their shots overall and 49.9% on the road. Both teams are good from long range and at the FT line so we should get extra points there. I can see this game being played in the 130's.

North Dakota State/ Oklahoma Under 152: I know that the Sooners love to push tempo but I feel that this NDSU team can slow them down enough to keep this game under the total. The Bison don't really push tempo, but they do shoot the ball well and that is why they score allot. I feel their only way to win is to slow the game down an just look for the best shot. They may hit it, but it will take more possessions away from the Sooners as the game goes on. On offense the Sooners can score in bunches, but I just don't expect that to happen here vs a Bison team that has been playing lockdown defense of late, allowing just 58.6 ppg in their last 11 games. Those last 11 games have averaged just 128.8 ppg and just 1 of those games have seen more tan 136 points scored and even that 1 game saw just 146 points put up. The Sooners haven't payed allot of defense this year, but they have played better of late, allowing just 71 ppg in their last 5 games. This should also be a pretty tight game throughout, meaning we should get that very slow paced last 8 minutes or so.  I like this game to stay in the lower 140's at best here. I think that the Bison will dictate the pace and that their defense will also keep the Sooners from scoring a tone here.

2 UNIT PLAYS

Cincinnati/ Harvard Under 122.5: Cincinnati is a very offensively challenged team and they have scored just 53.7 ppg on neutral courts this year. Harvard is a team that plays solid defense and will slow the game down on offense as well. Both teams play great defense and offense at a slow pace. Should see no more than 115 points scored in this one.

Oregon -5 over BYU: Both teams have been playing very well of late, but the Ducks have played in a much tougher conference all year and I feel that have what it takes to move on in this one. Both teams can score plenty of points and both give up plenty but the Ducks have the ability to play a bit more defense than BYU, and that will be the difference here. I look for Oregon to hit their FT's down the stretch as they win this one by at last 8 points.

More later

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

Craig Davis

So why Dayton over 6-seed Ohio State this afternoon? Because I don't have any confidence in Ohio State's offense, for starters.

This is a team that used to be able to score at will. They could score from inside, they could shoot the 3, they could even occasionally make a free throw or two.

But this year has been totally different, as the Buckeyes are built solely on their team defense and the scoring of LaQuinton Ross. Only one starter from last year's final eight teams is missing (DeShaun Thomas) and yet this team acts as if it forgot how to score.

Was Thomas, who is now playing overseas, really that big of a difference? Apparently he was. Now the Bucks struggle to find offense on a weekly basis and hope the defense holds up and causes some turnovers and transition points.

Another reason I like the Flyers is my disappointment in the Big 10 thus far. For much of the season I was believing the Big 10 was one of the two best conferences in college basketball, but after yesterday I think I'm going to have to investigate further.

In the NIT, Illinois had to frantically make a late charge to beat lowly Boston University, 66-62. Yes that was my release and yes, I covered, but they should have easily won by at least 10 but fell behind by nine at halftime. Yikes.

Penn State beat a horrible team by four and the Iowa Hawkeyes completely imploded in the second half and overtime and let a 12-point lead slip away into an eventual 13-point overtime loss.

The Big 10 might end up doing very well, but they've already lost one team and could be missing a few more by the end of this weekend.

Expect Dayton to challenge the entire game and possibly be there in the end for the SU win.

3♦ DAYTON

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Jeff Benton

Your Thursday freebie is the Portland Trail Blazers as the small home favorite over the Washington Wizards.

Believe it or not, Washington swept last year's season series against Portland, and they are on the verge of sweeping this year's season series after their 100-90 home floor win over Portland back on February 3rd.

I don't think it will happen, even though Portland comes into this game with a 2-5 straight up mark their last 7. I expect the Blazers to rally this evening at home and take it to a Washington team that has dropped 3 of their last 5 games, and are on an 0-4 overall road spread slide their last 4 away from D.C.

The host in this series is still 7-3 straight up the past 10 meetings, and 6-4 against the spread in those 10 tilts.

With the prospect of a 4 game series losing streak looming, look for the Blazers to rise up tonight and hold serve at home.

1♦ PORTLAND

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