Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, March 28

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, March 28

Steve Janus

New York Knicks +6

The Knicks are just 1.5-games back of Atlanta for the 8th and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. With the way the Hawks have been free falling of late, New York has to believe they can make up the ground. We can expect maximum effort from the Knicks tonight and I believe that has them showing some big time value as a 6-point dog.

The Suns come in riding a 5-game winning streak, but it's worth noting that home favorites off 1 or more consecutive wins are just 181-263 (59.2%) ATS on Friday night over the last 5 seasons. Phoenix is also just 24-45 over the last 3 seasons revenging a road loss (fell 96-96 at New York earlier this season). New York is 17-4 ATS after a game where they made 50% of their 3-point attempts and 6-2 ATS in their last 8 vs the Western Conference.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, March 28

Will Rogers

Charlotte vs. Orlando
Pick: Under

The Bob Kittens have been kind to me lately. How about we try a total?

Here are my keys to the game:

1. Due to Come Down - Charlotte scored 116 points in its last game, an usually high amount of points for them.  We should see an automatic decrease in points this evening, not only because they are on the road, but also because they are 12-4 Under this season after scoring 105 or more points.  Also, Orlando has gone Under in each of its last five games.

2. Bobcats Defense - Mainly because they forsake offensive rebounding, Charlotte has the best transition defense in the league by most measures.  They do a very good job of preventing their opponents from getting out after a missed shot.  Not like they have to worry too much about the Magic anyway.  The Bobcats come into this game allowing the fourth fewest points per game in the entire league.

3. X-Factor - Over its last five games, the Magic are averaging just 91.5 points/game, never breaking 95.

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Marc Lawrence

Sacramento vs. Oklahoma City
Pick: Sacramento

When the Kings battle the Thunder in Oklahoma City Friday evening, Sacramento will take the floor looking to avenge a 15-point defeat suffered in an earlier meeting with OKC. The Kings enter playing arguably their ball ball of the season (5-2 ATS previous seven games) while the Thunder have dropped the money in 11 of their last 17 contests.  With Oklahoma City off a revenger with Dallas and looking dead ahead to a revenger with San Antonio, look for the Kings to improve to 4-1 ATS in their last five games on this floor here tonight.  Take the points.  We recommend a 1-unit play on Sacramento.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, March 28

Joe WilliamsFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Virginia vs. Michigan StateFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Michigan StateFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Virginia wasn't the best team I saw in the Raleigh pod last week - it was Tennessee. Apparently, Vegas was watching, too, as UVA is a No. 1 seed, yet an underdog.
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Michigan State is 5-1-1 ATS in the past seven games overall, and 4-1-1 ATS in their past six against winning teams. They're also 3-1-1 ATS in their past five neutral-site battles.
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UVA is equally impressive recently, going 4-1-1 ATS in their past six neutral-site contests, 16-5-2 ATS in their past 23 overall, and 15-4-2 ATS in their past 21 against winning teams. But UVA had their hands full with Coastal Carolina in the opening game, and they stomped Memphis in the second half, but is that really that impressive?
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Virginia is still rather untested in battle, and this is a show-me game. If they can beat a well-coached, experienced team like Michigan State, they'll finally get some credit. But they won't. Tom Izzo and Sparty will find a way. They always do.

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SPORTS WAGERS

Michigan -2½ over Tennessee

Ok, we get it, we all get it; the Volunteers were under-seeded in this tournament and were grossly undervalued in their first three games. That undervalue has now turned into overvalue, which prompts us to step in and sell high on the dog. Truth be told, Tennessee’s road to the Sweet 16 hasn’t been difficult. When the Vols knocked off a sixth-seeded UMass squad that was as over-seeded as they were under-seeded and followed that up by dispatching Mercer, they weren’t shocking the world. They were playing to form. The Vols have benefitted from a soft draw and while one cannot ignore their size, the fact is they take a big step up in class here.

Michigan has barely broken a sweat in this event. They have two easy wins and covers against Texas and Wofford and while they also take a step up in class, they have not been challenged yet and that makes them difficult to prepare for. The Wolverines hit 14 of 28 three-pointers against Texas and even if that doesn’t continue here, Michigan can still rely on Jordan Morgan and the other front-line players to score and hit the boards. If the Wolverines remain hot from beyond the arc, this one could get away from the Vols early. Three teams from the Big-10 are still in this tournament and Michigan went a very impressive 15-3 in that tough conference. The Wolverines defeated the Badgers in Wisconsin by seven points and they also defeated the Spartans twice in three games. The Wolverines do all the things that Tennessee does well but they have much better shooters and defense and that’s simply going to be too much for the Vols to overcome. 


Kentucky +4 over Louisville

When the Wildcats defeated #1 Wichita State in the last round it was billed as youth and size versus experience. In the end, Kentucky persevered again while knocking off a true giant. What was so impressive about that victory is that Wichita State played a great game but still couldn’t overcome Kentucky’s size and we don’t see anything different about this one. Once again it’s experience against youth and size and we’ll side with the latter almost every time when being offered points. Thus far in this event, Kentucky has looked much sharper than Louisville. The Cardinals had difficulty disposing of Manhattan in their first game and the Billikens fought the Cardinals tooth and nails until Louisville pulled away late in the game.

Then there’s the game back on December 28th in Kentucky in which the Wildcats defeated the Cardinals 73-66. Kentucky led the entire game despite Julius Randle missing most of the second half due to a leg injury. Kentucky dominated the glass, they outscored Louisville by 18 points in the paint and its interior size gave the Cardinals trouble throughout. Louisville’s Russ Smith looked uncomfortable the entire game because the Wildcats never gave him an open look. Fast forward two months and the Wildcats are a better team now than they were then. Louisville didn’t match up well against this juggernaut back in late December and there’s nothing suggesting they are going to match up better this time around. We’re calling the upset but those four points are too juicy to pass up.

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SPORTS WAGERS

PHILADELPHIA -½ -105 over Toronto

Regulation only. We hate to kick a team when they’re down but how can you not play against the Maple Leafs these days? Toronto has dropped six in a row and seven of its past eight with only win over that span occurring against Los Angeles in a game they were outshot 41-29. The Leafs have allowed 32 goals against over their last eight games and that should come as no surprise. Unless Jonathan Bernier stands on his head, the Leafs have no chance of winning. That’s not something new either, as it’s been that way the entire season. The Leafs continue to play 62-70% of every game in their own end. They have allowed 2,677 shots against and that’s the NHL’s worst mark. Buffalo is second worse having allowed 2,530 shots against and the N.Y. Islanders have allowed 474 fewer shots on goal than Toronto. Yeah, that’s not a typo, the N.Y. Islanders have allowed almost 500 fewer shots on net than the Maple Leafs. Incredible. 

Meanwhile, Philadelphia is coming off back-to-back losses to Los Angeles and the Rangers. That pair is a combined 10-0 over their last 10 games and it was only the second time since January 23 that Philadelphia suffered consecutive losses. Prior to that, Philadelphia had recent wins over Pittsburgh twice, Chicago, St. Louis and Dallas. The Flyers have won 12 of their past 17 games with an offense that is as potent as any in the NHL. Philly now gets the benefit of playing a team that is mentally messed up and that has no chance whatsoever of outplaying the opposition. For the Leafs, the suffering continues.


Chicago -½ +106 over OTTAWA

Regulation only. The Blackhawks are coming off a 3-0 loss to Boston but they’re still fighting for a better playoff seed, which is vital in this year’s playoffs because the West is so tough. Chicago is just one-point ahead of Colorado and they’re two back of the Ducks so motivation or lack thereof is not a factor. The Blackhawks have allowed just 28 shots on net or fewer in five straight games and 29 or fewer in 12 of its past 13 games. Known mostly for their ability to score goals, the Blackhawks are an outstanding defensive team and that bodes very well here against the Senators.

Ottawa ranks 29 out of 30 teams in shots against per game and that’s one reason why they are going to miss the playoffs this season. They are a sloppy defensive team and that spells doom against Chicago and the other elite teams in this league. Ottawa has dropped seven of its last eight games, not to mention five straight in their own rink. Over their last 10 games, Ottawa has surrendered 41 goals against and allowed the opposition shot totals of 49, 42, 48, 44, 40 and 41 in five of those 10 contests. That doesn’t include the 39 they allowed to the Rangers in an 8-4 defeat. Goaltender Robin Lehner was injured in Ottawa’s last game and that forces the Sens into using Craig Anderson, who was injured earlier. Anderson makes his first start in three weeks here. Anderson has been awful this year with a 3.10 GAA to go along with a save percentage of .904 and he doesn’t figure to be sharp after sitting for three weeks. The Senators are a mess and with cold goaltending, returning from a Florida trip and with a number of injuries, they are simply not equipped, physically or mentally, to deal with a team like the Blackhawks.   


Nashville +165 over DALLAS

Regulation only. Dallas has just two wins in their past seven games and they occurred against Winnipeg and Ottawa. In all five of their losses over that span, the Stars allowed four goals or more in all of them. Dallas is five points back of Phoenix for the last Wild Card spot with two games in hand and this is one of those games. After this game, Dallas embarks on a five-game road trip beginning tomorrow night in St. Louis, which emphasizes even more the importance of this one. Dallas needs this one in a bad way but the “must win” angle is probably the most overplayed and over-trusted angle in all of sports. Fact is, Dallas isn’t playing so good and their goaltending has been very shaky.

The spoiler role is one that many teams thrive in every year in every sport. The “spoiler” comes into these games and they're free-rolling. In other words, they’re playing with house money and have absolutely nothing to lose. They are relaxed, very focused and love making life miserable for any team fighting for a playoff spot. Nashville is perhaps the most dangerous of all this year’s spoilers. Had this team received good goaltending this season they would be fighting for the playoffs and perhaps even be ahead of this year’s Wild Card teams. Nashville is a quality hockey team that has picked up seven of a possible eight points over its last four games. They recorded a 2-0 win over Chicago during that stretch and they have also scored 18 times over those four games. They are not going to be easy prey tonight and could certainly come in here and impede the Stars quest to make the playoffs. Sweet price, big overlay.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, March 28

Charlie Scott

Kentucky vs. Louisville
Play: Louisville -4

To begin with, I want to state that the Kentucky /Wichita St game Sunday was the best played game with a high caliber skilled players that I've watched all Season. Unfortunately there are Not enough games played like at this level. With that said, I don't expect a young Kentucky Team coming off their best game of the Season to play that well Tonight. I seriously doubt Kentucky can play at that high level. Throw in the fact that these Coaches & Schools don't like each other, and Louisville has revenge from losing at Kentucky Dec 28 66-73. Pitino is the type A personality A-Hole that You know a loss like this sticks with him and he has replayed this loss over and over in his mind. Pitino with 5 days to prepare is tough to beat. I know for a fact that Louisville alumni & Boosters bet big and Pitino knows what the point spread is, in a game like this if given a chance to cover they will try their best to cover.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, March 28

Jeff Alexander

Chicago Bulls -4½

Portland is playing its 2nd road game in as many nights and its 4th in 5 days while the Bulls have had the last 3 days off and didn't have to travel following their last game. With this in mind, consider that home favorites playing only their 2nd game in 5 days are 30-11 ATS the last 5 seasons when they are matched up with a team playing their 4th game in 5 days. Portland handled Atlanta last night, but it is 8-21 ATS in road games following a win of 10 points or more over the last 3 seasons. It has lost by an average of 7.1 points in this spot. The Bulls lost by 3 in Portland clear back in November but are 15-7 ATS this season when out for revenge for a road loss. They have won by an average of 6.8 points in this spot.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, March 28

Dave Price

Denver Nuggets +7½

San Antonio defeated Denver 108-103 Wednesday. The Nuggets trailed by as many as 24 points early in the third quarter before storming back to make things interesting. Their rally gives them some nice momentum and confidence heading into the rematch. Denver is 10-1 ATS in home games the last two seasons versus teams with a win percentage above .700. In addition, underdogs of 3.5 to 9.5 points that average 103.0 ppg or more are 39-14 ATS since 1996 if they trailed by 15 points or more at the half of their last game. The Nuggets are 14-4 ATS the last three seasons after trailing in their previous game by 15 or more points at the half. Take the points.

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Jack Jones

Iowa State -1½

The Iowa State Cyclones (28-7) have been one of the most underrated teams in the country all season. They have been a bettors’ dream over the past couple of weeks leading up to the Sweet 16. Getting them as a small favorite again here is a gift from odddsmakers.

Indeed, the Cyclones are a perfect 6-0 SU & 6-0 ATS in their last six games overall. They have beaten six NCAA Tournament teams in the process in Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Kansas, Baylor, NC Central and UNC.

The teams that give the Cyclones fits are ones with size that rely on their big men. That makes this a perfect matchup for them because the Huskies do not rely on their big men hardly at all. They are a guard-oriented team that is built around the play of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright.

To put it into perspective, Napier not only leads the team in scoring (17.8), but in rebounding (5.9) as well. So, the Huskies really do not have a dominant big man that can give the Cyclones trouble on either side of the ball. That is a huge advantage for undersized Iowa State.

The Cyclones boast two of the best players in the entire tournament. Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim (18.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and first-team All-Big 12 point guard DeAndre Kane (17.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 5.8 apg) can carry this team to victory. Ejim had 19 points against UNC, while Kane had 24 and the game-winner.

Connecticut is 7-20 ATS off two or more consecutive wins over the last three seasons. Iowa State is 8-1 ATS as a neutral court favorite of 6 points or less over the past three seasons. The Cyclones are 6-0 ATS in their last six games vs. a team with a winning S.U. record.

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Sam Martin

Miami Heat at Detroit Pistons
Prediction: Miami Heat

Heat lost a tough battle against rival Indiana on Wednesday night, and that loss should serve as fuel for motivation tonight when they take on an overmatched Detroit squad. Pistons have lost six of their last seven games overall, and with a great opportunity for a win coming up next against Philadelphia, we don't expect to see Detroit's best effort tonight.

The Heat in general, and LeBron James in particular, played well in that loss against the Pacers - certainly far better than the team that had lost seven of their last 12 games (now 8 of 13) overall. It's "wake-up time" for Miami now and Detroit is going to take the brunt of the Heat's frustration. Miami won by 15 points the last time they played here, and we expect another easy win by the better side tonight.

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NHL Predictions

Anaheim Ducks -½ +106

The Anaheim Ducks enter this game with 22 more wins on the season than the Oilers, as Anaheim is 47-18-7 on the year with a 22-11-3 road record and Edmonton is just 25-39-9 with a 13-19-3 home record. These two teams have met two times this year in Anaheim with the Ducks winning 3-2 and 5-2 - heavily out shooting the Oilers 37-18 in their latest meeting. Anaheim has won 4 of their past 6 games overall and 2 straight, with their two losses during that span coming in one goal games. They are 3-1 in their last 4 road games as well. The Oilers have lost three straight (all at home), and those loses weren't pretty. Edmonton lost 3-1 to a very bad Buffalo team and then lost 8-1 to their Alberta rivals (Calgary) before their most recent 5-2 loss at home vs San Jose. Take note that the Ducks are 14-4 in their last 18 road games and 8-3 in their last 11 road games vs a team with a home winning % of less than .400. They've also won 29 of their last 42 overall. The Oilers have gone 1-4 in their last 5 home games and 1-7 in their last 8 home games vs a team with a road winning % of greater than .600. Edmonton is also just 14-40 in their last 54 vs Western Conference opponents. Anaheim has taken 13 of their last 16 meetings in Edmonton and 19 of 26 overall. I don't see that trend not continuing tonight with Anaheim in a battle for playoff positioning and looking to win their third straight. I'll take the Ducks in regulation time at a better price getting plus money.

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Erin Rynning

Memphis at Golden State
Play: Memphis +2

Memphis hits the West Coast tonight to face the Warriors with revenge in mind.  Way back in December the struggling Grizzlies were trounced on their home court by the Warriors 108-82.  Of course, much has changed in the almost four months since they last played.  For starters, the Grizzlies are clearly hitting their late season stride.  They’ve been about as good as anyone in the NBA racking up a 28-9 record since January 10th.  Health is the main ingredient for the resurgence with Marc Gasol in the middle playing his usual all-around game.  The Grizzlies took some time to gel this season under new coach Dick Joerger.  Joerger tried to implement some new things in the early going, and there was an eventual give and take before the kinks were worked out.  With the playoffs approaching you can be sure no one will want to play this grit-and-grind squad.  Meanwhile, the Warriors just haven’t been able to turn it on as some penciled in after their fun postseason surge a year ago.  In fact, the Warriors have dropped six of their last eight games, while rumors surface of head coach Mark Jackson losing this team with the pressure ramping up.  The Warriors offense just hasn’t flowed at times this year, while Jackson often cringes at a true up-tempo style that fits their guard play.  Look for the Warriors to ride their recent momentum playing with revenge on Friday night.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, March 28

Playersbet

Michigan State -2

We are rolling with the Spartans tonight as we believe they are a better team then the Cavaliers. Michigan State is 5-1-1 ATS in their last 7 games overall while the Cavaliers are just 1-8 ATS in their last 9 Friday games. Yes we are well aware that the Spartans do not play well in MSG going 2-10 overall but tonight this changes.


Nashville/Dallas Under 5.5

We are rolling with the under in tonight’s game as this should be a low scoring battle. The Under is 3-0-1 in the Predators last 4 in the fourth game of a 4-in 6 days situation and the under is 4-1-2 in the Predators last 7 games overall. Meanwhile Dallas is 6-1 in their last 7 Fridays games all being played to the under and when these two teams go head to head the under is an impressive 7-2-2. The only way we seeing going is to ride the under.

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Joe Gavazzi

San Antonio Spurs -8

Since the return from injury of PG Lawson, Denver is a respectable 7-7 SU, 8-6 ATS. That includes a competitive 108-103 loss at San Antonio on Wednesday night. In that game, the Spurs merely toyed with the Nuggets, knowing this rematch would be ensuing two nights later. Veteran HC Popovich well knows the advantage of the potential psychological edge that a blowout would have created for the Nuggets in this game. This ensures full intensity from his Spurs, as they look to expand their 15-0 SU winning streak and maintain, their 3 game conference league vs. OKC with 10 games remaining. Spurs have been solid in this role all season with a record of 19-10 ATS as road chalk. Spurs have won 11/12 (93%) of their recent victories by double digits, while failing to cover only 2 games in their winning streak.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, March 28

Jeff Scott Sports

3 UNIT PLAY

UConn/ Iowa State Under 148: The Cyclones are uptempo and play little defense, but I feel that the UConn defense will control the pace of this game and keep it from getting into a shootout. The Huskies are 11th in the nation in defensive FG% (38.9%), while allowing just 63.7 ppg and they should be able to keep this Iowa State offense under wraps for the most part, especially since having no Niang again. I feel they will miss him more on offense in this one than they did vs a North Carolina team that ran with them. On offense the Huskies have put up 72.5 ppg overall but they have averaged just 61.3 ppg in their last 9 non-OT games. The Huskies will not look to run with this team as they would rather play a game in the 60's. The Under is 13-3 in their last 16 games and in their last 14 non-OT games the most points scored in a game has been just 142. Iowa State will certainly look to push tempo, but UConn won't run with them. The Huskies play slow on offense and great defense as well. That should be enough to keep this one in the 130's.

2 UNIT PLAY

Michigan State -2 over Virginia: Michigan State has been one of my picks to make it to the Final 4. In fact I had them playing Louisville for the Title in my bracket. This team is playing very well right now, especially that they are healthy. The Cavs play solid defense, but Michigan State has been scoring plenty this year and I see them breaking down this defense. They will push the ball in transition so they don't have to face the Virginia half court defense, which has been very stingy this year. Michigan State can all play some defense as they have allowed just 65.9 ppg on 39.9 % shooting for the year. They have allowed 78 and 73 points in the tournament so far, but Virginia's 285th scoring offense just won't be able to take advantage of that. Bottom line here is that Virginia just won't come up with enough points to keep this one close. Michigan State is the superior team here and they will prove it on the court as they pick up a win of at least 8 points.

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Michael Alexander

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Ottawa Senators
Play: Chicago Blackhawks 

The Chicago Blackhawks hold the distinction of being the NHL's highest-scoring team, but they sure haven't looked the part of late. After getting shut out for the second time in three contests, the Blackhawks look to bounce back when they visit the Ottawa Senators tonight. Chicago remained one point shy of recording its sixth consecutive playoff appearance after dropping a 3-0 decision to Boston on Thursday in a rematch of last season's Stanley Cup final. Chicago is 11-1-3 in the second half of back-to-back contests.

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Sean Higgs

Kentucky vs. Louisville    
Play: Louisville -4

Time for a little pay back here. Kentucky knocked off UL back December 28th. This is an entirely different Louisville bunch. Now, I know they had a tough game in round 1 (we cashed on the dogs). But we saw the defense and the experience come through against STL. Here they have Kentucky. I mean, yes, this is a very talented and dangerous team. They have had an up and down year. They are playing well right now. I can't go against the experience and leadership though of UL with Smith, Hancock and Blackshear. I think they force the young Wildcats into some costly mistakes and that just ignites the Cardinals.

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Kyle Hunter

Tennessee vs. Michigan
Play: Under 136.5

The Tennessee Volunteers and Michigan Wolverines both like to slow the game down. This should be a game that is played almost entirely in the halfcourt. Both offenses are pretty good, but it's going to take some amazing shooting numbers for this one to go over the total with the pace I expect this to be played at. This game obviously has a ton of importance to both teams, and that generally means the pace slows down even more. I had this total lined at 132 points. I like the value here. Take the under.

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Scott Delaney

My free play for tonight is on the Phoenix Suns minus the points against the struggling New York Knicks, who have to be in a state of confusion, wondering if they're playing for Mike Woodson or newly named president, Phil Jackson. With the Suns, there is no confusion, as they're playing for the playoffs, and that's reason enough for me to back them at home on a Friday night.

The Knicks are playing their third straight road game in four days. They lost in Los Angeles by 31 points, to the lowly Lakers, and rebounded to beat the Sacramento Kings the next night, by eight. Now, two days later, in the land of the sun, I don't think they can hang with highly explosive Phoenix.

The Suns are, well, scorching right now. They've won five straight games, by 16, 6, 7, 9 and 6. A bit all over the place, but an overall average of 8.8 points per win. That bests tonight's point spread, and I know they can put up about 110 on the Knicks.

This is a revenge game, too, as the Knicks won the first meeting, on Jan. 13, in New York, with a two-point overtime squeaker. Both teams are performing differently, now, and the Suns should have no trouble running away with this one.

I really don't care about the Knicks boasting the Eastern Conference's best record over the last 10 games, this is more about which is the best team right now, and that's the Suns.

Lay the short chalk, as the Suns explode for a double-digit win tonight.

4♦ PHOENIX

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