Monday NBA Picks
Our team of writers and handicappers hand out their NBA picks and predictions for Monday, January 19.
Phoenix Suns at Boston Celtics, 8:05PM ET
The Boston Celtics rebounded from their worst stretch in two seasons with a four-game winning streak. A few more victories this week against better competition, and they'll feel even more sure of their resurgence.
The defending NBA champions open a challenging portion of their schedule on Monday night against the visiting Phoenix Suns, who continue their six-game eastern swing looking to build off what they considered an important win.
After dramatically stumbling from the first 27-2 start in NBA history to an ugly 2-7 stretch that was their worst since acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007, the Celtics (33-9) appear to have recaptured their confidence, beating Toronto and New Jersey twice over the last eight days.
Despite again playing without center Kendrick Perkins and reserve Tony Allen, they dominated the Nets for the second straight game on Saturday, following up Wednesday's 118-86 home win with a 105-85 victory in New Jersey.
Ray Allen scored 25 points to lead six scorers in double figures for Boston, which led by 29 at the half. The Celtics looked more like the team that won a franchise-record 19 consecutive games earlier this season than the one that dropped four straight early this month.
Milwaukee Bucks at Portland Trail Blazers, 10:05PM ET
After splitting a four-game road trip against some struggling teams from the Eastern Conference, the Portland Trail Blazers hope their return to the Rose Garden will get them back on track.
The Trail Blazers begin a three-game homestand on Monday against the Milwaukee Bucks, who have been struggling with their own inconsistencies of late.
Portland (24-16) fell to 10-12 on the road with a 102-97 overtime loss to Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday. The Blazers split the results on the trip despite not facing any team with a winning record and playing against four Eastern Conference teams - a conference they were 11-2 against when the trip started.
Versus the Bobcats, the Blazers hurt themselves by going just 16-of-31 from the free-throw line, with Brandon Roy going 3-of-10.
Portland has won the last three meetings with Milwaukee, although one went to overtime and the other two were decided by a combined six points.
Cleveland Cavaliers at LA Lakers, 10:35PM ET
LeBron James is having a MVP-caliber season in helping lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to the top of the Eastern Conference with the league's best record. Considering the way he has played against the Los Angeles Lakers lately, he probably would receive reigning league MVP Kobe Bryant's vote.
In a matchup featuring the best team from each conference, James looks to help lead the Cavaliers to their sixth straight win over Bryant and the Lakers as they open a four-game road trip Monday at Staples Center.
After falling to Boston in the East semifinals last season, James has Cleveland (31-7) poised to make a run for its first NBA title. The Cavaliers, who have not won a division title since 1975-76, have a 9 1/2-game lead over second-place Detroit in the Central Division, and are competing with Orlando and Boston for the best record in the East.
Los Angeles (31-8) once again looks like it might control home court throughout the Western Conference playoffs, as it has a five-game lead atop the conference. The Pacific Division-leading Lakers lost to Boston in last season's finals and are seeking their first title since 2001-02.
Bryant, who received his first MVP award last season, recorded his 15th career triple-double and first since April 1, 2005 his last time out.
The 10-time All-Star had 28 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists in the Lakers' 109-103 loss to the Magic on Friday, but missed two jumpers in the waning moments.
The Lakers have lost two straight games after winning 10 of 11. They have not dropped three in a row since Jan. 23-27 of last season, which included a loss to Cleveland.
Posted: 1/19/09 12:30AM ET