With the annual all-star game now a thing of the past and teams across the league getting ready for the stretch run portion of the regular season, it’s time for our weekly trio of NBA picks of the week.
NBA Weekend Picks Feb 24th-26th
Chicago Bulls (28-29) at Cleveland Cavaliers (39-16)
When: Saturday, February 25 at 8:30 PM ET on ABC
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Analysis: The Bulls have largely underachieved this season despite adding a future Hall of Famer in Dwyane Wade, but they did manage to win their last two games before the break in upsetting both Toronto and Boston while covering the spread in each contest.
LeBron James and the Cavs hit the all-star break having won three straight and seven of their last eight games, including a 113-104 win over Indiana on Feb. 15. Cleveland was a 3.5-point home fave the last time these two rivals met and I think they’ll be a favorite of a similar figure this time around.
Since the Bulls handed the Cavs a shocking 106-94 home loss in their last matchup on Jan. 4, I’m going to say that James and company get the win as they seek both, a bit of revenge and to some serious momentum before the end of the regular season.
Pick: Cleveland 104 Chicago 95
Utah Jazz at Washington Wizards
When: Saturday, February 25 at 5:00 PM ET
Where: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
TV: ROOT, CSMA
Analysis: The Jazz and Wizards have been two of the most pleasant surprises in the league this season. Utah snapped a three-game skid before the break by routing Portland 111-88 to cash in as an 8.5-point home favorite on Feb. 15.
Washington won four straight and a blistering nine of 10 before the break including their emphatic 111-98 win over Indiana on Feb. 16.
For this intriguing matchup of playoff hopefuls, I’m going to say that the Washington Wizards are the pick to win and stay red-hot against a Jazz team that gave up 112 points to Dallas and Boston in the week before the break before being limited to just 72 points against the Clippers shortly thereafter.
Washington is getting some fantastic contributions outside of team leader John Wall and are the deeper and far more explosive ballclub in this matchup, even though the Jazz lead the league in points allowed (95.7 ppg). I like the Wizards to hold down the fort at home but the Jazz to cover the spread as likely 4-6-point road dogs in a matchup that looks like an entertaining affair just waiting to happen.
Pick: Washington 105 Utah 102
New Orleans Pelicans at Oklahoma City Thunder
When: Sunday, February 26 at 7:00 PM ET
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
TV: FSNO, NBATV, FSOK
Analysis: The Pelicans are hoping to change their fortunes after adding Boogie Cousins during the all-star break, but New Orleans ranks just 22nd in defense (106.5 ppg) and Cousins certainly isn’t known for his defensive prowess.
While the Pelicans did win two straight before the break, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder were mired in a slump that saw them drop three of their last five games before the break and six of 10 overall.
Still, Oklahoma City has managed to beat Memphis and Cleveland since the start of the month and I believe they’ll come into this post all-star break matchup with a bit of extra motivation since everyone is talking about New Orleans’ acquisition of the talented, but polarizing Cousins.
I say keep your pick simple for this intriguing matchup and play the Over, which I expect to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 217 points. Both teams give up at least 106.0 points per game, so don’t expect a whole lot of defense.
Pick: Over 217 Total Points