When the March Madness picks are set each season, it's never surprising to see the Gonzaga Bulldogs on the shortlist of potential NCAA Tournament champions.
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Picks For Saturday NBA Lines
NBA hard court tips and predictions
By Liam Davis
Oklahoma City Thunder (-6.5) vs. Phoenix Suns (+6.5)
Although the Oklahoma City Thunder are generally overrated, the Phoenix Suns are not good. They own one of the NBA's five worst net ratings and are a collective minus on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
The Thunder, it must be noted, have a negative net rating themselves. But they have one of the NBA's 10 best differentials when playing at home, in front of the loud Oklahoma City crowd. The Suns, meanwhile, are nothing special on the road; they are being outscored by 4.8 points per 100 possessions when playing in hostile territory.
Bake these circumstances into Russell Westbrook's current triple-double onslaught, and it's hard not to like the Thunder in this one. Their offense can be inconsistent, and they don't have nearly enough shooters dotting the arc around Westbrook's dribble drives, but they have more than enough firepower to outlast a Suns squad with a bizarre mix of veterans and unproven prospects.
The Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder (-6.5)
Minnesota Timberwolves (+3.5) vs. Houston Rockets (-3.5)
One night after attempting an NBA-record 61 three-pointers in a victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, the Houston Rockets travel to face the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Many bettors will consider this a trap game. The Rockets played on Friday night, then had to fly into Minnesota. And they are riding an impressive nine-game winning streak that has included victories over the Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder and Boston Celtics. It seems like they are due for a loss or, at the very least, some type of rest.
Head coach Mike D'Antoni isn't known for resting his stars, though. And the Rockets have yet to really be creamed or exposed on the tail end of a back-to-back this season.
What's more, they have figured out how to bridge the gap between Harden's stays on the bench—which is huge. Patrick Beverley's return to the rotation gives them a pick-and-pop playmaker capable of running the offense, and D'Antoni cobbles together enough snappy-wing lineups that emphasize more defense without Harden.
Indeed, the Minnesota Timberwolves are a real threat. They would be one of the best teams in the league if not for a crap ton of third-quarter and crunch-time collapses. But the Rockets are playing like the second-best squad in the West. It would be irresponsible to bet against them here.
The Pick: Houston Rockets (-3.5)
Denver Nuggets (-4) vs. New York Knicks (+4)
If the Denver Nuggets had exhibited any type of consistency at home this season, our pick would fall in their favor. But they haven't.
The Nuggets' net rating at home, in fact, is almost as bad as the New York Knicks' road net rating. That suggests any win the home team secures will come by the skin of its teeth.
Granted, the Knicks are a disaster when playing away from Madison Square Garden. They are 5-8 and working off two consecutive losses—one to the Phoenix Suns, the other at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.
Carmelo Anthony is also banged up and, well, just plain old. While he's expected to play, he has been awful on the offensive side of late—a problem when he doesn't provide a defensive punch.
Still, Anthony called this game a must-win for the Knicks. Anytime a star says that, no matter how odd the timing, you expect a more inspired effort from his troops. So if the Knicks, who can be a true offensive juggernaut at times, go down in this one, bank on them going down swinging.
The Pick: New York Knicks (+4)
Atlanta Hawks (-2) vs. Charlotte Hornets (+2)
Each of the Charlotte Hornets' last four games, all of them on the road, have ended in defeat. There's a chance that happens again on Saturday night against the Atlanta Hawks, who may finally be finding their way on offense.
But the Hornets seem too good to end their five-game road trip without a victory. They still hover around the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and they're far more balanced overall than their Atlanta-based counterparts.
Dwight Howard will eat up Frank Kaminsky and Cody Zeller, but that's where Roy Hibbert comes in handy. And the Hornets have the bigger wings, in Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, to make life hard on Paul Millsap.
Plus, there's Kemba Walker, who's playing like the best point guard in the East. He should feast on Dennis Schroder.
The Pick: Charlotte Hornets (+2)
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