Dinero Tracker – Feb. 23

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Last night's ATS Records
NBA: 2-4 | NCAA BB: 12-12

The NBA returned with underdogs barking loudly. Of the six favorites, only the Hornets won and covered, while the Cavs and Magic lost outright. The Bulls and Kings flirted with upsets after Philly and OKC blew double-digit first-half leads, so the focus to put together 48 minutes clearly wasn't there. I was laying points in both and paid the price. The night in college ended poorly, resulting in a .500 finish to end our run of winning days this week. Here is Thursday's recap, complete with some of the highlights (and lowlights):


The pick: Celtics/Pistons UNDER 205
Brad Stevens has gotten the better of Stan Van Gundy in five of their last seven games. It's helped to have the better team, but since their first two meetings went OT and both coaches want their teams to lock down defensively after getting sloppy before the break, there's definitely a competitive vibe in play here over your typical first outing after All-Star. Marcus Smart returns to help the Celtics try and shore things up, so I expect this game to see defense tighten up and tempo to slow down. Ride the under.


The pick: BYU/Portland OVER 137.5
Elijah Bryant really emerged for the Cougars once Moutntain West play began but has slumped some of late, scoring more than 14 points only once over his last five outings while shooting 21-for-54 (38 percent). We'll see if facing a Portland squad that he toasted for 22 points and a career-best 15 rebounds can get him to perk up, especially with Yoeli Childs healthy and running next to him following an injury scare. Portland has become reliable against the number under Terry Porter in 2018, coming in 8-1-1 against the spread over its last 10. This is in part due to the fact he often leaves starters in for a little cosmetic love, but his team has really done a nice job hanging around with most everyone in the WCC in February. Expect the over to come in here.

Result: The freebie's winning streak ended while most of you slept. It was frustrating to see a Pilots team that has extended games for months now completely reverse course in letting precious seconds roll off the clock in a 72-60 loss. If Portland had been as aggressive as it has been in securing cosmetic results over the course of WCC play, the foul game would've delivered the extra possessions we ultimately needed.


The pick: South Dakota State ML -140
The first meeting between these teams produced an 87-68 loss in Vermillion, so if the Coyotes can sweep the series, they’ll be the No. 1 seed in the Summit League tournament. Don’t expect that to happen. It’s Senior Day for key guys Reid Tellinghuisen, Skyler Flatten, Ian Theisen and Lane Severyn, not to mention star forward Mike Daum should he choose to leave. There’s no way the Jackrabbits lose this game. Ride South Dakota State on the money line, guaranteed.

Result: The Jackrabbits came through, winning 76-72 to capture the Summit. The reason why I refused to lay the 2.5/3 points in a game of this magnitude should've been evident if you watched how this ended, since there were multiple reviews in the final minute and the final possessions saw the cover change hands despite SDSU continuing to hold the lead it enjoyed throughout. Threatening to slide through the back door, the Coyotes actually trailed by just 2 points before intentionally missing the final free-throw. The Jacks ended up with enough time to inbound and add the game's final two points, delivering against the spread.


The pick: Thunder -7
Russell Westbrook and Paul George participated in the All-Star game but will have fresh legs for the first time in a while, rejoining forces with Carmelo Anthony and Steven Adams to try and get off to a good start post-break in Sacramento. Although Bogdan Bogdanovic is having himself a coming out party this month, fellow rookie De'Aaron Fox is now questionable with conjunctivitis, which would leave the Kings without a floor general they can trust since they moved to George Hill to the Cavs at the trade deadline. He'll likely play, but with backup Frank Mason also dealing with a heel issue, Westbrook has wounded prey to attack. Ride Oklahoma City -7, guaranteed.

Result: Oklahoma City led 44-21 after one quarter, but one of you must have started counting their money to jinx the rest of us. Don't do that. The Kings won the second and third by a 69-41 count, so despite Fox not playing and Bogdanovic scoring just four points, the Kings covered behind big games from Zach Randolph and Buddy Hield. The prospect of OT dangled one last chance in front of our faces, but Westbrook's buzzer-beater on a night where he shot 4-for-14 gave the Thunder a 110-107 win.


The pick: Santa Clara/Loyola Marymount UNDER 140.5
The Lions have struggled of late and are down Steven Haney, an elite shooter who really helped their spacing. Look for this game to lack firepower, which combined with methodical offense, should lead to enough lulls that it doesn't get to the 140-point mark. Ride the under in this WCC clash.

Result: This was in doubt only at the very end since the prospect of OT became a real possibility as Santa Clara successfully played the foul game to give itself a chance, but LMU survived 65-64.


The pick: Houston -6
The Memphis Tigers have pulled off victories at Tulane and SMU to restore hope that they can run the table given a manageable schedule. With no statement wins on their schedule, this becomes a final opportunity, but Jeremiah Martin still isn't 100 percent and Memphis lacks the depth and explosiveness to hang around with the Cougars. Rob Gray should be able to put this one away. Ride Houston.

Result: Despite Martin aggravating a hip injury and leaving in the first half, Memphis persevered on a brilliant night for Tubby Smith, who showed off his coaching skills and the fact that the team he's put together this season has stuck together throughout every obstacle. Depleted Memphis cashed over double your investment on the money line in a 91-85 upset I didn't see coming.


The pick: Louisiana/Troy OVER 155
Troy has a tendency to play at a slower tempo on the road, but has gotten very comfortable at home of late, scoring over 80 points in each of their last four outings at Trojan Arena. Look for them to give the Ragin' Cajuns a game here, likely leading to this game being extended late in what should end up being a higher-scoring contest than expected. Ride the over.

Result: This unfolded exactly as expected, since we needed the Trojans to continue scoring and fouling the Ragin' Cajuns in order to pull this out. Louisiana got it done at the strip to hold off Troy 81-76, draining its last two free-throws in the final seconds to secure the bag.


The pick: Cavs -5.5
LeBron James is certainly motivated with a new team around him, which by all reports produced a spirited practice as guys are ready to get after it. Meanwhile, Washington remains without John Wall for the next few weeks and will be led by first-time All-Star Bradley Beal, who has admitted he didn't get as much rest as he would've liked over the break. Since the Wizards are often so flat, I don't trust them to hang around on the road against the revitalized Cavs. Lay the points and ride Cleveland.

Result: LeBron was brilliant, but Washington took advantage of a still vulnerable Cleveland defense to pull off a 110-103 upset. Bradley Beal and Tomas Satoransky combined for 35 points and 17 assists on a night where the Wizards shared the ball beautifully to remind us all that the Cavs remain a work in progress.


The pick: Warriors/Clippers OVER 234
The Clippers aren't going to be able to defend well on the perimeter, which should spell trouble at Oracle regardless of how tired the Warriors say they are coming out of the All-Star break. L.A. has Lou Williams likely to be on the war path here after being shunned for a spot, so look for the high-scoring game that's expected to come to fruition now that it appears everyone is a go. Ride the over.  

Result: It helped to get a Danilo Gallinari 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer, pulling the Clips within 70-58. Although there was still work to be done in the second half, covering this huge number was executed comfortably since the teams combined for 133 points over the final 24 minutes. Golden State shot 62.7 percent, while L.A. hit half its shots, producing a 134-127 final. The teams combined to hit 25 3-pointers.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at mejia@vegasinsider.com