NBA picks: Saturday, April 12

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NBA picks: Saturday, April 12

Atlanta (+5) vs. Miami

The Hawks have been a tough team to handicap all season, but they’ve played the Heat pretty tough. After losing by 16 in mid-November in Miami, they went neck and neck with LeBron and Co. in their return trip to South Beach (a 121-119 overtime loss) and took the first meeting in Atlanta by seven points in late January. With their magic number for the 8-seed at 1 and a potential first-round playoff matchup with Miami looming, Atlanta should be motivated to lock down the spot while also sending a message that they will be no pushovers when the real games start. The Heat, meanwhile, have continued to zig when everyone expects them to zag and vice versa. They’ve been up and down all month, splitting their first six games. And after Friday’s statement win over the Pacers that put them back in the driver’s seat for the 1-seed, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them give it right back. Throw in home court and Atlanta’s current 4-1 run against the number and the five points look like a nice cushion given their decent chance of winning the game outright.

Cleveland (-9) vs. Boston

A pure situational play against the Celtics, who despite a clear angling for the best possible draft pick were facing the prospect of ending the season on a 13-game losing streak. All players are competitors, and Boston displayed that by knocking off the playoff-bound Bobcats on Friday. The win came at a cost, though, as a pair of key contributors in Jared Sullinger and Jerryd Bayless suffered injuries and are unavailable. The Celtics will also be without Rajon Rondo again and Kris Humphries is questionable, which could leave them with a mere eight healthy bodies. Given that the Celtics are tied with Utah and a game behind Orlando in the “race” for the third-worst record in the league – coupled with the fact that they are fresh off a satisfying, monkey-off-the-back type of win – a no-show in Cleveland against a Cavs team that’s won six of its last 10 straight up and riding a 6-1 home ATS streak can be expected.

Overall picks: 14-16-2

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