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REASON FOR PICK: My free play is on the Tor Raptors at 7:35 ET.

The Toronto Raptors lost eight of 11 games earlier this month but their division lead dwindled by only one-half of a game. That’s the beauty of playing in the Atlantic Division. Toronto entered its poor stretch with a 9 1/2-game lead over second-place Brooklyn on Dec 29 but after a Jan 21 loss at Memphis completed the 3-8 slump, its lead had been trimmed to nine with the Nets going 4-8 in that span. Brooklyn has since lost three straight since, while its deficit has ballooned to 12 1/2 games. A return to offensive normalcy has spearheaded Toronto's recovery. The Eastern Conference's top scoring team (106.0 PPG) had been limited to 98.7 on the slide but has averaged 107.0 since. Wednesday's 119-102 home win over Sacramento marked the Raptors' best total in a victory since winning 123-104 at Utah on Dec 3.

DeRozan (18.1 PPG) has been back for nine games, with Toronto losing two of the first three but winning FIVE of the last six. He’s been erratic, topping 20 points in five of those games but averaging a pathetic 6.5 PPG in the other four. However, Toronto has won FOUR in a row over teams like Philly, Detroit, Indiana and Sacramento (that quartet owns a combined winning percent of .319), shooting a blistering 50.4 percent while averaging 112,3 PPG in its last three wins (opened the streak with a 91-86 win at Philly). Toronto scored 65 second-half points vs the Kings, plus made 17 three-pointers, the most since making a franchise-record 21 on March 13, 2005 (Toronto has knocked down 26 three-pointers in its last two games).

The Nets come in on a 2-11 overall stretch (have dropped six straight at home to match their longest skid in Brooklyn), going 4-9 ATS. Brooklyn had gone 6-1 from Dec 21 through Jan 2 before this current slide, having averaged just 90.7 PPG while shooting 42.9 percent (including 26.7 from three-point range) in this 13-game stretch. Over the last eight games, excluding an inexplicable 102-80 win at Washington (Wizards should be charged TWO losses for that effort!), the Nets have allowed opponents to average 108.4 PPG in the other seven games.

I noted that Toronto’s four-game winning streak has come over teams with combined .319 winning percentage and Brooklyn's 18-27 (400) record seems to be “more of the same” for the Raptors, in terms of “easy pickins.” The Nets have faded out of the playoff picture by losing 11 of their last 13 games, with Brooklyn losing its last three by double digits. That includes a 123-84 setback to the Los Angeles Clippers and a 108-73 defeat to the Utah Jazz, as Brooklyn becomes only the fifth team in NBA history to drop back-to-back games by 35 points or more!

For good measure, the Nets have lost six in a row at the Barclays Center and are 4-17 against teams with a current winning record. Lay the points.

Good luck...Larry

REASON FOR PICK: This is a Free #NCAAB play on the Arizona Wildcats. Arizona has won five straight by an average margin of more than 19 points heading into tonight's home game versus Oregon State. It was the Beavers that handed the Wildcats their only loss in conference play so far, so you can expect Arizona be motivated by revenge here tonight. The Wildcats have won 32 straight home games dating back to February of 2013. They rank 7th nationally with a field goal percentage of 49.8%. Oregon State is coming off a 73-55 loss at Arizona State, and they have dropped four of six on the road this season. All three of their road losses during conference play have come by a double digit margin. The Beavers lost by a score of 76-54 when they traveled to Tuscon last season, and I expect another one-sided affair here tonight. Take ARI. GL, Jesse Schule
REASON FOR PICK: Play - Boston Celtics. Edges - Celtics: 5-0 ATS last five games as a dog; and 3-0 ATS off SU DD loss versus non-conference foe off SU win this season. Rockets: 2-11 ATS away after Mavericks versus foe off SUATS loss. With the Celtics looking to avenge a 14-point loss suffered at Houston on opening day this season, the points become the play here tonight. We recommend a 1-unit play on Boston. Thank you and good luck as always. • Marc’s top play on Friday night’s college basketball card takes place in the Ivy League and it features a poisonous angle in a 100% ATS perfect winning role. Best of all it’s yours - if you act now!
REASON FOR PICK: Your free play for Friday, January 30, 2015 comes in the NBA as Minnesota and the 76ers meet in Philadelphia. Minnesota is off a rare win, but it was against a Boston team winding down a 6-game trip. This Minnesota team is still 21st in points scored, 26th in rebounds, as well as 30th in points allowed. They are dead last in the league defensively allowing .493% shooting. The Timberwolves are 4-11 ATS playing on one days rest. Philadelphia is off a big win, as Mike Carter-Williams had 14 points and 10 assists, Robert Covington scored 19 points and the 76ers had an 89-69 win over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night. The 76ers are 9-4 ATS against a team with a winning percentage below .400. Play the 76ers.
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Marc Lawrence

Marc Lawrence

Play - Boston Celtics. Edges - Celtics: 5-0 ATS last  Today's Free Picks By Marc Lawrence