Indiana Pacers -1.5 at Toronto Raptors (Total: 187.5)
The season began perfectly for the defending champs and their newest addition, Hall of Famer to-be Ray Allen. The Heat took apart the Celtics despite Lebron James not playing the entire fourth quarter because of soreness. Ray Allen did what he does; knocked down big shots, and Chris Bosh helped seal the win with several tough late buckets. If those are the two best teams in the East, and I think they are, there doesn’t seem to be much that can prevent a Heat coronation in 2013.
Meanwhile, out West let the over-reactions begin! The Lakers got beat 99-91 on their home floor by the Dirk-less Mavs, and new Dallas point guard Darren Collison looked very good in the process. Could this portend trouble to come? Steve Nash struggled defensively with the smallish Collison – what happens when he has to face Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook in the Playoffs??
Let’s get to tonight’s free pick and see if we can put a nice win streak together to start the new season.
The Pacers overachieved by most estimations last season. This year, the expectations are considerably higher, as the Pacers consider themselves legitimate contenders to win the East. Not that I agree with that… but I will give them potential to be the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. However, in order to compete for that #2 seed, they are going to have to overcome the early season absence of leading scorer Danny Granger.
I’ve been critical of Granger in the past. His sub-40% shooting most of the season (he pulled above that number later in the year) is troubling, and certainly not “number one” quality. I’ve long contended he could be an amazing second option on a team with a legit scorer, or a fantastic complimentary piece if he had enough offense around him. In a weird way, his absence could help accelerate that process. With Granger sidelined, the offense will likely run through who it should; David West. He is not a 25 point a game guy, but he is an excellent unselfish creator in the post, and a legit back to the basket scorer.
I expect Paul George and Roy Hibbert to flourish in Granger’s absence and for the Pacers to scarcelt miss a bit in the early going.
The Raptors seem to be in perpetual rebuilding mode. Such is the case in 2012-2013. There are some young talented pieces in place, but any serious playoff aspirations are ambitious at best. DeMarr Derozan emerged as a decent NBA scorer last season with 16.7 points per game, but be wary… someone has to score in NBA games. I am not willing to make the leap to Derozan being a legit NBA second tier star quite yet. The same can be said for former #1 pick, Andrea Bargnani. He missed most of last season with injury, but is said to be back at full strength. He gives them a more formidable lineup, but still a bottom-ten team.
The Pacers are only laying a few points tonight, and I think that line is WAY too low. Yes, they will miss Granger, but even without him they have a more talented, and certainly more cohesive, unit that the Raptors. It’s going to be a long season at the Air Canada Center, and I think it gets started tonight.
Free Pick: Indiana Pacers -1.5