For the second straight night a buzzer beater has pushed our selection to victory. Two nights ago it was former Spur George Hill capping off a furious Pacers comeback victory and last night it was current Spur Tony Parker dropping the Thunder in walk-off fashion to knock off the defending Western Conference champs. It’s been an absolutely thrilling start to the 2012-2013 NBA season, as well as a good start at the SportsGeek (2-0-1 ATS). Let’s keep it going tonight with our featured game as well as two bonus free picks.
Los Angeles Clippers @ Los Angeles Lakers -1 (Total: 189.5)
The battle for Los Angeles has gotten a lot more glamorous recently with the additions of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. It’s ratchets up another notch this season as Dwight Howard and Steve Nash join the party. Add in Kobe Bryant, Pao Gasol and Meta World Peace and it is quite the star-studded affair tonight at the Staples Center.
However the player who might have the most impact tonight is a player without quite as much name recognition and star power, super sixth man Jamal Crawford. Crawford was awesome in his Clippers debut against Memphis, scoring 29 points in keying the Clipps opening night victory. The Lakers biggest weaknesses are a lack of quality depth (advantage Crawford) and an inability thus far to defend the perimeter, particularly point guards (advantage Crawford AND CHRIS PAUL).
I think the Lakers struggles defending the perimeter are going to be badly exposed tonight. Steve Nash has never been a plus-defender, but at age 38 he has become an absolute liability. They are still not a fluid offense, so overall the early return on Steve Nash hasn’t been good, and to complicate things, he may not even play tonight after suffering a thigh contusion in Wednesday’s loss. I have no doubt by the end of the season, all will be well in Tinseltown, but for now, their struggles are not just a media creation – they are very real. (For the record, the 2010 Heat started 9-8, so RELAX collective sports world….)
The Clippers have a little edge tonight, despite being the “road” team; this game clearly means more to them than it does the Lakers. The Clippers are the little brothers fighting for respect and relevancy in a city long owned by the Lakers. The Clippers have a bannerless ceiling. The Lakers have them hanging by the dozens; championships, Finals appearances, Hall of Famers… the Clippers? Well, frankly this is about as good as they’ve EVER been.
The Clippers bench gets a boost tonight with the addition of Matt Barnes, a nice defensive addition to throw at Kobe Bryant (who’s been one of the two Lakers play well), and they have plenty of quality interior defense with D’Andre Jordan, Blake Griffin and Lamar Odom (which they can rotate to give different looks to Dwight, the other Laker playing well).
Overall, I like the Clippers getting a point to win the game tonight.
Free Pick: Los Angeles Clippers +1
I like the Pacers on the road tonight against a pathetic Charlotte team, laying the 6.5. I think Indy handles their business and wins by ten-plus.
I also like Phoenix at home tonight laying four against Detroit. The Pistons made James Harden look like Oscar Robertson Wednesday night. I think Goran Dragic has a good game against the below-average Pistons backcourt and Phoenix scores enough points to win and cover.
Bonus: Indiana Pacers -6.5, Phoenix Suns -4