Los Angeles Clippers @ Indiana Pacers -3.5
Well, there is one absolute guarantee I can make about tonight’s Clippers v. Pacers game. It can’t be any worse than last night’s Magic “effort” on TNT. For the second time this season the Magic were held under 60 points, the first team in the modern shot-clock era to accomplish this ignominious feat. The Bulls, who obviously rolled to an easy victory, were again playing without MVP Derek Rose. What makes the low-light even more notable is the fact that the Magic have the third best record in Eastern Conference. It’s a tough team to figure out.
The Pacers have been a tough team to figure out this season as well. They’ve had six game winning streaks. They’ve had five game losing streaks. They’ve climbed as high as third in the East. They’ve also just lost back-to-back games to the New York Knicks. Their leading scorer and three-time All-Star Danny Granger is shooting less than 39% from the floor and they have seven other players averaging over 7 points a night. A disproportionate number of shots come from an inefficient star yet they are one of the most balanced teams in the NBA. You figure it out.
Not that the Clippers are any steadier. They are just 5-5 in their last ten games, including losses to Phoenix, New Jersey and Golden State; none of whom are playoff teams. In fact, despite the praise and general optimism surrounding the Clippers and the doom and gloom surrounding their Staple Center friends the Lakers, the Lake Show is actually one and a half games ahead of the Clippers for first place in the Pacific and in third place in the West.
The Pacers will have their hands full defending Blake Griffin, who notched his career-high 47 points in their meeting last season. However, this year’s Pacer squad is much better defensively with the addition of David West and George Hill (I know, Hill won’t guard Griffin, but overall team defense still matters), as well as the growth of Roy Hibbert and Paul George into bonafide NBA starters and All-Star caliber players. I think they will do a much better job defending Griffin this season. They also should be able to better corral Chris Paul than most teams with the combination of Darren Collison and the new addition of speedy Leandro Barbosa (who makes his Pacer debut tonight).
I like the Pacers tonight to win and cover, but here is one more stat to make things fun; the Clippers are 0-8 ATS in their last eight games against the Central Division. I think tonight makes their ninth in row. Give me the Pacers laying the three and a half.