The NBA celebrated Inauguration Day in style by offering up some fantastic afternoon basketball, highlighted by Indiana’s 82-81 win at Memphis. The season started ominously for Indy, as it looked like they would struggle to find offense without injured leading scorer Danny Granger. Now it appears his injury might wind up being a blessing in disguise. The Pacers record has ballooned to 26-16, only one game away from the best record in the East, and Paul George has blossomed into a borderline All-Star (we’ll see if he gets the nod. Indy’s record merits at least one spot, but it could be either he or David West – seems hard to believe they BOTH make it…).
It will be an interesting jostling for positioning in the East as Miami, Indiana, New York, Brooklyn and Chicago are all only separated by three games (and Indy and Chicago are anticipating the returns of their best players).
Today is a lighter slate of NBA games with only four games overall, but there are a few good matchups, highlighted by the late night clash between the Thunder and Clippers. My pick is avoiding the glamor matchup, but instead looking for a nice winning edge in the Milwaukee v. Philadelphia tilt.
Philadelphia 76’ers at Milwaukee Bucks -6.5 (Total: 196.5)
Milwaukee has slid a little behind Indy and Chicago in the Central, but it is as much a result of hot play by the Pacers and Bulls as it is poor play by the Bucks. They made some waves a few weeks ago, firing coach Scott Skiles as they sat only two games out of first, but things seem to have calmed down in Milwaukee. The Bucks have won five of seven, and four of those wins were on the road, including a nice win at Chicago and a nice win this weekend in Portland.
Tonight they return home after a long West Coast road trip where they are a surprisingly pedestrian 10-9. However, they are fresh off two days of needed rest and are hosting a 76’er team that is just 6-14 away from home this season. Philly has lost seven of nine (albeit against a pretty tough schedule) and played last night in a tough 90-85 loss to the Spurs.
To summarize, we have a below-average team and a BAD road team playing a good team on the road on the second night of a back-to-back. That’s usually a pretty solid recipe for a poor performance, and that’s exactly what I expect out of Philly tonight. Give me the Bucks laying the six and a half.
Free Pick: Milwaukee Bucks -6.5