There are some NBA teams that simply thrive on the spotlight and doubt. Two of the best examples were on display last night in grandly different fashion. First, the Miami Heat. The Heat looked fantastic over the weekend blistering the Bulls and leaving viewers scratching their heads at why this team was under .500 with Dwyane Wade and Bosh healthy and Hassan Whiteside looking like an absolute revelation. Then, of course, as the national tv lights fade, they host Milwaukee last night and lay an absolute egg at home (not just saying that because I bitterly picked them last night). Dwyane Wade left the game injured, but in truth, they weren’t playing well at any point last night.
The flip-side of the equation is the Chicago Bulls, who seem to rev up championship-level outputs only once the level of doubt and dissention reaches a loud roar. They were 9.5 point underdogs in Golden State last night. When was the last time a healthy Bulls team was a double-digit underdog? So, of course, they come out with a fire and intensity and hand the Warriors only their second home loss of the season, bottling up Steph Curry and knocking off the Dubs in OT.
It’s a crazy league, and sometimes, as much as numbers and metrics are valuable, it is useful to have a feel for a team’s mood and personality as well.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Portland Trailblazers at Cleveland Cavaliers -5.5 (Total: 207)
It’s good news that LaMarcus Aldridge isn’t going to have surgery and is going to play the remainder of the season for Portland, but there’s no guarantee he will be at 100% effectiveness. Meanwhile, he and his Blazers are heading into a beehive tonight to face the sting of one of the hottest teams in the NBA. All of a sudden, the bizarre chemistry experiment in Cleveland appears to be achieving alchemy. J.R. Smith looks like the most popular guy on the team (have you seen him and Kevin Love doing flying chest bumps? It made my mind melt). And perhaps most underrated, Timofey Mozgov has given them some legitimate interior defensive presence in the wake of losing Andy Verajao. This team looks like legitimate contenders once again. Couple that with the Bulls win last night and perhaps things are about to get interesting in the beleaguered Eastern Conference.
The Cavs have won seven in a row, many of them in dominating fashion. The Blazers have lost five of seven (two without L.A.), and just don’t appear to have the mojo they had at the beginning of the season (sound like a familiar script Portland fans?)
Cleveland is playing too well right now. I’d take them at home against any team in the league tonight. And I’m willing to lay six against a solid Portland squad. Look for the Cavs to make it eight straight and really ramp up the “are the Cavs the best team in the East” talk, even while Atlanta rolls through the NBA…