The Golden State Warriors notched their 16th straight win last night to push their NBA-best record to a staggering 21-2. Steve Kerr for Coach of the Year? How about Steve Kerr for President? This has been an absolutely jaw-dropping start out in the Bay, but before I go even more all in on Steph and the Splash Brothers, they have a dangerous stretch of schedule coming up for the ten days prior to their Christmas showdown with their arch-rival Clippers. Tomorrow they take on Memphis on the ESPN game and Thursday night they take center stage on TNT against the surging and finally-healthy Thunder. Win those two back to back and we can start considering some even more staggering possibilities…
In the meantime, there are eight games to sift through tonight, so let’s dive in with today’s free pick.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Chicago Bulls at Atlanta Hawks -2.5 (Total: 197)
The Hawks had their nine-game winning streak snapped Friday night at Orlando when Tobias Harris hit a dramatic walk-off buzzer-beater. The 100-99 loss was the first time they tasted defeat in quite a while, and they will be challenged big time tonight with the visit from Derek Rose and the Bulls. Both teams struggled a bit early, but look like legitimate Eastern Conference challengers this season while the Cavaliers search for their sea legs.
Atlanta’s nine-game streak wasn’t exactly packed with playoff foes; their best wins were a home win over New Orleans and road wins at Brooklyn and Miami, but then again, the East doesn’t exactly serve up a daily grind on the regular. Chicago is also in the midst of some pretty good basketball, winning three straight and seven of their last nine. Their losses are to Golden State and an overtime loss to Dallas, so no shame in either effort.
The point is, this should be a pretty good basketball team between two pretty good teams. I think Chicago has a greater upside, but Atlanta has good toughness and sneaky athleticism. And, as ridiculous as it sounds, with all the issues surrounding Derek Rose, you could make a compelling argument for preferring the Hawks’ Jeff Teague as your point guard. I’d certainly at least fill out my All-Star ballot in that order.
Atlanta and Chicago are both in the Top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency and both enter with similar records, similar marquee wins and losses and similar positive momentum. The edge for Atlanta is two-fold tonight; they are at home, and Chicago is on the back-end of a back-to-back on the road. That is usually enough to coax a poor effort out of the road team, especially when the home team is rested. Two and a half is a pretty slim margin to lay for a good team at home. I’ll take the Hawks.