Well, that didn’t go so great last night… For truly the first time this season, I took one on the chin when the Timberwolves went into Orlando and grabbed their first road win of the season – on the back end of a road back to back no less. The Timberpups, without Rubio, started four guys 22 or younger – Kris Dunn the only 22 year old despite being a rookie, and LOOKED like they had young and fresh legs. Statistically, over the past five years and especially this season, it’s still the right play an overwhelming majority of the time to fade the team on the road on the back-end. But yes, we got POPPED last night from the outset when Minny grabbed a 39-17 first quarter lead.
Elsewhere, the Sixers fell JUST short once again in an effort to grab their first win. They took a two point lead with six seconds to play in Indy, only to be heartbroken one more time. Paul George hit the dagger tying shot and dominated overtime and Indy escaped what could have been the most embarrassing loss this NBA season. And in the MVP early race, James Harden notched another triple-double in San Antonio, dropping the Spurs to a stunning 1-3 at home.
We will try to get back on the grind tonight with just four games to choose from. There’s a TNT Doubleheader with Chicago heading to Miami (a game that would have been WAY better three years ago…) and the Lakers and Kings make a rare national television appearance in the nightcap. And oddly, it might be the better of the two games.
Let’s get to today’s free pick and see if we can start another new winning streak.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat -1.5
Let’s just start with an obvious statement; I’m not real wild about either of these two teams. Both are old in key spots, both have some glaring holes. Miami has massive offensive question marks. They ranks 29th in offensive efficiency, which kind of makes sense after losing Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and now starting a defensive center in Hassan Whiteside (who is actually scoring well), Justice Winslow, an excellent defender who is shooting 31.1%. That’s not a typo. His backup/running mate Dion Waiters is shooting 31.9%. Three other guys who get minutes are shooting 35% or worse as well. That’s INSANE.
Now, in Miami’s defense, they are sixth in defensive efficiency, so they aren’t a ‘terrible’ TEAM, but they are so gross offensively, it is really hard for me to see them making the playoffs.
On the other sideline, the Chicago Bulls rank fourth in the NBA in offensive efficiency, but as we have talked about a LOT, there shooting has declined steadily after a really hot start. They are 19th in defensive efficiency, which is actually a little better than expected but certainly not intimidating. And the trouble with that split? Shooters tend to shoot worse on the road and defense travels. So on a night like TONIGHT, on the road and on the back end of a back to back with an older roster and some tired legs, the defense needs to hold the fort. I’m not sure Chicago’s will tonight, even with Miami’s miserable shooting percentages.
And then –the emotional. Tonight marks Dwyane Wade’s sure-to-be emotional return to Miami. He will be showered with love and the one or two morons who boo will likely be shamed by the rest of their fans. He is a returning hero who departed under less-than-perfect circumstances, but there is no doubt the three-time NBA champ gets plenty of love tonight in his return.
But I am not sure that will help him score plenty of baskets, and certainly not efficiently against the Heat’s stifling defense. He’s averaging 19.0ppg on nearly 50% shooting – in short, he’s been GREAT. But he played 33 minutes last night on the road and under normal circumstances; I’m not sure how much Fred Hoiberg would even push his 34-year old star tonight.
I am sure he will get some hoops, and get some applause. But at the end of the day, I’m sticking with fundamentals and fading a team, especially an older team, on the road on the back end of a back-to-back.