The Atlanta Hawks kept on rolling last night, further dismissing the need for a “go-to superstar” to close games, instead getting big plays from a host of good players, many All Stars, to hold off the Portland Trailblazers and earn their eighteenth straight win. Their winning streak is the third longest winning streak before the All Star Break in NBA history. Of the other five teams in the top five, all four have made the NBA Finals and three have won the championship.
Does this mean Atlanta is winning it all? Well, the Cavaliers have won nine straight and the Bulls still have a ton of talent, so it won’t be easy. Washington is a legit contender as well with a little more muscle in the frontcourt than the Hawks. But regardless of the eventual outcome, it you had a preseason prediction column that stated the Warriors and Hawks would be the prohibitive favorites to end the season as the top seed in their respective conferences you would have elicited more than a few chuckles…
Last night’s pick looked great for about 42 minutes as the Heat, who were getting nine points, held a sixteen point lead. Then, one of the worst runs I have ever seen a professional basketball team endure began. The Mavs put a 37-2 run on them. 37-2! Stunning stuff, but at least the Heat didn’t use Hassan Whiteside in the second half after putting up 14 points and 18 boards in the first half, because he is on a “minute restriction.” Which makes sense because he is an MLB starting pitcher??…. Huh???
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Today’s Free Pick:
Cleveland Cavaliers -9.5 at Minnesota Timberwolves (Total: 206)
The Cavs are simply rolling right now. In contrast, the Wolves lost last night to the 76’ers by 11 points. Less than 24 hours later they need to shake off an embarrassing loss to the worst team in the NBA and face one of the best. Making things even more interesting is the fact that tonight is the return of Kevin love to Minnesota. I expect some boos, even in light of the over-love that former teams have been showering on their former players this season (Pau Gasol t-shirts give-aways in LA?) This homecoming will be less pleasant, I can almost guarantee.
Tonight is an interesting test for just how closely this new-look Cavs roster has bonded. I have a feeling they ride into Minny with Kevin Love’s back tonight and deliver an absolute beatdown. It’s gotta be a tough situation for Love; not only did he leave Minnesota, but the three-time All Star who finished top-five in MVP voting is now the third option on his own team and didn’t even make the All Star roster. Basically, as predicted, he’s been “Bosh’ed.” I have a funny feeling LeBron and crew understand some of the emotions and will have their boy’s back tonight.
This is probably hyperbole, but I feel like tonight is more than a should-win game, it is an opportunity to show Kevin Love that Cleveland is his new home and a place he should want to be for a long time (and especially his next contract).
I expect Love to get plenty of touches and for the Cavaliers to overwhelm the young Timberwolves.