It’s been a strange weekend for the Warriors. First, they get drilled by the Blazers, allowing the most points by a defending champion in nearly 30 years, then they look like things are going to be smooth-sailing on a back-to-back at the Clippers… and it was. Until the final minute. The Clippers closed on a bizarre 13-0 run to get a desperation heave at the buzzer to force one of the most improbable overtimes in regular season history. Alas, the shot went awry, and the Warriors are once again a game ahead of the pace set my MJ’s immortal Bulls.
We should all hope the playoff matchup between these two both happens, and it even CLOSE to as entertaining…
In the meantime, we need to snap our slight funk coming out of the All Star Break with a winner today, so let’s get after it right now.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Cleveland Cavaliers at Oklahoma City Thunder -3
The Thunder have had two nights to stew over their surprising home loss to the Pacers, and I think it will serve them well tonight. The two 2012 NBA Finals star combatants will square off this afternoon in the marquee ABC matchup and bring plenty of star-power to the Arena. Both teams are healthy which means we get LeBron vs. Durant, Kyrie vs. Russ and Love vs. Ibaka (I know the last two play different positions, just pointing out if that is third billing, we have some pretty impressive matchups).
The Heat bested the Thunder back then, and we never did get the rematch many assumed would be many years forthcoming ala Magic and Bird. Today’s is as close as we will get. So which star’s squad has the edge?
The first edge goes to OKC by sheer virtue of being at home. The Thunder are 25-6 at home this season while Cleveland is a lesser, but still respectable, 16-10 on the road. They rank second and fourth in respective offensive efficiency and ninth and seventh on the defensive end of the floor. They are third and fifth in effective field goal percentage and are third and seventh in total FG%. In short, both teams are good on both ends of the floor and are easily two of the five best teams in the NBA – and it is hard to make a case for a close sixth team in the group.
The home team has won three straight in this matchup (and prior to those three, there was no LeBron in Cleveland, so frankly, who cares). OKC has gone 7-2-1 ATS in the last ten home games and Cleveland is just 4-9-1 ATS in their last 14 roadies. Plus, I just don’t see OKC dropping two straight at home – it happens rarely. Add in the fact that Shumpert is unlikely to play today, leaving the Cavs without their best perimeter defender to try and slow two of the best perimeter scorers on Earth.
I’ll take the Thunder laying the narrow three.