A couple of the NBA’s best team sent messages loud and clear last night. The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs both swatted away would-be challengers with ease, and both did so on the road. Just in case the Clippers had thoughts they were on par with the Spurs, Greg Popovich’s squad sent a reminder that the road to the Finals doesn’t just go through Oklahoma City; there’s a rather unpleasant stop in San Antonio as well.
NBA owners sent a big message yesterday as well. That message was, “um… yeah, we’re fine.” Yesterday’s trade deadline passed with as quiet a whimper as any year in recent memory with no real contender making a single move. In my opinion, it was a wise move as every contending team has a solid nucleus and a real chance to contend for many years into the future. Why risk chemistry and salary cap issues on a desperate, late-season, baseball-style deadline trade?
It’s a nice Friday night slate of action tonight in the NBA so let’s get right to it with a few free picks.
Denver Nuggets -3.5 at Washington Wizards
I’m not wild about the Celtics trade to bring in Jordan Crawford, but I see why the Wizards were willing to part. His stats were obviously inflated from the prolonged absence of John Wall, and with Wall and Beal looking like one of the better young backcourts in the East, Crawford became expendable. They got next to nothing in return, expiring contract and an injured Leondro Barbosa, but that’s exactly the point – they got nothing and it was STILL a pretty good deal.
The Wizards have been playing good ball since the return of Wall, and have been hovering slightly over .500 with him in the lineup. On paper, the Nuggets look like a mismatch, but this is a team that is dreadful on the road. I like Washington to catch them in another one of their road funks and to steal a win.
Free Pick: Washington Wizards +3.5
Boston Celtics -2 at Phoenix Suns
The Suns have set deep. A long-time playoff perennial, they have fallen to the worst team in the West, and have looked especially bad of late. They’ve lost eight of ten and are under .500 even at home. Boston hasn’t been good on the road by any stretch, but they have been playing great basketball since the Rondo injury.
I am not sure it is causal, but whatever is going on, it is hard to ignore. Garnett remained true to his word that he would not accept a trade, and to me, that is a clear indication that both he and the team think they have one last run in them. It’s hard to see right now, but I wouldn’t underestimate KG and Pierce, who were one bad half away from the NBA Finals last year.
I like the Celtics to go on the road and get a win over a less-talented Suns team.
Free Pick: Boston Celtics -2