We notched a NBA winner last night with the Houston Rockets covering the huge line in Golden State, and the game unfolded nearly exactly as prescribed; the Rockets hung around and battled for three quarters (it was even tied at the end of three) and then the superior team, the team with more heart and better effort, extended the lead in the fourth and ended up winning pretty comfortably. In fact, the Rockets were so outclassed in the fourth quarter, I began to worry that an easy cover might slip away (the Barnes three-pointer to extend the lead to 13 with 20 seconds to go made me really nervous…) but alas, we got the win and the Warriors year-plus home winning streak is still intact with no end in sight.
Tonight is the second-to-last night of hoops before the All Star break, so let’s see if we can take some momentum into the holiday with a little winning streak…
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Today’s Free Pick:
Los Angeles Clippers at Boston Celtics -1
The Clippers needed overtime to avoid embarrassment two nights ago in Philadelphia, storming back from a large deficit to escape with the victory. It’s fair to say they’ll need to start much sharper to earn the same positive result tonight.
Boston has been excellent at home lately, reeling off seven straight wins at home and covering six of them. They have covered seven of their last ten overall and have gone 8-2 straight up. This isn’t a team blessed with stunning talent, but Brad Stevens gets the most out of them and they play HARD every night. They play modern-era basketball, launching as many three point attempts a night as anyone in the East except Cleveland, and while their percentage hasn’t been great, just over 33.6%, the new-math is working for the Celtics. They lead the East in scoring at 105.1 points per game and are tied for tenth in the league at just 100.1 allowed. That’s a pretty healthy point differential for a team that is flying largely under the radar.
The Clippers have gotten more attention for their star decking a trainer (four game suspension announced yesterday) than they have for the fact that they’ve played stunningly well without Blake Griffin. Perhaps it is because they are still a million games behind the Warriors and Spurs, but for a team that could have imploded, they have instead been very, very good. They are 17-4 without their star power forward.
However, Boston is on a roll and can score points to keep up with LAC. I like the long road trip to catch up with the Clips tonight and for Boston to defend the Garden. Boston is healthy and the Clippers bench took another blow with Austin Rivers breaking his hand. Boston has a ton of lightning quick guards who can defend and make life tough for the now very perimeter oriented Clippers.