No better way to end a miserable stretch than to go back to the team flirting with a historical level of statistical dominance, the San Antonio Spurs. They increased their all-time best 15+ ppg point differential last night with a 117-89 beatdown of the hapless Suns in Phoenix. San Antonio is in the midst of accomplishing something rarely seen in sports – a complete overhaul from one championship roster to the next without jettisoning old, aging stars. Instead, Duncan and Ginobili have slid effortlessly into supporting roles, allowing Kawhi Leonard, a draft pick in the teens and someone who projected as a role player on draft night, a “three and D” guy perhaps, to become a top five MVP candidate and a Western Conference All Star Game starter.
It’s amazing stuff, and the basketball they play is breathless to watch. I generally watch objectively with no dog in the fight, but can’t help but be hopeful of a prospect of a seven game series between Golden State and San Antonio sometime this summer. It will be a Master’s class in how basketball can be played at the highest level.
Let’s take last night’s win and run with it. I owe you some winners like we were cranking out on the regular back in November and December, so let’s get crackin!
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Today’s Free Pick:
Los Angeles Clippers -1.5 at New York Knicks
The Knicks are trying to cap off a perfect home stand with a win over the Blake Griffin-less Clippers tonight. And that sentence makes it feel like it is more than likely. However, the Knicks “perfect” home stand is comprised of a double-overtime win Monday over Philadelphia and an overtime win the shell of Utah’s roster Wednesday night. Not so impressive, and a LOT of minutes on the court.
Meanwhile, LAC without Griffin hasn’t been as bad as it may seem. They are 10-2 without their presumptive All-Star in the lineup and the losses were at Cleveland and to the Kings. They’ve played really good basketball and JJ Reddick’s emergence has been revelatory. He won’t be an All Star, but if his whole season looked like the last month, it would have been interesting.
The Knicks are competitive this season and Carmelo is a justified All Star. But Los Angeles is the far better team and the recent Knicks record isn’t quite as impressive as it seems at first blush. Overtime wins over the worst teams in the league and worth getting overly excited about. I expect LAC to come in and handle their business on the road in a near pick em’ game. The Clippers are 9-3 ATS without Blake – so not just winning games but covering them as well. Some of it is the benefit of the lines contracting because of his injury, but I’ll use that to my advantage. The numbers show, as great as Blake is, and he has been excellent this season, that the Clippers just aren’t worse without him, for some reason. SO assuming the Clippers are STILL who we thought they were, there is little reason not to pick them on the road against the Knicks.