Maybe it wasn’t all Blatt’s fault… The Cavs debuted new coach Tyron Lue last night, only to get beat, and beat up, on their home floor by their rival Chicago. The Bulls were tougher and Derrick Rose penetrated at will against the less-than-stellar defense of Kyrie Irving en route to the comfortable victory. It’s just a regular season game in January, so it doesn’t mean a ton, but it was another tantalizing glimpse of the ability of the Bulls to put it together at times and look like title, or at least Eastern Conference title, contenders.
Meanwhile, Boogie may not be a starter, but it will be absolutely impossible to leave him out of Toronto this season. The oft-troubled big man dropped 46 points last night, leading the Kings to their fifth straight win and keeping them well positioned to be a pesky playoff team that the Thunder or Clippers would prefer to avoid. Boogie is now averaging 26.7 points and 11.2 rebounds to go with 2.7 assists and nearly a block and a half per game. I get why the fans didn’t vote him in; reputation + Kings, but not only is he an All Star, he should be First Team All NBA and is emerging as the MVP candidate no one wants to talk about…
We notched a third straight NBA winner with the Bulls not only covering but winning outright on the road. Let’s make it four tonight.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Los Angeles Clippers at Toronto Raptors -2
The Clippers have been good to me, as I’ve ridden them to a few easy covers during their remarkable 12-2 stretch without Blake Griffin. But tonight they meet an squally hot team, and they meet them on their home floor.
Toronto has reeled off seven straight games and eleven of fourteen including wins over the Heat, Celtics, Mavs and Wizards twice. They are also 5-1 ATS in their last six games and have gone 5-1 both straight-up and ATS in their last six meetings hosting the Clippers.
Toronto is one of those sneaky good teams. Maybe it is geography, maybe it is that their stars are good but not “all-time good” like a Curry, LeBron or Durant – I’m not sure. But for whatever reason they rarely pop into most collective minds as a legit Finals threat. They are sixth in offensive efficiency, trailing only the Cavaliers in the East and are tenth in defensive efficiency, a number that should even improve once DeMarre Carroll is healthy. I am not saying the Raptors are going to the Finals, but they should at least be in the same sentence as Chicago, Miami and Atlanta – maybe even before them. Especially given that they can close to just two games back of Cleveland with a win today.
The Clippers run has been really impressive, but capping off a three game in four day east coast road trip with a win at Toronto who is 14-6 straight up at home is a tough ask. I like the Raptors to prevail at home this afternoon and deal the Clippers a rare loss.