We split our NBA picks yesterday with the Knicks winning easily, even after the crazy line move when it became official that Lebron and Wade were sitting out the contest. In the nightcap, the Lakers came up with a surprisingly stingy defensive effort in route to a huge 101-81 victory, falling well under the game total. The win al but knocks the Mavericks out of the playoff chase, making the race for the 8th spot a two-way chase between the Lakers and the Jazz.
Tonight’s free pick is focused on a game with less dire playoff ramifications than last night’s Dallas vs. Los Angeles tilt, but still significant impact on which team can avoid the dreaded 4/5 matchup in the West. Memphis travels to Portland tonight in a game they need to win, but in a gym where they haven’t too often historically. Can the Grizz notch yet another big road win?
Let’s dig inside tonight’s featured matchup…
Memphis Grizzlies -5.5 at Portland Trailblazers
It might seem odd at first glance to see a road team favored so heavily visiting a team with a healthy 22-13 home record on the season… until you take a look at the Portland injury report. LaMarcus Alderidge, easily the team’s best player, will sit out a fourth straight game tonight with a sprained ankle. With the Blazers all but mathematically eliminated from the playoff race, there is absolutely NO WAY Portland is rushing back their franchise power forward. The Blazers are 0-3 with Alderidge on the pine.
The Blazers will also be without the services of Nicholas Batum, who has very quietly evolved into an above-average NBA starter, averaging 14.4 points, 4.9 assists and 5.6 rebounds a game, to go along with his solid defense (he averages more than a block and steal per contest).
Those two injuries remove two of their three leading scorers from the lineup, and I don’t see them finding enough offense to replace them, especially against the Memphis Grizzlies, who have held opponents to just 44% shooting and nearly eight points under the league average at just 90.2 ppg.
Add in the defensive prowess, huge front court advantages with Portlands injuries, and the fact that Memphis has something to play for while Portland does not – it all adds up to a favorable matchup (and favorable line) for the Memphis Grizzlies.
I like Memphis to cruise to a double-digit win tonight, even on the road, and to notch their fourth straight win. Meanwhile, Portland’s losing ways continue with their sixth straight loss. Two of those losses were even BEFORE LaMarcus Alderidge went down. This team has called it a season; “gone fishing” as Chuck and Kenny would say. It makes it all the easier for us to ‘catch’ a winner tonight with Memphis.
Free Pick: Memphis Grizzlies -5.5