At least one series will live to see another day, thanks in large part to the simply ridiculous MVP-like performance from James Harden. The more you watch the series, the more you see how Steph would curry more favor with voters; it’s a much more aesthetically-pleasing game he plays. But there is no denying the effectiveness and machine-like efficiency of Harden. When you look at true shooting percentage which also accounts for three point attempts and makes as well as the same for free throws, his 60.6% is top ten in the league, and matched at the guard position by only Steph and JJ Reddick.
Let’s get to the elephant in the NBA locker room – I stink this round. Like, awful. It kills me to hit losing streaks because I know we have a lot of great readers who look here for advice (hopefully you were cynically fading me last week…). It’s been a pretty good five year run with hoops, but the losing streaks sting and take a lot of the shine off the fun (and challenge the psyche, in addition to the well-managed bankroll). I’ve only had one run this bad in hoops, and it opened the NCAA Tourney three seasons ago. I shook it off and finished over .500 from the tourney, but it was a BAD day to have a few bad days – same here. With only one game each day and the stake magnified, there are no extra lines to pour through, no numbers to run and compare in search of a softer line; nowhere to hide. But still, no excuse for piling up a reverse-Scrooge McDuck-like stack of losers.
So, there’s my mea culpa. It’s been a maddening week and half (seriously, the Rockets look good, but as soon as I picked the Warriors it felt like I caused Steph’s concussion…) but we are going to right the ship, “regress to the mean” as I like to frequently say, and still finish this postseason over .500.
So let’s head out to Cleveland and see if another team can help the NBA avoid their game-free dilemma by extending their series.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Atlanta Hawks at Cleveland Cavaliers -8 (Total: 193.5)
How is Cleveland doing this? The stinkiness of the rest of the East or the singular brilliance of LeBron? His statline was gaudy, but in truth, he didn’t play his best game Sunday night. He was largely inefficient, primarily because he has to do EVERYTHING as his roster more and more resembles the collection he drug to the Finals as a kid in Cleveland (Mo Williams and Larry Hughes anyone? ‘Boobie” Gibson?” He carried them 53 minutes without Kyrie and Love and has his hometown franchise a mere win away from an NBA Finals appearance. Simply awesome stuff from LeBron.
Or are the Hawks just not that good? They are injured themselves, missing Korver and Sefolosha and Mike Scott has missed all eight three-point attempts in their absence. That could mean more Kent Bazemore tonight, who, while not DeMarre Carroll, is a better defender to take a turn on ‘Bron.
Meanwhile, very quietly, Kyrie’s absence hasn’t been the problem it was billed as. Is he better than Delevadova? Of course. Is he a better, and more importantly, more irritiating, defender? Nope. Delly is in the heads of the Hawks, enough so to rile up gentlemanly Al Horford into an ejection in Game Three. Can he rattle them again tonight, or does at some point, the fatigue, injuries and cumulative attrition of the Cavs begin to show SOME signs of slowing them down?
Atlanta is a different team without Korver. The floor looks different. The defenses react differently. And the ball move less effectively. Teague made up for it with some solid isolation plays – and he really had no choice with three of his teammates out and he will have to do it again tonight to keep the Hawks hanging around.
It’s hard to see Cleveland blowing anyone out with all their injuries. But it is also hard to see Atlanta winning with a similar issue. I think tonight has the potential to be scrappy, chippy, and a little ugly. Both teams won’t be at the efficient offensive bests. I think the winner of this game will keep the score in the 90’s. I’d lean Atlanta with the eight point cushion, but if things get away from them I can could see the game getting a little out of hand.
I just don’t think either team will score well tonight given an extra day to adjust to the depleted offensive lineups. I don’t think Cleveland has any interest pushing tempo with their thin bench – likewise for the Hawks.