It was a fun day for NBA basketball Sunday (unless of course you are Blake Griffin’s groin). The Heat stormed back in the second half to win their 14th straight game, the Thunder put some much needed distance between themselves and the Clippers for the #2 seed in the West by winning in LA, and the Pacers opened up a four game lead in the Central by defeating the rival Chicago Bulls.
All this great action, yet the biggest story might be the Lakers finally climbing back to .500. It wasn’t pretty, but Kobe Bryant willed them to a late win at home over the Hawks and the playoff talk is starting to really crank up. I hate to fall victim to all the hype and overhype surrounding the Lakers, but it is hard not to admit that IF they were to sneak into the playoffs their first round series against the Spurs or Thunder would be one of the most anticipated in NBA history.
There aren’t any real marquee matchups tonight, but there are some important games taking place, especially for Golden State as they finally return home and try to stop the bleeding and their hemorrhaging playoff hopes. Let’s look at that game and one other for today’s free picks.
Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors -5
I am admittedly a little gun-shy on the Warriors after their recent slide. I think it is a bit of a regression to the norm; they were never an elite team and their current status – fringe playoff team – might be a more accurate assessment of their current roster. However, I like the fight they have been playing with despite taking some tough road losses, and the play of Steph Curry has been simply sensational.
Tonight they host one of the poorer road teams in the NBA in the Toronto Raptors, and they hit town playing pretty dreadful basketball. They’ve lost four in a row and the losses were by 8,8,11, and 6 and all to non-playoff teams. Rudy Gay is listed as questionable for tonight’s game (which is probably why many books haven’t posted their line yet. The -5 is only up at one major book right now, so be cautious when shopping lines today.). With or without Gay, I like Golden State at home where they are 21-8 this season. Five is a pretty reasonable price hosting a mediocre team like Toronto. Even if this line reopens with Gay OUT and it climbs to eight or nine, I still like the Warriors tonight at home.
Free Pick: Golden State Warriors -5
Atlanta Hawks at Denver Nuggets -10
The Hawks played late last night at Los Angeles, losing a tough game to the Lakers. It’s the tried and true recipe; an average team on the road cross-country on the back end of a back-to-back – it very rarely goes well for that team. I see no reason why tonight would be an exception. Denver is a blistering 25-3 at home. Denver is 5-2 ATS this season as a 10 point favorite, which shows that when at home even laying a ton, their offense and the altitude tend to come to the rescue. I’ll bank on that happening again tonight against a tired Atlanta team.
Free Pick: Denver Nuggets -10