We cruised to an easy winner last night as the Pelicans won with relative ease in Los Angeles, keeping the Lakers winless at home this season against Western Conference opponents. It’s pretty bad in Laker land, but at least Kobe has some icons up to pass on the all-time scoring list over the next week and months. It reminds me of a 70-win baseball team who has someone approaching 500 homeruns or 3,000 hits and figures they can fool the fan base into watching, awaiting an otherwise arbitrary milestone.
The big difference here is that the NBA has always been more highlight driven that stat-driven. It’s “where amazing happens” not where “random long-term statistical accumulation happens.” Somehow, I can’t imagine the Laker faithful will be content watching the Kobe show for too many more losing games (let alone another entire season).
In other news, Boogie Cousins is expected to miss a few more weeks with meningitis. You have to feel bad for the Kings. They were playing amazing, and the margin in the West is so slim to leap into the playoffs that a few weeks of losing without Cousins could be enough to relegate their good season to another agonizing lottery appearance.
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Today’s Free Picks:
Atlanta Hawks at Indiana Pacers -1 (Total: 192.5)
It’s been dangerous to bet against Frank Vogel’s plucky Pacers this season. They may only be 7-13, but their record against the spread is a healthy 12-7-1, a good indication of their better-than-expected nature. However, Chris Copeland and Donald Sloan and company may be in for a rough home game tonight against an Atlanta team that is playing well and has historically given Indiana trouble.
The Hawks took the Pacers to seven games as an #8 seed last year, and that was a full-strength Pacer team, not this poor man’s 2014-2015 facsimile. Expect the Hawks to exploit the Pacers weaknesses; Horford should wear out a thin frontline and Jeff Teague has quietly been on the best and most efficient point guards in the Eastern Conference and deserves some all-star consideration. I like Teague to play well, as he seems to always do, back in his hometown of Indianapolis
The Hawks have won six straight games and eight of nine overall including three straight road games against the East (Miami, Brooklyn and Washington – all three teams significantly better than the Pacers).
I think the “Little Pacer’s Engine that Could” storyline has finally crept its way into Vegas logic, as this line should be four or five points the other way by all other metrics. I like Atlanta to handle their business tonight in Indy and to notch a seventh straight win with relative ease.