We took the L last night on the underdog Grizzlies, but hopefully some of you held off until it was announced that KD would unexpectedly return to action after being presumed to sit. He played, and he played really well, and well, the Thunder won. It sounds simple, and it pretty much is. They are the third or fourth best team in the NBA when he plays and a pretty pedestrian one when he sits.
Speaking of pedestrian, perhaps the Knicks deserve to be taken a little more seriously right now? They completed a road back-to-back with wins over the Hawks and Heat in consecutive nights – pretty impressive stuff. I’m not saying they are a playoff team, but it is hard to discount their chances after watching them play this week. It isn’t just Kristops and Melo either; they are getting solid point guard play from Jose Calderon and Langston Galloway and nice interior play from Robin Lopez and bench support from Derrick Williams. The East is about 11 deep right now, but the Knicks are definitely part of the party.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Atlanta Hawks -9.5 at Philadelphia 76’ers
Something ain’t quite right in Atlanta these days. The Hawks have lost three of four after ripping off a long six-game winning streak, and two of those losses are back to back home and home losses to the Knicks. Add in another defeat to the Pacers and it has been a rough week for the reigning Eastern Conference top seed. Some of it has been Kyle Korver’s continued struggles to find the range, a factor that severely bottles up their offense which is so predicated on spacing, and some of it may just be the fact that they over-achieved a little bit last year in relation to their collective talent level. Either way, the Hawks feel like another good, not great, team this season.
Meanwhile, it might be overstated, but the Sixers are a different team since Ish Smith came to town. He immediately gave them a quickness and temp upgrade over the incumbent TJ McConnell (who will be a nice backup for a while in the League, but probably not starter-level – kind of a Dellavedova-light). They have won three of their last seven games and covered five of them. They aren’t world beaters, but they are suddenly competent, especially at home.
Thiago Splitter is likely out for the Hawks, limiting their interior depth which could bode well for Jahlil Okafor. The Sixers will have some trouble with Atlanta’s disciplined ball movement, but I think they hang close enough to cover with nearly a double digit cushion. On an interesting note, the Sixers notched one of their few wins in 2015 with a win over Atlanta last March, the last time these two met in Philly.
I’ll take the Sixers again with a little cushion to spare.