We notched our second straight close winner with the Bulls just edging out the cover in Portland last night. The Bulls advance to 9-4 and look like a legit contender in the East. But that isn’t particularly surprising. What IS surprising is that the Pacers also look like a contender. The new-look small-ball Pacers turned in one of the better shooting performances in NBA history last night draining 19 three pointers with stunning accuracy en route to an easy road win in Washington. The Pacers have now won 9 of 11 with their only losses coming narrowly on the road against Cleveland and Chicago. An 0-3 start was ominous. Since then, the Pacers have not only been one of the best teams in the NBA, they have been an amazing wager, covering 10 of their last 12 games.
I am not sure they can keep it up all season long, but at worst, they look like a solid playoff team and Paul George, who netter 40 last night and has established new season-high scoring marks in each of his last four games is a fringe MVP candidate in the Non-Steph division. Rip the Pacers and their problems last year all you want, but Frank Vogel can COACH.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Atlanta Hawks -3 at Minnesota Timberwolves (Total: 205.5)
This one defies some conventional logic. Minnesota, a young team off to a pleasantly good start, should be far better at home than on the road. But they are not. In fact, they haven’t covered a single home game yet this season (0-7 ATS)! They are an oppositely perfect 7-0 ATS on the road. They are only 1-6 straight up at home as well.
It doesn’t make a ton of sense, but I don’t expect a savvy veteran team like Atlanta to pass up the opportunity to continue the Timberpuppies home miseries. Atlanta matches up well with good interior defenders like Al Horford to educate KArl Anthony-Towns, and they take care of the basketball. That means Minnesota will have to earn it, and they just aren’t quite efficient enough offensively to match up well with uber-efficient teams like the Hawks. Minnesota ranks just 18th in offensive efficiency. Atlanta, despite not having that name-brand proficient star, are 6th. Atlanta and Minnesota are almost identical in defensive efficiency.
Normally, you tip the home team three or four points advantage, but with the bizarre splits from Minnesota, the three point laydown on the road starts to feel pretty generous. Atlanta did play last night, but they were at home and won very easily, so I think they overcome the danger of the back-to-back on the road. That would often be enough to scare me off, but again, the insane perfection of the Timberwolves home/road splits is too tantalizing to ignore.