Last night was a night for the Indiana Pacers. Yes, they notched an easy blowout win over the Houston Rockets to snap their first “losing streak” of the season – but that’s not what made it a huge night. Rather it was the long-awaiting (and somewhat worried-about) return of five time leading scorer Danny Granger. How would he assimilate into a team that no longer needed or had room for him to be the “Alpha Dog.” Could Granger make a contribution while keeping the ball moving and realizing that Paul George is option 1, David West is 1a, Hibbert is 2, and so on…
The short answer? No problem. This team is cohesive and plays together as well as any team in the NBA other than San Antonio. For now, it just gives Indiana another tall, versatile wing who can be an enormous scoring help off the bench as well as another tough and capable defender.
IF this chemistry experiment goes perfectly well, I’m willing to go as far as to proclaim Indiana the favorite to win the NBA title. Let the angry emails and tweets commence… but if Granger is 85% of what he was, this team has more depth, balance and talent than any in the NBA….
OK, let’s deal with some more immediate concerns – and that’s plucking another winner out of tonight’s packed schedule.
Utah Jazz at Charlotte Bobcats -4.5 (Total: 188)
I’ve been relatively high on the Jazz at times this season. I had them in this column on the night of their first win, and backed them one other time with success. The logic being, they are much better than their record now that Trey Burke is making a big-time impact and taking some of the play-making responsibility off of Gordon Hayward. The Vegas line trails behind a bit, because of the lingering perception of awfulness that lingers after their terrible start to the season.
However, tonight, I have to admit I am really surprised they are only four point underdogs. They are on the road against a better-than-expected Charlotte team hovering near .500, and Utah is on the back end of a cross-country back-to-back. They’ve played better on the road lately, winning three of their last five, but played last night in Atlanta (and lost by roughly a million), and now boot it up against 20 hours later. We all know, that’s rarely a recipe for wagering success.
Charlotte is only 7-8 at home, but they are a nice tidy 17-9-1 this season ATS. That’s a good indicator of a better-than-you-think kinda team. I like Charlotte to beat up on a young, road-weary Jazz squad tonight and easily cover the 4.5 at home.