East – Siiiiiide!!
So much for the “junior varsity”, eh?? The East went a dazzling 5-2 against the Western Conference last night on a night when the rightly results should be been the converse. Orlando went into New Orleans and throttled the Pelicans to move to 5-2 on the season. Nicola Vucavic outplayed early-season co-MVP Boogie Cousins, and even 39 and 10 from The Brow wasn’t enough to keep this game competitive. The Raptors smoked the Trailblazers in Portland, the Hornets won in Memphis – just the Grizzlies second loss this season and in a building where the Warriors looked feeble, and perhaps the biggest result of the night, the young Sixers went INTO Houston and earned a 105-97 victory.
Are the years of talent-stacking drafts finally paying off? Joel Embiid was the preseason fringe MVP candidate. But Ben Simmons has been THE TRUTH. Simmons is averaging 18.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 7.7 assists and looks like not just the Rookie of the Year but an All-Star. And he is just getting started. Prior to a month ago, he had never really even played point guard, but the resplendent 6’10’’ genius is making the NBA look EASY. As long as he and Embiid are on the floor, this team is for real.
We notched a second straight winner with the Celtics easily beating San Antonio at home. The Spurs were missing Kawhi and on the back-end of a back-to-back. It was the obvious call on the board, but as we have seen this NBA season, “obvious” isn’t always holding form…
Today’s NBA Pick:
Sacramento Kings at Indiana Pacers -5
The Pacers should be feeling confident after their impressive home win over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday. They enter tonight at 3-3 and are right in the mix with seemingly the entire NBA hovering around the .500 mark. Can the Pacers compete for an Eastern Conference Playoff spot? Considering they’ve done all this without their best player, Myles Turner, it certainly seems possible.
Much of the Pacers success has been due to the excellent play of Victor Oladipo. Considered a poor return in the trade for Paul George, the former local college star (Indiana U) has averaged 25.5 points per game and is shooting 50% from the floor. Accuracy and efficiency haven’t been the normal adjectives to describe Oladipo’s game this season, so a regression to the mean is quite likely, but it is also likely that he will continue to be more confident in his new role as “team leader” and “primary scoring option.” He has always been a freakish athlete with excellent defensive skills. If he can continue to make shots, he could wind up an All Star in the crazy East.
It hasn’t been all Oladipo either. The “other” piece in the trade, Domantas Sabonis, has been excellent as well. Combine him with Turner (when he returns, he is still out tonight) and the Pacers have a little better roster than it might have appeared.
Meanwhile, De’Aaron Fox looks legit in Sacramento. But they don’t have much else. Gone are Rudy Gay and Boogie Cousins, gone is Darren Collison (on the Pacers, in fact) and the rebuilding has begun in earnest (yet again) in Sac Town. They enter tonight at 1-5, one of the only teams in the NBA not benefiting from the early season rash of parity. They rank 27th in offensive efficiency and 24th in defensive efficiency. Their effective FG% ranks 28th (oddly the Spurs rank 29th – huh??) only ahead of the surprising Spurs and the Bulls who have been basically punting the back towards the backboard and don’t really count in this year’s statistical analysis. For stat purposes, lets just assume there are only 29 teams…
The point is, Sacramento is a mess. Now they have to go on the road and play a confident basketball team flying high after a few big home wins. I think Indy smokes them tonight, even without Turner. Sacramento just can’t score enough points to beat teams on the road right now.
Today’s NBA Pick: INDIANA PACERS -5