They had to work and it certainly wasn’t an easy night at the office, but the Warriors escaped from Utah unscathed and pushed their record-setting start to 19-0. I’m half-kicking myself for not pulling the trigger on the Jazz +7.5, as I have been yapping about this game as the potential trouble spot for Golden State for about three weeks now. Alas, I went for less controversial waters and backed the Spurs, who of course promptly allowed more points than they have in nearly a month to a team that had shot under 40% for the last two weeks in Chicago. No excuses, a loss is a loss, but it would have been nice to cash a rare winner going against the Dubs juggernaut.
Let’s get back after it today and start a new winning streak. There are six games to choose from tonight. The television game is Washington at Cleveland, which LOOKED like the best game on the schedule four weeks ago. In truth, the Minnesota at Orlando game is the best watch for anyone who likes young explosive talent.
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Here’s my free pick:
Los Angeles Lakers at Philadelphia 76’ers -1.5
This game is The Lottery; both figuratively and literally. The loser gets the leg up in the ping-pong ball derby and solidifies a claim as the league’s worst team. And also like, The Lottery, the town will be sacrificing one of their own as an offering to the basketball gods. Kobe makes his final trip to his hometown as a professional basketball player, and it is hard not to squirm at the indignity of the situation. Ticket prices are through the roof to pay homage (from $8 to $59 after Kobe’s announced retirement, which is odd because what moron thought he was coming BACK prior to the official announcement??) – but there is a great chance their hero will play terribly. His shooting percentage is careening towards 30%, which would be the worst season in NBA history given his current pace for total attempts. It is hard to watch.
How bad has it gotten for Kobe and the Lakers?? Philadelphia 0-19, and including last year’s terrible play and currently mired in the longest losing streak in NBA history. AND THEY ARE FAVORED BY A POINT AND A HALF.
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2015-2016 Fightin’ Kobes!
Let’s buy some mythology for just a moment. If there was EVER a team Kobe could get on track against, it’s these 76’ers. And here’s another fun-fact for all the “Phily has a plan” people: The entire NBA, except for Golden State and Philadelphia is separated by 10.4 points per 100 possessions (or “offensive efficiency”) Philadelphia is 5.8 points worse than 29th place (the Lakers rank 28th). Defensively, these are two of the worst teams in the NBA as well. Philadelphia ranks a surprisingly high 22nd, the Lakers are 29th. So as bad as these offenses are, terrible defense can make just about any NBA team look competent with the basketball.
This game is oddly compelling to watch. There is the Kobe angle. There is the hilarious tank-tastic angle. And then there is the slow realization that will creep over you if you watch this game; as BAD as these teams are, there is still a TON of awesome talent on the floor. Okafor, Randle, Russell, Clarkson, Noel – all these guys are really good at basketball.
I think the offenses reign tonight, and I HOPE Kobe can at least be semi-competent from an efficiency standpoint, like a 7 for 16 type game and get some well-deserved hometown cheers.