The Raptors had the game under control last night for most of the way, but a shaky second half left the door open just wide enough for the Nuggets to make it a 48-minute contest. That, of course, is not good if one is laying points as I was with the Raps last night. I thought they’d come out a little hungrier after a few days to stew on the tough loss to their nemesis Cavs, but perhaps it is time to take a deeper look at the Nuggets this season as well.
Denver has won in NOLA despite a historic night from Anthony Davis and has now played down to a final buzzer-attempt gone wide from overtime with the Raptors in Toronto. Add in a two-point overtime loss to Portland, and it looks like Denver could be one of those pesky “give em some points and they are a nice wager” underrated teams in 2016. Gallinari is healthy, Nuric and Barton are solid NBA players and they have a decent bench with Kenneth Farried providing some energy and Jameer Nelson some backcourt stability. A lot of it is going to come down to Emmanuel Mudiay. He is the least efficient returning starter from 2015-2016. He will have to blossom in his sophomore season for the Nuggets to have any chance at competing for a playoff spot.
It’s time for us to get back to our winning ways with a crowded Tuesday slate to select from. So let’s dive in…
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Today’s Free Pick:
Orlando Magic -5 at Philadelphia 76’ers
If Philly is going to make any progress this season and evolve into a team that isn’t the automatic worst in the NBA and get to that 25-30 win respectable range, tonight is the exact game they HAVE to win in 2016-2017. The Orlando Magic are struggling BIG TIME so far this season, averaging 92.3 points and allowing 107 in their three games, all losses. They have some new talent inside with Ibaka and Biyombo, but it hasn’t come close to translating into an efficient and smooth offense, and frankly, despite excellent coach Frank Vogel’s best efforts, I don’t think this current blend of roster is going to work out. Their best offensive players are probably Evan Fournier and Vucavic. Elfrid Payton is still a question mark and we’ve been hearing about the evolution of Aaron Gordon for two seasons, but the only thing we can be POSITIVE about is that he is really good at dunking…
In summary, it is a pretty disappointing start to the season for Orlando, who LOOKS like they could be the worst team in the Eastern Conference despite some optimism entering this season. They traded away the ONE guy (Oladipo) who could potentially become an “A” player in the NBA for a veteran who might very well be three or four years older than his birth certificate (Ibaka) and has never been more than a third or fourth option in his professional career.
Meanwhile, there’s Philadelphia. Trust the Process, right? Right??
Opening Night was thrilling. Joel Embiid looked like Hakeem Olajawon-lite and the crowd was literally chanting “trust the process” at one point. Then, the inevitable; Russell Westbrook took control in the final minute, the Thunder won a dramatic game, and the Sixers followed it up with a 32-point home loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
So do we trust the process? At all?
Maybe I am naïve, but I think the Sixers will be competent this season, despite the second game harbinger of continued misery. They have backcourt issues. You can’t compete for a playoff spot with TJ McConnell, Robert Covington and Sergio Rodriguez as your backcourt. But you can win 20-25 games with Embiid, Okafor, Saric and Noel up front (the latter the best candidate to turn into a decent guard via trade…) There will be some really rough nights for this team still, but they should also grab some home wins against the lesser teams of the East. Like Orlando.
I’ll take the five points at home tonight, and don’t even mind a moneyline wager at +180 if you are feeling a little adventurous…