We started off the NBA season with a win, thanks to the ridiculous closing abilities of Damian Lillard and some late defense from the Portland Trailblazers. Portland extended their NBA record for consecutive wins in their home opener to 16 straight seasons with the 113-104 victory, powered by a 36-21 final quarter. I might have made one omission from my MVP Value chart. Damian Lillard at 25-1 is a really reasonable buy…
But the biggest story of Opening Night isn’t Dame’s heroics or LeBron’s triple-double in a rout of the sloppy Knicks. It is for those of us who were wondering if and when the Warriors would lose a game. And the resounding answer was YES and OH MY. The Spurs went into the Bay, where the Warriors dropped just two games all season last year, without Danny Green, and absolutely obliterated the two time defending Western Conference champs. They led by 16 at halftime en route to a stunning 129-100 victory. There’s no reason to panic in Golden State – it is REALLY common for these newly-formed super teams to struggle the first few months to find their footing (see: Miami Heat) but it is still one of the more surprising results in recent memory. The Warriors were favored by 9.5 at home, making it a 38.5 point “loss” to the spread.
Let’s see if we can start the NBA season 2-0 with another winner tonight.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Dallas Mavericks at Indiana Pacers -6.5 (TOTAL: 205)
The Mavericks and Pacers both look much different this season after a busy summer. The Mavs emptied the Brinks truck to sign former Warrior Harrison Barnes to try and replace the departed Chandler Parsons. They also added Andrew Bogut to bolster their front line and provide some rim protection. Of course, Dirk is still Dirk, capable of getting 20 points any night though his minutes and production will likely continue to decline this season as he approaches 40 years old. “Age” is the recurrent theme for the Mavericks, as much of their roster is north of 30. JJ Barrea, Devin Harris and Deron Williams would have made a much nicer combo in 2011, but the Mavs are going to try to squeeze one more year out of the veteran trio. It could likely spell the end of a decade and a half of playoff appearances as they try to contend with the guard-loaded West.
Meanwhile, expectations are cautiously high in Indiana. Paul George has emerged as a legit second-tier MVP candidate, but he has had little help offensively. That should be different this year as Jeff Teague replaces George Hill at the point and Al Jefferson is in the mix in the paint along with second-year emerging star Myles Turner instead if Ian Mahinmi and Roy Hibbert. If the Pacers can get a bounce back year from Monta Ellis, this could be one of the better offensive teams in the Eastern Conference.
Rick Carlisle was unable to solve his former team in either game against the Pacers last season, and I think he will have a tough time winning on the road tonight against a better basketball team. Harrison Barnes shot under 30% in the preseason, which has to be a MAJOR concern for a team that is counting on him to, gulp, be their primary offensive option most nights. Dirk can still get buckets, but if this team is going to make the postseason, Harrison Barnes needs to be a 20ppg guy. He MAY get those points eventually, but on how many shots?
I like Indy to handle their business at home and to stretch the game out comfortably late and cover the manageable six point spread.