So much for a big-game hangover. The Lakers might finally be silencing the trade rumors that have persisted all month since the front office and coach Phil Jackson both insinuated that some changes might need to be made to the roster, after being displeased at the way the Lakers competed in “big games.”
Well, on back-to-back nights the defending champs beatdown Boston in the Garden and then dispatched the Knicks with ease in MSG. They now own the second best record in the West, and the third best record in the NBA. The Spurs seem pretty far out of reach, but don’t discount the toll that their “Rodeo Road Trip” takes on the team and players.
Meanwhile, Saturday is a pretty full slate of games between teams heading in different directions; the Bulls try to continue their push for the top spot in the East while the Hornets try to build on last night’s surprise win over the Magic and stabilize their injury-riddled season. The Indiana Pacers travel to Milwaukee as the surprisingly hottest team in the NBA. I’m never a big “blame the coach” guy, but perhaps there is something to it… the Pacers are 6-1 since dismissing coach O’Brein.
Today’s Free NBA Picks:
Indiana Pacers @ Milwaukee Bucks -2
The Pacers are 6-1 under new coach Frank Vogel and have made a surprising surge into the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The biggest difference? The offense.
The Pacers, who average 99.2 points per game have scored in triple digits in all seven games under Coach Vogel. Meanwhile, their defense has been relatively the same – meaning that the increased tempo has created offense without allowing easier buckets on the other end.
However, Milwaukee is pretty stingy on defense, allowing just 95.2 ppg, and has also been decent at home
going 12-11. They have had the Pacers number, winning six stright games dating back to November of 2009, and have won five consecutive contests at home.
I like the momentum of the Pacers, but a terrible recent track record against the Bucks, playing on the road, and being on the back-end of a back-to-back all add up to a lot of indicators flying the direction of Milwaukee. I like the Bucks giving the two at home and stiffling the red-hot Pacers.
Chicago Bulls -2.5 @ New Orleans Hornets
This is easily the most glamorous matchup on the NBA schedule tonight, and the only one that features two sure-fire playoff teams. Chicago is still in the hunt for the best record in the East, and is looking to finish their five-game road trip with a winning record. They dropped their first two, but came back strong, beating
Utah three night ago (and perhaps accidentally bidding Jerry Sloan a fond farewell?)
New Orleans stopped their three-game skid last night, winning in Orlando in a game they were nearly double-digit underdogs. Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza are still on the sidelines for today’s game, which leaves them offensviely short-handed against the offensively potent Chicago Bulls.
New Orleans has been fantastic at home this season, going 20-7 on the season. However tonight they face another top-tier team on the back end of a back-to-back. Meanwhile Chicago hasn’t played since Wednesday, leaving them fresh and rested for tonight.
I like the Bulls and their MVP front-runner Derrick Rose to go on the road and get the win tonight.
PICK: Chicago Bulls -2.5 (-110) @ SportsInteraction.com <– Video’s of the sexy Trish Stratus on their website