Games like last night’s home loss to the Charlotte Bobcats are what have had Atlanta Hawks fans pulling their hair out for years. Just as the Hawks were gaining some momentum and asserting themselves as a real contender in the East – passing the Magic even to slide into a home-court advantage first round situations – they drop another winnable game at home.
It wasn’t quite the historic 100-59 home stink-bomb they dropped last month against the Hornets, but even a two-point loss to the Bobcats at home, in the middle of a playoff push, is very disappointing for Hawk fans.
As odd as it might seem with a relatively young nucleus, Atlanta is on the clock with this team. In basically year four of the Johnson-Smith-Bibby-Horford core it is time to either put up or shut up. Are the Hawks going to be able to take that next, and often most difficult step, or have they already peaked?
Are the Hawks the Phoenix Suns of the Mid-2000’s or can they elevate their game to the next plateau?
If their lack-luster effort tonight is any indication it looks like another good, but not great, playoff run for Mike Woodsen’s ballclub.
Today’s Free NBA Picks:
Washington Wizards @ Cleveland Cavaliers -1.5
Dare I say “winning streak??” That’s exactly what the Cavaliers are staring down when the almost-equally hapless Washington Wizards come to town. If the Steelers and Packers played the Super Bowl, perhaps the Cavs and Wiz could be called the Toilet Bowl.
All cheesy jokes aside, the Wizards are winless on the road this season. Say that again and let it sink in… they are winless on the season on the road. 0-26. As pathetic as the Cavs 26-game winning streak was, the Wizards bid to go an entire season without winning away from home is equally mind-numbing.
The Cavs look at today as their big chance to start a win streak. The Wizards have no doubt had this game circled for weeks as the place to snap their road winless ways. However, I think the Cavs have the slight edge here. This game has taken on some slightly ironic sense of over-importance due to the team’s respective streaks (Cleveland’s of course since snapped) and should have a good crowd on hand.
Gimme the Cavs laying the 1.5, in what is basically a pick-em at home. Both teams are equally inept, so I’ll take the home team to be less terrible and win and cover.
Free Pick: Cleveland Cavaliers -1.5@ Bodog.com <- $1000 Free for the Super Bowl weekend
Oklahoma City Thunder -1 @ Golden State Warriors
Interesting game when you start to dig into the numbers. At first blush, my instant instinct was “wow, I only have to lay one to get the Thunder, who are exponentially better than the struggling Warriors?” But then I dug deeper into the numbers and trends.
The Warriors have been playing pretty decent ball at home lately, winning four of their past five, including wins over Chicago, Utah and Denver. More impressively, their average point differential in their past five home games have been a whopping +6.2ppg.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City has been erratic away from home. They have won their past three road games, before that they lost three in a row. Going back even further is a two game win streak preceded by a five game road skid.
The interesting difference between these two teams, and I suppose it is the ultimate differentiator in the NBA, is the Thunder’s 15-10 mark away from home, while the Warriors are a dreadful 6-17. At home? Their records are nearly identical; OKC is 18-8 while Golden State is 17-11.
In the end, I still like the Thunder. They win at a 60% clip on the road, and I guarantee you the Warriors aren’t better than 60% of the league by a long shot. Anytime you can get a vastly superior team and lay only a point, you are essentially getting a pick-em, without having to pay 10 cents for it. It’s a freebie. And if they win by one, you can email me nasty letters…
PICK: Oklahoma City Thunder -1