Last night’s TNT double-header lived up to the hype and then some. In the late game, San Antonio exhibited some of the magic they’ve been conjuring up all season when the ageless Antonio McDyess tipped in the game winning basket as the horn went off in Los Angeles. McDyess became the first fifty year old to hit a game winning shot in NBA history. OK, that’s just a joke – but the Spurs do have this unbelievable ageless quality to them. I can’t recall any elite team retooling and redefining themselves on the fly, without a splashy free agent signing, able to continue their run of dominance this long.
For Los Angeles, what a difference a second makes. If Odom is able to successfully block out McDyess, the Lakers get a huge home win over the top team in the league and suddenly some of the whispers, questions and trade rumors begin to soften. With the loss? Expect the chaos to continue.
In the opener, LeBron James was simply amazing, turning in hands-down the most brilliant individual performance in the NBA. LeBron scored an NBA season-high 51 points, but also complimented it with 11 rebounds and 8 assists – leaving him just two rebounds shy of one of the most impressive triple-doubles since the days of Wilt Chamberlain.
Making it even more impressive (if that is even possible), is the fact he did it on the road against one of their chief rivals in the Eastern Conference, the Orlando Magic. If last night didn’t whet your appetite for the playoffs then you don’t really like basketball.
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Today’s Free NBA Picks:
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Memphis Grizzlies -13 (Total: 204.5)
At the end of November, there were a few optimistic fans dreaming about sliding into the Eastern Conference Playoffs as the #8 seed. Tonight, the Cavs head to Memphis hoping to avoid breaking the NBA record for the most consecutive defeat with loss number 23.
Call it LeBron’s karma if you want, but this is simply a dreadful roster. To make things even more dismal, the Cavs lost their energy glue-guy Anderson Varajao about a month ago for the entire season. This team wasn’t any good with him, but I doubt they are nearing historic records of futility with him in uniform.
The Cavs have the leagues worst point differential at -11.6ppg. And that statistic includes the first half of the season when they were at least competitive. During this 22-game skid, the Cavs aren’t just losing; they aren’t competing, losing by an average of nearly 22 points per contest.
Putting those numbers in context, a visit to the talent-rich Memphis Grizzlies makes the -13 seem, absurdly perhaps, well too low. Don’t try to wrap your head around it, just take it for what it’s worth. The Cavs might have a little fight in them in an attempt to avoid historic failure, but once the Grizz begin to pull away, look for them to fold up shop in the same manner they have the last two months.
I’m on the side of history tonight, as inglorious as it might be. Gimme Memphis laying the baker’s dozen.
PICK: Memphis Grizzlies -13 (-110) @ Bodog.com <- $1000 Free for the Super Bowl weekend
Dallas Mavericks +6 @ Boston Celtics (Total: 190)
Throw away the seven of nine the Mavs lost without Dirk, and ignore the three of four they lost as he was playing his way back to healthy – and you are looking at a team right in lock step with the sizzling Spurs (41-7), who are winning at about an 82% clip. Without Dirk’s demise, the Dallas Mavericks are 30-5, right around, and actually slightly better than, the Spurs 82% mark.
My point is simply this: if their record reflected the team Dallas has been at full strength, I’m not sure they are getting a full six points tonight in Boston.
The Mavericks, and Dirk in particular, have played well in their recent matchups with Boston, winning both last season including a 99-90 win in Boston in which Dirk went for 37 points. Boston is an excellent defensive team, but I still contend Dirk is the most difficult individual matchup in the league because of his shooting motion and size that allows him to consistently score baskets when he is perfectly covered. Kobe and LeBron are more explosive and harder to keep in front of you – but with Dirk it isn’t nearly enough to keep him in front of you because he is so content to simply shoot over you.
Boston rarely loses at home. I’m not sure they lose tonight either, but anytime you can get a 80%-plus winning team AND six and a half points, you’d be crazy not to take it.
PICK: Dallas Mavericks +6.5 (-105) @ 5Dimes.com <- $520 sign up bonus and reduced juice odds