“Come back soon, Dirk.” That’s the foremost thought on every Mavericks fan’s mind as the Mavs dropped yet another big ball game last night, getting hammered by division rival San Antonio. While Nowitzki is nursing a sprained ankle the Mavericks continue to lose ground in the Midwest and are likely squandering any hope of catching the Spurs.
Meanwhile the Celtics seem to be adjusting to life without K.G. a little more readily, winning six of their last eight, including halting the red-hot Bobcats last night in Boston. Not that they don’t desperately want him to return, but they have the luxury of holding K.G. out a few extra games as no one is catching them in the Atlantic Division.
Tonight’s slate features one glamour game; Miami at Chicago, and about a half-dozen other intriguing matchups we get treated to less often as East meets West. Plus – those of you who have cable or Direct TV, NBA League Pass is doing a free preview all weekend – it’s a great night to sit back, relax. And pick a few winners…
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Sacramento Kings @ Detroit Pistons -5 (Total: 198.5)
The Sacramento Kings earned a surprising win over the New York Knicks in the Garden last night. How surprising? It was their first road win in 13 tries.
Detroit is not a good team, and watching Rip Hamilton playing assistant coach over on the bench despite being healthy and in uniform is a tough site to see. The Pistons have been getting some surprising production out of Tracy McGrady, who has been averaging nearly 14ppg over the past two weeks. It has been a much needed shot in the arm for the offensively-challenged Pistons.
Both the Kings and Pistons struggle offensively, averaging 96.8 and 95.4 points per game respectively. Both are equally porous on defense, allowing 102.6 and 100.3 points on average. That’s a pretty healthy recipe for trouble and explains why each team in near the bottom in their respective conferences.
What tips the scale in the Pistons favor is getting a visit from a terrible road team, fresh off a huge upset win, on the back half of a back-to-backer. Look for Sacramento to play sloppy and a little listless and give the beleaguered fans of Detroit a rare opportunity to celebrate.
Dallas Mavericks +6.5 @ Memphis Grizzlies (Total: 192)
Hallelujah, hallelujah, Dirk Nowitski is making his long awaited return to the Dallas lineup tonight for the Mavs road contest with the Grizz. Perhaps no one informed Vegas yet – I can’t think of another rationale for the 6.5 point line.
Granted, the Grizz are as exciting a young team as you will find in the NBA. Rudy Gay has blossomed into a legit All-Star and Zack Randolph continues to be the best post scorer in the league that no one knows about. His 34 points and 17 boards helped carry Memphis to a come-back win in Detroit Wednesday night – and that production level isn’t atypical for the much-maligned big man.
Prior to Dirk going down the Mavs were arguably the best team in the league. It may take a few games to get back in that rhythm, but the emotional life from “The Big German’s” (as Jason Terry refers to him) return to the lineup.
Memphis boasts some of the most impressive wins in the league; Miami, Lakers twice, Utah, OKC, and tonight’s opponent, Dallas.
They also have some perplexing losses; Golden State, Washington, New Jersey, Sacramento and Cleveland.
To say the Grizz are an erratic team is an obvious understatement. It implies some emotional immaturity and calls into question the consistency of the effort down in Memphis. I like an energized Dallas team to come into Memphis, and if not beat the Grizz, at least cover getting 6.5.