The NBA is a funny game, especially during the regular season. A team that looks dominant one night might look pedestrian the next. And this season’s hyper-condensed scheduling doesn’t make sorting it all out any easier. Take the Atlanta Hawks for example (prior to last night’s disastrous injury to Al Horford who will miss the next three months with a torn pectoral muscle); are they the team that went down to Miami and absolutely pummeled the Miami Heat, or are they the team that went to Indiana this week and got trounced?
Likewise for teams like the Los Angeles Clippers. The only thing that is consistent is Blake Griffin’s appearance on Sportscenter; the team? Beating the Heat and Trailblazers one night, getting rolled by 25 against Sacramento the next, they’ve been a tough team to make solid sense of.
It’s an interesting start to the NBA season, and more than ever this year it is essential to take a look at scheduling and the health and availability of key players. It is with that focus in mind we get to today’s free pick:
Minnesota Timberwolves -1.5 @ New Orleans Hornets
To say this season, New Orleans’ first without Chris Paul since making the move from charlotte, is an adjustment would be an understatement. It might as well be an expansion team. Gone is Chris Paul and gone is David West, and in their place is a host of young and lesser known players trying to gel into a cohesive NBA team. So far, the record has been substandard, but it is hard to fault the play of the young backcourt of Eric Gordon and Jarrett Jack.
Gordon started the season averaging 21 points – but the problem has been his health. He has only been on the court for two of their last five games, and is not in the lineup and playing tonight either. That leaves them with a starting lineup that instead includes Marco Bellini. Not a good thing.
For Minnesota, they also have some injury issues, and will be without Michael Beasley and JJ Barrea’s services tonight. However, as much as that limits their depth it does open up an enormous opportunity to for rookie sensation Ricky Rubio to get a good 35 minutes on the floor tonight. Expect Rubio to have an enormous game, and expect Kevin Love to be at his 25/15 best, going against the average front line of the Hornets, which starts undersized Carl Landry and brings the plodding Chris Kaman off the bench.
Minnesota and New Orleans have the same record at 3-7, but the similarities stop there. Minnesota actually has a +0.4 ppg differential despite their losing record and boasts an average offensive output of 95.4 ppg. The Hornets are one of the worst offensive teams in the league, averaging just 87.2 points a night, with a ppg differential of -4.0. They are also a mediocre 1-4 at home, so even the home floor advantage seems less-than-daunting tonight.
Minnesota is nearly a pick-em tonight, laying only a point and a half. It’s hard not to like the T’Wolves going down to N’awlins and grabbing a solid win tonight against the struggling Hornets.
Free Pick: Minnesota Timberwolves -1.5 @ www.5dimes.com