The Warriors are the story of the NBA. The Kings and their dysfunction make great headlines. The drama around the Clippers and Cavaliers is always fun news cycle fodder and the influx of what appears to be a wonderful rookie class has led to interesting speculation in cities formerly devoid of hope.
But the team that most caught my attention last week was the Indiana Pacers. Expectations were pretty tempered for a team that missed the playoffs last year and saw two of its longtime stalwarts depart in the offseason in Roy Hibbert and David West. The Pacers were going small in 2015-2016 and they promptly went out and got rolled in their first three games, furthering lowering expectations. But then – it clicked. Paul George looks like a Top 10 guy, the ball is moving, they are defending capably, and all of a sudden they’ve reeled off six wins in seven games with the only loss a four-pointer at Cleveland, and look like they might be back in the Eastern Conference playoff mix. They’ve won at Detroit and Boston, two teams they are likely going to be battling with for an April dance card, and beaten Miami and Minnesota in Indy. It’s a long season for sure, but it’s nice to see PG-13 back in action and looking no worse from the devastating injury of a year ago.
Meanwhile, the Pelicans missed AD more than I hoped, turning a tie game at halftime into a 19 point loss at Toronto and snapping my two game winning streak. Let’s see if we can snap back today and start a new winning run…
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Today’s Free Pick:
Brooklyn Nets at Golden State Warriors -18 (Total: 208.5)
You can’t really lay 18, right? Not in an NBA game? I mean, this isn’t Duke hosting Bryant (though they are tonight, line pending release) . Especially since I am the guy who has been banging the drum about how Brooklyn is far more competitive than their record, given the closeness of many games and the extremity of their schedule. Sure, they might be the worst team in the NBA, but… well, yeah. They are the worst team in the NBA. Golden State is the BEST team in the NBA (and flirting with that ‘one of the best teams ever’ territory). So, is 18 that ridiculous?
No. It isn’t. Golden State is winning by an average margin of 17.1 ppg and that slate includes Memphis twice, New Orleans twice and the Clippers. Brooklyn should be the worst team they have faced this season. Golden State is rested, having not played yesterday and are not needing rest, since their next game is Tuesday. Plus, it frankly doesn’t take extreme energy or effort to ramp up the massive point margin. They aren’t double teaming frantically or diving all over the floor; they are simply beautifully efficient on both ends of the floor in a way the league has never seen. Add in the fact that Brooklyn is on the back-end of a west coast back-to-back and tonight has “no contest” written all over it.
Look for Golden State to lead by 25-plus within the first 30 minutes and to cruise to a cover. It’s a ton of points to pay, but when you consider it is right at their season average margin and all the other rest factors at work tonight, Golden State should cover with ease.