I had a tough night with picks last night. But in my feeble defense, did any of you have the Miami Heat suffering their worst home loss in the Lebron James era last night to the Knicks without Carmelo Anthony?? Vegas certainly didn’t either, as last night was one of the largest result-to-spread results of the entire NBA season.
So is it time to take these Knicks seriously as legitimate contenders to win an NBA championship? Consider me still in the skeptical camp, but I admit it might be time to reconsider the notion that the Heat are the automatic Eastern Conference champs. I still want to see the Knicks play when Amar’e returns, and need to see this commitment to defense continue into January and February before I am 100% on board… but the early season results are indisputable.
Let’s get on to tonight’s pick:
Denver Nuggets at Indiana Pacers -1.5 (Total: 194.5)
The Pacers appear to finally be figuring out how to cope with the absence of Danny Granger. They struggled mightily to figure out where to generate offense, especially with Paul George and Roy HIbbert sputtering early in the season. The key to their success and their three-game win streak has been the scoring of George in particular.
The third-year forward has been maddeningly inconsistent, yet tantalizingly brilliant in flashes. In his last two games he has scored 56 points on 21 of 40 shooting. In the two games before that? Just 2 of 18 from the floor.
Indiana has won six of eight overall, and is looking more and more like the tough, smart basketball team that pushed the Heat to the brink in last year’s playoffs. Denver, meanwhile, has had no trouble scoring points this season, but has had a real difficult time keeping the other team from scoring. They are allowing a league-high 101.7 points per game. The addition of Andre Iguodala would have seemingly made them a better defensive team, but the breakneck tempo at which the Nuggets play makes it tough to grind teams down in the 80’s.
The Pacers are 5-0 this season ATS in game they are favored by four or less points. That indicates they are winning the games they are SUPPOSED to win, which is something of a rarity in this season’s wacky slate of results (see: Miami losing to Washington, Lakers getting dropped by the Magic at home). I like Frank Vogel’s team to win the war of tempo and keep the game in double digits. I also like them to exploit Denver’s softer defense enough to get enough points to win the game at home.
Free Pick: Indiana Pacers -1.5