Here is an interesting sign of the emerging respect for the Portland Trailblazers. They opened as a 2 ½ point favorite over Oklahoma City and the line has to this point, held steady. That tells me that both the public and Vegas are slowly but surely climbing on board the Blazers bandwagon. Now let’s not get crazy and say they are going to win the West, there are still a TON of talented teams awaiting the gauntlet that will be the Western Conference Playoffs, but it isn’t unfair to say this team will easily win 50+ games, could flirt with 55 to (gasp) 60, and should be hosting an opening round series.
Impressive stuff up in Rip City, as the memory of the “Jailblazers” has finally faded. However, I’m staying off this game tonight. I love what Portland is doing, but OKC has been playing exceptional basketball and this game really could go either way.
Instead, let’s focus on a less glamorous game tonight for our Wednesday free pick.
Indiana Pacers -8 at Utah Jazz (Total: 186)
The Pacers finally lost a game, falling 106-102 in a hard-fought game at Portland on the second night of a west coast back-to-back. Yes, it’s a loss, but anyone not completely sold on the Pacers should have been won over by that effort. Paul George was crowned NBA Player of the Month for the Eastern Conference and after last night’s inexplicable home loss to the Pistons they are two games up on the Heat once again. Things are looking bright in Indy, and you can bet the rare loss Monday will have this proud veteran team razor-sharp tonight.
That’s not good news for the Jazz. Utah has been one of the worst teams in the NBA all season, and even at home, they have only managed to scratch out a 3-6 record at home. They have been better of late, especially since the addition of Trey Burke, and have actually won two games in a row, but I can’t see this team being able to score points with any efficiency against the deep and tenacious Pacer defense.
It could very well be another one of those 4 for 18 type shooting nights for Gordon Hayward who is going to have to contend with the length of Paul George on the perimeter, and in the off-chance he DOES get by him, the shot-blocking rim protection of Roy Hibbert and the rest of the interior defense.
Eight points is a bunch to lay down on the road, but this is a special circumstance. You get a rested and focused Pacers team taking on one of the worst teams in the NBA. Give me the Pacers big tonight.