Houston stormed back in the fourth quarter in Toronto last night, taking advantage of the fresher legs (as projected) and of course, the brilliance of James Harden. His 40 point, 10 rebound, 11 assist masterpiece on the road against one of the best teams in the NBA was simply beautiful – and more impressive, kind of par for the course these days with Harden. I’ll admit, it took me a month to shake off my perception of Harden; nice scorer, terrible defender, ball-stopper and reluctant passer. The truth is, he is not only the MVP, but has become the best facilitator in the NBA, leading the league with 11.8 assists per game. That is 1.5 per game more than second place Russell Westbrook. More importantly, the Rockets have now won 18 of 20 games with him as their unquestionable best player AND leader.
It is time to shake the concrete notion that the West is “Golden State… then San Antonio…. then a. bunch of other teams. Houston is RIGHT in the conversation with the best teams in the NBA and is the START of the conversation for “best wager.”
Elsewhere the Cavs and Warriors were pushed, but still got road wins over Phoenix and Sacramento, who despite lousy records, are still not cashing in distant playoff dreams thanks to Portland, who lost their seventh game in ten tries to fall to 16-23. Their freefall, and the top-heavy two-league nature of the West, leaves four surprising teams within two games of playoff positioning: Sacramento, Denver, New Orleans and… the Lakers.
We are riding a nice three-game NBA ATS winning streak. Let’s start the new week on the same high note!
Today’s Free Pick:
New Orleans Pelicans at New York Knicks -4
Things have been rough in Gotham lately and the frustration has been simmering while flirting on boiling over. Even The Zinger has been getting frustrated and admitting his dismay to the media. Melo has been, well, mellow, and restrained in his comments, but you can sense the frustration with all of it; losing, the media, Phil, the g-d triangle! Frustration.
But, at the end of the day, they are at home tonight where they are 11-7 this season straight up and 12-6 ATS. Even more notable, they are 9-2 ATS at home as a home favorite, which applies tonight against the Pelicans.
NOLA has been playing better ball since the return of point guard Jrue Holliday, going 5-5 over their last five game SU and ATS. However, they are a lousy road team at 4-13 SU and 6-10-1 ATS on the season. They are 5-10 ATS as a road underdog.
Nothing is pretty in New York these days and the Knicks are just 3-7 in their last ten games. But they have won and covered at home when they were supposed to with more consistency than any team in the NBA (9-2 ATS as home favorite is easily tops in the NBA) so perhaps a trip home to host a non-playoff team is a recipe for success.
I’ll eat the four points and take the Knicks to get a much-needed, frustration-venting home win.