Things are getting interesting out West. We hot our pick on the UNDER in the Golden State vs. Memphis game, but I am glad I stayed off the result. The truth, as I illuminated in the column, was that I wasn’t really sure what would unfold in Game Three. Golden State shot uncharacteristically poor in Game Three. But perhaps the reason was more “Mike Conley and Tony Allen are the best defensive backcourt in the NBA – and it’s not even close” than “Steph and Klay were a little off tonight.”
Game Four now becomes dire for the Warriors. Could one of the top ten teams in NBA history go up in smoke in the second round of the playoffs? Could the two top teams in each league, and each by a wide margin, really not even survive to the conference finals? Monday has now gone from “good hoops night” to absolute must-see TV for any NBA fans as the Hawks and Warriors try to avoid getting pushed to the brink of elimination.
Let’s see if we can close the weekend in winning fashion as we head out to the Staples Center for Game Four.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Clippers -7
I don’t like to make proclamations about a team’s mental makeup and character. We get a limited glimpse of the inner workings of a team and we tend to overextend “body language” and quick snippets of behavior as larger evidence. BUT – tell me the Rockets team doesn’t look like a bunch of heartless dudes? It’s easy to make the leap with the roster of me-first guys like Harden, Howard, Josh Smith, etc. I don’t think it is unfair in this case. The effort has been miserable starting from the opening game disaster, and I don’t think they’ll recover tonight now that Chris Paul is kicking into gear and the Clippers have found some much-needed bench help from Austin Rivers (who gained confidence in Paul’s absence).
I don’t think this Rockets team has enough heart to beat a Clippers team who seems Championship ready after escaping the Spurs. Blake Griffin has been the postseason MVP, and Chris Paul isn’t far behind (you could vote them one-two in either order – and vote Paul Pierce Player/Coach of the Year). They are competing fiercely and relentlessly and their effort is magnified when contrasted with the Rockets more lax attitude.
More than that, the Clippers are a better team. Harden had a great regular season but their lack of diversity of offense and ball stagnation isn’t a good matchup against the Clippers. JJ Reddick and Matt Barnes are playing supporting roles admirably, and the Rockets are not getting the same contribution.
I think they roll at home tonight and the crowd enjoys a few easy buckets and dunks late as the Rockets capitulate like they did in Game One and Three.