The Lakers made a furious run last night to close the margin (and cover the spread), but the Oklahoma City Thunder still very casually and clearly reminded the Lakers they are still the hunters in this scenario to the Thunder’s confirmed status of “hunted.” They had no answer for the scoring of Kevin Durant and the overall athleticism of OKC’s Westbrook, Ibaka and crew, and I don’t think the return of Pao Gasol and Steve Nash, neither stellar defenders, is the answer. Unless it is the Memphis Grizzlies making the leap, it is hard to see anyone other than the Thunder emerging from the West.
Let’s get to tonight’s free pick:
San Antonio Spurs -9 at Charlotte Bobcats
So here is where some fans say, “hey, what about the Spurs?!? They had the best record in the NBA last year and are playing fantastic!!” And I say, “I agree. The Spurs are a fantastic team. They just don’t match with the Thunder. Pop in a tape of Games 3-6 from last year’s Western Conference Finals.”
But, they are a fantastic team, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they finish with one of the top two or three records in the NBA again this season. One of the reasons for their regular season success is their uncanny ability to not give away road games to lesser opponents, like most teams, even GOOD teams, tend to do in the NBA. They are 9-2 away from home so far this season, including their B-Team’s 105-100 loss at the Miami heat last week.
Tonight they play the seemingly improved Charlotte Bobcats, who at one point were two games over .500 at 7-5. However, they have lost six straight games and have given up over 100 points in seven of their last eight games. They are going to have to have a rare defensive output tonight if they want to hold the Spurs precision offense and stable of shooters in check. It is still likely to be a long season in Charlotte, and hosting the Spurs isn’t the best way to snap a two-week losing streak.
The Spurs own a point differential average of nearly eight points per game. Charlotte’s is nearly six points in the negative. That’s basically where the nine point line comes from tonight (subtract four points for the home court edge). But I find the numbers stretch a bit when two opponents of a clearly different caliber face off. I like the Spurs to break the Bobcats’ spirit early and to cruise to an easy double-digit win.
Free Pick: San Antonio Spurs -9