The NBA saw two of the most dazzling individual performances of 2016 just before the ball dropped in Times Square. We profited off one; Russell Westbrook had a triple double before HALFTIME in the Thunder’s wild romp over the decimated Clippers to give us an easy winner. And it was easily only the second-best performance of the night because HOLY JAMES HARDEN! As great as Russ has been, Harden made a clear case for being the MVP of the league last night with an absolutely breathtaking performance.
The Beard turned in the following epic stat line: 53 points. 16 rebounds. 17 assists. He became the first player in NBA HISTORY to have 50/15/15 game. As in EVER. Not Oscar. Not Wilt. Not MJ. No one. EVER. He is averaging over 12 assists a game, dispelling the selfish notion with certainty, and his team is winning a ton of games. On an MPV ballot right now, it HAS to be Harden first, and then you can quibble over Russ, Durant and ‘Bron.
We are in a golden age of the NBA, and hopefully people appreciate what we are seeing rather than nitpicking everything and complaining (as we are often collectively want to do…). We have one of the greatest and most pleasant teams ever assembled operating at the highest level of regular season excellence ever (Golden State). A worthy competitor with a Top Five EVER player in LeBron leading the defending champs, and we have the individual brilliance of Westbrook and Harden unfolding on a nightly basis (not to mention Anthony Davis and two-time reigning MVP Steph Curry).
It’s great stuff and 2017 should be an epic year of amazing basketball. I’m glad we’re together for the ride, so Happy New Year, and let’s see if we can make it the best year ever stacking winners.
Today’s Free Pick:
San Antonio Spurs -4 at Atlanta Hawks
Bet against the Spurs on the road at your own peril. Coach Pop’s crew might be known for pulling the occasional B-Team act on the road, but man they sure do win often. They are 16-2 away from home this season, the best mark in the NBA and are a dazzling 12-6 ATS. They just win games, and more often than not, also cover them.
Atlanta has been one of the more inconsistent teams this season. They started great. Then they fell apart, and now they seem like they might kind of sort of be decent again. They are one game over .500 overall and three games under .500 ATS with a losing mark at home. I am sure this game means a little extra to Hawks Coach Bud, given his long tenure and relationship with the Spurs, but despite the home court advantage, he is at a competitive disadvantage roster-wise. The Hawks have won three of four, including home wins over Detroit and New York, but prior to that, dropped three straight home games to Minnesota, Charlotte and Miami.
Back to the whole “this game means a lot to Coach Bud” thing – it MAY indeed mean a lot to HIM, but it hasn’t helped his team. He is 0-6 SU against his former squad. It doesn’t seem to be his FAULT, per se, as the Hawks dropped the five to the Spurs before he showed up in town (that’s 11 straight losses if you are keeping score at home.)
The Spurs are hoping to have Kawhi Leonard back after missing the last two games with the stomach flu. He is listed as questionable at the time of writing. Keep an eye on it, but even if he is scratched, I don’t think it is unreasonable to lay four with the Spurs and the rest of their roster pitching in to pick up the slack.
I’ll eat the four points and trust in all the other trends and numbers.