Thank you Frank Vogel for making me look like an idiot. I wrote confidently that the Pacers would use last night’s trip to Milwaukee to get back on the same page and vent some pent-up frustration upon the hapless Bucks. OR… they could instead use the opportunity to bench their ENTIRE starting lineup and try desperately to give away a game they could ill-afford to lose.
So that’s another approach I suppose… thanks Frankie. Obviously I wrote and published the column long before the decision to DNP all five starters was announced, but apologies if any of you took a loss along with me in a game the Pacers failed to cover (but did still manage to win).
The bigger story might have been the somewhat surprising loss by the Miami Heat. Memphis’s win not only keeps their tenuous playoff hopes intact, but it pushes Miami a half-game behind the Pacers, making Friday’s game a true playoff game to decide the top spot. As unreal as it seems today, the Pacers are one win away from having home court advantage all the way through the East. Crazy.
Oklahoma City also took a major step towards getting back to the Finals as they handily beat the Clippers to secure the second spot in the East and home court advantage in the likely second round series between those two teams.
Tonight is a light slate with just the national TNT games on the docket, but let’s see if we can get some better luck than the Pacers tank-fail from last night.
San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks -3 (Total: 202.5)
The Spurs have now lost two of three after ripping off a franchise-record and league season-high 19 straight wins. The first loss was to OKC on the back-end of a back-to-back, which tends to befall just about every team. The recent 21-point loss to Minnesota was a little less rational. Had the Thunder lost last night to the Clippers, San Antonio would have the West’s top seed sewn up, but thanks to their lousy head-to-head record they still need one more win to tidy things up. That should be enough for Pop to get his guys to play well tonight (and more importantly, for Pop to PLAY his guys tonight).
Meanwhile, Dallas is looking down the barrel of being swept for the second straight season by the Spurs. Never good for instate pride, and certainly not a nice omen before a possible first round meeting between these two teams. So this game means a ton to Dallas tonight; pride, seeding, momentum; a berth in the playoffs.
As much as Dallas needs a win tonight, I think San Antonio just has their number. They have beaten them by an average of 13.3 points in their last three trips to Dallas, so throw out the “home court” advantage – it hasn’t hindered the Spurs one bit. Given these teams recent history, I’m surprised to be getting three points tonight, but I’ll gladly take it. Give me the Spurs to wrap up the top spot in the West and to keep the race for the final two spots in the West interesting in the final week.