We notched a fourth straight NBA winner last night with the Raptors easily handling the Clippers in Toronto last night for their eight straight win. The North continued their nice surge and now sit just two games back of the far more hyped Cavaliers in the race for the top seed in the East. Not that The King necessarily needs home court to get to the Finals (see: Pacers two years ago) but it certainly makes the regular season much more interesting.
Meanwhile, the regular season is just about as interesting as it can get tonight when the long-anticipated dream matchup finally becomes reality with Golden State hosting the Spurs. Two teams who can each lay claim to doing unprecedented things to this point of the season link up in a battle of two of the most perfect basketball teams in NBA history. The Warriors sit at 40-4 and on pace to topple the Bulls single season victories record. Of course, that pace doesn’t account for the fact they still face the Spurs the full four times in the last two and a half months of the regular season. Meanwhile, the Spurs, who only have two more losses, are on pace to post the best point differential in NBA history and are more than a full point ahead of the 1972-73 Lakers (who had Wilt and Jerry West).
Something has to give tonight, and perhaps Pop is playing a little coy tonight by “resting” the ageless Timmy Duncan. It would be oh-so-Pop to not want to tip their full hand this early in the season, especially on a road game they are favored to lose and three more matchups remaining, plus the seemingly inevitable May series. But I’d be cautious about being TOO coy and getting to far behind the Dubs in the standings. You really don’t want to have to win games at the Roaricle to advance come Playoff time…
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Today’s Free Pick:
San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors -5.5
It’s not usually a sane bet to defy the Warriors. Or at least not on the surface. But there are some interesting trends that have unfolded lately regarding the Champs. First of all, they are only 2-5 ATS in their last seven games, and that is with the dismantling of some pretty good teams (Cleveland and Chicago). They have also had REAL difficulty with San Antonio, both historically and recently when the matchup is seemingly much more equitable.
San Antonio has won eight of nine straight up against the Warriors and 5-1 ATS in their last six meetings. If you go further back (not that it matters TOO much given the newness of Warriors greatness) Tim Duncan is 55-9 against Golden State in his career.
But WAIT, Tim Duncan isn’t playing tonight, so advantage Warriors, right? Well, keep in mind that San Antonio is 7-0 straight-up this season playing without Old Man Riverwalk, and is 6-1 ATS. Timmy’s absence seems to make the line more generous, but accurately assessing the fact that the 39-year old averages under nine points and scarcely more than 20 minutes a night means it really SHOULDN’T alter the line more than a normal role player being absent. San Antonio is plenty deep and has plenty of size, and LaMarcus Alderidge has actually been excellent defending the five position, which bodes well against Golden State whether they go big or employ the “lineup of death” with Iggy, Barnes and Draymond as the “bigs.” Given L.A.’s improved defense, the Spurs won’t have to match up or down – they can just play.
Golden State has “shoot you out of the gym” potential on any given night, and if it gets unwieldy early, I don’t see Pop digging too deep into the bag of tricks at this early juncture in the season. But I still think the Spurs can hang around – and it is certainly a rare and nearly-insane treat to get a five point cushion AND the team with the greatest point differential in the HISTORY of the NBA.
This game is going to be fantastic to watch – and I’ll be watching with the Spurs and five points in my pocket.