We are down to the final seven or eight games of the regular season and the playoff contenders and pretenders are starting to take shape more and more. The West, as we all know, is loaded. But atop that loaded field a few teams are starting to make some moves and show some signs that they are equipped for the long Summer. Golden State, at a time where Coach Pop would have his players wrapped in packing peanuts and hidden somewhere 1,000 miles from the arena, keeps winning. Even though they don’t NEED to. They notched their 11st straight game with their win over the Clippers and got physical and mouthy in the process. That second round matchup, if we are so lucky as to get it, is going to be freaking awesome.
But they aren’t the only team in the West. I’ve been unfairly dismissive of the Rockets for a while, and perhaps I was too quick to judge. Yes, they lost their point guard Patrick Beverly for the season, but they did get Dwight Howard back and James Harden is leaning through the tape in the MVP race with simply ridiculous play. They are one of only two teams left with a realistic chance at the all-important two-seed (Memphis being the other). If Houston can grab the two seed, are the Western Conference Finals out of reach?
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And with the way Portland has swooned with all their injuries, you can bet there is some intense interest from both the Clippers and Spurs to find their way into that #5 seed and get a reasonably favorable first-round matchup (The Blazers are locked into no worse than fourth as the division champs).
It’s a college basketball-focused weekend, but there are some games on tap in the Association as well. We are 7-2 ATS over our last nine NBA picks and still at around 67% since the All Star Break. Let’s keep the good times rolling tonight.
Today’s Free NBA Pick:
Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies -6
If the Thunder are going to hang on and reach the playoffs, they will certainly have earned it. The schedule is doing them little favors lately as they try to get off the mat after a 135-131 home loss to Dallas with a win AT Memphis. The Grizzlies are 29-8 at home this season and the Thunder are just 1-3-1 ATS in their last five games at Memphis, and most of those games were with a roster healthier then currently comprised.
The jury is still out on the Enes Kanter deal. Yes, the big man is putting up awesome numbers, but the team’s defense is suffering greatly. Add that in with the defensive resurgence in Utah as soon as he left (and the apparent animosity he also left behind) and I’m not 100% sure this works out well – even if/when Durant returns at 100%.
The Grizzlies will be without Tony Allen tonight, which is a tough loss as he could be an additional A+ defender who can take spells trying to slow Westbrook, but don’t overlook the defensive play of Mike Conley at the point. He is one of the few guys who can physically matchup with Westbrook, both in strength and quickness. That should be a fun battle tonight.
At the time of writing, Z-Bo is expected to play tonight, and I think the Grizz frontcourt along with the Thunder’s defensive deficiencies prove to be too much.
Six points is a healthy price, but I think the Grizz cover it tonight against the Fightin’ Westbrooks – even if Russ notched his ninth triple-double since the Break.