We had our three-game NBA winning streak snapped last night as the Suns laid a fourth-quarter egg, scoring only 15 points in the last period to give up a good lead and fall at home to the slumping Blazers. The win all but seals the Suns Lottery-fate after a little late flutter that suggested perhaps, in conjunction with another Kevin Durant injury, that the Suns could sneak back into the race. Blowing fourth quarter home leads with ten games to play in the season is a pretty bad way to get into the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Golden State sent another resounding message that the road to the Finals is going through The Bay Area after a ferocious beatdown of the Memphis Grizzlies 107-84 on the Grizz home floor. They can set a new franchise record for wins tonight in Milwaukee, assuming Coach Kerr decides to emply his entire team, something that seems less-than-guaranteed after last night’s statement win. Why push them back to back with the West all but sewn up??
Anyhow, I’m staying off the Warriors game tonight, no matter how tempting laying just four against the Bucks might seem…
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Today’s Free Pick:
Oklahoma City Thunder -6 at Utah Jazz
The Jazz don’t stink anymore. At least, it didn’t seem like they did. Their young talent began showing the tremendous promise many expected during a recent stretch where they won 14 of 18 games. However, the last four games have been a thudding regression back to the mean, as they have dropped four straight games and allowed 102.8 points per game in the process including 45% shooting from the arc.
Surprisingly, it is that last stat that gives me confidence in the Jazz tonight. They are healthy, playing at home, and it is unlikely teams will continue to shoot near 50% from behind the arc against them – it is a statistical anomaly, even if their perimeter defense hasn’t been up to par.
The home team has won the last six meetings between these two teams and Utah has covered two of three against the Thunder so far this season. I am not sure they get the outright win, but laying six on the road is a pretty steep price to pay for the Thunder who have won seven of their last ten games but have only played on the road twice inside that stretch. They lost both road games and failed to cover in each as well.
The Thunder are likely going to make it into the eighth spot in the playoffs, but this feels like a franchise that missed its window. I don’t see them beating Golden State more than once, maybe twice, in the opening round and then the circus around Durant, Westbrook and company begins in earnest.
I’ll take the Jazz at home to do no worse than cover the half dozen margin.