The Milwaukee Bucks roared back with a 32-17 fourth quarter last night on the road in Madison Square Garden and punctuated the comeback with a Giannis buzzer-beat to propel them to a thrilling 105-104 victory and one of my more dramatic covers/wins of the season. It was one I had nearly written off as a loss, but you know the old NBA maxim; the game doesn’t really start until the fourth quarter…
Elsewhere, the Bulls continue to be the most difficult team to handicap in the NBA. They have looked dreadful at times over the last few weeks, so of course they go TO Cleveland and knock off the Cavs by double digits. Sure, Kyrie and Kevin Love were out, but they did have The King. Impressive win for the Bulls no matter who else was sitting.
Tonight has some interesting matchups including a contest between two of the best teams in the NBA that no one seems to really care about; the Jazz visiting the Toronto Raptors. Utah is a sparkling 22-14, especially when you consider they faltered out of the gate waiting for Hayward to get healthy and Toronto looks to be on track for yet ANOTHER season as the #2 seed no one notices. And of course, the marquee game is Houston and OKC playing on ESPN – an absolute treat for fans of individual brilliance who want to see the two leading MVP candidates make their case for the hardware.
Today’s Free Pick:
Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets -8.5
This game will be billed as “Russ vs. The Beard” but from a wagering standpoint it should be billed as “superior team playing at home against a team that played a 123-111 losing track meet last night.” Houston comes in fresh. OKC comes in tired. That is the reason for the extra three points or so in the line.
Is it too much for Houston to cover?
Well, the Rockets are an NBA-best 16-5 ATS when rested and the Thunder are 2-4 ATS with a straight-up -9.3ppg margin when playing on no rest. That’s a large discrepancy that makes me a little more willing to eat the points. Then there is the frenetic pace and massive points that Houston piles up on a regular basis. That’s a LOT to try to contend with on a road back to back, giving this game a lot of potential to get completely out of hand quickly.
And the last hidden gem in Houston’s favor is Patrick Beverly (listed as “probable” so I am assuming he’s a go tonight). He is going to ACCEPT the challenge of Russell Westbrook with a ferociousness that borderlines on confrontational. He will be physical, chatty and persistent. It won’t stop Russ from getting his numbers, but it WILL make him WORK (and be uncomfortable most of the night). It’ll be fun to watch which one of them gets tee’d up first – it’s a near certainty one will have a momentary flash of frustration/over-aggressiveness.
OKC is one of the worst teams in the league (28th) as a road underdog at 3-7 ATS. Houston, again, is one of the best when favored at home at 11-6 ATS.
Eight and a half is a fairly decent cushion, but given the rest factor, I’m willing to wager on a double-digit Rockets victory tonight.