Maybe Avery Johnson really was the problem… The Brooklyn Nets stopped the Eastern Conference’s hottest team last night, the Indiana Pacers, to notch their sixth straight win and pull to within just two games of city-mate New York for the lead in the Atlantic Division. The Nets are 10-2 since firing the former coach and going with “interim” coach PJ Carlisimo. No word yet if they are ready to remove that “interim” tag, but given the way this team has responded the past few weeks (he’s off to the second-best coaching start in franchise history), it seems pretty hard to NOT keep him.
However, let’s see how things go the next few weeks in Brooklyn. One of the most underrated aspects of evaluating NBA teams in the first half of the season is looking at relative schedule difficulty. Things are going to get tougher for Brooklyn now, as last night was their first of eight straight games against teams with a winning record. That smells like a good wagering opportunity to capitalize on an “overvalued” team over the next week or so. Stay tuned to the sportsgeek.com for NBA picks daily!
Let’s get to today’s free pick…
Oklahoma City Thunder -5.5 at Phoenix Suns (Total: 200.5)
Before we get to the breakdown of today’s game, there are two or three GREAT games to watch tonight, but games I would NOT touch from a wagering perspective. For example, if you can tell me you KNOW what is going to happen when the Clippers head to Memphis tonight – go for it. But this game could be a twenty point win either way and I wouldn’t bat an eye.
The same goes for Miami traveling to Utah. The Jazz are famously one of the best home teams in the NBA every year and the Heat is just 8-8 on the road this season. But do you KNOW Miami doesn’t just come out pissed off and possessed and rip off a 15-20 point win tonight? The potential, though perhaps not the probability, is certainly there after a few disappointing losses of late.
I’m not touching either game.
Instead, why not head for the calmer and more predictable waters of OKC heading to Phoenix. The Suns are decent at home, 10-9 this season, but the Thunder are even better on the road at 11-5. They got their wake-up call earlier in the week, losing to the Wizards 100-99, and have been razor-sharp since, winning at Portland and Los Angeles Lakers over the past three days.
The only concern is that this is their third road game in four days, but the Suns will also be playing their fourth game in six days, so fatigue should be relatively even. OKC is the rare team that bucks the “back-to-back” trend, going 5-2 ATS in the back-end of back-to-backs. Perhaps even more impressively, they are 6-1 straight-up this season when playing a back to back against a team that ISN’T. At just -5 tonight, it’s not too steep a price to pay to get the best team in the NBA playing a non-playoff caliber opponent.
Take the Thunder laying the points, but WATCH the Clippers v Grizzlies game for fun…
Free Pick: Oklahoma City -5.5