How do you think Dwight Howard is feeling today? I sure wasn’t happy to drop my pick on Sunday, but I imagine it pales in comparison to the embarrassment Dwight felt as his Lakers lost AT HOME to the pitiful Orlando Magic. To make things more confounding for the big man, the Magic went to the famous strategy that once vexed them; hacking Howard and making him shoot free throws.
He went a dismal 9 of 21 at the line, and the Lakers lost again, falling to 8-9.
I might be wrong, but if there was a line on how soon until Dwight starts rumbling about leaving Los Angeles, I’d take the under…
On to tonight’s free pick:
Minnesota Timberwolves at Philadelphia 76’ers -3 (Total: 188)
The Timberwolves have to be excited about Ricky Rubio’s healing progression and his eminent return to the lineup. Considering that the Wolves were playing without him and Kevin Love for much of the season, they have done a pretty good job treading water. Minnesota is 7-8, but oddly, just 2-4 with Kevin Love returned to the lineup.
Historically this team has struggled mightily in Philadelphia, which makes sense given the tenacity with which the Sixers attack the defensive end of the court. Minnesota has dropped four straight in Philly, and I like it to become five tonight.
Philly has won three of their last four and six of nine overall, with their only losses coming at Chicago, to Oklahoma City and at Cleveland. With the exception of the Cavs, they have handled business as well as can be expected over that nine game run. They have been doing it, surprisingly, not with their trademark defense but with an explosive offensive output. They have averaged 100.7 points per contest over that span, while still playing good defense.
I like Philly to control the point guard matchup as well. It is extremely unlikely that Rubio plays tonight (or Wednesday, figure his return to come this weekend), and it is too bad. Jrue Holliday has been on fire, averaging over 20 points and 10 assists in his last four games. Not that Rubio is a defensive stalwart, but it would be nice to at least have someone to match Holliday’s productivity from the offensive end.
Overall, these teams are pretty even, especially without Andrew Bynum healthy. It comes down to home court for me making my pick. Minnesota has been rough on the road (3-6), and like most decent NBA teams, Philly has been pretty good at home.
I like the Sixers to just cover in a close game tonight.
Free Pick: Philadelphia 76’ers -3