We got back on track in NBA action last night with the Phoenix Suns taking care of business at home against the Golden State Warriors. It’s still early, but the win puts Phoenix two full games ahead of the Warriors and in the sixth spot out West, while if the season ended today the “title contender” Warriors would be on the outside looking in. It’s going to be back and forth and tense in the West just to get a seat at the table, let alone win and advance.
Tonight’s free pick is a giant spotlight on the disparity between the two conferences. Minnesota, currently 10th in the Western Conference is a two point FAVORITE on the road against current 4th seed Boston. The fact that the Timberwolves could miss the playoffs while Boston hosts Game One is a little ridiculous, but such is the balance of power this season in the NBA.
So, can Boston strike a mighty blow for Eastern Conference respectability, or does the inequity continue to widen? Let’s dig into tonight’s free pick and explore tonight’s game at the Garden.
Today’s Free Pick:
Minnesota Timberwolves -2 at Boston Celtics (Total: 199.5)
Minnesota, like most borderline playoff teams, has been much better at home than on the road. They are just 5-8 away from the Target Center, though in fairness, their last four road losses at to San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Indiana and Houston. Meanwhile, Boston, while vastly exceeding expectations is still a few games under .500 and only 6-6 at home.
Boston is going to need to continue to be one of the best teams in the NBA at defending the three-point arc, as Minnesota has been shooting it well lately. Kevin Love is a blistering 17 of 29 in his last four games, including 8 of 9 against the Spurs Friday night. Add in Kevin Martin and JJ Barrea, and the C’s will have their hands full chasing down all those shooters.
The Celtics have exceeded expectations, winning four of their last six and six of their last ten overall, and it has been due to a balanced attack with five players averaging 12 points a game, including Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, Jordan Crawford. That’s a deent lineup, but it ain’t great – any votes for Brad Stevens for Coach of the Year?? Anyhow, it’s a team that will rely heavily of balance and good ball movement all year, and they HAVE to play good defense.
That’s where I’m giving the Celtics the surprising edge tonight; defense. They have had two days to rest since their win over New York, and they are at home. Meanwhile, Minnesota played last night (and played well, winning 101-93 at Memphis) so Boston should be a little fresher. In the NBA, that usually means a half-step quicker on defense and a little more lift on the jump shots.
I’m taking Boston based on the home court and rest. It’s a pretty good formula for wagering success in the NBA.