The Rockets held on last night to secure the cover over the visiting Clippers, notching their third straight win and perhaps more importantly, holding their 1 ½ game over Portland for the third spot in the West. The win was important as Portland also notched a victory, adding to the Spurs misery by blowing them out and delivering them their fifth loss in seven games. Is it panic time for the defending champs? They finished the ‘Rodeo Roadtrip’ with a losing record for the first time ever, and I know they traditionally and intentionally keep a little in the tank for the Playoffs, but I can’t recall many four game losing streaks in the Timmy Duncan era… I’m not sure the champs are getting off the mat this time in the uber competitive West…
One place that it IS certainly OK to panic wuth no questions or reservations is Washington, DC. The Wizards slide devolved from awful to mortifying after last night’s 20-point loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Sure, the Wolves have looked better since Rubio returned and Wiggins is evolving quickly into a future All-Star, but getting blasted by one of the worst teams in the league is a scary sign for a team already in free fall…
We’ve enjoyed a nice NBA run here on the site, nailing seven of our last eight picks. Let’s see if we can keep it going on a night that is slim on volume but HUGE on impact.
Today’s Free Pick:
Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers -3.5
This is the NBA Finals matchup the league sees in their dreams… (by the way, Memphis v. Atlanta is the one in their bad dreams). Star power galore, contrasting styles, an entertaining and even matchup that will likely bring in a huge audience. Tonight will be a fun first glimpse into that possibility. Cleveland is red hot, winning seventeen of nineteen games and is starting to look like a complete team with a lot of weapons after all the moves they made to tweak the roster. With the natural hesitance to embrace Atlanta, the injury to Derek Rose and the freefall in the Nation’s Capital, it’s hard to not consider the Cavs the favorites in the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, Golden State is 2/3 of the way through the season and shows no sign of coming back down to Earth. They should comfortably hold the top seed in the West and have homecourt all throughout the postseason. And that edge could prove vital. The Warriors have dropped just two home games all season long. But tonight is in Cleveland. The Warriors are just 14-14 ATS on the road, while the Cavs are 9-1 ATS in their last ten home games.
I’m not sure which way I’d lean in a seven game series quite yet. I need to see them play and watch some matchups unfold. On paper, Golden State would seem to have an edge with their explosive backcourt, but Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green pose an intriguing combination of size and defensive ability to throw at LeBron. And of course, LeBron has shown an ability to erase explosive point guards in the postseason before (D-Rose in 2011).
For tonight, I’ll take the momentum and the home court advantage being enough to carry Cleveland to their 18th win in 20 games. Regardless of whether you take my pick, go in the opposite direction or play and Over/Under – you don’t want to miss this game tonight on ESPN.