The Celtics stormed back to beat the Raptors last night, a big win as they jockey for Playoff positioning, and a big win that will likely send Brad Stevens to the All-Star Game as Head Coach. But unfortunately, it came up a half-point short of a winner for me so we take the L in frustrating fashion.
Elsewhere on a crowded night of NBA action, the Cavaliers took out some frustration on the Timberwolves with a much-needed blowout win, the Bulls showed another example of WHY I recommend not betting their games with their 128-100 win on the road in Oklahoma City (the variance between “good Bulls” and “bad Bulls” is just so wide and unpredictable), and the Miami Heat won their non-sensical NINTH STRAIGHT game last night, cruising to a blowout win at home against Atlanta. Look, I don’t think the Heat are a playoff team, but any team that can reel off nine straight NBA victories deserves to be taken seriously.
Thursday night means two games on TNT and an otherwise barren slate, so let’s make the most of slim pickings with a winning play.
Today’s Free Pick:
Golden State Warriors -8 at Los Angeles Clippers
Remix! Let’s run it back!
The Clippers get an early chance at redemption after last weekend’s soul-crushing 45-point loss in Golden State and fortunately for them, the scene shifts to the Staples Center where they are 17-7 so far this season.
HOWEVER, the Warriors are an even-better NBA-best 20-4 on the road and the Clippers still don’t have their heart and soul, Chris Paul. So, is it reasonable to expect a radically different result tonight??
The road is littered with examples of ridiculous swings in back-to-back games between the exact same teams with the only variable being a different gym and a new day at the office. Playoff series will see 40-50 point swings in consecutive games all the time, so a radical reversal tonight would not be the craziest thing in sports history by a longshot.
But I still don’t think it is going to happen for three reasons: One, there is still no Chris Paul, and I can’t emphasize this enough. All the advanced metrics for the season and aggregate records for the Clippers mean very little. This team is DIFFERENT without Paul. It stalls the offense, but less heralded, it thwarts their defense as well. Steph Curry has caught FIRE lately, dropping 11 three-pointers in yet another exhibition of amazingness last night. Chris Paul is an excellent defender. The Crawford/Lawson/Rivers/Redick remaining backcourt is collectively, NOT.
Two, the Warriors LIKE punking Los Angeles. Both played last night, but the Warriors got so far in front that no one will be tired tonight. They had the Charlotte game on cruise control early and benched all the starters for the entire fourth quarter. Don’t think last weekend’s 45-point romp didn’t bring a little joy to the Dubs. They remember their “lucky” championship, and have no problem showing the Clippers what a little BAD luck feels like.
And Lastly, they are just better. Like WAY WAY better than the Paul-less Clippers. Golden State leads the NBA in offensive efficiency at 113.8, 2.2 ahead of second place. They lead the NBA in True Shooting % at a ridiculous 60.5% and effective FG% at 57.0% – both of those are 2% better than anyone else in the NBA, they also lead second place Boston in assist rate at 21.6 to 19.0, which is as wide as the gap between Boston and 28th place Lakers.
If the stats bored you, it means Golden State is about a standard deviation better than the entire league in every meaningful offensive category. Oh, and they also lead the NBA in DEFENSIVE efficiency as well. Even if you hate stats and analytics, you have to be taken aback by the sheer greatness of this basketball team. When you add in the 15-20 games this season where they didn’t even TRY in the fourth quarter, the numbers become even more daunting.
I’ll lay the points, even on the road and on short rest, because Golden State WANTS to win tonight. That generally means they do so with ease.