Here we go! The NBA’s real season begins this afternoon in fantastic fashion with the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks renewing a classic rivalry with some higher stakes. And the four-game a day weekend keeps on chugging after that. Sure, there are a few snoozers – Miami should make easy work of the Bucks and I don’t expect many eyes to be drawn to the Indiana v Atlanta series. But aside from those two, the matchups are compelling.
Brooklyn and Chicago should be a very physical and competitive series. The same for the New York and Boston, and thanks to a final day of the regular season falling perfectly, the Western Conference storylines are better than the NBA league office could have hoped for. You get the vulnerable Spurs hosting the media-centric Lakers, you get Denver and Golden State lighting up the scoreboard, and Memphis and the Clippers will meet in a rematch of last year’s seven game classic opening round. In perhaps the most interesting all the storylines, James Harden and the Rockets fell to the #8 seed, setting up a matchup against his former team Oklahoma City. For those of you who think that could be a competitive series, Jeremy Lin will be attempting to guard Russell Westbrook… yeah….
Let’s get to my Saturday pick…
Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets -8.5 (Total 210.5)
First off, this series is going to be incredible television. Denver is the leading scoring team in the league, and though they may lack the household name “star” they have a ton of talent led by Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala. Golden State is right behind them in scoring, led by Steph Curry and his record –setting 272 three pointers this season, and are poised to put up some big numbers this series.
Much has been made about Andre Iguodala and his defensive prowess locking up Steph Curry. AI is a fantastic defender, but don’t be lulled into thinking he can elimate Curry from the series the way Lebron did D-Rose a few seasons ago. Curry made 16 of 25 three point attempts in his four games against the Nuggets this season, so if they want to “shut down” Steph, it is going to take a concerted team effort.
A concern for Denver is the health of Kenneth Farried, their best interior defender. With Gallinari out for the year, if Farried can’t return to play regular minutes, they are very thin inside. That bodes well for David Lee, the Warriors underrated All-Star forward.
I still like Denver in this series. I know I listed a bunch of reason Golden State can win the game and series – and it should be a competitive series. But Denver IS the best home team in the league at 38-3 this season – a staggering mark for a non-title team. They also possess the best record in the entire NBA over the past three months; four games better than the Miami Heat. This team is legit.
But I am not a big fan of laying eight points in the opener of a series, where historically, if a road team is going to steal one, it tends to happen more often in Game One. Give me Golden State with the points in a game that will be thrilling to watch if you like basketball.
Free Pick: Golden State Warriors +8.5