I admit it. I turned away from the Cavaliers and Raptors game far too early. It looked like the Cavs were going to vanquish their closest Eastern Conference challenger, on the road no less, with relative ease.
Then Kyle Lowry happened. The All-Star yet underrated point guard caught fire and simply took over the basketball game, dropping 43 points including a tie breaking step-back 20-footer with 3.8 seconds to play to help the Raptors secure the win after LeBron’s buzzer beater went feet to the left and short. Is the win really that significant in the long run? Probably not. There have been lots of years where the upstart hopeful beat the champs a few times in the regular season only to face a strong wall of reality once the stakes raised in the Playoffs. And LeBron has even reached several NBA Finals when his team WASN’T the #1 seed (see: Chicago and Indiana).
But for one night, it means a TON to the Raptors who closed the Eastern Conference lead to just two games and get to go home knowing they CAN beat the Cavaliers in a hard fought basketball game.
We lost a close one last night with the Pacers getting clipped in the final seconds by the Hornets. Let’s see if we can get back on track with a winner tonight.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Golden State Warriors -3 at Oklahoma City Thunder
There are a lot of games taking place today in the NBA. But there is only ONE GAME tonight.
The collective basketball world has been anxiously awaiting this trip to Oklahoma City for the Champs – to see if the team that a lot of pundits have dubbed the most significant challenger to the Dubs, can show why that sentiment was warranted. The prevailing logic is that Westbrook can muscle up Curry and make life difficult and that he and Durant can catch fire and score enough points efficiently to keep pace with the uber-efficient Warriors.
Both teams are really good on the offensive side of the floor. The Warriors of course lead the league in offensive efficiency and true FG%, true shooting percentage, and basically every other offensive metric, new and old. But OKC is close in nearly every regard. They rank second in offensive efficiency, third in both effective and true shooting percentage, and play at a similar pace to the Warriors.
But it is their differences that make the difference for me; both in overall perception and in tonight’s pick. The Warriors also lead the NBA in assists per game by 1.4 over San Antonio. The Thunder are 14th. The Warriors are also fourth in defensive efficiency. The Thunder are all the way down at 13th. So the notion that Westbrook can just “muscle up Curry” feels a little overstated. Yes, getting the ball out of his hands and making him work can disrupt their offense, but teams have tried TRIPLE teaming him unsuccessfully because the ball just moves to someone else who can shoot and score. In simple parlance, the ball is just a lot “less sticky” with the Warriors than it is with the Thunder. If Durant and/or Westbrook struggle, the Thunder probably lose. If Curry struggles, the impact isn’t as severe, despite his overall statistical greater impact.
I learned my lesson last month thinking Cleveland and San Antonio were ready to give the Warriors some trouble. They lost by a combined 64 points.
Bet against the Warriors at your own peril. I’m all in on the Dubs – winning 73 games, winning the title, winning tonight, and winning so much that eventually all the retired players and myopic old-time fans will eventually have to capitulate. This team is so good it defies most of what we have always known and thought about basketball. Just enjoy it. And enjoy another Warriors win tonight.