The National Football League is down to one game (I don’t count the Pro Bowl and you shouldn’t either) and that means I start turning my attention towards the National Basketball Association and college basketball. Today it’s the pro ranks and it’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day which means a lot of NBA games to go with remembering the life of the civil rights icon.
This is the time of year I always feel like the guy who has been out with injury since the beginning of the season and now is healthy enough to play. The problem is that I feel rusty and need to get my game back in order.
Hopefully the three games I’m choosing from tonight’s slate will get me going in the right direction.
Brooklyn (-2) at New York – The Nets and their rivals the Knicks both find themselves looking up at Toronto in the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division. The Nets are currently 3.5 games out while the Knicks are 5.5 games back of the Raptors.
The cross-town rivals hook up yet again and this time it’s atMadisonSquareGarden. The previous meeting was an overwhelming win for the Knicks. Both teams have been decent of late.Brooklynis 7-3 over their last ten contests while the Knicks went 6-4 over the same stretch.
New Yorkhas lost three straight however as issues with J.R. Smith continue behind the scenes.
Both ball clubs play fairly decent defense so I expect this game to be tighter than the meeting. This game is an opportunity for the Knicks to end their losing streak and do it against a rival at the same time. I likeNew Yorkgetting the two points.
Portland (+2.5) at Houston -Portland comes to Houston with an impressive 31-9 record and a five-game winning streak. They have been very good on the road as well going 15-5 in their first 20 road games.
The Rockets are five games behind San Antonio in the Western Conference’s Southwest Division and have been very good at home going 16-6 in 22 games.Houstonranks fifth in scoring in the NBA and they rank eighth in rebounding.
Those are solid numbers but the Blazers rank first in both of those categories. Where the Rockets must take advantage is on offense where the Blazers tend to give up a lot of points. This doesn’t mean they should forget about defense though.
LaMarcus Aldridge is averaging 24 points and nearly 12 boards a game forPortland.Houstonmust keep him in check and get solid games from Dwight Howard, James Harden and the supporting cast.
This is a tough call because the Rockets play well at home butPortlandis streaking right now and I’ll take them getting the two and half.
Miami (-5) at Atlanta – Because the Eastern Conference is so bad, the Atlanta Hawks will still make the playoffs despite losing Al Horford for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Even with the loss of Horford, the Hawks have managed to stay within eight and half games of a suddenly very averageMiami team.
The Heat have gone just 6-4 in their last ten but also had a three-game losing streak in that stretch which they also had at the same time last year.Miamistill ranks in the top ten in both scoring and scoring defense.
LeBron James leads the Heat in scoring, rebounding and assists but even he knows he needs guys to contribute as the All-Star Break approaches.
I expect the Hawks to play hard and give the Heat a battle in this game to the point where I likeAtlantagetting the five points on their home court.