College Football has come to a close and the National Football League is now well into the playoffs. While I prepare to make my NFL Divisional Round picks later this week, I’m turning my attention today to the National Basketball Association.
The news of the week has centered around trades and potential trades. The Chicago Bulls traded Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum and then immediately cut Bynum after the trade was completed. The move saves the Bulls about $15 million.
This trade happened while there are several others that are or were in the discussion phase. First, the Lakers were trying to trade Pau Gasol for Bynum in an effort to save $20 million but that has obviously fallen through. There has also been a rumor about the Clippers trading Blake Griffin to New York for Carmelo Anthony but that seems to be nothing more than a gossip.
Don’t forget too that Denver has made it known that guard Andre Miller is on the market. Basically, the wheeling and dealing in the NBA has just gotten underway and we aren’t even to the All-Star Break yet.
On to tonight’s games.
Indiana (-6) at Atlanta -The Eastern Conference’s best team heads South to Atlanta with a three-game winning streak and an 8-2 run over their last ten. The Pacers are tied with Miami at 11-5 for the conference’s best road record and have a 12.5 game lead over second place Chicago who just traded one of their best players.
The good news for the Hawks is they are in second place in the Southeast Division. The bad news however is immense. They trail Miami by nine games, have lost three straight and have lost Al Horford for the season due to injury. Despite giving seven points tonight, take the Pacers to cover.
Phoenix (+7.5) at Minnesota – The surprising Suns head to the frigid Midwest trailing the Clippers and Warriors by just two games in the Pacific Division. They are coming off a five-point loss to Chicago last night so they’ll be playing on limited rest.
The Timberwolves find themselves 9.5 games back in the Northwest Division, but they rank second in the NBA in scoring with more than 107 points per game and they also rank in the top ten in rebounding and assists per game.
I expect a high-scoring affair tonight in Minneapolis which will be led by Kevin Love and his more than 26 points per game. I like Minnesota to win, but I like the Suns with the points.
Orlando (+12.5) at Portland – The Blazers dropped a 123-119 game to struggling Sacramento last night and I have no doubt that they’ll be re-focused this evening. They sit just a game behind Oklahoma City in the Northwest and got a bit of help as the Thunder lost last night as well. The secret to the Blazers’ success isn’t a secret. They rank first in scoring and third in both rebounding and assists per game. The Achilles’ heel however may be that they rank 27th in points allowed so they can be scored upon.
Orlando enters having lost four in a row and sits in the cellar of the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division. At 10-24, there isn’t a lot to feel magical about for Orlando as they continue a stretch on the West Coast. The combination of Portland losing to a lesser team in Sacramento last night and weak Magic team coming to Rip City spells trouble in my mind for Orlando.
Although 12.5 is a tall order for any NBA team, I think this is a situation where Portland can handle it. Take the Blazers to cover.