When is it too early to be nervous?
The NBA season is less than a week old, but a few teams may already be feeling the heat, a few of which will be in action to close out the weekend. Let’s take a look at the games which feature those squads who might be in desperation mode, and whether the lines reflect as much
On the surface, the Mavs have nothing to worry about. Aside from having the game’s brightest transcendent young star in year-three of his rookie deal, they’ve lost road games to two very good teams (the Suns and Lakers) and should be getting their second banana back in less than a month. They also have some franchise experience rebounding from slow starts, having begun the 2006-07 season 0-4 and winning 67 of their final 78 games.
That Dallas team was coming off a Finals appearance though, and for all of Luka’s otherworldly gifts, he’s not above feeling a sense of urgency. For one, the Mavs don’t own their first round pick this season, having shipped it to New York in the deal that brought on the currently injured Kristaps Porzingis, so its not like any losses come with a silver lining.
More directly, it seems like their defense – which finished last year ranked 18th, second lowest of all playoff teams – still has some warts. Through two games, they’ve given up 118.4 points per 100 possessions, good for 23rd in the league, and now face off against a Clipper squad in LA that is scoring 118.5 per 100.
The Pick: Los Angeles -4.5 @ -110
Like the Mavs, Golden State is opening with three straight on the road, and also like Dallas, they’ve dropped the first two.
It’s probably unfair to point out that not only do the Warriors have the worst net rating in the NBA by nearly nine points per 100 possessions, simply because they’ve played arguably two of the top five teams in the league. Still, anyone hoping for a bounce back performance from Curry & Co has to be a little disconcerted with what they’ve seen. The shooting and playmaking that once defined the team of the 2010’s is gone; in its place are young players being asked to play winning basketball for the first time in their lives.
The good news is that for the first time this year, they’re facing off against a team in the same situation. The Chicago Bulls are also 0-2 and have lost both games by more than 20 points. They are a mess, and unlike the Warriors, they do not have Steph Curry to fall back on.
This game is in Chicago, but it’s difficult to imagine the Warriors can’t figure out a way to get this one in the bag.
The Pick: Warriors -2 @ -110
It’s early, but the Brooklyn Nets sure do seem like the early favorite for “take them, regardless of how many points they’re giving” status this year. It feels warranted.
Heading into the season, the two question marks about this team surrounded Durant’s health and the roster’s chemistry. Both boxes have been checked in thick, permanent marker. KD has scored an effortless 51 points in two games on just 32 shots. There is no sign of rust, let alone diminished ability. Off the bench, Brooklyn has a handful of starter-quality players that don’t seem to mind their diminished role.
Put those things together, and it’s little surprise that Brooklyn’s two victories have come by an average of 27 points despite playing two teams penciled in for the playoffs. Next up, they get a Charlotte team that hasn’t won a game yet despite starting the season against the Cavs and Thunder – two presumed bottom-five teams.
The Pick: Brooklyn -7.5 @ -115
Other NBA Games
I wrote yesterday that the Magic were an easy pick against a Wiz squad that they swept last season, but it’s tough to imagine the Wizards letting Orlando come into Washington and take both games to drop them to 0-3.
The Cavs have been feisty, but they move up in weight class here after defeating the Hornets and Pistons so far. The Sixers looked good in defeating New York Saturday night, and Joel Embiid seems to be in the early goings of an MVP campaign.
Two games, two spirited first half efforts, and two eventual borderline blowouts for the Knicks. They get their best opponent yet, and will take on the Bucks without rookie Immanuel Quickley, who has been their most competent point guard thus far. The Bucks get the nod.
At first glance, it feels like this is disrespectful to the Pacers, but they’ve beaten two bad teams, whereas Boston kept things close for a while to Brooklyn. Regardless, this one is a toss-up. Stay away.
You can get the Lakers for under 10 points at home just because the Wolves had a surprising win in Utah last night, even though LA is coming off an extra day’s rest? Sign me up, please.
NBA Expert Picks
Clippers -4.5 @ -110
Warriors -2 @ -110
Nets -7.5 @ -115
NBA Free Picks
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