The pick: Bulls 100-88
The Knicks will be functioning on the second night of a back-to-back, something that has already proven difficult to do this season (see Miami Heat). They weren’t overly impressive in a win over the Milwaukee Bucks as they let a 25-point lead evaporate and turn into a late one-point deficit before pulling away in the final 100 seconds. They managed just 34 second half points after scoring 32 in the third quarter against a defense that allowed over 100 points per game last season.
It was obvious that they missed J.R. Smith’s ability to score in bunches, and I expect that to be the case again tonight.
The Bulls, although in a losing effort, looked good at times. Derrick Rose is going to get better with each passing game, and not being hounded by an elite defensive team isn’t going to hurt. He was doubled off of every pick-and-roll and forced to make quick decisions against the athletic Heat, something the Knicks won’t be able to do as consistently.
Chicago lost their season opener by 12 points, but considering that they lost the second quarter alone by 19, they hung in there against the defending champions. It is hard to imagine the Knicks backcourt having much success against the stingy trio of Rose, Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich, giving the Bulls a significant edge.
The Pick: Clippers 113-100
Like the Knicks, the Warriors will be working for a second consecutive night, but they were considerably more impressive as they steamrolled the Lakers by a final score of 125-94. It will be difficult to match that offensive output on consecutive nights, especially against what we all assume is a title contending Clippers team that was embarrassed during their season opening loss to those very same Lakers on Tuesday night.
When these teams played last season (four games), the winning team averaged 112.5 points, never scoring fewer than 106. Both of these teams can put the ball in the bucket, so the day of rest should serve as a great advantage for the Clippers as this game heads into the fourth quarter. Lob City scored 100-plus points in their first four games (and six of their first seven) at Staples Center last season, a trend I fully expect to continue for the early parts of this season.
From a personal standpoint, I was very impressed with what I saw from DeAndre Jordan (8-of-10 with 17 points , 11 rebounds, three blocks, and only one foul) in the opener and believe he could very well be the difference-maker in a game loaded with backcourt talent.
I don’t expect the established shooters to get the same looks that the Clippers were willing to give the Lakers’ bench, and while I don’t think the Clippers are going to shut down Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, they may be able to do enough given the explosive potential of their offense.
Soppe Record ATS: 1-2