The Pick: Trail Blazers 100-91
Let me start by saying that tonight is not a good gambling night in the NBA. With the exception of this game, every spread is at least 8.5-9 points depending where you look, and big numbers are simply difficult to deal with in a league where any team can win on any given night. If forced to chose, I’d take the points in those games, but I wouldn’t feel great about it.
As it is, I hate picking a team playing their third road game in four days against a home team that had last night off and is getting points, but injuries and rhythm win out in this specific game.
The Nets are an older team, so the day of rest should benefit them, right? Under normal circumstances, yes. But Brooklyn has already announced that two starters (Brook Lopez and Deron Williams) will sit this game out with sprained ankles, while another (Paul Pierce) will go through a pregame workout to see if the sore groin that kept him out of action this weekend is feeling good enough to play.
Even Kevin Garnett (sprained ankle) is dinged up, and while he is going to play, there is a chance that his performance could be at least somewhat compromised.
With those four battling nagging injuries, Joe Johnson is the lone healthy starter, and based on 2013 performance, he might be the one starter they’d prefer to sit. The former all star has an 11.96 PER, a number that is barely high enough to rank him among the top 200 in the NBA. 200! That means that between six and seven players per team are more efficient than Johnson.
Shaun Livingston and Andray Blatche will get the starting nod tonight, a duo that has totaled just 26 starts since the beginning of last season. Don’t get me wrong, I like both as role players in this league, but they will be matching up against Portland’s top two players, making this a rough spot for them to play significant minutes in.
Could they take advantage of the extended minutes and prove that the Nets are a deeper team than we think? Sure. I’m just not betting on it.
The Blazers are 2-0 on second night of back-to-back this season, including a nice 10-point win over the San Antonio Spurs on a night where they chose to play everybody. Portland is rolling right now with six straight wins, and I love the fashion in which their offense operates.
Given their roster construction, the fact that 52.3 percent of their shots come from either long range or go through the most underrated top-20 player in the league, LaMarcus Aldridge, is a philosophy that has me thinking playoffs. As a team, Portland has the eighth best aFG% (51.6), a statistic that highlights their edge in efficiency in this one (Brooklyn ranks 24th in aFG%).
Fun Fact: With an injured big man and much less healthy offensive firepower, the Nets would theoretically need to get cookin’ from distance. That is unlikely to happen given the fact that the Trail Blazers, who are far from an elite defense, are giving up fewer 3-pointers per game than anybody (4.8), and doing so at the lowest conversion rate (29 percent)