February 26, 2018
The Golden State Warriors face a tough test on the road Wednesday night when they take on the Washington Wizards in Washington. Even without star guard John Wall, the Wizards have been playing some good basketball and are trying to hold on to a top four playoff spot as the season winds down.
For the Warriors, they recently fell out of the top overall spot in the Western Conference to the Houston Rockets. Houston has reeled off twelve straight wins to take a slim lead over Golden State while the Warriors have won just six of their last ten games. However, on Saturday night in prime time, they put on a show against the Oklahoma Thunder and came away with a rousing 112-80 victory. The game featured another battle between ex-teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and was a big one for the Warriors since the Thunder had defeated them in both prior games this season.
The Wizards will play on Tuesday night in Milwaukee before returning home on Wednesday to face the Warriors. When Wall went out with his knee injury, a lot of people thought it might derail the teams playoff chances considering he would miss significant time. He ended getting surgery on the knee and the expectation was that he would be out anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks. The last game he played in was on January 25th at Oklahoma City and he has now missed 13 games.
In the first 10 games after the injury, the Wizards went 8-2 including six road victories, including their most recent against the Cleveland Cavaliers this past Thursday. A pleasant surprise for Washington has been the play of backup guard Tomas Satoransky. The 26 year old from Prague, Czech Republic has held down the fort in Wall’s absence and solidified the point guard position. He is playing over 30 minutes per game since Wall’s injury and has scored in double-digits in seven games while averaging over 6 assists per game as well.
And other players have stepped up for Washington in addition to Satoransky. Guard Bradley Beal has needed to step up his scoring and has done just that. He was also selected for his first All-Star game appearance. Forwards Otto Porter and Markieff Morris have been solid and Kelly Oubre Jr. has provided a spark whether starting or coming off the bench.
For Golden State, these may be the dog days of a long season for the defending World Champions. They were everyone’s pick to get back to the Finals again this year and the odds are high that they will. Head Coach Steve Kerr even toyed with letting a few of his players run the huddle in a recent game and took a little heat for doing so. But he was trying to shake things up a bit to keep his team interested as the long season rolled on.
But the Warriors have won 46 of their 60 games on the year and when playoff time rolls around, Kerr just wants them to be rested and focused and ready to go. And with the Rockets now a formidable opponent in the West, Golden State will need to be at the top of their game to move on to their 4th straight NBA Finals appearance. Barring an injury to one of their stars, the Warriors should at least get to the Western Conference Finals where they will probably go against the Rockets. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson are battle-tested and should be at the top of their game going into the playoffs. But it could be their bench that determines if they’ll make it all the way again this year.
The Wizards appear headed to the Eastern Conference playoffs and currently sit in the 4th position, although three teams are within 2 games of that spot. They have an opportunity to get as high as 3rd as they are right behind the Cavaliers. For the Warriors, it will be either a 1st or 2nd seed in the West for them as no other teams have a chance to catch either them or the Rockets.
Washington obviously needs this game more than Golden State but they’ll need to go and get it against a good road team. The Warriors have a sparkling 24-7 record on the road so far this season. The game will begin at 8pm EST Wednesday night on ESPN.
February 20, 2018
CELTICS TRAVEL TO DETROIT ON FRIDAY
Hoping to start the post All-Star game portion of the schedule on the right foot, the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons face off on Friday night in the Motor City. It will be the first game back for both teams since Sunday’s new format All-Star game between Team Lebron and Team Steph. Lebron’s team came out on top with a surprising defensive stop on the last possession and Lebron was awarded his 3rd All-Star game MVP award.
Even though this is the first game back for the Celtics and Pistons, it’s actually an important one. Boston dropped three straight games and three of their last four prior to the break. Detroit also comes in on a downswing having lost three of their last four also.
The Celtics lost the top spot in the Eastern Conference to the Toronto Raptors and are now two games behind and in the second position. And the new look Cleveland Cavaliers are looking to gain ground in the third position but are still four and a half games back of Boston.
The Pistons, who made the biggest trading deadline acquisition when they acquired forward Blake Griffin from the Los Angeles Clippers, need a surge in their final 25 games just to get into the playoffs. Currently, Detroit sits one and a half games behind the Miami Heat for the 8th and final spot in the East.
But since getting Griffin, Detroit has been up and down. After the trade, they won five straight games (four with Griffin), and then lost four games in a row before a tight win over Atlanta in the final game before the break. With little time to practice, it’s been tough for Pistons Head Coach Stan Van Gundy to integrate Blake into the offense. And for Griffin, he’s been content to try and set up some of his new teammates than be overly aggressive on the offensive end. Expect him to become a bit more the focal point of the Detroit offense in the last two months of the season if the Pistons expect to make a run.
Andre Drummond has been playing at a high level for Detroit and it doesn’t appear to be a problem playing alongside Griffin. But they’ll need more consistent performances from the other players around them to gain a playoff spot. Those include Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock and a player returning soon from injury in guard Reggie Jackson.
For Boston, Head Coach Brad Stevens needs to get some players back healthy to get things rolling again. We all know they lost their new star forward Gordon Hayward in the team’s first game, but recently have had a group of other injuries. Forward Marcus Morris has been in and out of the lineup but has been productive when he plays. Others who have appeared on the injury list have included Jaylen Brown (ankle), Shane Larkin (knee), Al Horford (head) and even Kyrie Irving (quad).
But this is a well coached team that plays good defense, and even with a short-handed lineup, the Celtics should be in any game they play. And now that they’ve had a chance for most of the team to get some time off during the break they should be at close to full strength for the matchup against Detroit.
Things don’t look easy for Van Gundy with 15 road games of their 25 remaining games, which is why this home game against the Celtics is a big one for them. A win could get them on a roll and add some confidence to the new look Pistons. They also, however, have a big six-game West Coast trip to look forward to beginning on March 13th in Utah and ending on March 22nd against James Harden, Chris Paul and the Houston Rockets.
Boston has just 23 games left on their schedule with 14 of those on the road. They would certainly like to get off to a good start a win over the Pistons and another against the depleted New York Knicks the following night in New York. Another couple of games they are looking forward to are a March 3rd game against the Rockets and a March 31st game against the Raptors.
February 13, 2018
NBA Wednesday Preview
Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers
Wednesday, Feb. 14, 10:30 p.m. (ET) ESPN
NBA Pointspread: Golden State -7
Total Line: 225.5
Golden State at Portland Game Overview
The Warriors closed as prohibitive 16-point home favorites against Phoenix on Monday night and they played the part with a lopsided 129-83 victory. This was their third win in a row both straight-up and against the spread; covering as double-digit favorites at home in all three games. Golden State heads on the road for Wednesday night with a SU 22-6 record while going 13-15 ATS in their first 28 road games this season.
Four of five starters scored in double figures on Monday night led by Stephen Curry’s 22 points. The Warriors shot a blazing 58.4 percent from the field; connecting on 11 of their 26 shots from three-point range. Draymond Green missed the game against the Suns with a finger injury and his status for Wednesday night is listed as day-to-day. Golden State has scored at least 120 points in each of its last three games.
Portland comes into this game with a 2-4 record in its last six games both SU and ATS after losing to Utah 115-96 on Sunday as a four-point home favorite. The loss snapped a SU nine-game winning streak at home while going 7-1-1 ATS as part of an overall record of 16-11 at home this season with an 11-13-3 record ATS. The total has gone OVER closing line in four of their last five home games.
Damian Lillard scored a game-high 39 points on Sunday in the losing cause. He continues to lead the Trail Blazers in scoring this season with an average of 25.8 points per game. He is shooting 44.4 percent from the field on the year and he connected on 12-of-25 shots against the Jazz. Portland is ranked 17th in the NBA in scoring with an average of 104.7 PPG and it moves to ninth at the other end of the court in terms of points allowed (103.7).