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PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (17-15) at LOS ANGELES LAKERS (18-13)
Tip-off: Monday, 10:35 p.m. ET
Line: Los Angeles -4, Total: 180
After yet another disappointing effort on the road (12-point loss at Phoenix), the Lakers return home Monday night in search of a fifth straight win at Staples Center when they host the Blazers.
In the past 20 meetings between these teams at Staples Center, the average spread has been 8˝ points. Monday's low spread is a gift, as L.A. is 17-3 SU in this span, winning those games by 11.0 PPG. The Lakers are 10-5 ATS at home, while the Blazers are 6-9 ATS on the road. Although LaMarcus Aldridge (sprained ankle) returned to action Saturday, he is not yet 100 percent and struggled mightily in his past four games at Staples, shooting a subpar 41.5% FG. The pick here is LOS ANGELES to win and cover.
Portland is finally back to full strength with the return of PF LaMarcus Aldridge (22.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG), who missed the better part of three games with a sprained left ankle. Aldridge helped spark his team to a 97-77 home blowout of Atlanta on Saturday with 19 points and 10 rebounds in 35 minutes of action. SF Nicolas Batum (13.6 PPG) led all scorers with 22 points, continuing his hot play of late. Batum has 22.8 PPG on 53% FG in his past four games, all starts. He also scored 25 in his team’s last road game with the Lakers last March. PG Raymond Felton (10.1 PPG, 6.4 APG) bounced back from a scoreless (0-for-7 FG) Thursday night against the Clippers and scored 14 points with eight assists against the Hawks. His career numbers versus the Lakers are pretty solid (15.2 PPG, 6.6 APG), but he shot only 3-of-14 FG in the last meeting on Jan. 5, a 107-96 Blazers home win. Speaking of that last meeting, Gerald Wallace (13.8 PPG) tallied a season-high 31 points in that win. But Wallace has struggled on the road this year with just 9.8 PPG on 38.5% FG (25.9% 3-pt FG).
Kobe Bryant (NBA-high 29.0 PPG) vented his frustration after Sunday’s 102-90 loss in Phoenix, a game in which his team trailed by 27 points in the third quarter. Bryant turned the ball over 10 times in the defeat, but still finished with 32 points, seven boards and five assists. PF Pau Gasol (16.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG) posted his ninth straight double-double (17 points, 12 rebounds) in the loss, as he has been able to overcome the distractions of swirling trade rumors (which Bryant disapproves of) to average 17.4 PPG and 13.7 RPG in this nine-game span. Gasol averages 17.1 PPG and 9.0 RPG in 36 career meetings with Portland. C Andrew Bynum (16.3 PPG, 12.5 RPG) has double-doubles in eight of his past 10 games, averaging 16.4 PPG and 13.1 RPG during this span.
NBA Draft Wrap 20102010-07-06
Games are never won on paper, but immediately after last night’s draft there appear to be some definite winners and losers. Despite all the prognostications, drafting is one of the most inexact sciences in sports, especially as different players mature at different rates. Potential is one of the greatest, and riskiest, factors considered by NBA teams. With that, here are the preliminary impressions of last night’s draft.
Detroit Pistons- The Pistons were extremely lucky to have Greg Monroe fall to them with the seventh pick of the draft. He was expected to go higher and fits Detroit’s low-post need; expect to see Monroe contribute from the beginning. Drafting Terrico White with the 36th pick is another flat-out steal; White may have been the best athlete in the draft. Although guard is not a huge need for the Pistons, his development could make the aging Richard Hamilton expendable.
Los Angeles Clippers- The Clippers filled their two biggest needs: small forward and backup point guard. Al-Farouq Aminu has star potential and should be an integral part of LA’s young nucleus at small forward. With Baron Davis not getting any younger, it was very savvy for the Clippers to acquire Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe was overshadowed by John Wall at Kentucky last year and may turn out to be one of the draft’s better sleepers. Learning from Davis will season him even more. As if this draft couldn’t get any better, the Clippers landed Willie Warren, once considered a top 10 talent, with the 54th overall pick. If Warren is able to undergo an attitude adjustment, he could be a big contributor at the NBA level.
Oklahoma City Thunder- The NBA’s team of the future entered the draft knowing it needed to fortify the post. They did exactly that, trading to get Cole Aldrich. Aldrich is a physical presence capable of playing both post positions and may finally be the one to close OKC’s revolving door at center. GM Sam Presti also shrewdly dealt Eric Bledsoe for a future first round pick from the Clippers. Bledsoe is a good player but the Clippers are unlikely to get out of the lottery in the near future, virtually assuring OKC of a high pick.
Golden State Warriors- Drafting Ekpe Udoh sixth overall was a reach, to say the least. The Warriors were seduced by Udoh’s athleticism and workouts and ignored the fact that, even at 23 years old, he is still very raw. Some point to Udoh’s two pedestrian seasons at Michigan and wonder if his one successful year at Baylor was a byproduct of their system. Even more befuddling is the fact that Golden State has two other players in Brandan Wright and Anthony Randolph who are essentially the same: athletic small forwards who need seasoning. This was a misdirected pick and the Warriors should have targeted Greg Monroe.
New York Knicks- The Knicks spent both their second round picks on players—Andy Rautins and Landry Fields—who some didn’t even expected to be drafted. They could both be serviceable NBA role players, but the Knicks’ thinking is confusing because the players are so similar. These picks were obviously made with the intent of surrounding LeBron James with shooters but if he signs elsewhere, this thinking looks even more misguided.
Could Go Either Way
Sacramento Kings- On the surface, one would think the Kings had a tremendous draft. Some thought DeMarcus Cousins had the talent to go number one overall and corralling him at five was fortuitous. The same goes for Hassan Whiteside, who slipped to 33 after once being regarded as a lottery pick. However, drafting both of them together may pose some problems. Both saw their stock drop due to questionable attitudes and they play the same position, creating a potential logjam at center along with Samuel Dalembert, who will command minutes in a contract year. There is no doubting the talent but the Kings will need to have a coach capable of developing chemistry and fostering maturity in these players, especially when minutes may be scarce.
Indiana Pacers- GM Larry Bird eschewed his tradition of taking proven college players by making some risky picks. Paul George has tremendous upside but can be turnover prone and lack motivation. Perhaps the biggest question is how he’ll play with superstar Danny Granger, who has a very similar style. Magnum Rolle brings length and athleticism and Lance Stephenson has tremendous upside and was a great value pick in the second round. However, Stephenson’s attitude is widely questioned and if he doesn’t mature, he could harm team chemistry.
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NBA: NBA Top Weekend Power Trends 4/9-4/112010-04-09
The final full regular season weekend of the 2009-10 NBA schedule is upon us and there is still plenty of sorting out to do yet before the playoffs commence next week. The seeding beyond the #2 spot in the East is still to be determined and in fact, the #8 seed is still up for grabs between Toronto and Chicago, who go into the weekend in a virtual tie with four games remaining. In the West, the eight playoff teams have already been determined for awhile, but the seeding of #2 through #8 is a complete mess. Four teams are separated by a single game for the #2 seed, while three others are tied for the #6. It would be impossible at this point to project the eventual playoff matchups. As such, let’s go through this weekend’s games and see if we can help clear up the picture a bit. Of course, we’ll also reveal the list of Top StatFox Power Trends that you’ll want to consider as you handicap the action.
The Friday schedule of 13 games is absolutely loaded with key playoff implicating contests. In fact, in 11 of the games, at least one of the teams is hoping to either improve or maintain its playoff standing. In three of the games, both teams have a lot on the line. Let’s go through those. In Atlanta, the Raptors and Hawks will meet. Toronto is of course, tied with Chicago for the final East playoff spot. The Raptors have struggled on the road this season, going 14-25 SU & 17-21-1 ATS and will be matched against one of the league’s toughest hosts. The Hawks are 32-7 SU & 24-15 ATS at home but will be looking to snap a four game ATS winless skid. In Oklahoma City, the Thunder host the Suns. Phoenix is in the race for the #2 spot out West and comes in hot, having won 11 of 12 games. OKC might be wilting under the pressure of the playoff hunt, with just a 7-6 record in its L13 games. The Thunder still hope to avoid the #8 spot and a matchup with the Lakers. Finally, in Portland, the Mavericks are in town. The Blazers are another team that seems to have gotten hot at the right time, with an 11-2 mark in their L13 games. They’ve won six straight games at home. Dallas is headed the opposite direction, with a 6-6 mark in its L12, and opening a 3-game road swing here.
On Saturday, the schedule lightens a bit with just eight games on tap, but two will figure prominently in the eventual final standings in each conference. In the East, the Celtics visit the Bucks in a potential first round playoff preview. If the playoffs started today, that would be the matchup. In fact, the teams still play each other one more time in the regular season, that being on the final day, Wednesday. Milwaukee won the most recent matchup between the teams, 86-84 in early March, but that was with Andrew Bogut in the lineup. The Bucks are still getting used to life without him since his horrific elbow injury but have still won three straight games in his absence headed into the weekend. With a current 7-game ATS winning streak, Milwaukee owns the best overall mark in the league at 50-26-2 ATS. Out West, the big game puts San Antonio in Denver. The Nuggets came up with a big win at home on Thursday vs. the Lakers to retake the lead for the #2 spot in the playoff race. If they win out in their final three games, they’ll clinch the spot. The Spurs have not given up on a Top 4 seed and home court for the first round yet, but will need to win out and get help to accomplish that goal. The return of PG Tony Parker this past week should give them a lift.
On Sunday, there are seven games, and all but one will affect the playoff chase. The ABC doubleheader pits Orlando and Cleveland followed by Portland and the Lakers. Unfortunately for the network, the two host clubs have little to play for this next week and in fact, in their outings on Thursday night, stars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant actually sat out for rest. Of the four teams, the game means most to Portland, who hopes to win while avoiding looking ahead to a Monday game at home vs. Oklahoma City. A win could also help the Blazers avoid a potential first round rematch with the Lakers in the playoffs. Perhaps the biggest game on Sunday is one that would have normally flown under the radar, a 6:00 PM ET start between Chicago and Toronto. With the teams having gone into the weekend in a tie for the #8 spot, the game is crucial to each club’s playoff hopes. It is most critical for the Bulls though, as the Raptors own the tiebreakers between the teams by virtue of two head-to-head wins early in the season. On top of that, the Raptors face Detroit and New York in their final two games while the Bulls have the Celtics and Bobcats yet to play.
With so much big-time action on tap for the weekend, you’ll want to get to your handicapping early. Hopefully these Top StatFox Power Trends help do the trick:
(703) NEW YORK vs. (704) ORLANDO
NEW YORK is 20-7 ATS (+12.3 Units) when playing against a good team (Win Pct. 60% to 70%) over the last 2 seasons. The average score was NEW YORK 101.1, OPPONENT 105.1 - (Rating = 2*)
(705) WASHINGTON vs. (706) BOSTON
BOSTON is 4-17 ATS (-14.7 Units) as a favorite of 10 or more points this season. The average score was BOSTON 101, OPPONENT 93.1 - (Rating = 3*)
(705) WASHINGTON vs. (706) BOSTON
WASHINGTON is 14-2 UNDER (+11.8 Units) when playing against a good team (Win Pct. 60% to 70%) this season. The average score was WASHINGTON 92.4, OPPONENT 98.6 - (Rating = 3*)
(715) LA LAKERS vs. (716) MINNESOTA
MINNESOTA is 11-30 ATS (-22 Units) at home against teams with a winning record over the last 2 seasons. The average score was MINNESOTA 94.8, OPPONENT 105.4 - (Rating = 3*)
(719) UTAH vs. (720) NEW ORLEANS
UTAH is 32-10 ATS (+21 Units) versus poor pressure defensive teams - forcing <=14 turnovers/game this season. The average score was UTAH 105.7, OPPONENT 97.1 - (Rating = 4*)
(501) NEW JERSEY vs. (502) INDIANA
NEW JERSEY is 14-2 UNDER (+11.8 Units) revenging 2 straight losses where opp scored 100 or more points this season. The average score was NEW JERSEY 87.1, OPPONENT 101.4 - (Rating = 3*)
(509) BOSTON vs. (510) MILWAUKEE
MILWAUKEE is 10-1 ATS (+8.9 Units) vs good shooting teams making >=46% of FG atts in 2nd half of this season. The average score was MILWAUKEE 100.3, OPPONENT 97.7 - (Rating = 2*)
(511) SAN ANTONIO vs. (512) DENVER
DENVER is 2-11 ATS (-10.1 Units) when the line is +3 to -3 this season. The average score was DENVER 98, OPPONENT 104.2 - (Rating = 2*)
(515) GOLDEN STATE vs. (516) LA CLIPPERS
GOLDEN STATE is 14-4 ATS (+9.6 Units) versus poor teams - outscored by their opponents by 3+ PPG this season. The average score was GOLDEN STATE 111.5, OPPONENT 103.5 - (Rating = 2*)
(701) ORLANDO vs. (702) CLEVELAND
CLEVELAND is 20-6 UNDER (+13.4 Units) on Sunday games over the last 2 seasons. The average score was CLEVELAND 97.8, OPPONENT 87.6 - (Rating = 3*)
(705) MIAMI vs. (706) NEW YORK
MIAMI is 13-3 ATS (+9.7 Units) when playing against a bad team (Win Pct. 25% to 40%) this season. The average score was MIAMI 103.4, OPPONENT 88.4 - (Rating = 2*)
(709) MINNESOTA vs. (710) NEW ORLEANS
NEW ORLEANS is 7-24 ATS (-19.4 Units) vs poor defensive teams - shooting pct defense of >=46% this season. The average score was NEW ORLEANS 103.1, OPPONENT 105.9 - (Rating = 4*)