A Christmas Feast on the West Coast

The top two teams in the Pacific Division meet on Christmas Day.

The NBA began playing Christmas games in their sophomore season [1947]. Television broadcasts started in 1967. Marketing consultants didn’t need to be consulted for the league to schedule top matchups on a day when everyone was at home with nothing to do except pretend they were listening to Uncle Dan.

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Who wouldn’t want to watch Bernard King post 60 points rather than hear another lecture on Ronald Reagan’s statesmanship? Or see Patrick Ewing rally the Knicks past the Celtics and bury Michael Jordan and the Bulls at the buzzer in ’85 and ’86 rather than Dan’s Reagonomics reprisals?

Although the Knicks carried the tradition through its early decades, the Lakers and Celtics took over the role just before the millennium turned. One or the other has featured since 1999. Both since 2008. When LeBron James made his Decision, the Miami Heat joined the act.

Now that LeBron has taken Robert Plant and Jimmy Page’s advice and gone to California, the blockbuster matchup is the Lakers v the Golden State Warriors.

After a sluggish start in LaLa Land, the King has his new team rolling. The Lakers are second in the Pacific [19-14 SU], behind the Warriors, fourth overall in the Western Conference.

Golden State is doing slightly better [23-11 SU] but isn’t the imperious side of recent years, as their .500 record away from the Oracle Arena demonstrates.

The Warriors are at home for this one, however, where they are 15-3 Straight Up. The Lakers are two games under .500 on the road.

Kevin Durant may have elected for strength in numbers by signing with Golden State,
 but he isn’t afraid to take on any double team.

In addition to entering hostile territory, LA arrives shorthanded. JaVale McGee’s 11.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game are a significant miss. Without him, they dropped a 107-99 decision to Memphis on Sunday. Tyson Chandler is also questionable after missing that game with back spasms.

The Warriors aren’t completely healthy although Damian Jones 5.4 ppg and 3.6 rpg are easier for Steve Kerr to replace.

Luke Walton’s one advantage in this matchup is familiarity. He coached Golden State during Kerr’s recovery from back problems in 2015/16. He knows the Warriors’ roster, Kerr’s tendencies, and how to deal with the hostile crowd. On the other hand, it hasn’t helped him yet. Kerr has won all but the first of their eight games since Walton became Lakers head coach in 2016.

Even with LeBron on the court at the Staples Center, it wasn’t close. The Warriors came away 117-106 winners while giving away six points to the LINE. They’re giving away nine at home.

Kerr’s squad welcomed the Christmas Eve amnesty after hosting the Mavericks and Clippers on back-to-back nights. They came away with wins in both but may be a little gassed on Christmas. Sunday night against the Clippers was a wide-open affair. It ended 129-127 with the Warriors only failing to score more than 30 in the final quarter.

Can LeBron add to tradition and intrigue by pulling off the latest NBA Christmas miracle?

Golden State tends to respond when opponents light them up. They’re 4-0 with the UNDER after giving up more than 125. The Under is also 8-1-1 following the Lakers’ last nine SU defeats and 6-1-1 in their last eight against .600+ teams.

That said, the OVER is running 28-11 in the series. Knowing that, I still expect it to be 28-12 come Boxing Day [!]. Both coaches will be emphasising defending, the Lakers are shorthanded, the Warriors fatigued.

The TOTAL is 235. While Golden State topped that on Saturday and Sunday, they didn’t in six of their previous seven. The Lakers have managed it in just three of their last ten. Both teams need to be at their best to hit that level. Neither is. Go with the Under.

Free Pick: LAKERS + [9 POINTS]
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Martin Palazzotto is a freelance writer and author of strange bOUnce, a collection of sport fiction.

 

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Memphis Grizzlies @ Golden State Warriors (Western Conference) NBA Betting Preview for Monday, December 17, 2018.

Written by National Basketball Association Point Spread Analyst Al Presto.

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The (16-13) SU/ATS Memphis Grizzlies have lost 4 of 5 including their last two at home but still, have a 1/2 game lead over Dallas in the Southwest division.

After a 105-97 home loss to Houston as 5 point home UNDERDOGS ATS the Grizzlies will play their next four on the West Coast and will return home for a December 26th matchup against Cleveland.

  • Memphis is 1-4 ATS their last five overall.
  • The UNDER is 6-1 Memphis last seven on Monday’s.
  • UNDER bettors have made profits 4 of the last five between the teams.
  • Memphis is 2-6 AGAINST THE POINT SPREAD their last eight at Golden State.

The (20-10) SU, (13-17) ATS Golden State Warriors have won five of six including a 130-125 victory over Sacramento as 7 point road FAVORITES ATS.

However, they’ve dropped their last 3 AGAINST THE POINT SPREAD. Golden State is on top in the Pacific division but trails Denver by a half game for the number one spot in the Western Conference.

  • OVER bettors have made profits in 5 of the Warriors last six after POINT SPREAD loss.
  • Golden State is 5-12 ATS their last seventeen at home.
  • The UNDER has cashed in Golden State last two at home.
  • The Warriors are 0-4 ATS their last five at home.

Monday’s game is 10:35 PM EST at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. The NBA Television Network will be broadcasting.

The Betting Line has Memphis an 11′ point road UNDERDOGS ATS. The TOTAL is 211 points for Monday’s contest.

 

Memphis Grizzlies guard Marshon Brooks thought he and Wayne Sheldon were headed to Phoenix in a trade, but it was voided because the Sun thought Dillon Brooks would be involved. It could explain why team chemistry is off leading to a recent losing streak.

Head coach J. B. Bickerstaff now looks to veterans Marc Gasol and Mike Conley for leadership during a time of confusion on the team. The Memphis Grizzlies offense averages (102.5) point per game which is 28th in the NBA but in December they’re scoring (96.0) ppg on 49% shooting from the field.

Injuries to offensive threats Chandler Parsons, Brooks, and Kyle Anderson has shown as they’ve gone 3-5 both SU/ATS their last eight overall. General Manager Chris Wallace signed forward Joakim Noah in November, and he’s averaging (5.3) ppg and (3.4) rebounds per game in a reduced role until he gets familiar with the system. The move adds size that made Gasol and former Grizzlies interior player Zach Randolph a force for years. However, Noah doesn’t possess the offensive skills of Randolph but he nasty in the post.

Gasol is playing with an ankle injury which show on the stat sheet. Gasol averages (16.3) ppg and (8.7) rebounds per game, but since the injury, he’s putting up (11.0) ppg with seven rebounds per contest.

The Grizzlies need Noah to establish a physical presence; he’s a high energy player which can be contagious to a team struggling team.

Bovada.Lv list the Memphis Grizzlies win total at 33′ games for 2018-19.

 

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr understands the task in the Bay Area is to deliver a third consecutive NBA title. Anything less would be considered a wasted season. The Warriors beat Memphis 117-101 on November 5th as 13′ point home FAVORITES ATS.

It seems as though they’ve put the Kevin Durant, Draymond Green saga behind and now have their eyes on getting DeMarcus Cousins ready for action which will be after Christmas.

However, reports are Durant won’t resign next season as the Warriors begin to play in their brand new downtown San Francisco Arena, we’ll see. For now the Warriors average (116.1) points per game, 3rd in the NBA while shooting (49.1%) from the field.

Stephen Curry (29.3) ppg and Durrant (29.0) lead the team in scoring. The Warriors shoot an NBA best (38.9%) from beyond the three-point line but Memphis who allows (44.6%) shooting which ranks 8th league-wide and they’ll contest every shot tonight. Golden State also understands they are playing a team that hungry for a win and Kerr will emphasize matching the Grizzlies intensity on defense.

Golden State ranks 12th in the league rebounding the basketball as opposed to Memphis grabbing an NBA worst (39.5) rgp, but the addition of Noah will pay dividends.

Tonight’s game could serve as an early season playoff tuneup for Golden State to practice their half-court offense.

Bovada.Lv list the Golden State Warriors win total at 63′ games for 2018-19.

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If it’s June, mistakes must be magnified

If it’s June, mistakes must be magnified

They say no one remembers who finishes second. ‘No one else’ is more accurate. The players who finish second can never forget until they finally win it all.

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Right now, both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Vegas Golden Knights are having series they would rather forget in the NBA and Stanley Cup Finals respectively. If they cannot forget now, the end will arrive sooner rather than later and both will have at least a year to replay it all in their minds, wishing after what might have been.

Vegas

Last night, the team playing with house money took the game to the Washington Capitals in the opening ten minutes. Down two games to one in the series, victory would both level terms and return home-ice advantage to the Golden Knights.

The puck gods had other ideas and, apparently, all their money on the Caps. Ninety seconds in, a shot deflected off Eric Haula’s skate then the post. Reilly Smith was up next. He fanned on a shot with the net gaping. James Neal hit the post on the powerplay with Washington netminder Braden Holtby flat on his back, helpless. Those three misses may have cost Vegas the series and the rest of us an amazing Cinderella story to get us through the next lockout.

The Capitals would not miss three times in the following ten minutes, taking a commanding lead into the second period, one that would translate into a 6-2 victory and a 3-1 series advantage.

Washington Capital TJ Oshie pops in the rebound Vegas Golden Knight Marc-Andre Fleury couldn't control in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Lady Luck has caught up with irrepressible Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, too. The ever-smiling, effervescent ex-Penguin carried the club through the regular season, then the playoffs’ first three rounds. Against Los Angeles, San Jose and Winnipeg, his net was emptier than Donald Trump’s promises. Fleury boasted a .947 save percentage. At the worst possible time, he has regressed to the mean, his number in the Finals 102 points lower.

It will have to come back up and the skaters in front of him will have to start converting their chances. As hard as it is to relax when it’s win or go home, Vegas can’t afford to grip their sticks any tighter or make that one extra pass out of uncertainty.

Cleveland

It wasn’t three misses that put the Cavaliers under the cosh in the NBA Finals; it was one shot declined. Things had been going swimmingly for the Cavs in the NBA playoffs. LeBron James had been carrying the load and the supporting cast was ensuring he had a clear path to the basket against Indiana, Toronto and Boston. Matters were much the same for 47 minutes and 56 seconds or so of Game 1 in the fourth instalment of their annual NBA Finals confrontation. Then JR Smith happened.

In case you were locked in your bathroom for five days [it happens, I’m not judging], the 6’9″ Freehold, New Jersey native who the game program lists as a shooting guard suddenly declined to do so. Collecting the ball under the rim with the score tied [NHL Fan Book rule number 14: Never listen to Don Cherry], Smith dribbled to the sideline to run out the clock, apparently thinking the Cavs had the lead when the score was tied. Cleveland then lost in overtime.

Needless to say, LeBron was displeased. He’d been driving the bus for three series just to get the chance to beat the Warriors, and now JR Smith decides to hop out for cigarettes?

Game 2 was a debacle. Cleveland suddenly couldn’t trust each other while Golden State had to believe the stars were aligned and the moon was in the house of Klay and Curry. The Warriors won by 19 to take a two-games-to-none lead as the series switched to The Land.

Another time-honored truism in best-of-seven series is that you’re never in trouble until you lose at home. Well, the Cavs are 48 minutes from trouble of a kind they absolutely do not want. They cannot afford to give Golden State a 3-0 or even 3-1 lead. There will be no coming back. JR Smith, at 32, may face a lifetime thinking, “I could have sworn we were up one.”

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Martin Palazzotto is a freelance writer and author of strange bOUnce, a collection of sport fiction.

 

Are you ready for LeBron versus the Gang of Three, Chapter Four?

Are you ready for LeBron versus the Gang of Three, Chapter Four?

We live in an age of instant gratification. Our attention spans have dwindled to almost nothing. Virtually everyone’s kids–look at me when I’m talking to you–are diagnosed with ADD, ADHD or ADWTF. They’re all heavily medicated. Moms and dads take out one-year leases on cars built to last a decade. We trade in our old phones for the newest on a monthly basis. Nothing is ever good enough. In the immortal words of Freddie Mercury, we want it all and we want it now.

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Except when it comes to the NBA. Then, we’re happy to slog through an 82-game season listening to Charles Barkley make no sense, followed by four rounds of playoff action just so we can get to what everyone knows is coming: another episode of the LeBron and Steph Show known as the NBA Finals.

Both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors deserve credit. They tried to throw us off the scent, teasing us that maybe this was the year a new team would step up to move the NBA forward by taking their respective conference finals to seven games. Golden State even let a Houston Rockets side without Chris Paul run out to a double-digit lead in the first half before pulling out another patented shock-and-awe third quarter to put the series to bed.

In the end, though, there will be a fourth consecutive final between the Cavs and Warriors, and people couldn’t be happier. If LeBron can somehow drag his supporting cast of cable repairmen and UPS drivers to a title, it could tie this best-of-seven-years series at two and force it to at least a sixth season. And the fans would eat it up. So would the television executives. Guaranteed ratings for the foreseeable future.

The opening matchup of this year’s series is tonight in Oakland. Golden State open as 12.5 point favorites. My gut wants to buy into that line by taking Golden State. I can see Steph, KIay Thompson and Kevin Durant outshooting King James. Both teams won on the road to close out but the Warriors went last and have the momentum.

On the other hand, I remember that opening scene from Once Upon a Time in the West. The planks on the train platform are too rotted and warped to dribble a ball, but the tension in the three-against-one gunfight is dead-on. Harmonica (Charles Bronson) asks Not Frank (Jack Elam) if he brought a horse for him. Not Frank laughs and says, “Looks like we’re shy one horse.” Harmonica shakes his head and replies, “You brought two too many.” Then he outdraws Not Frank and his two cohorts, gunning them all down.

I worry that LeBron James is feeling his inner Harmonica coming into Game One. He certainly felt it in Games 6 and 7 against Boston, when he ripped off 81 points.

Is he still up to it? Maybe, but he’ll definitely be alone. Kevin Love remains doubtful as he undergoes Concussion Protocol. Larry Nance Jr isn’t likely to be effective simply because Golden State doesn’t go inside as often as Boston. He should be around to clean up for James at the other end, however.

The critical point in this series will come when Golden State starts strongly. If they are even or ahead going into the half, how will Cleveland respond in the third quarter? If they have an answer for the Warriors berserker onslaught, it will be a long series. If they don’t, well, LeBron will have to take Harmonica lessons in the off-season.

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Martin Palazzotto is a freelance writer and author of strange bOUnce, a collection of sport fiction.