NBA Thursday: Wrapping up the season openers
It is always difficult to find value early in the season, and after a successful opening two nights, the third looks to be the toughest yet. Tonight we have matchups of teams destined for the playoffs up against three who have next to no chance.
Knicks @ Thunder
The total opened at 214.5 and moved up to 216, and after both teams struggled to score throughout the preseason, I think it will take them a game or two to hit their straps.
Oklahoma City scored just 95.25 points in their four preseason games; the Knicks were not much better at 97.6 points per game in their five.
Naturally, preseason games throw up a few funny numbers, but the Thunder’s big three didn’t shoot well – at all. Russell Westbrook was the only one to shoot over 42 percent from the field with Carmelo Anthony (40.6 percent) and Paul George (41.6 percent) struggling to hit shots. The superstar players aren’t going to put up big lines in their limited preseason minutes, but you expect them to shoot a decent percentage.
Paul George 55% True Shooting
Carmelo Anthony 50.6% True Shooting
Wouldn't feel too optimistic as Thunder fan just yet.
— Andrés Alvarez (@NerdNumbers) October 14, 2017
Taking into account the Thunder possibly shaking off their preseason rust, the Knicks don’t offer a lot in point-scorers anyway.
With Melo now gone, Kristaps Porzingis leads the offense. The only problem is that every other team knows it, and other than a streaky Tim Hardaway Jr. and defense-free Enes Kanter, Porzingis won’t have many options when the opposing team is suffocating him.
The Knicks will likely need 106-plus points to see this total crack 216, and after averaging 104.3 points per game last season, they’ll struggle to get there minus their 2016-17 top scorer.
Pick: Under 216
Clippers @ Lakers
The Clippers will finish the season ahead of the Lakers, but for the season opener, I’m tipping an upset.
Throughout the first two days of the season, we’ve seen the teams with overhauled rosters struggle early on for chemistry – and the Clippers might be next.
Their projected starters involve two fresh faces, while the second unit of Milos Teodosic, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell and Willie Reed are all making their Clippers regular season debuts. Outside of Kuzma and Ball (Lonzo has an ankle injury but is expected to play), it’s only Brook Lopez that needs to work himself into the Lakers system.
Lopez against DeAndre Jordan poses as the battle of the night. The two of them are polar opposites, but Jordan has struggled to contain Lopez in their last two matchups with the new Lakers big averaging 26.5 points and nine rebounds on 54 percent shooting.
The Lakers covered in each of their last six games of the 2016-17 season. With the majority of that team returning and the favorable center battle, the added uncertainty around how well the Clippers start the season with their revamped roster has me leaning towards the purple and gold.
Pick: Lakers +6.5