The NBA season is at that point where the mindsets of players come into question: Will these athletes gain strength or lose motivation as the nature of a season becomes more apparent?
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Toronto Raptors
Friday, 7:05 PM ET
NBA Basketball Betting Odds: Raptors -7.5
The team that is harder to predict heading into this game is Cleveland. The Cavaliers were embarrassing themselves left and right in late January, and they fired their general manager shortly before the All-Star break. Upon doing so, the team seemed to get a wake-up call – either that or a source of inspiration. Whether the motivation was negative (fear of a loss of a job) or positive (gratitude that the general manager was gone), the point remains that Cleveland became a very different team right before the All-Star break. Will that “good version” of Cleveland show up here, or will the Cavaliers revert to their former and not so distinguished selves? One of the realities of the All-Star break is that it disrupts momentum if it substantially flows in one direction or another. Expect Cleveland to be sluggish in this game, enabling Toronto to win and cover on the NBA betting lines.
Pick: Raptors -7.5
Atlanta Hawks @ Detroit Pistons
Friday, 7:35 PM ET
The key source of drama and intrigue in this game is the simple fact that the Detroit Pistons have a player, Josh Smith, who had spent the previous few seasons with the Atlanta Hawks. When a player goes up against his former team, there is almost always a deeply-felt desire on the part of that player to do well. Smith has been a bust for a Detroit team that, if the season ended today, wouldn’t even make the playoffs in an Eastern Conference filled with mediocre teams. Yet, Smith’s identity over the course of a full season might not apply to this specific game against the Hawks. This figures to be a situation in which Smith plays with more aggression and determination than other regular season games. The Pistons, having just parted with former head coach Maurice Cheeks, have to be quietly encouraged that their organization is trying to help them. All in all, Detroit might be motivated enough to pull off a slight upset.
Los Angeles Clippers @ Memphis Grizzlies
Friday, 8:05 PM ET
NBA Basketball Betting Odds: Clippers -2
One must keep in mind that Memphis has become a very different team since Marc Gasol returned to the lineup. The Grizzlies played like the Western Conference runners-up they were last season with Gasol healthy, so in many ways, the Grizzlies – one week ago – probably expected to be the favorite in this game on their home floor.
There’s just one problem: Gasol aggravated his knee injury in the final game before the break last Wednesday against the Orlando Magic, and his status for this game is uncertain. With Gasol’s health in question, Memphis loses the component that enabled the team to win 13 of 16 games in recent weeks. This makes Los Angeles the favorite and they should cover the point spread.
Pick: Clippers -2