The NBA season is gaining more information as it goes along. How will teams at different points in their respective evolutions change minds (or not) on Thursday night?
Houston Rockets @ New York Knicks
The Rockets and the Knicks should play a very aesthetically pleasing game inside Madison Square Garden on Thursday. The Rockets love to spread the court and shoot the three. The Knicks like to do the very same kinds of things. The Knicks, though, are the team that’s acutely hurting right now, because without their defensive anchor in the paint, Tyson Chandler, they really don’t have another big man to turn to. The Knicks did sign Metta World Peace so that they could become a much better defensive team on the wings, but Chandler was the man who protected the rim and provided a nasty, snarling, physical presence for the team near the rim. Without Chandler, New York is noticeably weak, and you’re seeing the Knicks get shredded in many of their games this season. The Knicks have already lost three straight games at home, falling to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Charlotte Bobcats, and San Antonio Spurs this season. New York head coach Mike Woodson did a terrific job with his club last season, but that was with Chandler in the mix. With Chandler gone for the next several weeks, the Knicks have to scramble for solutions, and Andrea Bargnani simply isn’t the answer as a backup center pressed into a different kind of role. Bargnani is a shooter, a player who is on the floor due to what he can contribute at the offensive end. Chandler made this team at the defensive end, and with Dwight Howard of Houston licking his chops, it’s hard to see how Houston won’t terrorize New York on the glass and in the paint. Take the Rockets on the point spread.
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Golden State Warriors
Odds: Golden State -4.5
It’s one of the big events of the month of November in the NBA: Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, the dynamic duo for Oklahoma City, will go to Oakland to stare down the high-flying Warriors and their three-point-shooting circus, featuring Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, not to mention guys like Andre Iguodala and breakout second-year player Harrison Barnes. This should be a dizzying, fast-paced, open-court game, one in which paying customers should be greatly entertained. Neither team is likely to do a lot to slow the other one down. The Thunder have a long way to go in order to reach the standards they expect for themselves at the defensive end of the floor, and Golden State has established a fairly steady flow at the offensive end of the floor. With Golden State hosting this game, the Warriors have to think that in a familiar shooting environment, their perimeter players should be able to hit shots consistently enough to win. Oklahoma City is the team that will have to play an above-average defensive game in order to win. Take the Warriors on the betting lines here.
Pick: Golden State