While much of the sporting world on Monday morning was discussing and dissecting Denver’s dominating defensive display in defeating Carolina, 24-10, to win Super Bowl 50, the NBA was making major news in the nation’s number one media market.
A season that had started with surprising promise has turned sour and the New York Knicks, mired in a slump that had seen them drop 9 of their prior 10 games, suddenly fired second season coach Derek Fisher. His hiring by Phil Jackson, head of basketball operations, was a curious choice given a total lack of Fisher’s prior coaching experience.
Another Jackson buddy from his days with the Lakers, Kurt Rambis, was named interim coach. Rambis has prior coaching experience at the NBA level, although his 56-145 record with the Lakers and Minnesota will not inspire much confidence from the frustrated and demanding Knicks fan base.
Fisher became the fifth NBA coach to be fired during the current season, joining Brooklyn’s Lionel Hollins, Cleveland’s David Blatt, Phoenix’s Jeff Hornacek and Houston’s Kevin McHale.
The two names most often mentioned for filling what may yet be even more coaching vacancies are Golden State assistant coach Luke Walton and former Chicago coach Tom Thibodeaux.
Walton proved his ability in subbing for Steve Kerr earlier this season, leading the defending champion Warriors to the best start in NBA history, 16-0, and when Kerr returned to the bench Walton had guided Golden State to a 39-4 record.
Thibodeaux was very successful in leading Chicago, going 255-139 in five seasons with the Bulls, making the Playoffs each season.
Although the mathematical midpoint of the NBA season was reached a couple of weeks ago, the figurative midpoint occurs this weekend as the All Star game takes place north of the border in Toronto.
The NBA will actually take a week off. The final pre-All Star games will be played this Thursday with regular season play resuming a week later on Feb. 18. There will be All Star festivities over the weekend, highlighted by the annual All Star game on Sunday.
There is generally high participation from the game’s top players in the NBA’s All Star game in contrast to All Star games in the other major sports. The NBA players love the limelight of the big stage and this year’s game should be no exception. Stars such as Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and even the retiring future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant will entertain the crowd in Toronto and a worldwide television audience in a game in which defense will only be a rumor.
Routinely a high scoring affair, three of the last four All Star games have produced more than 300 total points. And each of the last nine All Star games has topped 260 total points. When it comes to betting, this season’s game the total will be high but caution should still be exercised if you are considering a play on the UNDER.
With no weekend games to preview here’s a look at the two games to be played this Thursday that will conclude pre-All Star break play this season.
New Orleans at Oklahoma City: New Orleans has been one of the most disappointing teams this season. After going 45-37 last season and giving Golden State a competitive series despite being swept, the Pelicans started this week 18-32 and are all but certain to miss the Playoffs. Oklahoma City started the season slowly under new coach Billy Donovan but have been playing outstanding basketball since early December, going 27-6 SU since the last time they lost back-to-back games.
OKC will have last played on Monday at Phoenix whereas New Orleans hosted Utah Wednesday night, making this a favorable spot for the Thunder. In their only prior meeting OKC defeated the Pelicans 110-103 at home on Nov. 18 but failed to cover as 12-point favorites. The team was still adjusting to their new coach at the time.
OKC will again be a large favorite here but with a full week off we should get a maximum effort from All Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook with the rest of the team contributing as well. OKLAHOMA CITY.
Washington at Milwaukee: Both teams enter the All Star break following disappointing first halves. Each team is below .500 after making the Playoffs last season. This is the teams’ fourth meeting this season and Washington has won each of the first three. Two were competitive 5-point games and the middle game was a 29-point blowout win at Washington.
Neither team has a scheduling advantage as each last played on Tuesday. Washington has the better overall roster and has played the better basketball over the past month. The Wizards figure to wind up short road favorites in this spot.
As poorly as the Bucks have played they’ve been very competitive at home, winning 13 of 21 this season, including four of the last five. They also dealt Golden State its first loss of the season on this court in mid-December. MILWAUKEE.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [email protected]