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The NBA season is but a week old yet already there are some surprising starts, including the one fashioned by the Golden State Warriors.

Their chances of making a sixth straight trip to the NBA Finals are remote given the significant personnel losses suffered since losing to Toronto in last season’s Finals to Toronto. Kevin Durant left via free agency and Klay Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6 of the Finals and is expected to miss the entire season. That’s 40 percent of the Warriors’ starting lineup and almost impossible to adequately replace.

Golden State lost its first two games this season by 19 points at home to the Los Angeles Clippers and by 28 points at Oklahoma City. After the opening loss coach Steve Kerr admitted that there would likely be several such one-sided losses this season. Yet on Monday night, the Warriors got their first win of the season, 134-123 at New Orleans as 2.5-point underdogs.

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Three teams in the West remain unbeaten after one week. Denver, Minnesota and San Antonio are all 3-0. The Nuggets are expected to be a contender with the second-highest Season Wins Total in the West at 53.5. The Spurs are expected to barely be a playoff team and the Timberwolves are projected to be an also-ran with a Wins Total of 35.5.

Perhaps the biggest negative surprise of the first week has been the 0-3 start by Indiana. The Pacers opened with home and road losses to Detroit sandwiched around a loss at Cleveland. Neither the Pistons nor the Cavs are projected as playoff teams although Detroit might be a nice choice to exceed its Wins Total of 37.5. 

Victor Oladipo, arguably Indiana’s best player, is now unlikely to return before December. Before rupturing his quad tendon last January, the Pacers were 32-15 but faded and were swept out of the playoffs by Boston in the opening round. Even with Oladipo expected to miss the start of the season, the Pacers were still projected to be a fourth or fifth seed in the East.

Here are this week’s picks:

Spurs at Warriors (Friday): In what is expected to be a trying season for the five-time defending Western Conference champs, the Warriors will have to focus their best efforts for the most favorable situations. 

Here they catch the Spurs in the second of back-to-back games with the Spurs are off what should have been a tough game at the Clippers. Coach Gregg Popovich gets the most out of his roster that is led by veterans LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, a pair of 10-year veterans. It’s an aging roster which suggests playing on consecutive nights will extract a toll. 

The home team won each of the three meetings last season. Steph Curry remains an elite player and as he gels with a major offseason acquisition, D’Angelo Russell, the Warriors will have some games reminiscent of their title seasons. This may be one such game. WARRIORS

Raptors at Bucks (Saturday): These teams meet for the first time since Toronto defeated the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals in six games, overcoming an 0-2 deficit in the process. While still a contender, the Raptors must replace the contributions from Kawhi Leonard who left following his lone season in Toronto.   Milwaukee is led by reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo with solid support from Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez in the paint. The Bucks began the season overcoming a 16-point halftime deficit to win at Houston but followed that up with an overtime home loss to Miami. 

There should be some line value with Toronto having two extra nights of rest and the Bucks off a game Friday in Orlando. The hosts should play with above average energy against the team that kept the Bucks from last season’s NBA Finals. BUCKS

Rockets at Heat (Sunday): Houston is again expected to be a leading contender in the Western Conference. With the departure of Chris Paul and arrival of Russell Westbrook it will take time for the tandem of Westbrook and James Harden to gel. Harden has struggled from the floor in the first week. 

Although they’ve won two of their first three games, the Rockets have yet to cover a spread. Their first three games were each decided by six points or less. Miami’s started 2-0-1 ATS with a pair of wins, including one at Milwaukee, considered the team to beat in the East. The leadership of the retired Dwyane Wade will be missed but Jimmy Butler, who was expected to make his season debut Tuesday, should fill that void. Teaming with Goran Dragic, the Heat have a solid backcourt that can frustrate Harden.

These teams split their two games last season which were decided by two and three points.  Miami has an extra night of rest after having last played Thursday. HEAT

Last week: 1-1-1

Season: 1-1-1


About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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