Golden State Warriors -4 (-105) @ LA Clippers
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
February 20, 2016 5:30PM PST
Through the first 53 games of the season, the Warriors have been the best bet in the league when playing away from their home court, as indicated by their ATS road record of 18-10-1. Further, the Dubs are 13-8 versus the number following non-covers.
However, the definitive loss dealt by Damian Lillard and the Blazers last night marked Golden State's third loss in a row versus the number, matching the worst losing streak of their season. Warriors backers might find comfort though from the observation that the Bay Area squad followed up the November sequence of three consecutive losses against the betting line with a three-game cover streak.
We expect a similar outcome from the current position, as we view the Friday's night's defeat as a reminder of the consequence of mental let-downs when competing at the highest level of the game, rather than an indication of enduring woes to come for Golden State.
Separately, a bonafide rivalry might be burgeoning between the Warriors and Clippers. For instance, Chris Paul's annoyance at Steph Curry's expression of emotion has been documented, as has minor on-court conflicts between Blake Griffin and Festus Ezeli, Griffin and Draymond Green, Griffin and Andrew Bogut, Paul and Bogut, and various other combinations of present and historical personnel from the two sides...former Warriors Coach, Mark Jackson, even entered the fray (verbally) at various points.
Against this backdrop, we do not expect that the significance of Saturday's meeting will be lost on either team. For the champion Warriors, today's outing represents an opportunity to demonstrate, against a strong Western Conference contender, that last night's loss was an anomaly, and to convey to the media permission to revive the temporarily stalled conversations about the probability of Golden State besting the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls' 72 win season (BTW, respected statistician, Nate Silver, says GSW has about a 70% chance of collecting 72+ wins this year -- all the more reason to bet against a protracted slide).
For the Clippers, tonight's matchup serves as a chance to exact some measure of revenge for the for the collection of regular season losses and playoff disqualifications the Warriors have bestowed in recent years, and to deliver the message that the best team in LA is indeed formidable. The problem for the Clips is that, even at full steam, the Warriors talent and depth is likely overwhelming. And given the offensive and defensive deficiencies that Blake Griffin's absence creates, the gap between the resolute Golden State squad that we are looking for this evening and a determined Clippers team, which we also expect will show up, is probably greater today than usual.
Bottom line: We are looking for Golden State to right the ship from here, as has been their tendency following mental lapses. That these teams genuinely do not like each other should only aid the Warriors in mustering the right frame of mind for tonight's competition. As such we are laying the modest chalk and backing the best team in basketball to cover.
This is the premier matchup on tonight NBA calendar. The respective levels of talent on each roster support this thesis, but the the dislike that flows both ways is at least equally likely to fuel hard fought competition. In the end, we think the Warriors simply have too many weapoons. Nonetheless, get the popcorn ready, as this one is likely to be a doozy.