This article is part of our Handicapping the NBA series.
There is a handful of takes circulating the internet that the Warriors win did not mean anything to the Cavaliers.
LeBron James counted the rings he has in front of the home crowd while down a ton of points. That blowout win meant something very important. IT was a full showcase that the Warriors can still score in chaotic moments and continuously put a game completely out of a reach against the best team in the East.
Last week: In my defense, the title of the article was "Be Smart, Bet the NFL This Weekend Instead" – 0-4 since January 1st (15-15-1 on the season)
On to this week:
Trail Blazers at Hornets (-4.5)
The Blazers will be without Ed Davis and Festus Ezeli for this contest, which means the starters are going to be holding down a larger share of the minutes. While starters like Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum can thrive off a larger share of minutes, the frontcourt has had a rough go defensively as we approach the All-Star break. Charlotte is a middle-of-the-road team when it comes to both offensive and defensive efficiency, but Portland ranks 28th in defensive efficiency this season.
Kemba Walker struggled against the defensively sound and lengthy Celtics in his most recent contest; however, he still found 24 points and three baskets from behind the arc. The Blazers should not pose as much of a challenge.
The pick: Hornets -4.5
Raptors at 76ers (+5.5)
The Raptors are coming off a 10-point victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday and will be playing the second game of a back-to-back. Given the schedule, the spread is a little bit lower than it normally would be.
Over the last 10 contests, the 76ers are 8-2 and seem undervalued in a similar vein to how the Houston Rockets were just before closing out December. Joel Embiid is putting up a rookie year that rivals the likes of Wilt Chamberlain and, yes, the winning culture in Philadelphia is starting to catch on.
Why else would Embiid put McConnell and Michael Jordan in his Twitter profile picture?
The Pick: The Process +5.5
Pacers at Kings (EV)
This game provides an interesting situation given that the Pacers are a 5-14 team on the road ATS this season, while the Kings are 2-4 ATS at home against the Eastern Conference.
The Pacers do have answers on the defensive end for DeMarcus Cousins. However, the big man has been steadily passing the ball better with each game in January, as his assists numbers have risen from 5.2 per game to 7.2 over the last 15 games. If DeMarcus Cousins continues his selfless trend and gets the rest of the Kings involved, Sacramento should not have too much trouble defending its home court.
The Pick: Kings