LeBron James looked a little nervous and out of his element when he made his return to Cleveland on Thursday night. That was a big reason why a seemingly superior Cavaliers team fell to the Knicks on their home court. That Cavs loss was one game few saw coming, and we were part of that clueless grouping.
In fact, the Cavs and Pistons losing were the only two games we got wrong in our NBA Picks from Thursday (3-2 on the night). That leaves us at 16-4 through three nights of NBA action. We strive for perfection with our daily NBA Picks, of course, so let’s see if we can’t get a clean sweep by calling all of Friday night’s NBA games correctly:
Grizzlies @ Pacers
Indiana remains extremely depleted due to injuries, so it’s Roy Hibbert or bust tonight. He actually looked good in Indy’s opener on Wednesday, but banking on two straight solid efforts from him is probably the definition of basketball gambling. Marc Gasol was even better on Wednesday, and he arguably owns the inside of the paint in this matchup.
Pick: Grizzlies 91, Pacers 87
Cavaliers @ Bulls
LeBron James was visibly rattled in his return to Cleveland, but we’ll chalk that up as pure nerves and excitement. He and the Cavs should be more settled and focused in their second game together, but it’s a shame it comes against a Bulls team King James deemed “better” than his Cavs. It’s at the United Center, too, so it’s tough to go against Chicago so early in the year.
Pick: Bulls 99, Cavs 96
76ers @ Bucks
Both of these teams are very young and lack experience, but Philly has far less talent. Tony Wroten and Nerlens Noel are good enough to keep things interesting, but the Bucks are much deeper and more balanced. A strong showing from rookie sensation Jabari Parker should get Milwaukee their first win of the year.
Pick: Bucks 105, 76ers 99
Spurs @ Suns
Phoenix looked good in their opener, but topping San Antonio early in the year is a tough sell. They have a slight edge playing at home, but Kawhi Leonard is set to make his 2014 debut and the Spurs simply don’t lose much early in the year (or at all).
Pick: Spurs 93, Suns 90
Blazers @ Kings
At least on paper, this matchup projects as the highest-scoring affair with very little defense. That also makes it just about impossible to predict. Sacramento can be tough at home, but Portland is the superior team. Look for a big game out of Damian Lillard after a soft season debut on Wednesday.
Pick: Blazers 109, Kings 106
Clippers @ Lakers
The last game of the night should be a snoozer, as the Clips are on a back to back and the Lakers just look terrible. Kobe Bryant can still score with the best of them, but he’s literally all on his own on both ends of the floor. Both teams are “at home” in this one (they share the Staples Center), so there is truly no edge for the Lake Show. Hopefully they keep it close, but all bets should be on the Clips going to 2-0 on the year.
Pick: Clippers 111, Lakers 96