An abbreviated slate of games on Tuesday, but there’s no shortage of good ones featuring a healthy mix of genuine contenders, hopeful pretenders, and young teams that have been giving better opponents fits. Oh, and the Bulls are playing too.
While the record of one of these teams may not seem to indicate it, both the Jazz and Nets are who we thought they were.
Let’s start with Brooklyn, who has lost four of five. The rough patch has rattled many onlookers simply because after the first two games of the season, it looked like the Nets might not lose their fourth game until after the All-Star break. The fact that the losses have come against the Hornets, Hawks, Wizards and a Grizzlies team that saw Ja Morant play just 13 minutes hasn’t made their recent stretch any less concerning.
At Kevin Durant’s absence to the list of issues. Thanks to the league’s COVID protocols, he’ll miss this one (and the next three after it) as a precaution.
KD or no KD, being surprised at Brooklyn’s start is really just an indication that you bought their own preseason chatter about committing to defense. If so, shame on you. Believing that a team with Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire and Mike D’Antoni on the sidelines was going to get in their stances and rotate like their lives depended on it for 48 minutes every night was always perilous.
The Nets offense, in fairness, has been fine, still ranked in the top ten and about the same over the last five games as it was in the first two. The defense, however, went from a 92.4 defensive rating in the first two games – tops in the NBA – to a 25th ranked unit giving up 113.2 points per 100 possessions since then.
With this recent trend, the Jazz probably aren’t the ideal team to be facing. Utah exited the weekend with the seventh ranked offense in basketball, and have been feasting on defensively challenged teams all year long, most recently dropping 130 on the Spurs. Brooklyn’s defensive issues run deep, and the Jazz aren’t going to be forgiving.
The Pick: Utah -3 @ -105
When I wrote about the matchup between these teams that occurred two days ago – one in which the Nuggets beat the Wolves in Minnesota by a score of 124-109 – I noted that it was a perfect example of why you throw team records out the window this early in the season. Minnesota had two wins to Denver’s one, but there was no disputing who the superior team was.
That reality bore itself out on Sunday night. The Timberwolves, who sport the lowest ranked defense in basketball, gave up a season high 36 points to Jamal Murray on just 20 shots and allowed Nikola Jokic to rumble his way to yet another triple double. Jokic was a plus-27 in his 32 minutes of action, an indication that Denver can dominate the KAT-less Wolves whenever it wants.
Even without fans, the Nuggets have one of the few home court advantages that matter, irrespective of who is in attendance. Happily give the points here.
The Pick: Denver -11.5 @ -110
Speaking of no defense, the Blazers (28th) and Bulls (25th) each went into Monday night in the bottom fifth of the league in defensive rating. They are, what you’d call, sieves.
The difference is that Portland has the horses to get involved in shootouts and live to tell the tale. The Blazers 8th ranked offense is once again isolation heavy (their 54.2 assist percentage is among the worst in the NBA, as usual), but it works for them, and when you have two of the NBA’s top ten leading scorers, you can live with the hero ball.
The Bulls got themselves a healthy dose of exactly that in their most recent game, a closer-than-it-should-have-been win over the Luka-less Mavericks on Sunday night. Zach LaVine scored 21 points in the first quarter and ended up with 39 to give Chicago its first win over someone other than the Wizards.
This is a far trickier matchup though, and the Bulls looked uneven down the stretch of that one, never able to put away a Dallas squad whose best player on the night was Jalen Brunson.
It’s tough to ever assume Portland can put away any team though, with their only sizeable win this season coming against the Warriors at home. Chicago is roughly on the same level, and even if they don’t have the benefit of LaVine going off this game, this spread is big enough for the back door to play a role.
The Pick: Chicago +9.5 @ -110
Other NBA Games
Los Angeles Lakers (5-2) at Memphis Grizzlies (2-4)
These teams played on Sunday night, with the Grizzlies keeping it close throughout before fading down the stretch. The Lakers are the easiest bet in the league until further notice.
San Antonio Spurs (2-4) at Los Angeles Clippers (5-2)
Outside of their historic no-show against the Mavs a week ago, the Clippers have looked like arguably the best team in basketball. They’ll get a Spurs team that is integrating several young pieces into bigger roles, and may be missing LaMarcus Aldridge once again. Go with the better team.
NBA Expert Picks
Utah -3 @ -105
Denver -11.5 @ -110
Chicago +9.5 @ -110
NBA Free Picks
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