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Jonathan Macri previews Tuesday's NBA games and gives us his picks

A light slate of games in the L on Tuesday, but both are juicy matchups that offer betters an opportunity to hone in on some value.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Denver Nuggets

It’s time we pay attention to how often the Denver Nuggets are leaving believers out to dry.

Nikola Jokic may be having an MVP caliber season and the Nuggets may still be a stone’s throw away from a .500 record, but no team has a worse record against the spread than they do. The Nuggets have only covered four times in 13 tries, and that’s despite having their historically significant home court advantage eight times.

Has luck been a part of it? A little. According to Cleaning the Glass, based off Denver’s point differential, the Nuggets should have 1.7 more wins than they do, which makes them the fourth unluckiest team in the NBA. They also have the sixth best defensive shot profile in the league, as they’re great at taking away the rim and above average at taking away the three. Despite that, opponents are shooting better against them than all but three other teams. At some point, that will subside.

But there are also arguments that the Nuggets have been getting luckier than they deserve. Part of the reason Jokic is leading the league in assists is because his teammates have a 67 effective field goal percentage of the shots they take off his passes, which is far and away above what it’s been in the past (between 58 and 61 percent, as per ESPN’s Kevin Pelton). More generally, Denver also has just the 16th best location effective field goal percentage but are eighth in actual effective field goal percentage, meaning they’re making shots they’re not supposed to.

Denver has a lot of good shooters, of course, so maybe that trend is here to stay, but they’re not top-10 in either shots at the rim or behind the arc, which is concerning.

In Oklahoma City, they get a team that knows what it wants to do and does it: take a ton of threes. Only three teams take more 3-pointers as a percentage of their shot profile, and when they go in, the Thunder usually prevail. In related news, the Nuggets allow the second highest conversion rate on opponents’ threes in the entire league.

Add it all up, and the Nuggets have no business getting nearly double digit points.

The Pick: Oklahoma City +9.5 @ -106

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New Orleans Pelicans vs. Utah Jazz​​​​​​​

These are two teams heading in opposite directions, both in the actual standings and for betters.

After an uneven start, the Jazz have righted the ship, winning five straight both on the court and against the spread, making them the hottest team in the NBA in both categories. They’ve done so despite playing only one of those games in Utah, and just four at home all season long. No team has played fewer contests on their home court.

New Orleans, meanwhile, has basically been the opposite. They barely covered their last game against the dreadful Kings to end a five-game losing streak, but they’re still just 5-7 against the spread on the year, and not trending in the right direction either. According to Cleaning the Glass, they have the fifth worst net rating in the NBA over the last two weeks.

Other teams who are near the bottom over that time frame – the Magic, Cavs, Wolves and Heat for example – have been hit hard either by injuries or players missing time for health and safety protocols. The Pelicans have no such excuse, and other than Lonzo Ball (who has continued his dreadful shooting slump from the bubble) they’ve had their full compliment of players for most of the season.

Every year the Jazz start slow and then ramp things up to get in solid playoff position. This year, that slow start looks like it was more abbreviated than normal, and they appear to be gunning for a top-three seed, and maybe even higher than that. With both a top-10 offense and defense and the fourth best net rating in the NBA, they have the ammo to make it happen, and the Pelicans are just the next team standing in their way.

The Pick: Utah -6 @ +100

Other NBA Games

No other games today

NBA Expert Picks

Oklahoma City +9.5 @ -106

Utah -6 @ +100

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Article Author


Dean of Knicks Film School, host: KFS Pod, co-host: Pick N Pod. There isn't much about Knicks basketball that Jonathan doesn't know and he's here to break down the big games each and every week.


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