Only three games, but two of them feature the hottest teams in the NBA. Is Tuesday’s slate as simple as riding the hot hand? Let’s take a look.
Here’s what I had to write about these very Clippers on Sunday, before they won their seventh game in a row against the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder:
The Clippers not only entered the weekend tied for the best record in the league with their crosstown rivals at 12-4 but are also one of two teams undefeated in their last six games. LA sports a positive 17.1 net rating over those half dozen victories, and it’s partly why they’ve covered four in a row and are one of only three teams in the NBA to have double digit victories against the spread this season.
Naturally, the Clippers failed to cover their 13-point spread against OKC, winning by just eight. Mea culpa. In my defense though, this was a 17-point margin with under four minutes remaining. Sadly, the backdoor exists in sports other than football.
That doesn’t diminish how well the Clippers have been playing though, nor does it mean that they shouldn’t be the obvious pick on Tuesday night in Atlanta. The Hawks, coming off three wins and three covers against three bottom feeders, crashed back down to earth on Sunday against Milwaukee. They only failed to cover a 12-point cushion by two, but like LA’s closer-than-it-should-have-been affair, this one was never in doubt.
So what does it mean for Tuesday night? That depends on Trae Young, and to a lesser extent Clint Capela, both of whom missed Sunday’s game and are listed as questionable for this one. , According to Cleaning the Glass, there’s a 14.2 points per 100 possessions swing between when those two share the floor for Atlanta versus when neither one plays. If they miss a second consecutive game, this decision is an easy one.
The Pick: Los Angeles +2.5 @ -104
The only team riding higher than the Clippers over the last three weeks is the Utah Jazz, who haven’t lost since January 6 and are coming off of a win versus the Warriors that they at one point led by 40.
That last loss though? It came against the New York Knicks, who now come to Utah to try and end a brief two-game losing streak.
On the surface, this would seem to be an unfair fight. New York sports a bottom five offense, and recently failed to put up 100 points against the Kings, who are on track to have the worst defense in NBA history. They’ve also been susceptible to the best offenses in the league despite a top-five defense, and the Jazz have been scoring an unreal 126.4 points per 100 possessions over their last six games.
But these Knicks are very different from most of the versions that have emerged from MSG over the last 20 years in that they fight till the end (as opposed to laying down before the opening tip). They were down 25 to Portland on Sunday and fought back to make it a one-possession game at one point.
Does it mean they’ll have enough to win? Probably not. But with a double digit spread and the possibility of a backdoor cover, they’re too feisty to rule out.
The Pick: New York +11 @ -105
The Russ Bowl.
That’s what this amounts to, and regardless of the outcome here, it looks like the Rockets have come out on top.
The former league-MVP has been the most inefficient high usage player in basketball, barely clearing the 40 percent Mendoza line for effective field goal percentage. The Wizards have embodied his futility despite an All-Star campaign from Bradley Beal, coming into this with a league-worst three wins against nine losses.
Thanks to a long layoff due to contact tracing, this is just Washington’s second game in the last two weeks, but in their last effort against the Spurs – a 121-101 defeat – they showed that their long-standing defensive shortcomings haven’t gone anywhere. They’re also undermanned, having lost starting center Thomas Bryant for the year. They’re also likely to be without key reserves Davis Bertans, Troy Brown Jr, Rui Hachimura and rookie Deni Avdija due to COVID-19 protocols.
The Rockets, meanwhile, have won and covered two straight – including a win in Dallas – in the wake of the James Harden mega-trade. With the Harden baggage off their docket, they’ll keep the good times rolling here.
The Pick: Houston -2 @ -110
Other NBA Games
There are no other games on the slate today
NBA Expert Picks
(Click Odds To Bet)
Los Angeles +2.5 @ -104
New York +11 @ -105
Houston -2 @ -110
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