On the biggest gambling day of the year, the NBA has offered up a few tasty morsels to sink our teeth into as appetizers for the big game. Let’s take a look…
How many different ways are there to write “Bet the Jazz. If you bet the Jazz, you will be happy. The Jazz are really good”?
Whatever the count, I’ve lost it. Utah has provided bettors with a 13-1-1 record over their last 15 games. There is nothing about what they are doing that screams unsustainable. Yes, half of Utah’s rotation is hitting more than 40 percent of its 3-pointers (with a sixth – Jordan Clarkson – nibbling at the edge with a 39.1 conversion rate), but the shots these guys are getting are almost always of a high quality thanks to Quinn Snyder’s well-oiled machine of an offense. Only two teams have a shot profile comprised of more “wide open” attempts from long range, and only six more take a greater frequency of “open” threes. This is not luck.
At one point, you’d have said that the Pacers would be the immovable object to Utah’s unstoppable force, as they spent most of the season as the team that limited opponent triples more than anyone. Over the last month though, they’ve ranked just 17th in that category according to Cleaning the Glass. Worse yet, they’re still hemorrhaging attempts in the paint over that time frame, giving up more close looks than all but two teams.
Unsurprisingly, they’re nearly a bottom-20 defense over the last two weeks, losing four of five and failing to cover each time. They couldn’t have picked a worse opponent to be facing.
The Pick: Utah -4.5 @ -105 (Click To Bet)
Break up the Knicks!
You’ll have to excuse this resident New Yorker for being overly exuberant, but if you’d bet that New York would be in the thick of the playoff race after a third of the season, you wouldn’t be reading this column because you’d have already retired a wealthy individual.
The Knicks are doing it with defense, and after becoming just the second team to hold Portland under 100 points all season, they’re now ranked 6th in the league in that category. The numbers say they’re still getting lucky – only two teams have given up a greater percentage of wide open 3-pointers, and opponents are hitting a league-worst mark on those attempts – but this is now long enough to believe it’s not all smoke and mirrors.
In Miami, New York gets an opponent that would seem tailor made for its game plan. The Heat have the 25th ranked offense in the league over the last two weeks even though they’ve been mostly back to full health.
They do, however, take a ton of threes – the fourth highest frequency in the NBA, according to Cleaning the Glass. When the Knicks have lost this season, they’ve been bested by hot opponent shooting and a failure to make shots of their own. Thankfully for them, Miami has yet to get going from deep in any significant way, and New York has been able to key in on teams that don’t offer a bevy of dangerous deep-ballers.
This one figures to be close, so best to take the points.
The Pick: New York +5.5 @ -108 (Click To Bet)
Are the Celtics finally starting to get it together? After an uneven start to the season in which every hot streak was followed by a cold one, Boston has quietly covered five of seven games. They have a 4-3 record over that time, but have lost those three games by an average of just three points.
In Phoenix, they’ll be getting points against a team that has won and covered four of five in their own right. The Celtics are the best team that Chris Paul & Co. have faced in a while though. On the season, Phoenix has yet to face a current top-four seed in the East, and are just 1-3 against the best of the West (both LA teams, Utah and Denver).
Over the last two weeks, the Celtics have the fourth best net rating in the NBA, better than everyone except Utah, Houston and Milwaukee. This will be a significant test for the upstart Suns, and the points are enough of a reason to favor the guys in green.
The Pick: Boston +3 @ -105 (Click To Bet)
Other NBA Games
Washington Wizards at Charlotte Hornets
The Wiz have the worst net rating in the league over the last 14 days and they’ve failed to cover six of their last eight. It is impossible to pick them with any degree of confidence right now, and they should by no means be favored against any team, let alone one that is 12-10-1 against the spread.
Sacramento Kings at Los Angeles Clippers
The Kings are playing as well as any team in the NBA thanks to Rookie of the Year frontrunner Tyrese Haliburton. He’s been the missing piece they’ve needed, and as a result, Sacramento has covered seven in a row and won six of those outright. Stay with the hot hand.
NBA Expert Picks
(Click Odds To Bet)
Boston +3 @ -105 (Click To Bet)
New York +5.5 @ -108 (Click To Bet)
Utah -4.5 @ -105 (Click To Bet)
NBA Free Picks
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