Behind a barrage of floaters and mid-range jumpers the Memphis Grizzlies scored a big win last night, defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 122-94 as a + 280 underdog. Memphis was incredibly efficient from the most inefficient area of the floor to work, going 23-of-46 from mid-range and an even more ridiculous 21-of-41 from short mid-range (four-to-14 feet). Their efficiency from that area allowed the Grizzlies to averaged 1.289 points per possession after they managed less than a point per possession in their previous two games against Dallas and Phoenix.
On the surface, the defensive performance of the Clippers yesterday is another perplexing effort for a team that now ranks 20th in defensive efficiency, according to Cleaning The Glass. Los Angeles is a team that will allow teams to take mid-range shots, emphasizing defense at the rim or along the perimeter, and getting killed by a hot mid-range shooting team last night will happen from time-to-time, but it does not explain the other issues for the Clippers defense. They rank 22nd in opponent shooting at the rim (64.5 percent), 24th in overall mid-range shooting (44.3 percent) and 21st in non-corner 3-point shooting (37.7 percent). One hot night from Memphis hurts, but these numbers are from 34 games of work! What gives?
Some of it is just bad luck. Los Angeles ranks 24th in opponent shooting percentage on two-point shots with a defender being within two feet, but are giving up 51.8 percent in those situations. Last night was a great example of that, where floater after floater found nylon despite hands in faces and awkward angles. The Clippers still need to work on their game defensively, not all of it is bad luck, but last night was a great example of what they have been dealing with all season long.
Updated injury reports can be found here.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
The Main Event
Utah Jazz (-6.5, 217.5) at Miami Heat
This is the best game on the board tonight, and there is no doubt about it. Utah takes its 22-2 SU run into South Beach to take on a Miami team that is improving every night, and is playing some of the best defensive basketball in the league. The Heat have won four and covered four straight games, and during that run have allowed just 106.1 points every 100 possessions. Last time we saw Miami, the team shut down Toronto in the fourth quarter, limiting the Raptors just 0.958 points per possession over the final 12 minutes. Defense has always been a staple of this Heat franchise, but what we have seen since Jimmy Butler’s return from COVID-19 has been stupendous to say the least. However, on Feb. 13 this Heat team went to Utah, catching the Jazz on the second leg of a back-to-back after they had just housed Milwaukee, and were handed a 112-94 drubbing themselves. What has changed in this rematch?
First, Miami has been better on offense lately. Going into that game with Utah the Heat had been averaging just 108.1 points every 100 possessions, and that showed as they were held to just 0.948 points per possession by the Jazz. Since that loss the streak the Heat are averaging 113.0 points every 100 possessions, and that offensive rating is up to 113.8 per 100 possessions. Part of this improvement has been the uptick in 3-point accuracy. On the season, Miami ranks 22nd in shooting percentage at 35.8 percent, but over this winning streak that is up to 37.1 percent.
The Heat are improving, and that shows in their offensive numbers over the last month. Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo are both questionable tonight, so make sure to monitor the injury reports as we get closer to tip-off. If they both play, this seems like a great spot to jump in front of the train that is the Utah Jazz. Miami is better, but are catching the same number at home that they were in Utah.
The Co-Main Event
Charlotte Hornets at Golden State Warriors (-5.5, 233)
A rematch from a dramatic finish just last week, the Warriors will be looking for revenge against the Hornets who took them down at the buzzer in Charlotte. For those who don’t remember, Draymond Green was assessed two technical fouls, and ejected, after Gordon Hayward was awarded a timeout after a won jump ball by LaMelo Ball. The Hornets tied the game on the two free throws, and then won on a Terry Rozier jumper at the buzzer on the ensuing possession. Most would consider this a play against spot with Golden State coming home after an east coast trip, but it is likely the Warriors will be focused and ready to go in this spot.
Charlotte has continued to outperform the expectations of the betting market, posting a 6-5 SU and ATS mark in the month of February, and a 5-3 ATS mark over its last eight games. Golden State has been almost identical, going 7-6 SU and ATS this month, but the Warriors have been better statistically with a + 5.4 net rating compared to the -1.0 net rating posted by Charlotte.
The interesting angle here is the number. Last week, Golden State was a two-point favorite that lost outright on the road. Today, they’re laying 4.5 more points because they’re at home? Yes, Cody Zeller is questionable, but is a flip of venues and his absence worth that much to a pointspread? Interestingly, the total of 234.5 on the market is identical to the closing number last week in Charlotte despite a slow-paced and inefficient game from both offenses that ended in a 102-100 final.
Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers (-5, 220.5)
Dennis Schroder is back from his health and safety protocol absence tonight, and the Lakers could use his shot creation. In the four games he missed Los Angeles’ offense ground to a halt, averaging just 102.3 points every 100 possessions. Schroder gives the Lakers one more ball-handler and playmaker. With him on the floor this season Los Angeles’ offensive rating jumps by 5.8 points every 100 possessions, and their turnover rate drops by 2.2 percent. That sounds like a godsend for a horrendous offense that is stuck in an 0-4 SU and ATS skid.
Indiana Pacers at Boston Celtics (-4, 219)
How much worse can things get for Boston? They are now 3-8 SU and ATS in their last 11 games with -3.6 net rating. They are coming off of their worst performance of the season, a lackluster blowout at the hands of Atlanta in which they gave up 40 points in the first quarter. However, that game was on the road, and today they return to the friendly confines of TD Garden where they are 8-5 SU/9-4 ATS on the season with the fifth-best defensive rating in the league (107.5). Personally, I believe that homecourt is non-existent this season, but clearly it means something to some teams and Boston is one of those teams. They will host an Indiana team that has proven to be overvalued by the market. Since Jan. 17 the Pacers have covered consecutive games just twice, and are 7-11 SU/4-13-1 ATS with a -2.5 net rating. Is this the bounce back spot Boston has been looking for?
Houston Rockets at Toronto Raptors (-7, 219)
It is not surprising to see the market move in favor of Toronto here. Houston is now 0-9 SU/1-8 ATS in the nine games since losing Christian Wood. They have averaged 101.9 points every 100 possessions during this slide, and are coming off of a loss to the Cavaliers. Toronto might be on a two-game slide, but both losses were by single-digits to the elite of the Eastern Conference in Philadelphia and Miami. Given the struggles of Houston and the improved defensive play of Toronto (111.7 defensive rating in February), it was surprising to see this total bet up 2.5 points to 221.5 early this morning. It has since settled at 220.5 at most shops, but is that low enough?
Atlanta Hawks (-3, 223.5) at Oklahoma City Thunder
The betting market has an infatuation with the Atlanta Hawks that I just do not understand. Sure, I tried and failed to play against them with Boston the other day, but this is still a poor defensive team that has a losing record both SU (14-18) and ATS (16-16). In the month of February the Hawks have a -3.4 net rating and the 27th ranked defense that gives up 119.0 points every 100 possessions. Their offense has been much better, but they now face an Oklahoma City defense that ranks 12th on the season in efficiency (110.2). The Thunder have been treating bettors well lately, posting a 6-4 ATS record over its previous 10 games, but that has been due to the market consistently undervaluing them. Today, the market has moved against them yet again, this time with a poor team in Atlanta.
Los Angeles Clippers (-6.5, 226.5) at Memphis Grizzlies
As I noted in the intro today, the Clippers have some problems, but this seems like a solid spot to bounce back. Memphis will likely not have the same shooting night they did yesterday, and Los Angeles is expected to be at full strength with no one of note on the injury report. Due to the loss, the market has shaded this 1.5 points cheaper giving bettors a bargain on the favorite. Did the Clippers become a 1.5 points worse over night, or did they suffer through a bad shooting night while their opponent killed it from mid-range