It’s only February, but we are getting dangerously close to “stick a fork in ‘em’” territory for the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas suffered what could be one of the worst regular-season losses I have ever seen last night, getting blown out by Golden State 147-116 at home.
The Warriors’ frontcourt was decimated by injury, with James Wiseman, Kevon Looney and Marquese Chriss all unavailable. Hours before the game Eric Paschall was ruled out as well, forcing Steve Kerr to play 6-foot-6 Juan Toscano-Anderson at center for stretches in this game. Surely Dallas would take advantage, and blast Golden State inside the paint, right?
Instead, the Mavericks attempted just 17 shots at the rim, hit only eight of them and were outrebounded 45-42 by the Warriors. Dallas fell to 1-7 SU/ATS in its last eight games with the worst defensive rating (122.0) and net rating (-10.7) over that stretch. The Mavericks are now three full games behind the Rockets for the 10th seed, the final qualifying spot for the play-in tournament this season. With less than a third of the season in the books they are halfway home to locking in the under on their win total (42.5).
There is a lesson for the betting market here as well. When Paschall was ruled out the line shifted to Dallas -4.5 at almost every shop. It seemed like one win was all the market needed to believe in the Mavericks again, but it is very clear the issues run deep in Dallas.
Let’s get to Friday’s slate, shall we?
Note: * indicates that team is on second leg of a back-to-back.
Updated injury reports can be found here.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets (-5, 243)
There still seems to be some tepid respect for Toronto in the betting market, but I am not so sure it is deserved. Yes, the Raptors are coming off of a series sweep (by an average of 14 points) of Orlando, but it’s a Magic team that is 4-13 SU/5-12 ATS since the start of January with the worst offensive rating (103.6) and net rating (-9.6) in the league. Congratulations?
It is not a coincidence that Toronto posted two fantastic defensive performances against one of the worst offenses in the league, but this the Brooklyn Nets today. Brooklyn is + 17.0 with a 127.5 offensive rating in the minutes with Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Joe Harris and Kevin Durant on the floor. The Raptors have declined on defense this season, ranking 14th according to Cleaning The Glass (111.4), and they will be without a key wing defender in OG Anunoby tonight.
Oddsmakers originally hung Brooklyn -5 and the initial move was toward Toronto, but we’ve seen some correction in prominent global shops. The Nets are back at the opening number, and I would expect it to stay here if not close closer to six by the time tip-off arrives.
Boston Celtics at Los Angeles Clippers (-5, 221)
Even at full strength the Celtics are a relatively thin team, and tonight there is a chance they will be missing three key role players as they continue their west coast trip. Marcus Smart is still out with a calf injury, and both Jaylen Brown and Payton Pritchard are questionable with knee ailments. This team is in the midst of a small lull as it is, posting a 1-3 SU/2-2 ATS record over its last four with a 107.9 offensive rating, but without Brown and Smart it could get ugly. According to Cleaning The Glass, Boston is -13.6 in the time with Smart, Tatum and Brown all off the floor. If Brown cannot play tonight, those Tatum minutes on the bench will be stressful for Boston.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles is back home after a relatively lengthy 4-2 SU/ATS east coast trip. The Clippers offense continues to thrive, as they averaged 125.3 points every 100 possessions in the final four games of the trip, the games which Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were available. It was not all perfect for Los Angeles, though: In a two game-stretch against New York and Brooklyn they allowed 125.1 points every 100 possessions. This could be the result of playing an early-morning game on Sunday and the Nets two days later, or it could be a sign that this defense still has some issues.
The betting market was incorrect with the original number here, especially when you consider Brown’s status, so we’ve since seen the correction to Los Angeles -6 at home. If Brown plays tonight this number will be adjusted toward the Celtics, and those who like Los Angeles will get to lay under six points.
New Orleans Pelicans at Indiana Pacers (-3.5, 226.5)
It took the betting market just one game before coming back with its overwhelming support for New Orleans. On Wednesday night the market pounced on Phoenix, who was on the road, driving the line to Suns -3.5 against the Pelicans. The Pelicans blew out the Suns, and now the market is back, driving this number from Pacers -3.5 to -1 at a majority of shops. Indiana is coming off of a blowout loss of its own, getting crushed in Milwaukee on Wednesday, and this sets up for a decent buy-low spot on Indiana. New Orleans is 3-2 SU and ATS in its last five, but the issues on defense are not fixed. Over those five games the Pelicans allowed 114.7 points every 100 possessions, an issue that does not seem to bother the betting market.
Minnesota Timberwolves (-2.5, 219.5) at Oklahoma City Thunder
This is another game where the market unanimously agreed that oddsmakers got the opening number wrong. Yes, the Timberwolves have covered their last three games, but it comes in meetings with Cleveland and San Antonio. Over those three games Minnesota’s offense still had major issues, averaging 1.064 points per possession, but they deserve to be road favorites over Oklahoma City? Let’s pump the breaks on that one. The Thunder are short-handed, as both Lugentz Dort and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have already been ruled out, but that does not make Minnesota better by 2.5 points, especially with D’Angelo Russell is questionable here.
Washington Wizards at Miami Heat (-6.5, 228.5)
How about the market correction here? Two days ago, Miami closed as a 9.5-point favorite after Russell Westbrook was ruled out due to rest. The Heat lost the game outright, and Westbrook is back, so we see the three-point adjustment for Friday night. Is it enough, though? The betting market has been keen to beef up Miami’s power rating now that the Heat are essentially whole with Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro back. However, the Heat are 0-3 ATS in those three games because the market has been somewhat overzealous in its support. This is still a Heat team that is 5-12 SU/4-12-1 ATS since the beginning of January with the sixth-worst net rating in the league (-5.1), but the market has been keen to 6.5 or more with them over this three-game stretch.
Chicago Bulls (-2, 221.5) at Orlando Magic
I mentioned it in the analysis for the Toronto/Brooklyn game, but let’s bring it back one more time to drive the point home: The Magic are 4-13 SU/5-12 ATS since the start of January with the worst offensive rating (103.6) and net rating (-9.6) in the league. It might seem somewhat surprising to see Chicago laying points on the road, but if you view these courts as neutral venues then the Bulls being just two points better than this team does not seem as shocking. Yes, Chicago is 1-4 SU and ATS in its last five games with an offense that is averaging just 1.062 points per possession, but four of their opponents over this stretch are top-10 defensive teams. This seems like a get-right spot for the Bulls and if I go down laying two against a team that has three covers in its last 14 games, so be it.
Utah Jazz* (-7, 223.5) at Charlotte Hornets
Is the time to play against the Jazz finally approaching? Utah got a blowout win over Atlanta yesterday, but Trae Young did not play due to a calf injury. The power rating on Utah is at an all-time high. It started on Sunday when they closed as three-point favorites in Denver, and continued when they could not cover 12 points against Detroit a couple of days later. Now, they will have to cover a large number on the road against a consistently undervalued Charlotte team. P.J. Washington has already been ruled out, which is a blow for the Hornets, but is he worth 1.5 points? The market says so, but I am not buying it. Charlotte is 8-7 SU/11-4 ATS since Jan. 6, but the market refuses to buy in. On Wednesday they dominated Philadelphia in the second half, averaging 1.302 points per possession and getting inside the + 7.5 which was widely available. Until the market starts to show the Hornets some respect, they might just be a play-on team daily.
Milwaukee Bucks (-10, 228) at Cleveland Cavaliers
A good handicapper has to admit when he is wrong, and it might time to admit that I’m wrong when it comes to my analysis of Milwaukee. I’ve been down on the Bucks due to their defensive numbers, especially along the perimeter, but that could just be a somewhat random blip. The Bucks ranked 17th in defensive efficiency just a week ago, but since have climbed up to 11th as opponent shooting has dipped lately. At one point, Bucks opponents were shooting over 42 percent from 3-point range, but that has regressed to 39.9 percent as of today. An analysis of Milwaukee’s defense showed that they were giving up the same looks as a season ago, but that those shots were just going in at a higher rate. This offense is still the best in the league, and if that opponent shooting continues to regress then this is a team perfectly capable of covering numbers like this against a Cavaliers team that could be missing Collin Sexton today.
Detroit Pistons at Phoenix Suns (-8.5, 215.5)
The betting market is sometimes a little delayed in adjusting its perceptions of teams in any sport, and I believe it might be the case for this Phoenix team. The Suns are now 7-8 SU/ATS since the beginning of January with a -1.8 net rating. However, the market continues to rate them as the preseason darling they were, pushing them to a 3.5-point favorite on the road against New Orleans and opening them as an 8.5-point favorite here against Detroit. The Pistons are not a good team, but they are an undervalued one. They are 11-9-1 ATS on the season, including 11-7-1 ATS as an underdog. The market has bought this number down to 7.5 and I think that is the right direction.