As someone who holds a ticket on under 36.5 wins for the New Orleans Pelicans, I do benefit from the team’s continued struggles -- but it is not lost on me how disappointing this team is. On Sunday, they disappointed again with a loss in New York. The Pelicans held a 103-100 lead with 7.8 on the clock with the Knicks inbounding the ball. For some unknown reason, New Orleans refused to foul on the final possession of regulation, which allowed Derrick Rose to destroy Eric Bledsoe off the dribble and find space in the paint before he kicked it out to Reggie Bullock in the corner for a game-tying 3-point shot.
The Pelicans would go on to lose in overtime, and after the game Stan Van Gundy was not happy.
“Everybody in the building knows what happened,” said Van Gundy in his postgame press conference “We screwed up that entire play. There were two mistakes on that play. They know what they are. We deserved to lose. When you do that, you deserve to lose. It’s not like someone threw in a tough one. We deserved to lose.”
Strong words from their head coach, but Van Gundy has never been shy about dishing out criticism to his team after disappointing losses. Yet, the losses continue to mount up: In April, the Pelicans are 4-7 SU/3-8 ATS with a -5.2 net rating. Injuries play a role in that disappointing record, but this team is healthy again and losses like the one yesterday are inexcusable.
The NBA implemented the idea of a play-in tournament last season for the sole reason of getting teams like New Orleans in the postseason so fans could watch young stars like Zion Williamson. After the loss to New York, this team is three games out of the final spot with 15 games left to play. It looks like we may have to wait one more season to see Williamson play high-stakes hoops.
Updated odds on every game can be found here.
Updated injury reports for every game can be found here.
*Indicates team is on the second leg of a back-to-back.
The Main Event
Phoenix Suns at Milwaukee Bucks (-3, 235)
At some point Milwaukee is not just “trying things out” on defense, and is simply a poor perimeter team. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been back for two games, but his presence has not helped a defense that has allowed 1.191 points per possession since his return. Their two opponents combined to go 29-of-74 (39.2%) from deep, something has become a common theme for the 26th-ranked perimeter defense in the league. Does that weakness show itself once more against a Phoenix team not known for its 3-point shooting and that has peaked in terms of its power rating?
The Suns lost their third game in a month on Saturday when they fell at home to the Spurs. Phoenix might be 14-3 SU in its last 17 games but its power rating has plateaued, and as a result this team is just 9-8 ATS over that stretch despite outscoring their opponents by 7.9 points every 100 possessions. However, Phoenix has closed as the favorite in 15 of those 17 games and tonight offers an opportunity that has not been there for those who back the Suns regularly.
On paper, there are some areas in Phoenix’s defense that Milwaukee can exploit. The Suns allow opponents to take 33.2% of their attempts at the rim, and they rank 19th in opponent shooting within four feet (64.4%). The Bucks can dominate teams inside with the Greek Freak on the floor. In those minutes, they have 35.2% of their attempts at the cup and shoot 71.9% as a team. They can also be deadly in transition. As a team, Milwaukee adds 3.2 points per 100 possessions through transition offense and the Bucks are first in frequency of possessions starting with a transition play (18.4%); with Antetokounmpo on the floor, those numbers skyrocket to 3.8 points added and 20.5% frequency. The Suns have had trouble all season long when sped up, as they rank 29th in defensive efficiency in transition (134.7) this season.