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.
Having said that, a poor perimeter defense like the Bucks will always keep opponents in games. The Suns take only 34.6 3-point attempts per game, but they do shoot 37.7% on those attempts. Phoenix could realistically exploit those issues along the perimeter, but the real fun will happen when the game slows down. The Suns are the third-best halfcourt offense in the league, averaging 101.8 points per 100 plays, and tonight they get the league’s 21st-ranked halfcourt defense (97.7). When these two met in early February the Suns thrived in halfcourt situations and averaged 1.122 points per play!
Both teams have been disappointing in different ways, but the market is moving in the direction of Phoenix early this morning. The Suns are catching just two points and the total has been bet down to 233 at a majority of shops. The move on the total is somewhat surprising. Statistically, these two teams can do something on offense to exploit the other’s defense. Just look to their meeting in February which ended up as a 125-124 final in regulation despite each team getting less than 100 possessions.
The Co-Main Event
Memphis Grizzlies at Denver Nuggets (-5, 228)
In two games without Jamal Murray, the Nuggets’ defense has completely taken over. Denver allowed Houston and Miami to average just 1.085 points per possessions and score a combined 205 points. Of course, both the Heat and Rockets rank 23rd and 27th in offensive efficiency this season, so there is a chance this defensive dominance is a symptom of the opponents faced in those two games. Regardless, their play on defense will need to continue today against a Grizzlies team that is in the midst of an offensive surge.
Memphis is 7-3 SU/8-2 ATS in the month of April and much of that is tied to an offense that leads the league with 120.8 points per 100 possessions over that span. The change for the Grizzlies has been their perimeter offense. Over this 10-game run, they are taking 35.0 3-point attempts per game and shooting 40.9% on those attempts, both figures higher than their regular-season averages of 30.9 attempts per game and 36.1% shooting. Is this run of offense sustainable, or is it due to regress to the mean at some point and is that point tonight?
Since acquiring Aaron Gordon the Nuggets have allowed just 34.0% from beyond the arc, so bettors could see the shooting for the Grizzlies cool down. However, the Nuggets are still allowing a lot of looks inside the paint. They rank 27th in frequency short mid-range attempts allowed and they give up 43.1% on those shots in the 11 games with Gordon. While the shooting has carried Memphis through this month, where they really thrive is in that floater area of the floor. They take the most attempts from short mid-range and shoot 44.2% on those shots. Even if the 3-point attempts are not falling there is a scenario in which the Grizzlies thrive on offense by relying on their most reliable shot.
Denver will also be short-handed in the backcourt tonight, which does not help matters. Murray is already sidelined and Monte Morris has already been ruled out with a hamstring strain. That leaves Facundo Campazzo as the starting point guard with a rotation of Will Barton and P.J. Dozier as primary ball-handlers. That is not the best situation to be in if you’re the Nuggets. However, Memphis is not the quintessential picture of health. Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke, De’Anthony Melton and Justise Winslow are all questionable to play.
Golden State Warriors at Philadelphia 76ers (-6, 227.5)
Golden State might have lost their winning streak in Boston on Saturday, but Steph Curry maintained his hot streak. Curry dropped 47 points on 15-of-27 shooting from the floor in the Warriors’ 119-114 loss, pushing his average to 39.1 points per game over the last 10 contests. He’s shooting a mundane 48.65 on 14.0 3-point attempts per game as well. However, he is dealing with an ankle injury that could keep him out of this contest and that is troublesome for Golden State. The Warriors are outscored by 11.1 points every 100 possessions without Curry on the floor and their offense averages just 0.999 points per possession. Those are not the figures you want to post when heading into a matchup with one of the best defensive teams in the league.
Philadelphia leads the league in defensive efficiency over the last 18 games, allowing opponents to score just 103.3 points every 100 possessions. It is likely that they will be able to handcuff the Warriors without Curry on the floor, but bettors will need to make sure the 76ers are healthy. Seth Curry, Tobias Harris, George Hill and Dwight Howard are all questionable to play tonight with various injuries. Any one of those players does not move the needle on their own, but together they could be a massive loss for Philadelphia.
Chicago Bulls at Boston Celtics (-6, 224.5)
Six straight wins and an 8-1 SU/6-2-1 ATS record over the last nine games is what the Celtics bring into this matchup with the sliding Bulls. Boston has been spectacular on both ends of the floor, but their offense was impressive on Saturday against Golden State, averaging 1.196 points per possession in 119-114 win. It is clear that they are rounding into form, but the Bulls are not so lucky. Zach LaVine is still out due to health and safety protocols, and while they stopped the bleeding with a win over Cleveland on Saturday this team is still 1-5 SU and ATS with a -6.6 net rating. Their defense has been abysmal over this stretch, allowing 117.5 points per 100 possessions and it shows no signs of improving. Will it be able to contain a Boston offense that is averaging 117.2 per 100 possessions over this nine-game run?
Boston backers should monitor the injury report today too. Robert Williams has already been ruled out and Jaylen Brown is questionable to play with a non-COVID related illness. Jayson Tatum is on the report, but considered probable to play with an ankle impingement.
Utah Jazz (-5.5, 214.5) at Los Angeles Lakers
Utah dropped an overtime game to Los Angeles over the weekend, but did so without Mike Conley, Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors and Donovan Mitchell. Both Conley and Gobert are expected to be back while Favors is questionable and Mitchell will remain sidelined. With a majority of their starting five back on the court the Jazz will likely improve their 119.0 defensive rating posted in the loss to the Lakers. Expect the biggest improvement to be with their rim defense now that Gobert is back in the fold. Los Angeles went 22-of-33 inside four feet on Saturday, something that is not likely to repeat itself today.
Cleveland Cavaliers (-2, 212.5) at Detroit Pistons
Should the Cavaliers really be road favorites? Yes, Jerami Grant, Wayne Ellington and Cory Joseph are all out today but there are still some things to like about this roster. When Killian Hayes and Saddiq Bey share the floor the Pistons allow just 107.7 points per 100 possessions. Add Isaiah Stewart to that mix and they have a +6.2 net rating, so not all is lost, especially against a team at the level of Cleveland. The Cavaliers have dropped their last two games and been outscored by 13.5 points per 100 possessions. Their offense has been abysmal, scoring just 1.037 points per possessions. Is that the form of a team that should be favored on the road?
Houston Rockets* at Miami Heat* (-10, 217.5)
Miami stole a win from Brooklyn yesterday without Jimmy Butler, but it always helps when Kevin Durant leaves in the first quarter with an injury. Butler’s status is in question again today, but they still find themselves as a double-digit favorite over Houston at home. The Heat have yet to show any consistency on offense, and those issues will always worry me when laying large numbers like this. The Rockets have been much more competitive recently, and while that has not shown in the ATS results (4-4 ATS last eight) it has manifested in the totals. The over is 8-1 in the last nine Rockets games and Houston is averaging 112.2 points per 100 possessions during this run.
Oklahoma City Thunder* at Washington Wizards (-10.5, 231.5)
How bad does this get for Oklahoma City? The Thunder dropped their 10th straight game on Sunday and fell to 1-13 SU/2-12 ATS over the last 14 contests. During this slide the Thunder have been outscored by 18.6 points every 100 possessions and they are dead-last in offense (98.8). Washington has been on a solid run, going 6-2 SU/7-1 ATS over its last eight games, but their net rating of +3.3 is hardly dominant. The betting market has been known to overreact to poor stretches and this might be one of them. Remember, the Jazz couldn’t cover 16.5 points a week ago against this Thunder team.
San Antonio Spurs (-1, 231.5) at Indiana Pacers*
San Antonio scored a big win as a 12-point underdog at Phoenix on Saturday, but this is still a team that is 9-14 SU/10-13 ATS since the All-Star break with the 20th-ranked defense over that span. Indiana is not much better with a 10-11 SU/9-12 ATS record, but it does beg the question; Are the Spurs that much better that they deserve to be favored on the road?