While the New York Knicks continue to win, their potential opponent in the first round continues to match them victory for victory. Despite Trae Young still sitting on the sideline with a bum ankle, the Atlanta Hawks won again, this time wrecking Milwaukee in the fourth quarter to move two full games ahead of Boston for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.
As of Monday, the Hawks are just three wins away from surpassing their win total, and in the second half of the season they are 18-7 SU with a + 5.2 net rating. Personally, I power rate Atlanta higher than New York, but these two teams are on a collision course for a first round meeting in the postseason. How much fun is that thing going to be?
Updated odds for 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
Memphis Grizzlies* at Denver Nuggets (-4.5, 228.5)
Memphis continued its run in April by sweeping a two-game set in Portland in dominant fashion, posting a + 5.9 net rating while averaging 1.185 points per possession on offense. The sweep extended the Grizzlies run to 9-5 SU/11-3 ATS this month, and they lead the league in offensive efficiency yet again (119.1) over that stretch. Today, they look to get revenge against a Denver team they lost to a week ago in double-overtime after leading by 12 points with less than four minutes to go in regulation.
It is a great opportunity for Memphis to get that revenge because its opponent could be extremely short-handed tonight. Monte Morris is still sidelined with a hamstring injury (as is Will Barton), and Aaron Gordon suffered a potential knee injury on Saturday against Houston. If that is the case the Nuggets will be in a really tough spot. According to Cleaning The Glass, Denver is outscored by 11.5 points per 100 possessions and it gives up 120.7 points per 100 possessions without Gordon, Barton and Murray. They give up 69.5% at the rim and 43.3% from the perimeter in those minutes. If it is just Jokic on the floor, will they be able to contain Memphis’ offense?
From a purely statistical standpoint it is not the best matchup for Denver, regardless of the injury situation. The Nuggets allow opponents to take 20.5% of their attempts from short mid-range, where the Grizzlies lead the league in frequency of attempts. In April, Memphis has taken the eighth-most attempts at the rim, where Denver ranks 30th on defense (68.4%), and they exploited that in their meeting last week. In the double-overtime loss, the Grizzlies went 21-of-32 at the rim while going 17-of-39 from deep. There is not much that shows the Nuggets will put together a better defensive performance, but it’s not like Memphis has been perfect on defense.
In their win over the Grizzlies, the Nuggets dropped 1.15 points per possession, and if Gordon is on the floor this offense will likely have success again. Memphis might rank first in offense this month, but it’s giving up 113.7 points per 100 possessions and has shown no signs of improvement. The Grizzlies allowed the Nuggets to go 15-of-38 from deep and their below-average perimeter defense might not offer much resistance.
The Co-Main Event
Los Angeles Clippers (-3, 228) at New Orleans Pelicans
Marcus Morris took a day off on Friday, so he should be back in the lineup for Los Angeles today, but the Clippers will still be without Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley and Serge Ibaka as they look to maintain their four-game winning streak. Getting to face a Pelicans team that has fallen flat on its face in April will certainly help that cause.
New Orleans is in the midst of a 1-5 SU and ATS slide, and in April the team is 5-9 SU/4-10 ATS with a -2.1 net rating. Their offense, which is ninth on the season in efficiency, according to Cleaning The Glass, is averaging just 109.2 points every 100 possessions. Sure, perimeter players like Josh Hart and Nickeil Alexander-Walker have held them back, but are those two really the difference between a top-10 offense and a bottom-20 offense?
The Clippers have performed admirably without Leonard, going 7-1 SU/4-4 ATS with a + 6.8 net rating in the eight games since he suffered the foot injury. Paul George has been absolutely incredible, averaging 32.9 points on 51.6% shooting from the floor and 44.9% from beyond the arc. Is the market, yet again, giving too much respect to New Orleans here?
Phoenix Suns* (-2, 215.5) at New York Knicks
Phoenix is in a pretty tough spot today at the alleged Mecca of Basketball. Not only is this the second leg of a back-to-back, but it comes on the final day of a five-game road trip with games against the Clippers and Jazz on deck back home. Jae Crowder and Dario Saric are also dealing with injuries, and they must deal with all of that while facing a Knicks team looking to extend their winning streak to 10 games and their cover streak to 13 straight!
The sharps played against the Knickerbockers on Saturday, hoping the regression would hit, but it resulted in a 120-103 win for New York. The market is moving against the again today to no surprise, but is that the right move? The Knicks have the fourth-best defensive rating in the league since the All-Star break, and their efforts on defense have become more sustainable. In the first half of the season, the Knicks allowed the fifth-most wide open looks of any team in the league, but opponents were shooting a league-worst 37.7% on those attempts. Post-All-Star break, New York is giving up the eighth-fewest wide-open looks and opponents are shooting just 40.7% on those shots. That has led to this spectacular run for the Knicks.
Both of these teams are fantastic defensively, and rank 24th and 30th respectively in pace. Given the situation for Phoenix too bettors should expect this total to continue to drop throughout the day.
San Antonio Spurs (-1, 231.5) at Washington Wizards*
Bradley Beal tweaked his calf at the end of the Wizards’ win over the Cavaliers yesterday, so it is no surprise the market is moving toward San Antonio with the thought that he is not going to play today. With Beal off the court this season, Washington is outscored by 5.5 points every 100 possessions and its offensive efficiency plummets from 114.1 to 102.3 in those minutes. With Westbrook on the floor during those possessions, the net rating drops to -7.7, so it is no surprise San Antonio is laying 3.5 as of my writing this. The Spurs are 6-4 SU/7-3 ATS in their last 10 games with a + 5.5 net rating. They have been really great on the defensive end of the floor, allowing just 107.1 points per 100 possessions, and that has led to a 6-0 run to the under. Can Washington operate on offense without Beal against such a solid defensive team?
Atlanta Hawks* (-7.5, 221.5) at Detroit Pistons
This is an awful scheduling spot for Atlanta. The Hawks obliterated the Bucks 41-26 in the final period of play yesterday, hitting eight 3-pointers in the final seven minutes to grab their 34th win of the season. Now, they have to hit the road to take on the lowly Pistons with a massive two-game series in Philadelphia on the horizon. Oh, and Trae Young is still sidelined with his ankle sprain. Detroit has dropped three straight and is are 1-2 ATS in those three games, but this group of whippersnappers is much better than its record indicates. They are 8-6 ATS in the month of April with some quality covers against the Mavericks, Clippers and Wizards. If Atlanta is caught sleeping, this is just the type of team to make them pay for it.
Los Angeles Lakers (-10, 212.5) at Orlando Magic*
Anthony Davis saw his minutes restriction increased to 25 on Saturday, but the result was still the same as the Lakers fell to the Mavericks 108-93 for their third consecutive loss. Los Angeles’ net rating with Anthony Davis on the court and no LeBron James has dropped to -10.3 and their defensive rating of 121.3 ranks in the third percentile of qualified lineups, according to Cleaning The Glass. This number seems pretty high on the surface, but its not like the Magic have shown us much this month. Orlando is 2-11 SU/4-9 ATS with a net rating that is just 3.7 points higher than Oklahoma City’s. Los Angeles’ power rating is clearly inflated, but this might not be the spot to continue to play against them.
Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat (-4.5, 206.5)
Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro are questionable to play today after missing the first game of this two-game set on Saturday. Miami won and covered in that spot, and today they are laying the exact same number. The Heat held the Bulls to just 101 points and 1.063 points per possession in the win, and they should be able to do something similar on defense against a team in the midst of a poor offensive slump. Chicago has scored just 108.8 points per 100 possessions over the last five games despite facing three opponents ranking 17th or lower in defensive efficiency. The market has moved in Miami’s direction, making this -6 at a majority of shops, but this Heat team is very flawed. Remember, they were laying seven a few days ago against a Hawks team without Trae Young and lost the game outright.
Cleveland Cavaliers* at Toronto Raptors (-10.5, 216.5)
The betting market was really high on this Raptors team on Saturday, making them a road favorite at close in New York. Now, they’re laying double-digits against Cleveland but the line is heading toward the road team here. The Cavaliers are 1-5 SU and ATS in the last six games with a -4.4 net rating, but the market has been on their side in three of the four games. Are bettors making the same mistake here again after getting burned by Toronto over the weekend?
Dallas Mavericks (-5.5, 227.5) at Sacramento Kings*
Dallas snagged two wins and covers over Los Angeles in the last two games, and today it can solidify their hold on the sixth seed with a win over Sacramento. However, Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and Josh Richardson are all questionable to play, making this a mess to handicap. The Kings are back to their streak ways, covering four of five after dropping eight of nine, and one of those covers came against this Mavericks team last week. There are truly better games to wager on today.