When the Chicago Bulls traded for Nikola Vucevic at the trade deadline, I thought the Bulls would be a prime candidate to make a playoff push with their revamped roster. Their first two games were clunky, but after a win over Brooklyn on Sunday the Bulls are now 3-0 ATS in their last three games and coming off of their best offensive game with their new piece in the frontcourt.
Chicago averaged 1.223 points per possessions against Brooklyn, went 18-of-27 at the rim and averaged a staggering 1.106 points per play in the half court. That offensive performance was much closer to the team I expected once the Bulls got everyone on the floor, and with games against Indiana, Toronto, Atlanta and Minnesota on the schedule bettors could see this offense continue to evolve.
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
Utah Jazz (-5.5, 226.5) at Dallas Mavericks
Over the past two months, there aren't many teams that have played as well as these two clubs. Utah is currently on a 9-0 SU/5-4 ATS run during which it leads the league in offensive efficiency (120.2) and net rating (+ 19.4). Since the beginning of February, the Jazz are 22-6 SU/17-11 ATS and have outscored opponents by 11.6 points every 100 possessions. Just two spots behind them in net rating over the same time span are the Mavericks, which boast a 19-8 SU/15-12 ATS during that time. Dallas rides a 4-0 SU/ATS streak into this meeting with Utah, hoping that the defensive prowess it has shown recently is sustainable against this high-powered offense.
Defense has been the name of the game during this four-game run for the Mavericks. Their opponents have averaged just 97.4 points every 100 possessions while shooting just 28.7% from deep (37 of 129). There could be some real defensive improvement here for Dallas, or their numbers on defense during this stretch could just be a result of playing three teams that rank 21st or lower in offensive efficiency, according to Cleaning The Glass. Utah has averaged at least 1.1 points per possession in 11 of 12 games, and as a team they continue to deliver from deep, shooting 39.8% on 43.8 3-pointers per game. The Jazz will be able to operate their offense tonight, so this matchup really comes down to the Mavericks’ ability to crack one of the best defenses in the league.
During this nine-game run, Utah has been absolutely incredible on defense, limiting opponents to just 100.8 points per 100 possessions and 28.0% from deep. However, much like Dallas, Utah has faced just two opponents over this winning streak that rank higher than 15th in offensive efficiency, and one of those was a win at home over a Brooklyn team missing James Harden and Kyrie Irving. Remember, the Jazz were 4-5 SU/2-7 ATS in the nine games prior to this win streak with a 114.3 defensive rating. Is this run also directly correlated to the quality of competition?
Keep an eye on the injury report for Dallas as well. Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber are questionable to play and Willie Cauley-Stein has already been ruled out. If Porzingis or Kleber are ruled out, that is an extremely thin frontcourt for the Mavericks. Utah does not have a dominant offensive big-man, but they do average 1.27 points per possession when Rudy Gobert is the roll man in a pick-and-roll. That is not a favorable matchup with no one reliable in the frontcourt.
The Co-Main Event
New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets* (-5.5, 218.5)
Who in the world is playing tonight for the Brooklyn Nets? James Harden is dealing with his hamstring injury and is likely questionable to play. Both Landry Shamet and Tyler Johnson left the Nets’ loss to the Bulls yesterday with injuries. Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge are both candidates to rest on second legs of back-to-backs as well. With so many questions about availability, and Brooklyn’s recent play, it is no wonder the line has moved in New York’s direction.
The Nets looked the worst they have all season against the Bulls on Sunday, allowing 1.211 points per possession while managing just 1.126 points themselves. Two staples of Brooklyn’s offense are the ability to finish at the rim and hitting above-the-break 3-point attempts. Against Chicago, they went 17-of-30 within four feet of the basket and shot just 30.4% on non-corner 3-pointers. Those two figures need to correct themselves if they want to cover this game against the Knicks tonight.
New York snapped an 0-3 SU and ATS slide with a win and cover over Detroit on Saturday. The Knicks might be 6-7 SU since the All-Star break, but they are 7-5-1 ATS over that same stretch thanks to a defense that continues to carry an inefficient offense. Since the All-Star break, New York is averaging just 108.1 points every 100 possessions, but its defense has been so suffocating that it is still 12th in net rating (+ 2.0); that style is not sustainable, which showed in their three-game slide. The Knicks posted a 106.5 defensive rating but lost all three games due to an offense that was held to 96.4 points every 100 possessions.
Washington Wizards at Toronto Raptors (-5, 228.5)
A loss for Toronto clinches the under on its win total, and it is somewhat surprising to see such a large line against an opponent that is on their level. Keep in mind, Kyle Lowry is likely still out with a foot infection, and Fred VanVleet is questionable with a hip flexor strain. If neither is available, what does this Raptors offense look like? Toronto got a win handed to them when Golden State sat both Steph Curry and Draymond Green, but in the 15 games prior this team was 2-13 SU/5-10 ATS with a -3.7 net rating. In the four games after losing Norm Powell at the trade deadline, the Raptors were outscored by 8.1 points every 100 possessions.
Washington has not been in great form since losing Bradley Beal to a hip injury, going 1-3 SU and ATS with a -12.8 net rating in the four games without him. Their offense has been abysmal, averaging just 100.1 points every 100 possessions despite Russell Westbrook putting up historic stat lines. The Wizards’ offensive efficiency relies on Beal’s presence, and if he plays we can expect this line to head toward Washington.
Detroit Pistons (-3, 211.5) at Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City is tanking and the results have been there for them. The Thunder are 1-5 SU/ATS in their last six games and have been outscored by 20.6 points every 100 possessions. If you need an idea of how low the market rating is on Oklahoma City, then just look at this number. Detroit has been favored three times this season and all of those games have been at home. Wayne Ellington and Mason Plumlee are going to rest tonight, but the Pistons will still have Jerami Grant and Saddiq Bey on the floor. Is that enough to cover as a road favorite?
Cleveland Cavaliers at San Antonio Spurs (-9, 216.5)
San Antonio is 2-7 SU/3-6 ATS in its last nine games with a -5.4 net rating, and yet the Spurs are laying nine points against Cleveland tonight. Since the All-Star break San Antonio's defense has regressed, allowing opponents to average 112.9 points every 100 possessions over those 15 games. Are the Cavaliers really this bad?
Cleveland actually has the better defensive rating of these two clubs over the same time frame, but its offense has scored just 100.2 points every 100 possessions, which has led to -11.4 net rating. The Cavaliers’ frontcourt is banged up as well: Both Larry Nance Jr. and Jarrett Allen are questionable to play, and missing your two best defensive players against an inefficient offense like San Antonio is not going to help them cover a large number like this.
Phoenix Suns (-11, 220.5) at Houston Rockets*
The Suns come into Monday night on a 5-0 SU/3-2 ATS run, and since the All-Star break their 10-3 SU/8-5 ATS record is among the best in the league. Phoenix’s power rating is at an all-time high this season, so it’s no surprise to see this number as high as it is. Houston is also dealing with some injury issues. John Wall is going to miss at least one more game with his left knee effusion, and Danuel House left their last game with an ankle injury. Wall’s injury has caused the market to bump this line up to Phoenix -14, which is a massively inflated line. Just five days ago, the Rockets covered 12.5 against Brooklyn with a last second 3-pointer. Do they have another cover in them?
Sacramento Kings (-2, 236.5) at Minnesota Timberwolves
The Kings’ shoddy defense has shown up yet again, and a five-game winning streak has now turned into an 0-3 SU/1-2 ATS slide with a 119.7 defensive rating. That defense should be able to get right against a Minnesota offense that has averaged just 106.0 points every 100 possessions over the last nine games. On top of that, the Timberwolves are banged up, as Malik Beasley, Ricky Rubio, D’Angelo Russell and Jaylen Nowell are all doubtful to play tonight. As a result, the market has moved two points toward the Kings, but it is surprising to see such a high total given the absences on such a bad offensive team like the Timberwolves.