This may be surprising to some, but there was NBA action yesterday. Lost in the excitement of Super Bowl Sunday was an excellent performance by the Sacramento Kings, who handed the Los Angeles Clippers a 113-110 loss at Staples Center. De’Aaron Fox scored 36 points and the Kings improved to 7-1 SU/8-0 ATS in the eight games since their last meeting with the Clippers. Sacramento has done this on the back of its offense, which has averaged 116 points every 100 possessions during this winning streak. The Kings will play host to Philadelphia on Tuesday, which will a big test of the legitimacy of their recent run.
The Kings were not the only undervalued team in action on Sunday either, as the Charlotte Hornets pasted the Washington Wizards 119-97 at home despite closing as very short underdogs. Charlotte is now 12-5 ATS in its last 17 games, but the market seems to be stubborn in its evaluation of this team. In fact, we could be seeing another instance of that today, as the Hornets are on the second leg of a back-to-back, playing host to Houston tonight.
It’s the perfect place to begin our game notes:
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.
Houston Rockets (-2.5, 220.5) at Charlotte Hornets*
Despite the success Charlotte has had over its last 17 games, the market refuses to budge. Houston is now up to -3.5 after opening -2.5, even though Christian Wood is still sidelined with a brutal ankle injury suffered on Thursday. Wood is Houston’s leading scorer, and when he is off the floor this season the Rockets’ offensive efficiency drops from 112.4 to 104.3 points every 100 possessions; their net rating drops from + 4.4 to -1.0 in those minutes as well. On Saturday, their first game without Wood since the injury, the Rockets averaged just 1.050 points per possession, shot 31.6 percent from deep and managed just 0.947 points per possession in the halfcourt. It’s pretty clear their offense struggles when Wood is not in the picture.
Houston’s defense, on the other hand, doesn’t struggle without Wood. The Rockets still held San Antonio to 1.069 per possession, and that has been a common theme throughout this season. Houston has made its way to third in defensive efficiency (106.7), and none of its previous seven opponents have averaged more than 1.069 points per possession. How the Rockets defend a Charlotte team that has been hitting its stride on offense will be key.
The Hornets are averaging 117.4 points every 100 possessions over their last five games, and they have covered four of those as a result. This offensive surge is due to a great stretch of shooting that spans six games for Charlotte. Over those six games, the Hornets are shooting 42.6 percent from 3-point range on 38.3 attempts per game. However, Charlotte has shot under 60 percent at the rim for five straight games, and on the season the team is shooting just 57.9 percent within four feet. If the 3-point shots are not falling, what will happen to this electric offense bettors have seen recently?
Keep an eye on the injury reports as well. John Wall has been dealing with back spasms and this is the front of a back-to-back for Houston, which is in New Orleans tomorrow. It is very likely Wall misses one of these games to rest.
Toronto Raptors (-2.5, 224) at Memphis Grizzlies
What happened to Memphis’ defense? Over the last three games, the Grizzlies are 0-3 SU and ATS with a whopping 122.3 defensive rating. Remember, from Jan. 5 to Feb. 2 the Grizzlies were 7-2 SU/7-1-1 ATS and allowing just 102.6 points every 100 possessions, the best defense in the league over that stretch. So, what gives? It might just be some bad luck.
Grizzlies’ opponents over this three-game slide are shooting 46.7 percent from beyond the arc on 35.7 attempts per game. That is 50.1 points per game allowed from beyond the arc alone, and I would expect that to regress at some point. Toronto comes in on a positive trajectory, with wins in eight of 13 games, but a 6-7 ATS record. Their once inconsistent offense has found some consistency, averaging 114.6 points every 100 possessions and shooting 38.9 percent from deep. The market still might have too high of an opinion of this team, though, which leads to the losing record ATS over the winning stretch of basketball.
Both teams are banged up here, too. OG Anunoby will miss his seventh game for Toronto, and both De’Anthony Melton and Brandon Clarke are expected to miss today’s contest for Memphis.
Washington Wizards* at Chicago Bulls (-2, 236)
After two games of successful offense, the Wizards are back in the tank. Washington has averaged just 0.983 points per possession over its last three games, and it has led to consecutive blowout losses at the hands of Miami and Charlotte. One of the biggest problems for the Wizards both this season, and over this small losing streak, has been a lack of rim protection. Washington ranks 24th in opponent shooting at the rim (65.9 percent), and its opponent today just so happens to rank sixth in that category on offense (66.4 percent). Chicago has been somewhat inconsistent lately, splitting a pair of two game series with Orlando and New York over its last four games.
Since an 11-2 ATS run from Dec. 27 to Jan. 22, the Bulls are just 2-5 SU and ATS with a -0.3 net rating. Chicago is perfectly capable of blowing out a bad team, like it did on Saturday against Orlando, but the Bulls are average enough to lose to a bad team … like they did on Thursday against Orlando.
Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs (-1, 233)
The Warriors’ frontcourt will still be dangerously thin today against San Antonio, but it did not matter in their series with the Mavericks. Golden State split the two games with Dallas, but covered both thanks to a putback by Damion Lee that put the Warriors inside the number on Saturday. Eric Paschall is questionable and James Wiseman is doubtful to play today, so Golden State will be playing small again today against San Antonio. The Spurs snapped an 0-3 ATS slide with a win over Houston on Saturday, but it was a Rockets team without Christian Wood. Over their last four games, the Spurs have allowed 118.1 points every 100 possessions -- not the best defensive rating to have when you’re taking on a team that just torched a poor Dallas defense to the tune of 132.9 points every 100 possessions.
Minnesota Timberwolves at Dallas Mavericks (-8.5, 222.5)
When is the betting market going to get it with this Mavericks team? Dallas is now 1-8 ATS in its last nine games with a league-worst 122.2 defensive rating. Despite that, the market has supported them regularly. In their two-game series with Golden State, the market was stubborn, closing Dallas -4.5 in the first game (a blowout loss) and -4 in the second game. The Mavericks did not cover the second either, but today are laying 9.5 against Minnesota. Dallas is likely better than what it has shown, and its offense was much better in the Golden State series, but why are we still moving numbers toward this team? Minnesota does have an injury question with D’Angelo Russell, who missed the game on Saturday against Oklahoma City, but that was the second leg of a back-to-back. Russell will likely play, and I would expect the number to drop if he’s announced to be active.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Phoenix Suns* (-7, 216.5)
Since getting blown out in New Orleans, the Suns have been playing very solid basketball. They blew out the Pistons on Friday night, and handled the short-handed Celtics on Sunday morning. Through those two games, they have a + 14.0 net rating due to a defense that has allowed 98.4 points every 100 possessions. It would be somewhat foolhardy to assume everything that ails Phoenix has been fixed given the opponents, but is Monday the time to play against that perception? Cleveland has failed to cover its last six games, and over that stretch it has been outscored by 15.2 points every 100 possessions. A large part of the issues that plague the Cavaliers is the defense that has allowed 115.9 points per 100 possessions, but their offense has also been abysmal. Cleveland’s 100.7 offensive rating over this stretch is the worst in the league. Is this spot against a Suns team that beats up on bad competition the time to count on them to turn this thing around?
Milwaukee Bucks (-3.5, 229.5) at Denver Nuggets
Things have really gone awry for Denver over the last four games. The Nuggets are in the midst of a 1-3 SU and ATS slide with an ugly -6.4 net rating through those four contests. On Thursday night they blew a 12-point halftime lead over the Lakers and lost by 21 points, and on Saturday 50 points from Nikola Jokic was not enough to overcome Sacramento. Denver’s defense has suddenly collapsed, giving up 1.203 points per possession over this slide, and that will not work against a Milwaukee team that matches up very well with Denver. The Bucks have ripped off four consecutive wins and covers, outscoring opponents by 22.5 points every 100 possessions. Their defense, which at one point ranked 17th in the league, is improving and is now eighth according to Cleaning The Glass. Throw in injury questions about Jamal Murray, Facundo Campazzo and Gary Harris and this seems like a very poor spot for the Nuggets.