The NBA season may have witnessed its worst beat of the season on Friday night.
With 7:31 left to go in the fourth quarter, D.J. Augustin hit a pull-up jumper to give Houston a 101-85 lead. The Rockets, which were as high as five-point underdogs before close, were on their way to a 13th victory! However, Minnesota proceeded to close the game on a 22-0 run that would not only give the Wolves a win, but the cover as well. Houston’s poor offense was on full display, going 0-of-14 from the floor and 0-of-6 from deep while failing to draw a single trip to the free-throw line.
If you were on Houston, I am so sorry.
Here are my NBA betting notes for Saturday, March 27.
Updated injury reports can be found here.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
*Indicates team is on the second leg of a back-to-back.
The Main Event
Dallas Mavericks (-2.5, 227.5) at New Orleans Pelicans
The straight-up results have not been there as consistently for New Orleans, but they can rest easy knowing they are at least covering spreads. The Pelicans’ loss to Denver on Friday ended a 4-2 SU/5-1 ATS run over their previous six games. Now, they face a Dallas team that embarrassed them 143-130 back in February, and is 14-6 SU/10-10 ATS in its last 20 games.
New Orleans will have to become somewhat competent from the perimeter on defense to have an opportunity to take this game from Dallas, but there is no real indication it can be. Last night, the Nuggets torched them from deep with a 14-of-27 performance overall. On non-corner 3-pointers Denver shot 10-of-19, and that is an area that the Mavericks love to operate from. Dallas takes the fourth-most non-corner 3-pointers of any team in the league and ranks 11th in shooting on those attempts (36.6%). New Orleans ranks 30th in defending non-corner 3-pointers (39.8% allowed), which is clearly a problem in this meeting.
Just like any other game, though, there are two sides to match up, and the Pelicans do plenty that can disturb the Mavericks’ 25th-ranked defense. Opponents take 32.0% of their attempts within four feet of the basket against Dallas, and they shoot very high 65.2% on those rim shots. New Orleans lives in the painted area of the floor: The Pelicans take 41.7% of their shots at the cup, shoot 65.4% as a team and have one of the best rim scorers in the league on their team. With Zion Williamson on the floor, the Pelicans’ rim frequency jumps by 10.5% and their shooting is increased by 3.7%! So while it seems New Orleans will have trouble along the perimeter today, it is pretty clear Dallas will not be able to limit shots in the paint. Thus, it is not surprising to see this total bet up to 229.5 at most shops.
Keep an eye on the injury report today, too. Luka Doncic is questionable with a back injury that kept him out of the Mavericks’ loss to Indiana on Friday. The line is heading to New Orleans ‘side due to Doncic’s status, and Rick Carlisle told the media that Doncic “hopefully will be able to play” against New Orleans.
The Co-Main Event
Philadelphia 76ers at Los Angeles Clippers (-3, 224.5)
A lengthy injury report for Los Angeles puts a damper on this meeting between offense and defense, but if the Clippers have Kawhi on the floor this is a must-watch. Since losing Joel Embiid to injury, Philadelphia is 6-1 SU/5-1-1 ATS and leads the league in defensive efficiency (99.2). It is fair to point out that five of their opponents during this run rank in the bottom half of the league in offensive efficiency, and that in the second half of their loss to the Bucks they allowed 1.127 points per possession. Should Leonard be on the floor tonight, this will be quite the test for a defense that has been flexing on less than stellar competition.
Should Philadelphia’s defense take a step back, its offense will obviously have to perform at a higher level than it has over this seven-game stretch. Since the Embiid injury, the 76ers are averaging just 109.5 points every 100 possessions, and they have been limited to under a 0.94 points per play in the halfcourt in six of seven games. However, just like I pointed out their less than stellar offensive competition, I will point out that each of their opponents except Sacramento rank inside the top 10 of defensive efficiency.
Los Angeles is not one of those opponents, though, and if Leonard is out that makes them even more susceptible to a Philadelphia team that has shot the ball well (39.3% on 31.3 attempts) since the Embiid injury.
Memphis Grizzlies at Utah Jazz (-10, 228)
The Jazz have won four straight and are 5-1 SU in their last six games, but a 3-3 ATS record in those contests shows that the market has slightly overvalued this team. In fact, Utah is 3-7 ATS in the month of March, and in those games has closed as the favorite in each while laying an average of 8.9 points. Now, they must cover another big number against a Memphis team that has turned things around with a 4-2 SU/5-1 ATS run over its past six games. The Grizzlies have allowed just 105.1 points every 100 possessions during this run, and that is obviously massive for a meeting with Utah that has an offensive rating of 116.5 this month.
Utah’s issues during March have all been due to a defense that has regressed and allowed 111.6 points every 100 possessions. Surprisingly, it has been their interior defense that has let them down. Of the 10 games they played, seven of their opponents have shot 68.0% or better within four feet of the basket. The Grizzlies are not a team that thrives at the rim. They rank 18th in rim frequency and 19th in shooting within four feet, so it is a real possibility they can’t take advantage of the issues that have appeared for the Jazz this month.
New York Knicks at Milwaukee Bucks (-10, 222.5)
These two teams met in the first game back from the All-Star break, and it was an absolute slaughter. Milwaukee shot a combined 34-of-56 (60.7%) at the rim and from 3-point range in a 134-101 win. New York’s rim defense will be tested yet again tonight, and if they give up as many looks within four feet (63) as they did against Washington in their two-game set, there might be some problems. If the Knicks can shoot the ball well, they can exploit one of the worst perimeter defenses in the league, and one that allowed Boston to go 41-of-93 (44.1%) from deep over the last two games.
Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves (-5, 229.5)
After getting a win to snap that 0-20 SU slide, the Rockets are right back to their old tricks. After the brutal beat last night, they run it back against Minnesota tonight, and there really is not much to build on from last night. The Rockets could potentially exploit the Timberwolves perimeter defense again after going 17-of-43 on Friday night, but they are the worst 3-point shooting team in the league (33.4%). Their offense managed just 0.99 points per possession despite the great shooting night, but their defense did perform well, which is what Rockets backers need tonight. Minnesota managed just 1.059 points per possession, shot just 46.5% at the rim and 27.0% from deep. If Houston can recreate that they have a chance, but their unreliable offense has held them back more often than not.
Detroit Pistons at Washington Wizards (-2.5, 229.5)
Should the Wizards be favored over anyone? Since the beginning of March, Washington is 2-9 SU/4-7 ATS with a -7.9 net rating. Tonight, Bradley Beal is questionable and with him off the court they are outscored by 6.8 points every 100 possessions. Throw Russell Westbrook on the floor without Beal and that net rating tanks to -12.4 every 100 possessions. Detroit has been a severely underrated team, albeit a bad one, and is 7-3 ATS in the month of March with just a -0.6 net rating. Beal’s health is obviously massive, but the market should probably stop sleeping on the Pistons.
Boston Celtics (-10, 221.5) at Oklahoma City Thunder
Congratulations to Boston for covering both games against Milwaukee and improving to 3-1 ATS in its last four games, but are we to the point where this team is a double-digit favorite on the road? The injury to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is likely the reason why this number is so high, after all the Thunder’s offensive rating goes from 108.6 to 102.7 when he is off, but its defensive rating actually improves greatly with him off the floor (116.7 to 105.8). Are they really that poor without him?
Chicago Bulls at San Antonio Spurs (-2, 223.5)
Chicago is expected to have Nikola Vucevic on the floor tonight, and what he changes for their offense is something that remains to be seen. The Bulls have been held to under 1.042 points per possession in each of their last three games, and four of five. Vucevic gives them a floor spacer and a legit threat in pick-and-pop plays with Zach LaVine. He will likely improve their suddenly inconsistent offense. They also get a vulnerable Spurs team that has managed just 105.9 points every 100 possessions in the month of March, and is mired in an 0-4 SU/1-3 ATS slide.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Sacramento Kings (-6.5, 223.5)
Sacramento is in the midst of another hot streak, and the market has responded. The Kings are 5-1 SU/ATS in their last five games, and that includes a 119-105 win over this Cavaliers team in Cleveland on Monday night. Over this six-game run Sacramento owns the seventh-best offensive rating in the league, but is outscoring opponents by just 3.9 points every 100 possessions due to a defense that is allowing 113.0 points per 100. Laying this many points is always a dicey proposition with a bad defensive team.