The deluge of injuries to star players continued on Friday when the Utah Jazz lost Donovan Mitchell to an ankle sprain. All tests came back negative and it seems Mitchell will miss some time with a minor injury, but the scare is one we have become used to at this point. It is pretty clear the compact nature of this second-half has compromised the quality of play, as players continue to battle through countless injuries.
Handicapping the NBA on a daily basis is always a battle of information on who will be available and who will not, but lately it has become extremely daunting. On Thursday, bettors watched the line for Milwaukee and Atlanta toggle back-and-forth as Trae Young and Giannis Antetokoumpo’s statuses were reported throughout the day. Yesterday, both the Clippers and Trail Blazers had injuries to stars that greatly altered the lines in their respective contests.
This league is hard enough to attack as it is, but the nature of the compact schedule has made it even more challenging. With 16 games left and less than a month to go, don’t expect it to get any easier.
Updated odds 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
Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics (-5, 227.5)
Golden State and Boston are two of the hottest teams in the league right now, but something has to give tonight at TD Garden. The Warriors have won four straight and are 5-1 SU/ATS in their last six games with a league-leading + 12.1 net rating over that stretch. The Celtics have won five straight and are 7-1 SU/5-2-1 ATS in their last eight with a + 9.3 net rating. Both teams are in the thick of the playoff races in their respective conferences as well, so this contest carries a lot of weight for both teams.
Boston returns home after a very successful 3-0 SU/ATS West Coast trip. Those performances included a dominant 31-3 closing run against the Nuggets and a lackadaisical victory over the Lakers in which they blew most of a 27-point lead. The Celtics defense has been much more consistent recently, as their opponents are scoring only 107.4 points every 100 possessions during this run. How much should we buy into this run for Boston, though? Five of their last eight opponents rank lower than 19th in offensive efficiency, so this turnaround might be built upon a shaky foundation. They get another one of those opponents tonight in the Warriors, but Golden State has been a different team on that side of the ball lately.
The Warriors have posted a 118.9 offensive rating during this six-game stretch, and much of that is due to the play of Steph Curry: The two-time MVP is averaging an eye-popping 39.8 points per game on 57.4% shooting from the floor during this winning streak for Golden State. Curry is hitting 51.2% of his 14.0 3-point attempts per game while averaging 6.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists per contest. Golden State ranks 21st in offensive efficiency on the season so it is clear that is surge is solely due to the play of Curry, which makes this run tenuous. If Curry has an off night tonight, can bettors rely on a team that has averaged just 110.1 points per 100 possessions this season?
The Co-Main Event
Memphis Grizzlies at Milwaukee Bucks (-8.5, 236.5)
De’Anthony Melton, Brandon Clarke and Justise Winslow are all doubtful for the Grizzlies, a team in the midst of a 2-1 SU/3-0 ATS spurt. Their offense has found a much more consistent stride lately, averaging 116.0 points every 100 possessions over those three games while ranking 11th in efficiency over the last month (113.8). The driving force behind this offensive surge has been their shooting. Memphis ranks in the bottom half of the league in shooting on the season, but they hitting 37.3% of their attempts over the last month. That will come in handy against a Milwaukee team that is still having trouble along the perimeter on defense.
The Bucks got Giannis Antetokounmpo back on the floor on Thursday, but the Hawks still managed to averaged 1.135 points per possession while shooting 14-of-34 from deep. Milwaukee ranks 25th in opponent 3-point shooting this season, and there have been no signs of that improving. Do we expect it to happen today against the hot-shooting Grizzlies?
The problem for Memphis is that its offense is not primarily generated from the perimeter. Memphis takes an overwhelming majority of their attempts from mid-range, specifically short mid-range (four to 14 feet). Milwaukee’s defense centers on guarding the restricted area of the floor, and it ranks 12th in opponent shooting from that floater area of the floor. If the Grizzlies are not able to score from there, then their offense really struggles.
Utah Jazz* (-8.5, 216) at Los Angeles Lakers
Both of these teams head into this early afternoon tilt somewhat short-handed. Los Angeles is still without LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and both Marc Gasol and Markieff Morris are dealing with injuries. Utah will be without Donovan Mitchell (who sprained his ankle on Friday), Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley and Derrick Favors. The absence of 80% of Utah’s starting lineup is the reason behind this line move, and that makes this a brutal handicap. Los Angeles fought back to make its loss to Boston more competitive, but the fickle nature of its offense showed itself in that game. The Lakers are the second-best defensive team in the league since losing LeBron, so that could lead them to a win and cover here, but there are much better games to wager your income on.
Detroit Pistons* at Washington Wizards* (-5.5, 227.5)
Washington put together a solid performance against New Orleans on Friday and they are now 5-2 SU/ 6-1 ATS in their last seven games. The Wizards have outscored their opponents by just 0.8 points every 100 possessions and their offense is managing just 109.9 points over that stretch. It is clear they are skating by, so can we really trust them as a 5.5-point favorite?
The Pistons are 4-1 ATS in their last five games and have been performing much better on both ends of the floor. Detroit’s defense has improved to allow just 110.1 points per 100 possessions during this win streak, and they could matchup well with a Wizards offense that managed just 1.017 points per possession against the 27th-ranked defense in the league yesterday.
San Antonio Spurs at Phoenix Suns (-8.5, 231)
The wins continue to come for the Suns, but the failed covers follow as well. Phoenix may be 11-1 SU in its last 12 games, but the team is just 6-6 ATS over that stretch and has not covered consecutive games since March 23 against Miami. This is no knock on the Suns, it just shows how overvalued they have become by the betting market.
Over these 12 games, Phoenix has outscored its opponents by 10.1 points every 100 possessions and has the second-best offensive rating in the league. They get a Spurs team that has fallen back to Earth with consecutive losses after three straight covers. Since the All-Star break, San Antonio is 24th in defensive efficiency and over its last two games it has a 114.9 defensive rating. The market seems to believe it’s a poor matchup because the Suns are now laying 10 despite the clear evidence their power rating has peaked.