It was a rough day for the NBA on Saturday, as three of the games were decided by more than 40 points and the average margin of victory was nearly 24. To make matters worse, we got to see what will likely go down as one of the best Final Four games ever when Gonzaga took down UCLA on a buzzer-beating heave in overtime.
Hopefully tonight’s contests, which look pretty tight on paper, will deliver after what was a brutal day for the league. We have an early start today, so let’s not delay and get right into it.
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
Charlotte Hornets at Boston Celtics (-10, 222.5)
With a win today, the Hornets can clinch the over on their win total, but cluster injuries have cut into their depth and the betting market has clearly downgraded them as a result. Two weeks ago the Hornets were 9.5-point underdogs against the Clippers on the road, and today they were catching 10 points at the open against the Celtics. There is not just a half-point separating Los Angeles and Boston in any power rating, so we can infer that Charlotte has been downgraded by the betting market by quite a bit due to the injuries to Malik Monk, Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball.
When Ball was injured I was pretty adamant that the market overreacted in downgrading Charlotte the way it did, and sure enough the Hornets went 5-2 SU/6-1 ATS in their next seven games. But now Monk and Hayward join Ball on the bench and that is something that could make them worse. With Monk on the floor this season, the Hornets outscore opponents by 2.7 points every 100 possessions. Ball and Hayward rank first and third on this team respectively in assists per game. Monk (42.4%) and Hayward (41.5%) are Charlotte’s top two 3-point shooters as well. The Hornets take the eighth-most 3-pointers in the league, and they shoot 39% as a team. The absences of these three along the perimeter could severely hamper this team’s offense, which could in turn expose an average defense gives up 112.7 points per 100 possessions.
Let’s be fair though, it is not like Boston has been consistent fully healthy. Since the beginning of March, they rank 23rd in defensive efficiency with a 114.5 defensive rating. Opponents have shot 40.5% on 38.2 3-point attempts per game over that stretch, and the Celtics to a 7-8 SU and ATS record in those 15 contests. Boston does have the perimeter talent to makes things tough on Charlotte, though. The Celtics still have the seventh-best offensive rating in the league over this past month with an average of 116.5 points every 100 possessions. With their Franchise Four (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart) on the floor, they average 1.223 points per possession, and that lineup could have a ton of success tonight.
This might be an odd game for a main event, but this game fascinates me. The betting market has deemed this number too high for Boston and the line is down to -9 at almost every shop. The total dropping down to 216 is surprising given the potential of both offenses having success here.
The Co-Main Event
Brooklyn Nets (-1, 227.5) at Chicago Bulls
It appears the betting market has some respect for James Harden. In Brooklyn’s first game without Harden on the floor, the Nets closed as a 2.5-point home favorite over the Hornets and blew them out 111-89. Today, they’re laying the same number to a Bulls team that was catching 9.5 at home against the Jazz just over a week ago. Why the lack of respect?
Brooklyn is still an offensive juggernaut with Kyrie Irving in control of the offense. With just Irving on the floor the Nets are averaging 131.3 points and outscoring opponents by 21.2 points every 100 possessions! Now this Bulls team, which has allowed 114.9 points per 100 possessions over its last eight games and is 23rd in defensive efficiency, is going to contain the Nets and Irving?
The Nikola Vucevic era isn't off to the best start, either. With Vucevic on the floor, the Bulls have a -16.3 net rating and have managed just 1.088 points per possession. In fairness, both Zach LaVine and Coby White have missed time since the trade, and Vucevic himself has been on the floor for just 251 possessions. In fact, we have yet to see a lineup that has Vucevic, LaVine and White on the floor together. Both LaVine and White are on the floor today, so there is chance Chicago starts to show some continuity on offense against an average defensive team like Brooklyn.
Memphis Grizzlies at Philadelphia 76ers* (-1.5, 223.5)
Joel Embiid will not play tonight as he rests so as not to aggravate that knee injury that caused him to miss three weeks. That might be a loss, but remember this team just played 10 games without him and went 7-3 SU/6-3-1 ATS while leading the league in defensive efficiency (101.7). Memphis has been consistently good on defense this season, and its last three opponents have averaged just 1.089 points per possession. It's not hard to see a low-scoring rock fight breaking out tonight and it's not surprising to see this total drop two points after the news that Embiid will miss the game.
Los Angeles Lakers at Los Angeles Clippers (-11, 215)
A 6-0 SU/ATS run had me believing in this Clippers team a bit, but back-to-back losses brought me back from the brink. They gave up a 17-3 run in the fourth quarter of a loss to Orlando and Denver held them to 10-of-34 from deep in a 101-94 contest three days ago. What are we supposed to expect tonight against the Lakers?
Since losing LeBron James, the Lakers are 2-8 SU and ATS with the second-worst offensive rating (101.0). They are only getting outscored 2.5 points every 100 possession though, and that is due to a defense that ranks fourth in the league over that stretch (103.5). Yes, Andre Drummond and Wes Matthews are questionable, but the Clippers really have not shown much that tells you they deserve to be favored by this much.
New Orleans Pelicans (-4.5, 221.5) at Houston Rockets
Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Zion Williamson are questionable yet again, and that makes these Pelicans games extremely difficult to handicap pre-flop. The Pelicans haven't had that trio on the floor for the past two games, and their offense has averaged just 98.6 points every 100 possessions on the way to an 0-2 SU/ATS slide. If those three miss this game, there is no way the Pelicans should be favored on the road, even against the Rockets.
Houston is bad, but its clear they are on par with teams at the bottom of the table. They split with Minnesota due to a blown lead in the first game and hung inside 12.5 with Brooklyn, so they will be on par with a New Orleans team that doesn't have its three best players. If all three play, then we can expect this number to get to past six points, especially considering John Wall is out today with that bothersome knee.
Golden State Warriors (-2, 224.5) at Atlanta Hawks
Trae Young is available for Atlanta despite dealing with knee soreness, but John Collins and De’Andre Hunter are not going to play. That is obviously a blow for the home team, but Draymond Green is also questionable for Golden State, and if he can't go that is massive blow for their defense. Steph Curry was not on the morning injury report, which helps an offense that was held to just 77 points without him on the floor in their blowout loss to the Raptors on Friday. Injuries aside, it is odd to see Golden State favored in Atlanta despite a 1-6 SU/ATS record over the past seven games. The Hawks will likely go as off as the favorite with the news of Young’s availability, and they should.
Orlando Magic* at Denver Nuggets (-14.5, 216.5)
Orlando had its 4-0 ATS streak snapped in a big way last time out, getting blown out by Utah on Saturday by 46 points. Michael Carter-Williams and Khem Birch were unavailable due to an illness, Mo Bamba left the game early with the same issue and Otto Porter Jr. did not play. Those are key pieces of the Magic’s depth, it is hard to see them being competitive against the Nuggets.
Denver is 5-1 SU and ATS in its last six games and they ride a 4-0 SU and ATS wave into this home game against Orlando. In the three games since Aaron Gordon was added to the lineup, the Nuggets have allowed just 104.3 points every 100 possessions, and their opponents have gone just 24-of-43 at the rim (55.8%). Paired with a 117.8 offensive rating, Denver has outscored its three opponents with Gordon on the floor by 13.5 points every 100 possessions