It was a day of upsets in the NBA on Saturday. Only one favorite ended up with the cover, and there five outright wins by underdogs. According to VSiN senior reporter Dave Tuley, underdogs have the edge this season overall at 148-130-2 ATS, which isn’t surprising considering the trouble the market has had with valuing home-court advantage this season.
Short slate today, but it starts early! Let us neither dilly, nor dally and get started.
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.
Utah Jazz (PK, 219.5) at Denver Nuggets
Can anything stop the Jazz? After a sweep of a two-game series at home against Dallas the Jazz improved their winning streak to 11-0 SU/ATS, the team is now 13-2 SU/ATS in January. Even without Donovan Mitchell, who missed the series with Dallas due to a concussion, Utah ripped Dallas for 1.210 points per possession while posting a + 14.3 net rating. It was absolute domination from the Jazz despite their best player wearing street clothes.
That has largely been how this winning streak has gone. Over this 11-game run, Utah has the best net rating in the league (+ 15.2) while placing second in both offensive (119.1) and defensive (103.8) efficiency. Ten of their 11 victories have come by double-digits with an average margin of victory of 15.6 points per game! The team’s lone single-digit victory over this run has been against the Nuggets (109-105, Jan. 17).
Denver is coming off its first loss in over a week, a 119-109 clunker at San Antonio in which the Nuggets averaged just 1.084 points per possession and turned the ball over on 16.8 percent of their plays. An offense that was rolling, averaging 113.5 points every 100 possessions over its previous seven games, was stymied against a Spurs team I might have to upgrade in my power ratings.
Mitchell is questionable to play today as he continues to deal with that concussion that caused him to miss the last two games for Utah. Regardless of his status, the path for a Denver win or cover is clearly centered around its ability to defend the perimeter. The Jazz lead the league in 3-point frequency, with 44.9 percent of their field goal attempts coming from beyond the arc. During this winning streak they are shooting 41.9 percent on 44.3 attempts per game. The Nuggets’ downfall at times this season has been an inconsistent perimeter defense. They allowed San Antonio to hit 10-of-23 attempts from beyond the arc, and in their eight losses this season opponents shot 42.8 percent from deep!
Philadelphia 76ers (-1.5, 225) at Indiana Pacers
Another game beholden to the injury report. Joel Embiid is officially questionable with the back soreness has that has been plaguing him this season. He’s been consistently playing through it though, missing just the Pistons game on Jan. 25 due to the ailment. Philadelphia has two days off after today’s contest with Indiana, and given the magnitude of this game, I would assume we see Embiid on the floor today.
Regardless, Indiana finds itself in need of a win against Philadelphia. The Pacers split their two-game road series with Charlotte, and are now 3-4 SU/2-5 ATS in their last three games. Their usually reliable defense has allowed 1.142 points per possession during this slide, and that is largely due to opponents shooting 40.6 percent from beyond the arc. The 76ers do not take many 3-point shots, but they are a solid shooting team (37.0 percent, 16th). If Indiana’s struggles along the perimeter continue, we could see a similar outcome today.
Embiid’s health is a massive key here, though. Despite the struggles on the perimeter, Indiana continues to defend the rim extremely well. They rank seventh in that area of the floor on the season, and even through this defensive lull the team is experiencing they have allowed just 59.4 percent within four feet. Without Embiid on the floor this year, the 76ers have a -9.6 net rating and shoot just 57.1 percent at the rim. Without Embiid this team becomes a jump-shooting team with no real rim threat, and that is troubling.
L.A. Clippers (-8, 212) at New York Knicks
After missing two games due to COVID protocols, both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George returned on Friday, and the Clippers kept their winning ways going. Los Angeles is now on a 9-1 SU run over its last 10 games, and their net rating (+ 14.1) over this stretch is surpassed only by the Jazz. Despite that, the Clippers are only 5-4-1 ATS during this run. It could speak to this team being overvalued by the betting market, but as I wrote about in Point Spread Weekly about two weeks ago this is more about Ty Lue tinkering with the roster than anything else.
Los Angeles has one lineup that has played over 100 possessions together (341), and the rest of the 27 other qualified lineups have registered no more than 77 possessions! Throw in injuries and COVID protocol, and the Clippers have been a somewhat inconsistent team to bet on despite the straight-up results.
Today, there will still be no Patrick Beverley for Los Angeles, but they get a favorable matchup against a Knicks team coming off of a big revenge spot against the Cavaliers on Friday. New York has its issues on offense, but defensively this team continues to execute. Cleveland was held to 0.90 points per possession and 0.756 per play in the halfcourt. Defense has been the calling card for the Knickerbockers, but this team still ranks 28th in offensive efficiency (106.1). Can they stifle the second-ranked offense in the league (118.2) enough to cover this number?
Orlando Magic at Toronto Raptors (-4.5, 215)
After three straight losses (0-3 ATS) it is pretty clear the “spark” that Toronto found during a 5-1 SU/3-3 ATS run last week did not find kindling and build into a roaring fire. The Raptors’ defense is a shell of itself, giving up 1.221 points per possession during this current slide, and placing Toronto at 18th in overall defensive efficiency on the season. The offense has seemingly found some traction during this losing streak, but it is largely due to the team hitting 49-of-125 (39.2 percent) 3-point attempts.
It is also pretty clear that the market cannot gauge what this team’s power rating should be at “home”. On the season Toronto is 5-5 SU / 3-7 ATS when playing in Tampa, and it has been favored in every game but one there. With all of these factors working against the Raptors, it seems like they’re a team to completely stay away from.
Orlando comes into this game against Toronto with its own struggles: The Magic are 1-4 SU / 2-3 ATS in their last five games, 2-10 SU/3-9 ATS in their 12 played. Over those 12 contests, the Magic have the worst offensive rating in the league (102.4) while allowing 115.5 points every 100 possessions. This slide for Orlando likely the reason why the market is moving against them here, but with the way the market has overvalued Toronto on its home floor it seems like a dangerous proposition.
Brooklyn Nets (-7.5, 244) at Washington Wizards
Is the offense ever going to return for the Wizards? It’s not like they were a record-setting offense this season, but since coming back from the long COVID hiatus the Wizards are averaging just 97.3 points every 100 possessions, and they haven’t scored more than 106 points in any of those games. They did get Rui Hachimura and Davis Bertans back in their last game against Atlanta, but it did not do much to improve the offense as they managed a paltry 103.3 offensive rating.
Against a team like Brooklyn there is a chance they could see their offensive output improve, mainly due to how bad the Nets’ defense is. Last time out, Brooklyn covered against Oklahoma City, but it was due to a scorching offense that averaged 1.452 points per possession. They still allowed an offense that averages 106.7 points every 100 possessions to post a 117.0 offensive rating. This is going to be an issue for Brooklyn, as we know, but how much does it improve a team like Washington?
The total for this game opened as high as 246.5 in some spots, but 244 in majority of other shops. Washington is giving up 114.5 points every 100 possessions, so it is likely the Nets will be able to execute their offense at will. However, will Washington be able to exploit Brooklyn’s defense to the point it can help push this total over?
Cleveland Cavaliers (-3.5, 218.5) at Minnesota Timberwolves
The Cavaliers are coming off of a poor showing on Friday against New York; a massive blemish on a really stellar six-game run in which they had gone 5-1 ATS with a 114.1 offensive rating. Against the Knicks they were limited to 0.90 points per possession, their lowest offensive rating since playing New York in December. Minnesota, however, is not New York.
The Timberwolves are the worst team in the league in net rating (-12.2). Defensively, they give up 1.160 points per possession, and rank no higher than 16th in any of the major defensive statistics Cleaning The Glass tracks. They are 1-7 SU / 2-5 ATS in their last seven games, and they’ve been held to under 100 points in four of those contests.
It might seem too easy for some bettors to look at this line and want to play Cleveland, but remember there are two things at work here. Minnesota’s power rating being at an all-time low and Cleveland’s power rating starting to improve. Those factors could lead to an inflated number, which is what it looks like we may have today.