Betting preview for the Western Conference play-in games

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The first night of the NBA’s play-in tournament is in the books, and the powers that be cannot be happy with what transpired.

Charlotte forgot the rules of the tournament and showed up like it was a regular-season game on a Tuesday night. Indiana torched them for 144 points and 1.288 points per possession on the way to a 27-point win and a spot in the final play-in game. The Hornets were pathetic on defense, allowing the Pacers to go 22-of-30 at the rim and 14-of-30 from deep in non-garbage time minutes while giving up 1.125 points per play in the half court. It was certainly not the way the NBA had envisioned its first play-in tournament starting.

An hour later, in Boston, the bad version of Russell Westbrook showed up and the red-hot Washington Wizards were cooled down by Jayson Tatum and the Celtics. Tatum dropped 50 points on 14-of-32 shooting and sank each of his 17 free throw attempts, but this loss was about the Wizards' suddenly non-existent offense. Westbrook went 6-of-18 from the floor, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans combined to go 1-of-13 from 3-point range and Washington managed just 0.971 points per possession. 

Indiana and Washington will meet on Friday with the final seed in the Eastern Conference on the line, but most of us are hoping for a fun play-in game tonight. Maybe even two. At least we have two stars facing one another in LeBron James and Steph Curry. Hopefully they can deliver.

Updated odds for every game can be found here.

Updated injury reports for every game can be found here.

Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers (-7, 223.5)

These two teams have played three times this season, and Los Angeles is hoping history repeats itself tonight. In three regular season meetings, the Lakers are 2-1 SU and ATS with a + 16.6 net rating. The Warriors have averaged just 97.4 points per 100 possessions in those three contests, and Steph Curry has averaged just 23 points on 42.3% from the floor and 34.6% on 3-point attempts. Something has to change with this Warriors offense if the result is going to be different this time around.

Golden State finished the season ranked 21st in non-garbage time offensive efficiency, scoring just 111 points per 100 possessions. However, over this 8-1 SU/ATS run the team went on to close the season, the offense has been better. They have the 10th-ranked offense at 118.3 points per 100 possessions and they have scored at least 113 points in each victory. However, six of their opponents ranked 23rd or lower in defensive efficiency this season (they did face Phoenix during this run, but the Suns have the 20th-ranked defense in the league since the All-Star break). In other words, the schedule has been favorable. Against one of the best defenses in the league -- and one that has had immense success defending this team -- can the Warriors maintain this run on offense?

The Warriors did finish fifth in defensive efficiency this season, giving up just 109.4 points per 100 possessions, so there is a universe in which they stymie this less-than-stellar Lakers offense, but the matchups just are not there. When LeBron James and Anthony Davis are on the floor together, the Lakers outscore opponents by 14.2 points every 100 possessions. They dominate within four feet, taking 37.6% of their shots there while shooting 70.4% on those attempts. Los Angeles rebounds 26.9% of its missed shots with those two on the floor, and averages 1.310 points per putback play. For as great as this Warriors team has been on defense, they have struggled to keep teams off the glass. They rank 28th in opponent points per putback play (1.190), 25th in opponent offensive rebounding rate (25.8%) and 22nd in defensive rebounding rate (72.7%). All season long they have struggled to keep opponents off the glass, and they will likely struggle with a frontcourt like Los Angeles.

San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies (-3, 225.5)

Will the Spurs be able to fix their suddenly abhorrent offense? Over the last 10 games, the Spurs have averaged just 109.2 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time minutes, the 23rd-best mark in the league. This slump somewhat coincides with the loss of Derrick White for the season. In the 12 games since White’s injury, San Antonio is 2-10 SU/5-6-1 ATS with a -9.0 net rating. That net rating ranks ahead of just five teams: Oklahoma City, Cleveland, Orlando, Houston and Detroit. It is hard to believe that this offense is going to find its footing tonight against Memphis.

The Grizzlies are the eighth-best half-court defense in the league, allowing just 95.1 points every 100 plays in those situations. On the season, the Spurs rank 13th in half-court offense, but during this offensive slump their rating in those situations is 95.0 (19th). Much of the Grizzlies’ half-court defense stems from an interior defense that allows teams to take 32.9% of attempts within four feet and shoot only 62.1% at the rim. San Antonio is a team that is built around the mid-range, and it shoots just 62.7% within four feet of the hoop, which plays into what Memphis likes to do as a defense. 

Should San Antonio’s offense be pressed to find points, it likely will not be able to rely on its defense to get many stops. Since the All-Star break, the Spurs have allowed opponents to average 114 points every 100 possessions, and during this extended 12-game slump that defensive rating is 120.4! Memphis has not been the most consistent offense in the league over the last 13 games (110.2 points per 100 possessions), but where San Antonio has struggled on defense is key: They have allowed opponents to take 35.6% of their attempts at the rim and 20.9% of shots from short mid-range. They rank 30th in opponent shooting from 4-to-14 feet over that stretch (53.5%) an area which the Grizzlies are first in shooting frequency and 10th in shooting accuracy.

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