When you handicap a sport every day, sometimes you get onto a trend before the market can catch up to it. Lately, that trend for me has been the under in Lakers games.
After a 112-97 loss to Milwaukee last night, the under is 1-6 for Los Angeles since losing LeBron James to an ankle injury. Until the market makes a noticeable adjustment, is it something we should continue to play?
Since James went down, the Lakers are averaging just 99 points every 100 possessions and shooting just 42.7% from the floor. Their games have averaged 204.4 total points per game, but bettors have seen an average total of 215.4 on these contests since the injury. In today’s NBA it is hard to find totals lower than 212, but in these Lakers games those totals should be lower than what we have seen.
They play Sacramento on Saturday, and the total in Kings games over the last month have been a whopping 232.5, which seems like another opportunity for an under play. However, the 30th-ranked defense in the league always opens the door for poor offenses to raise their level of play. Does this run of unders end this weekend?
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
Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Clippers (-1, 228.5)
A blown fourth-quarter lead on Tuesday night against Orlando snapped a 6-0 SU and ATS run for the Clippers. They must try to get back on track against a Nuggets team that has won and covered three straight and went 11-3 SU/9-5 ATS in the month of March. Los Angeles had been on a tear on offense, averaging 120.9 points every 100 possessions in the eight games leading up to the loss on Tuesday. However, against the Magic the Clippers’ offense disappeared and managed just 0.99 points per possession, and their white-hot shooting was cooled with a 12-of-37 performance from deep. Defensively, Los Angeles actually put forward a great effort by limiting Orlando to just 1.084 points per possession and that will have to be the case again tonight when they face Denver.
Most of the Nuggets’ success this past month was due to an offense that scored an average of 118.9 points every 100 possessions. Something will have to give tonight, as the Clippers come in with a defensive rating of 106.9 over their previous nine games. Los Angeles has not been as consistent on defense this season, so there is a chance this short sample size is an aberration for the Clippers. But, solid defensive performances against Dallas and Milwaukee lend support to the theory that Los Angeles has started to improve on defense.
The Clippers have some injury issues that will hamper them tonight, and it is why bettors are looking at a flip of the favorite here. Paul George has already been ruled out, and Marcus Morris is questionable to play. With Serge Ibaka and Patrick Beverley already on the mend, this is going to be an extremely thin squad on the floor for Los Angeles. They took out Milwaukee a few nights ago with a similar crew, but can they do it again?
The Co-Main Event
Charlotte Hornets at Brooklyn Nets* (-3, 230)
If you have read any of my work up to this point, you know that for me a game between these two clubs is like asking a parent to choose their favorite child. However, in this case, the market might be making the choice for me.
Charlotte has been in fantastic form, going 4-1 SU/5-0 ATS in its last five games and outscoring opponents by 6.5 points every 100 possessions. Brooklyn has been the antithesis of that with a 5-2 SU/1-6 ATS record in its past seven games with a -2.0 net rating. That adds up to Brooklyn laying a short number against an opponent it would have likely been much larger favorite against a week ago.
James Harden will likely miss this game due to a hamstring injury, and there is no word on whether or not Kyrie Irving will play in the second leg of this back-to-back for Brooklyn. If Irving is on the floor, this seems like a very solid spot for the Nets. The lineups with just Irving on the floor have outscored opponents by 19.7 points every 100 possessions. That large number is due to a short sample size (441 possessions), but it does show the potential of a Nets team led by Kyrie. As well as Charlotte has played of late, this is still a team that is below average defensively with a 112.9 defensive rating on the season. Brooklyn is beat up, but is there really only one bucket separating them and this Hornets team?
Philadelphia 76ers (-7.5, 214.5) at Cleveland Cavaliers
Offense has been a very big problem for the Cavaliers this month, and this entire season. In March, Cleveland averaged a league-worst 101.5 points every 100 possessions, which led to a 4-9 SU/6-7 ATS record. Struggling on offense is not a recipe for success against this version of Philadelphia. The 76ers lead the league in defensive efficiency since losing Joel Embiid to his knee injury (102.6) and should match up well against the Cavaliers’ anemic offense. This defensive play, coupled with a poor offense that has averaged just 109.1 points per 100 possessions, has led to a 6-3 run to the under for Philadelphia, and it is likely why we have seen this total drop to 211 at most books.
Washington Wizards (-2.5, 224.5) at Detroit Pistons*
Portland ripped apart Detroit’s offense last night to the tune of 1.253 points per possession, but can Washington do the same thing? The Wizards have been insanely inconsistent as of late, posting a 6-8 ATS record in March with a -5.3 net rating. Washington has not been efficient on offense, despite the massive numbers Russell Westbrook is putting up, and this team has been a road favorite just two other times this season. Is Detroit that bad that it deserves to be the third team catching points at home to this Wizards squad?
Golden State Warriors at Miami Heat* (-2, 219.5)
The Heat have strung together a couple of wins, but it has been in less than impressive fashion. Their offense continues to sputter, and in their two victories they have managed just 1.022 points per possession. However, their defense has returned and their previous two opponents (New York, Indiana) have scored just 93.6 points per 100 possessions. That success on defense can likely continue against a Warriors team pressed for offense itself. Golden State snapped an 0-4 SU and ATS slide with a win at home against Chicago earlier this week, but it still has averaged just 107.1 points every 100 possessions over the last 12 games. It is hard to imagine either team finding much success on offense.
Orlando Magic at New Orleans Pelicans (-10.5, 223.5)
Make it a perfect 4-0 ATS since the trade deadline for the Magic. The market has been too strong on altering this team’s power rating, and again the market opens them up as a 10.5-point underdog to New Orleans. Are the Pelicans just a point worse than the Clippers? I ask because they are laying a point less than what Los Angeles was on Tuesday against this same Magic team. New Orleans is playing great basketball, and is 7-2 ATS in its last nine games, but that streak coupled with Orlando’s deflated rating creates a pretty inflated number here.
Atlanta Hawks at San Antonio Spurs* (-1.5, 220.5)
The Spurs snapped their 1-5 SU/2-4 ATS slide with a win over the streaking Kings on Wednesday, and now they look to extend the Hawks' 1-4 SU and ATS losing streak tonight. Atlanta has come back down to Earth due to a defense that has regressed to the mean in a big way, giving up 121.6 points every 100 possessions to its last five opponents. San Antonio has been a below-average team on offense over the last month (109.9), so if the Spurs have success tonight against Atlanta’s defense then the Hawks have problems. The betting market flipped the favorites here, so there is an expectation for a bounce back from the road team