One of the best stories of the season continued last night when the New York Knicks overcame the Atlanta Hawks 137-127 for their eighth consecutive win and 11th straight cover. The win streak is absolutely incredible, but how the Knicks have done it is even more fascinating.
Over the course of this 11-0 ATS run, New York has the fourth-best offensive rating in the league, averaging 117.8 points every 100 possessions. This surge on offense is a result of their unreal shooting. The Knicks are taking 32.0 3-point attempts per game in non-garbage time minutes and shooting 42.9% on those shots, according to Cleaning The Glass. Role players like Reggie Bullock (44.4% on 8.2 3-point attempts per game) and Derrick Rose (14.9 points per game on 50.0% shooting from the floor) have buoyed this newfound offense for the Knickerbockers, but the real star has been the favorite to win Most Improved Player this season, Julius Randle.
Last night, Randle led the way for New York with 40 points on 11-of-21 shooting, but that was just one game in a dominant run for the seventh-year pro. Randle has averaged 28.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game on 44.4% shooting from the floor during this run. He has two 40-point games in his last four starts and he is shooting 40.8% from deep on 6.9 attempts per game. Randle has been such a key cog for Tom Thibodeau and New York that it would not be surprising to see him snatch a few MVP votes.
Speaking of Thibodeau, lest you think this run is all about some hot shooting, the Knickerbockers have the sixth-best defensive rating in the league over the course of this run (107.2). Thibs has put himself squarely in the race for Coach of the Year with this turnaround at Madison Square Garden.
In the big picture, it is hard to see New York maintaining this level of play on offense as we head into the postseason. However, it is not unrealistic to think the Knicks have a date with any one of the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference semifinals. This team has the ability to win a playoff series with the level of defensive play it puts on the floor every single night.
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
Philadelphia 76ers* at Milwaukee Bucks (-6, 227.5)
Three-and-a-half games separate Philadelphia from Milwaukee in the race for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, so if the Bucks are going to make a run at this it starts today. However, Milwaukee’s recent form has really put them behind the 8-ball.
Since March 26, the Bucks are 6-8 SU/5-9 ATS, but they have managed to post a + 1.8 net rating. The problem has been a defense that has been overwhelmingly average, giving up 111.7 points every 100 possessions. Their perimeter defense, which has been a problem all season long, has been downright ugly over the course of these 14 games. Milwaukee is giving up the third-most 3-point attempts of any team in the league, and opponents are shooting 39.5% on those shots. Philadelphia only takes 31.2% of its attempts from beyond the arc this season, but it shoots 37.6% from deep as a team, making the 76ers perfectly capable of exploiting Milwaukee from deep.
To be fair, it’s not like the 76ers are in perfect form. They are only 3-6-1 ATS since Joel Embiid returned from injury, but they are 6-4 SU which paints more of a picture of being overvalued rather than playing poor basketball. In fact, Milwaukee actually has a better net rating over the last 10 games (+ 4.8 for Milwaukee, + 3.4 for Philadelphia) and that is largely due to the 76ers' below-average offensive attack. Philly has managed just 111.0 points every 100 possessions since Embiid returned from injury, but it is likely their floor on offense is raised given Milwaukee's recent poor defensive play.
Injuries have played roles in the poor play for both teams recently, and those injuries could still impact this game today. Tobias Harris has missed three straight games with knee soreness, and Ben Simmons has missed the last two. Both are considered questionable to play today, and this game being on the second-leg of a back-to-back means there is a danger Embiid sits as well. On other hand, Giannis Antetokounmpo missed six consecutive games with his own knee injury, and he left the overtime loss to Phoenix with a toe cramp. Keep an eye on that injury report to see who will be on the floor for this one.
The Co-Main Event
Los Angeles Lakers at Dallas Mavericks* (-2, 217.5)
It looks like Anthony Davis will be making his return after missing 30 games with a calf injury. Bettors can likely assume a minutes restriction of some sort and that great news for a Dallas team that might be pretty thin in the frontcourt today. Maxi Kleber left their game on Wednesday with a back injury and Kristaps Porzingis has been regularly sitting out the second leg of back-to-backs. Davis’ minutes today could be largely successful if that is the case.
Keep in mind, the Lakers are not out of the woods with Davis back on the floor. When Davis is on but LeBron James is off the floor this season, the Lakers are outscored by 5.9 points every 100 possessions. Shockingly, their defense suffers immensely, giving up an 118.5 defensive rating in those minutes. Los Angeles has been playing a solid brand of defense since losing LeBron, so there is a chance that is improved, but this two seasons' worth of evidence that shows us the solo Davis minutes actually are not that effective.
The betting market has not really bought into the improvement Davis could bring though, and it has moved this number from Dallas -2 to -4 in a majority of shops. That is pretty surprising given that the Mavericks are in the midst of a 3-5 SU/0-8 ATS slide and could be pretty short-handed up front.
Charlotte Hornets at Chicago Bulls* (-3, 211.5)
Since losing both Gordon Hayward and Malik Monk to injury, the Hornets’ offense has fallen on some hard times. Charlotte is averaging just 108.5 points every 100 possessions while shooting just 36.2% on 38.3 3-point attempts per game, and as a result they have gone 3-6 SU/ATS. However, this is still a well-coached team and that showed up in wins over Oklahoma City, Milwaukee and Portland, so you can understand the market supporting them here in a spot against Chicago, which is 2-6 SU and ATS in its last eight games.
The Bulls have fallen apart defensively, giving up 115.9 points every 100 possessions to their opponents while only scoring 109.5 themselves during this eight-game slide. They have split the four games since losing Zach LaVine to health and safety protocols and their offensive rating is up to 111.5 but two games against Cleveland and a short-handed Boston team make up their opponents. It is likely those offensive numbers are somewhat fraudulent.
Phoenix Suns* (-7.5, 221.5) at Boston Celtics
It looks like Boston is going to be pretty short-handed today when they host Phoenix. Jaylen Brown is doubtful with a shoulder injury, Robert Williams and Evan Fournier have already been ruled out and Jayson Tatum is questionable. This season, when Brown and Tatum are not on the floor, the Celtics are outscored by 11.0 points every 100 possessions. Their offense manages just 104.3 points and their defensive rating jumps to 115.4, so seeing Phoenix as this big of a favorite on the road makes some more sense. However, 7.5 was pretty high even with the potential absences for Boston and the market has pushed this back down to 3.5 at most shops.
New Orleans Pelicans (-7.5, 225.5) at Orlando Magic
New Orleans comes in riding an 0-4 SU and ATS slide and over the course of this losing streak the team has been outscored by 6.1 points per 100 possessions. Yet, the betting market believes the Pelicans should not only be favored on the road, but the initial move has pushed this up to a nine-point spread at a majority of shops. What exactly has New Orleans shown us to be this respected?
The market made them a 2.5-point favorite at home against Brooklyn, a 1.5-point favorite in New York and a 3.5-point favorite at Washington. We’re really comfortable with this big of a number again on the road? Yes, the Orlando Magic are 2-9 SU/4-7 ATS in April with a -14.2 net rating, but this number seems pretty inflated ... which is not a surprise given how much the betting public has wildly overrated this Pelicans team.
Detroit Pistons at San Antonio Spurs* (-8, 220.5)
What is it going to take for this Pistons team to get some respect? Detroit is in the midst of a 5-1 ATS run and in the month of April they are 8-4 ATS. Sure, they have a -3.7 net rating this month, but are they really eight points worse than the San Antonio Spurs? San Antonio has been on a pretty successful run lately, going 4-4 SU/5-3 ATS over its previous eight games with a + 4.8 net rating, but they are coming off of a 20-point loss at home to Miami in which they managed just 0.978 points per possession.