While we were all captured by the national championship game between Gonzaga and Baylor, the Washington Wizards were embarrassing themselves. Washington led by as many as 19 points in the second half, but then missed 13 consecutive 3-pointers, which allowed Toronto to get back into the game. The Raptors were without both Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry, but it did not matter as they kept the under on their win total at bay with another win.
In other news, James Harden left after just four minutes in the Nets’ win over the Knicks on Monday. Harden was back after missing two games with the injury, but he aggravated it early and will likely be sidelined for the foreseeable future. My concession speech on the MVP race might be coming at some point this week.
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 (-1, 223) at Boston Celtics
Is there a chance that Boston has started to turn things around? The Celtics have won and covered their last two games, and in their last seven they have a 4-3 SU/5-2 ATS record. Their defense has started to show up: Boston allowed those seven opponents to average just 107.5 points every 100 possessions and as a result the team has + 8.5 net rating over this stretch. Their last two opponents were Houston and injury-riddled Charlotte, so it might be too quick to call this a real turnaround. However, a win over Joel Embiid and the 76ers would bring some credibility to this run.
Embiid sat out the 76ers’ loss to the Grizzlies to rest the knee that caused him to miss three weeks, but he is expected to play against the Celtics. With Embiid on the floor, the 76ers score 119.4 points every 100 possessions, so bettors can expect a better performance from their offense tonight. Philadelphia’s offense matches up well with Boston’s defense, which struggles against offenses with size on the interior. The Celtics allow opponents to shoot 65.6% at the rim and 43.8% from short mid-range this season. Embiid takes a majority of his attempts from short mid-range, and he should be able to find the flaws in a defense that lacks size.
Boston can do a lot well on offense though, and has the personnel to thrive against Philadelphia. The 76ers defense has been great inside, but they do allow opponents to take 27.6% of their 3-point attempts above the break. It has actually been a problem for Philadelphia, and the 76ers rank 28th in opponent 3-point shooting on non-corner attempts (38.7%). The Celtics take the ninth-most non-corner 3-point shots of any team in the league, and they shoot 37.5% as a team from that area of the floor. New addition Evan Fournier is 9-of-13 from deep in his last two games, and Boston has shot over 43% in each of its last two games. A hot shooting night could be in the cards for the home team again.
Keep an eye on the injury report here. Obviously, we want to make sure there is not a surprise Embiid appearance, but there is also the status of Tristan Thompson in question. Thompson is back from the league’s health and safety protocols, but has been held out for conditioning. He could be on the verge of a return and his size would help against Embiid.
The Co-Main Event
Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Clippers (-5, 226)
Los Angeles righted the ship with a comfortable win over its intra-city rival on Sunday, but Portland’s offense will present a much larger challenge. The Clippers’ offense has suddenly dried up, averaging just 103.9 points every 100 possessions over the last three contests, but a majority of that is due to poor shooting. The league’s best shooting team is hitting just 36.4% of its 3-point attempts, so we can expect some regression to the mean at some point. The biggest positive for Los Angeles is actually on defense, where they’ve allowed just 102.5 points every 100 possessions over these three games. If their shooting comes back online, and this defensive play remains the same, this seems like a great spot for the Clippers.
However, it is hard to assume Los Angeles will be able to maintain the defensive play given their opponent. Portland has the fourth-best offensive rating in the league (118.6) since acquiring Norm Powell, and it is 4-1 SU/3-2 ATS in those contests. Jusuf Nurkic will not play today, so their offense could take a hit tonight. Their defense remains an issue as well, specifically inside. Milwaukee exploited their interior with a 23-of-26 shooting night at the rim in a blowout victory. Los Angeles does not take many attempts at the rim, but they do shoot 66.8% within four feet. Hot shooting can make up for a bad defense, but relying on hot shooting every night is not sustainable.
Chicago Bulls at Indiana Pacers (-1.5, 224.5)
Chicago is coming off of its best performance since the trade deadline, and there seems to be some real positive momentum behind this team. The Bulls averaged 1.223 points per possession in a win on Saturday over the Nets, their highest individual game offensive rating since acquiring Nikola Vucevic. They have covered three straight and Zach LaVine is starting to build chemistry with his new pick-and-roll partner.
Domantas Sabonis did not participate in practice on Monday and is questionable to play. Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb could miss the game as well, so monitor the injury report throughout the day here. If Brogdon and Lamb play, this line could get back to Indiana, but if Sabonis is ruled out we can expect Chicago to close as the favorite.
New Orleans Pelicans at Atlanta Hawks (-3, 224.5)
The injury report is the star here yet again. Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram have missed several games now, and both are questionable to play tonight. There have been positive signs pointing to a return for Ingram as soon as tonight, so this will be worth monitoring obviously. Atlanta held New Orleans down a couple of nights ago, limiting them to just 1.01 points per possession in a 126-103 win. The market is moving in the direction of the Hawks here, probably due to the pessimism around the Pelicans’ injury report. The total is up 228.5, which is surprising given the level of offensive player that could missing in this contest.
Los Angeles Lakers at Toronto Raptors* (-2.5, 214.5)
Fred VanVleet missed the Raptors’ win over the Wizards yesterday, and Kyle Lowry is still recovering from a foot infection. It is not a surprise that the betting market has gone in the direction of Los Angeles, but that does not mean it is correct. Yesterday, the Raptors were six-point favorites over Washington without Bradley Beal, but they are an underdog to this Lakers team?
Los Angeles is 9-1 to the under in its past 10 games, and since losing LeBron James the Lakers are averaging just 99.7 points every 100 possessions. Still, they rank third in defensive efficiency over the same time frame, and this is likely why the total is down to 210 at almost every shop.
Memphis Grizzlies at Miami Heat (-4.5, 217.5)
Memphis has been a very streaky team this season, and comes into Tuesday riding a 6-3 SU/8-1 ATS wave. The Grizzlies have allowed just 108.4 points every 100 possessions during this run, and that should be able to continue against the Heat. Miami has won and covered four straight, but its 110.0 offensive rating is still below average. The Heat defense has won the day to this point, limiting their last four opponents to a staggering 101.3 offensive rating. With the way these two defenses have played the market deemed this total too high, and has dropped it to 216 at many shops around the country.
Detroit Pistons* at Denver Nuggets (-13.5, 219.5)
Since acquiring Aaron Gordon the Nuggets are 4-0 SU/3-1 ATS with a + 12.7 net rating. When Gordon is on the floor, Denver is + 25.2 per 100 possessions with a 103.0 defensive rating. The returns have been great for the Nuggets, but it is early. Is there a chance their power rating has become too high?
Detroit has been consistently undervalued this season, and this is the biggest number they have caught all season. Denver is clearly evolving into a potential title contender, but those who are laying 13.5 are buying at the top of the market with the Nuggets.
Milwaukee Bucks (-6.5, 234.5) at Golden State Warriors
Things seem to have bottomed out for Golden State. The Warriors are now 1-7 SU/ATS in their last eight games with a -12.8 net rating. Their offense is scoring just 105.1 points every 100 possessions, but Steph Curry has been missing time with his bruised tailbone. Once Curry makes his way on to the floor this team could start to even out on offense. Milwaukee has won its last three, but failed to cover without Giannis Antetokounmpo on the floor against Sacramento. The Bucks blew out the Trail Blazers last week because Portland had no answer on the interior for Giannis, and it doesn't seem like Golden State has the answer either.