Over the last few weeks, injuries to star players have started to pile up in the NBA, and last night we got another one. In the waning seconds of the fourth quarter, Jamal Murray planted his leg, and as he pushed off his knee buckled under his weight and he went to the ground writhing in pain. Reports this morning confirmed the worst: Murray tore his ACL and his season is over.
The blow is obviously massive for the Nuggets, a team that had been peaking at the right time. Murray is a vital piece to this team’s championship potential, and without him their chances to win a title are severely hampered. SuperBook Sports adjusted Denver’s title odds down to 100-1 today after they were 14-1 just yesterday. That might seem extreme, but the numbers bear out a bleak picture for the Nuggets.
When Murray is off the floor, Denver is outscored by 0.5 points every 100 possessions. Yes, they have the odds-on favorite to win MVP in Nikola Jokic, but his presence does not do much. In fact, with him on the floor and Murray off the Nuggets’ net rating worsens to -2.4 per 100 possessions! The true form of Denver without Murray is likely somewhere in the middle of those two figures, but there is no doubt in my mind they need Murray to win a title.
Updated injury reports can be found here.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
*Indicates team is on second leg of a back-to-back
The Main Event
Miami Heat at Phoenix Suns* (-3.5, 215)
The Eastern Conference better be on high alert, because the reigning champs are starting to figure things out. Miami comes into this game with Phoenix tonight on a 6-1 SU/5-2 ATS run, during which they have outscored their opponents by 5.7 points every 100 possessions. Their defensive rating of 106.3 is the sixth-best rating in the league over that stretch and this team has shown no signs of letting up anytime soon. On Sunday, they limited the Trail Blazers’ fifth-ranked offense to just 1.043 points per possession, and tonight they get another crack at a top-10 offense.
Phoenix comes into Tuesday night ranked seventh in offensive efficiency (116.8) and that unit has been operating at a very high level lately. Over the last eight games, the Suns have been scoring 122.3 points every 100 possessions! To be fair, only two of their eight opponents rank higher than 18th in defensive efficiency and the two legitimate defenses they faced they managed just 1.10 points per possession. Are they going to be able to operate at a high level against Miami? The Heat give up the third-fewest mid-range attempts of any team in the league and rank 13th in opponent mid-range shooting (41.8%). Phoenix generates a majority of its offense from that area of the floor, so they will have to crack another great defense to have success tonight.
Miami is not the only good defense on the floor tonight, though. The Suns have the fifth-ranked defense in the league, and since the All-Star break they have allowed just 109.7 points per 100 possessions. The Heat may have strung some wins together, but their offense still has not found consistency. Over their current seven-game run, they are averaging just 111.9 points every 100 possessions while shooting just 36.1% from deep. Those mediocre shooting numbers will likely continue against Phoenix’s sixth-ranked perimeter defense, but the Heat could find some success inside. The Suns rank 16th in opponent rim frequency (33.6%) and they allow them to hoot 64.2% within four feet of the basket. Miami is the best rim shooting team in the league and will surely be able to find some success in the restricted area of the floor.
The Co-Main Event
Boston Celtics at Portland Trail Blazers (-1.5, 227)
There might be something to this turnaround for Boston. Over the last 11 games, the Celtics are 7-4 SU/6-4-1 ATS with a + 7.0 net rating. Their defense has finally started to show consistency, and opponents have scored just 107.6 points every 100 possessions over this run. That defense will need to show itself again when they face a Portland offense that has the seventh-best offense in the league since acquiring Norm Powell at the trade deadline.
The intriguing matchup here is going to be the Celtics’ offense against the Trail Blazers’ defense. Portland is notoriously poor inside, allowing the second-most attempts within four feet of the basket and ranking 23rd in opponent rim shooting (65.3%). However, Boston is not an offense that regularly attacks opponents inside, as it only ranks 23rd in frequency of attempts at the rim. We can probably expect more of an aggressive offense from the Celtics tonight against an opportunistic defense like this one.
This is a really important game for both teams. Boston clinches the under on its win total with a loss, and Portland is trying to break out of a 2-4 SU/ATS slump. This slide has put the Trail Blazers 1.5 games behind the Lakers in the Western Conference, and they are just two games ahead of the Mavericks for the first play-in spot. If Portland can't figure out its issues, then it could find itself in the play-in tournament for the second consecutive season.
Los Angeles Clippers (-2, 229.5) at Indiana Pacers
Los Angeles will be short-handed yet again today, as Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley and Serge Ibaka will all sit with various injuries. The absences threaten to cut short a 13-4 SU/12-5 ATS run that this team has been on since the All-Star break. Leonard sitting is obviously the biggest blow here. When he is off the floor, the Clippers are only outscoring opponents by 0.5 points every 100 possessions due to an offense that scores 10.6 points fewer every 100 possessions without him. Indiana has started to turn things around a bit with a 4-1 SU/3-2 ATS run over the last five games, but the schedule has not exactly been challenging with contests against Memphis, Orlando, Minnesota, Chicago and San Antonio. How much should we buy into the turnaround?
Atlanta Hawks at Toronto Raptors (-2.5, 221.5)
Injuries are the story here, and that makes this game nearly impossible to handicap this early in the day. The impactful name here is Trae Young, who is questionable to play tonight. When the morning injury reports revealed Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet would not play, the market shifted to Atlanta on the road, but if Young can't play expect this to make its way back to a pick. With Young off the floor this season, the Hawks are outscored by 4.3 points every 100 possessions and their offense manages just 1007.9 points. Add that to injuries to Danilo Gallinari, Tony Snell, John Collins, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, and it makes this game easy to scratch off.
Los Angeles Lakers* (-1, 213.5) at Charlotte Hornets
It is a lengthy injury report for Charlotte today, and that is why we see Los Angeles as a road favorite. Terry Rozier is doubtful to play with tendinitis in his left knee and P.J. Washington is out with an ankle sprain. Remember, the Hornets are already missing LaMelo Ball, Malik Monk and Gordon Hayward! How in the world do they overcome these cluster injuries tonight?
Los Angeles took a loss in New York last night, but the Lakers have really picked up their shooting over the last four games. Andre Drummond is questionable to play, but as long as Wes Matthews and Kyle Kuzma are available to play, this Lakers team will have an opportunity to stay afloat as they wait for their stars to return.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz* (-17.5, 223.5)
Lou Dort is back in the fold for Oklahoma City, but this team is still 1-9 SU/ATS in its last 10 games with a -20.5 net rating. Do bettors really trust them even with such an inflated number? Aleksej Pokusevski is not going to play tonight as well, which is a massive blow for this team on offense. Remember last month the Jazz closed as a 19.5-point favorite over the Rockets and failed to cover that number. There is no value in swallowing this many points, but do you really want to sweat out the Thunder?