The Los Angeles Lakers have problems.
With 6.2 seconds left in overtime last night, LeBron James took the ball down the floor, down three points. The second he reached the Staples Center logo he lifted and fired a brick that clanked off the iron and into the hands of Kyle Kuzma. Kuzma’s desperation 3-point attempt was off target, and the Lakers dropped their third straight game -- and fell to 1-4 SU and ATS over their last five games.
The problems run deeper for the Lakers, though. Since Jan. 25, Los Angeles is 9-6 SU/4-11 ATS with the 22nd-ranked offense in the league (109.3). Last night, the Lakers shot 15-of-43 from deep and over this 15-game slide, they are hitting a league-worst 30.9 percent of their 3-point attempts. Once Dennis Schroder returns from his COVID protocol absence, the Lakers figure to be better offensively, but he will not be back in time for a road game in Utah on Wednesday.
Health is a massive part of what has been hampering Los Angeles, so it is only fair to reserve judgement until this team gets put back together. But Anthony Davis is shooting just 29.8 percent from deep on the season, and Schroder 31.1 percent. When they come back, how much do they really improve the shooting issues that could ultimately hold this team back from winning a title?
Here are my daily previews of every NBA game:
Updated injury reports can be found here.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
The Main Event
Philadelphia 76ers (-2, 223.5) at Toronto Raptors
Look out world, the Raptors are hot and looking more and more like the team that pushed Boston to seven games in the East semifinals last summer. Toronto, coming off of a win over Philadelphia on Sunday, is now 9-3 SU and ATS in its last 12 games with the fifth-best net rating in the league over that stretch (+ 6.6). Their defense, which ranks 12th on the season (111.4), is starting to flex its muscles a well. Over their last four games they have faced Milwaukee twice, Minnesota and Philadelphia, and allowed just 100.8 points every 100 possessions. That defense took advantage of the 76ers’ average offense on Saturday, limiting them to just 1.096 points per possession in the win. The Raptors excelled along the perimeter, allowing the 76ers to shoot just 11-of-36 from deep, and that will likely be a point of emphasis in the rematch today.
Philadelphia is going through a lull in its schedule, posting a 2-3 SU/1-4 ATS record in its last five games. At the center of its issues has been a defense that has declined, allowing 116.6 points every 100 possessions. Opponents have exploited Philadelphia from the perimeter, a weakness that has been there all season. The 76ers rank 19th in opponent 3-point shooting on the season (37.8%) and 27th in non-corner 3-point shooting (38.9%). Seven of their previous 10 opponents have shot 39.4% or higher from deep, and that includes Toronto which went 13-of-33 over the weekend. The Raptors live on the perimeter on offense, taking 41.2 percent of attempts from deep while shooting 38.3% as a team -- that is not an area of the floor you want to struggle in defensively against this team.
On Saturday the market backed Philadelphia, as the 76ers closed as three-point favorites in a game they would eventually lose. Today, the market opened at Philadelphia -2 and we have seen support for Toronto early. The Raptors are finally starting to see their power rating improve, but is it enough? Toronto seems to be a solid matchup for Philadelphia, and I would not be surprised to see this move toward Raptors -1 as we approach tip-off. The total has dipped as well here. The first game was bet under, closing at 222.5, and it went under. We’ve seen the same movement here and are already at 222 in most shops.
The Co-Main Event
Boston Celtics at Dallas Mavericks* (-3, 230.5)
The extra practice time for Dallas this week seemed to help, as the Mavericks opened up a double-digit lead over the Grizzlies after the first quarter of play and never looked back in a 102-92 win. Now, they bounce right back to play host a Celtics team that is having legitimate road struggles.
After blowing the lead in New Orleans and losing in overtime, the Celtics fell to 7-10 SU/6-11 ATS on the road this season. Boston has dropped four straight road games, and is in the midst of a 3-6 SU and ATS slide in which they’ve been outscored by two points every 100 possessions. Defensively, the Celtics have been fine during this run, allowing just 111.2 points per 100 possessions. The problem has been a below-average offense that has managed just 109.2 points every 100 possessions, the 22nd-ranked offense over that nine-game stretch. Dallas held Memphis to just 0.92 points per possession last night, but some of that can be attested to a poor shooting night. Boston has a tendency to get stagnant on offense, relying on its stars to create open looks. That can work against a bad defense, which Dallas still is, regardless of practice time.
Sacramento Kings at Brooklyn Nets (-7, 243.5)
After a successful West Coast road trip, the Nets return home to host one of the teams they bested just a week ago. Bettors should monitor the injury report here, because some key role players for Brooklyn are banged up. Jeff Green and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot are both questionable tonight, and both are very important to Brooklyn’s success. With Green at center, the Nets have a 8.9 net rating and an offensive rating of 127.5, which ranks in the 100th percentile among qualified lineups. TLC is a solid shooter, hitting 39.5 percent of his 3-point attempts this season, and he has been fantastic alongside Harden.
The market has moved against Brooklyn here, which is a surprise given the 6-0 SU and ATS run this team is currently on. Sacramento has failed to cover its last seven games, and over this losing streak they have been outscored by 9.9 points every 100 possessions.
Atlanta Hawks (-7, 229.5) at Cleveland Cavaliers
Has the time come to bet on Cleveland? The Cavaliers are 1-12 SU/0-13 ATS in their last 13 games, and they have shown zero signs of improvement. Over those 13 games Cleveland has a -18.6 net rating, which is 12.6 points worse than the team that is ahead of them! They are giving up a league-worst 121.5 points every 100 possessions, something Atlanta could take advantage of. The Hawks have been struggling somewhat, going 2-5 SU/3-4 ATS in their last seven games, but that has largely been due to a defense that has allowed 120.5 points every 100 possessions. Offensively, Atlanta has been more consistent, ranking ninth in offensive efficiency during this small slide (116.0). Even if Cleveland can exploit that poor defense, the Cavs have shown nothing defensively that would make one think they can stay within this number, as inflated as it is.
Detroit Pistons at Orlando Magic (-2.5, 208.5)
Every dog has its day, but in the case of Orlando it has been 12 days! The Magic are in the midst of a three-game winning streak, and over the past 12 days they are 3-2 SU/4-1 ATS with wins over the Knicks and Warriors. Orlando has turned things around on defense, limiting opponents to 104.2 points per 100 possessions during this run. It helps that four of their opponents rank 18th or lower in offensive efficiency, but that remains the same tonight against the Pistons. Detroit is 23rd in offense for the season, and over the last three games its offense has tanked to average just 97.7 points every 100 possessions. This number has been bet up in favor of Orlando, but Detroit has really shown no reason for bettors to back it lately.
Golden State Warriors (-1.5, 215.5) at New York Knicks
Despite a rough start to the Warriors’ East Coast road trip, the betting market is supporting them tonight. Golden State is up a to a three-point favorite at most shops despite a mostly clean injury report for New York and a 10-8 SU/12-6 ATS run over the previous 18 games. The Knickerbockers lead the league in defensive efficiency since Jan. 17 and the Warriors come in with the 18th-ranked offense (110.3), a mismatch on paper. However, Golden State could be getting some reinforcements today, as both James Wiseman and Kevon Looney look to be on the verge of a return to action.
Minnesota Timberwolves at Milwaukee Bucks (-11.5, 229.5)
With two consecutive wins and covers against inferior competition, Milwaukee has stopped the bleeding that came from a 0-5 SU and ATS slide last week. Tonight, the Bucks get another one of those inferior opponents in the Timberwolves, who are 1-8 SU in their last nine and 0-4 ATS in their last four. Does Minnesota have what it takes exploit the weaknesses of Milwaukee?
The Timberwolves rank 22nd in 3-point shooting (35.7 percent), and 28th in opponent fastbreak efficiency (133.6). Those are two areas a team should excel in to compete with Milwaukee. The Bucks still do not have Jrue Holiday back from his bout with COVID, but a matchup like this is one in which they can get away with his absence. Does a new coaching staff in Minnesota mean immediate change? Bettors will have to wait and see.
Portland Trail Blazers* at Denver Nuggets (-7.5, 231.5)
Portland got run over by the freight train that is Phoenix last night, and now must try to take advantage of a Denver team limping through rough stretch of basketball. The Nuggets are 4-6 SU/3-7 ATS in February with a defense that is giving up 114.0 points every 100 possessions. Gary Harris, Paul Millsap and JaMychal Green have all been ruled tonight as well, causing this line to move toward the Blazers. Portland may have been trucked last night, but against a team with the issues along the perimeter like Denver there is no way the Blazers should be catching as many points as they were at the open. Due to both teams’ defensive issues, bettors hammered this total to move it up to 232 at most shops, the third-highest total on the board tonight.
Washington Wizards* at Los Angeles Clippers (-10, 234.5)
The Wizards have won and covered five straight, so it might surprise some to see such a large number here against the Clippers. However, this number is correct. Los Angeles figures to be at full strength yet again, with no one appearing on the morning injury report. The Clippers took out Utah on Friday and stormed back only to lose on the final possession in Brooklyn. Los Angeles is a quality team that has pushed some of the best in the league when they are fully healthy, and they are power rated as such.