I bet you clicked on this link thinking I would open the piece talking about the Charlotte Hornets … well, you would be wrong. Who cares if Charlotte is 10-8 SU/13-5 ATS in its last 18 games after inexplicably closing as an underdog at home to a Houston team without three starters? Who cares that over that stretch they have the ninth-best net rating in the league? Not me!
In the immortal words of Epidemic, “I tried to tell ‘em.”
I actually want to open with the Milwaukee Bucks, because yesterday I did something I think is very important for handicappers in any sport: I admitted I was wrong.
Two weeks ago, I wrote in this very column about the struggling Bucks defense, and the perimeter D that was allowing over 40 percent shooting to opponents. I took my shot by taking Indiana + 8.5 in what would be a massacre. I watched as Milwaukee bludgeoned Portland and Cleveland (twice), and researched more about the Bucks. That research led to me to alter my perception of the Bucks, and I laid four points yesterday with Milwaukee against Denver.
The willingness to admit I was wrong, research why and subsequently play on my newfound angle led to a winner last night. I always try to learn something on a daily basis. Consistently improving as a handicapper is something we should strive to do, and I believe I have done that here.
What are we going to learn today? Let’s find out together. Here are my betting game notes for Tuesday.
Note: * indicates that team is on second leg of a back-to-back.
Updated injury reports can be found here.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
Houston Rockets* at New Orleans Pelicans (-5, 224.5)
The betting market is funny. Yesterday, the market thought that Houston was good enough to be favored on the road over Charlotte without Christian Wood, John Wall and Eric Gordon. Today, despite the fact that Wall and Gordon will be back on the floor, the betting market believes the Rockets are 5.5 points worse than New Orleans and only have a 32.8 percent chance to win this game. That seems somewhat incorrect to me, especially when you consider Houston was in this very building 10 days ago as a two-point underdog for a game it eventually won.
Is the combo of Chris Wood and Victor Oladipo, who played in that game but will not here, worth that much? Odd when the trio of Wood, Wall and Gordon missing the game meant only a 1.5-point adjustment yesterday, but Oladipo and Wood mean 3.5 points in this one.
The Pelicans have won and covered three straight, outscoring their opponents by 11.2 points every 100 possessions. New Orleans’ offense has taken off through these three games, averaging 124.1 points every 100 possessions and shooting 46.2 percent on 30.3 3-point attempts per game. Is that sustainable for the 19th-ranked shooting offense? Can they keep that going against the seventh-ranked perimeter defense?
It looks like the market is back in on supporting New Orleans, making it a potential play-against team going forward. This Pelicans team had burned the market throughout the season, and when it turned its back on New Orleans, it started ripping off wins and covers. Keep an eye on the Pelicans’ ATS results over the next week. We will see if my theory is correct.
Boston Celtics at Utah Jazz (-4, 220.5)
During Utah’s brief three-game road trip I took my shot, taking 8.5 points with Charlotte, but it went down in flames as the Jazz blew them out 138-121 after a slow start. They took care of business against Indiana on Sunday as well, but I am still looking for my opportunity to play against them.
Utah is 17-3 SU/16-4 ATS since the beginning of January with the second-best net rating in the league over that stretch (+ 9.7). The Jazz are fourth in offense (116.7) and third in defense (107.0), so why try to get in front of this train? The market has adjusted its perception of this team, and as the wins and covers come in the power rating continue to grow. We saw that in the numbers they laid in Denver, Detroit and Atlanta last week.
The market undervalued this Celtics team on Friday when the beat the Clippers, and I believe they’re doing again here. Part of this number is due to the questionable status of Jaylen Brown tonight, so watch the injury reports today.
Brooklyn Nets (-6.5, 232.5) at Detroit Pistons
There will be no Kevin Durant tonight for Brooklyn, but it seems Kyrie Irving will be available. The Nets have lost two straight due mostly to personnel issues, as opposed to performance issues. On Friday night they faced Toronto with Kevin Durant being ruled out, then in and then back out due to COVID protocol. On Saturday, they faced Philadelphia on the road without Durant and Irving. Tonight, with a more stable roster situation, they are in much better shape.
Offensively, the duo of Harden and Irving have been pretty electric. With those two on the floor, and Durant off the Nets have averaged an astounding 1.301 points per possession. Naturally, the defense has struggled with those lineups and Brooklyn has outscored opponents by just 1.1 points every 100 possessions despite an insane offensive output. Detroit averaged just 1.007 points per possession during this west coast trip they just completed, so if Brooklyn has some trouble here on defense they have some big problems. It will be interesting to see how they defend a bad Pistons offense.
New York Knicks at Miami Heat (-7, 208.5)
The betting markets has belief in this Heat team, as they are now essentially at full strength, and today will be a test of that theory. Miami has been laying six or more points in each of its five games since Jimmy Butler returned, but is 1-3-1 ATS in those contests. To me, that shows the betting market has been somewhat quick to believe in a team that is 7-12 SU/5-14 ATS since the beginning of January. The problem, and why I am hesitant to back New York here, is the Knicks’ sudden defensive lapse over the past two weeks. Since Jan. 24, the Knickerbockers own a 112.5 defensive rating, 17th-best in the league over that time. New York is still fourth in defensive efficiency, so this could just be an anomaly over a short sample size, but Miami did average 1.172 per possession on Sunday.
Golden State Warriors* at San Antonio Spurs* (-1.5, 233)
San Antonio exacted revenge for a 121-99 loss at Golden State by beating the Warriors last night 105-100 at home. Now, they run it back 24 hours later, and there is something troubling me about the Spurs in this series. San Antonio has played two games with Golden State, and while they have split the two games there has been a constant for the Spurs: They cannot score.
Last night San Antonio managed just 1.029 points per possession, and in the blowout loss their offensive rating was 0.944 points per possession; that averages out to less than a point per possession in two games, which is troubling. The Warriors might have struggled last night, but they have shown they can have success against this defense. Is Golden State doing something on defense that is limiting San Antonio through two meetings this season? Given the success the Warriors have had defensively, and the situation tonight, this seems like a solid bounce-back for Golden State.
Orlando Magic at Portland Trail Blazers (-6, 221)
Injuries continue to ravage the Magic roster, and tonight is no different as Evan Fournier will sit with back spasms he has been dealing with all season. It is why we see a short-handed Trail Blazers team laying six points despite the fact that they are 5-5 SU and ATS with a -3.5 net rating since losing CJ McCollum. Damian Lillard is back on the floor tonight, and to give Portland credit, its offense continues to perform well. They have posted the negative net rating over these 10 games, but it is due to a defense that is allowing 117.8 points every 100 possessions. The Blazers still rank 11th in offensive rating since the McCollum injury. This is clearly an inflated number due to the injuries for Orlando, but they are capable of a surprise. Just look at Friday, where they handed the Bulls a loss before getting smacked the next night in a back-to-back.
Philadelphia 76ers (-4.5, 230.5) at Sacramento Kings
The Kings come into this home game as the hottest team in the league. They are 7-1 SU/8-0 ATS in their last eight games with a + 5.2 net rating. Their offense has been great all season long, and it has been no different over this run, as they rank ninth in offensive efficiency (116.0). How it stacks up against Philadelphia’s sixth-ranked defense (109.5) will be key to the Kings maintaining this current run. One has to wonder if the market has caught up with them, though. Over the weekend the short-handed Clippers were 8-point favorites at home against this Kings team. Home court means next to nothing this season, so we’re talking about a seven-point difference on a neutral with that number. Now they’re catching only 4.5 at home against Philadelphia, a team on par with a full-strength Clippers team, let alone the banged-up one the Kings faced over the weekend. Keep that in mind tonight.