Congratulations to the Houston Rockets!
John Wall dropped a triple double(19 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists), and Jae’Sean Tate combined with Sterling Brown for 42 points as the Rockets snapped an 0-20 SU/2-18 ATS slide with a 117-99 win over Toronto. It was great to see the relief on the faces of Houston's players and staff, but this is a cold world and we have to move on to the real story here: The Toronto Raptors.
Rumors have been everywhere about the Raptors. Miami and Philadelphia are reportedly the favorites to land Kyle Lowry prior to Thursday’s trade deadline, but other reports have stated the team has no interest in moving the longtime point guard. Norm Powell, in the midst of a fantastic season, is also allegedly on the block. The loss drops the Raptors to 0-9 SU/3-6 ATS in their last nine games, and one would assume, moves them closer to selling off its best assets. If those moves are made Toronto could becomes one of the lowest power-rated teams in the league, but it is clear the market is not there yet as currently constructed.
Updated injury reports can be found here.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
*Indicates team is on the second-leg of a back-to-back
The Main Event
Phoenix Suns at Miami Heat (-1, 218)
After using an 11-1 SU/9-3 ATS run to thrust themselves back into contention, the Heat have fallen back down to Earth. Miami enters Tuesday’s meeting with Phoenix on an 0-3 SU/ATS slide, and its offense has been nowhere to be found. Over this three-game slide, they have averaged just 100.7 points every 100 possessions, shot 40.3% from the floor and 24.8% from beyond the arc. The shooting woes have plagued the Heat all season long, and this particular slump stretches over the previous 10 games in which they have hit just 29.5% of their 36.6 3-point attempts per game. Bettors should not expect the shooting to correct itself tonight against the Suns’ third-ranked perimeter defense (34.9% on 3-pointers allowed), but if the Heat can get some consistent pressure at the rim they might be able to turn in a decent offensive performance.
Miami struggles in most areas on the floor offensively, but it ranks second in rim shooting this season (69.0%). Over this three-game slide, the Heat have taken 93 attempts within four feet of the basket, showing an ability to get inside regularly against their opponents. The problem is that they have shot a combined 52-of-93 (55.9%), which is an extremely poor rate for shots at the rim. This will be a massive factor tonight, as the one weakness Phoenix seemingly has on defense is inside. The Suns allow opponents to take 33.3% of their attempts at the basket (and they shoot 64.5% when they get there).
On the surface, it looks like the attempts at the rim will be there for Miami, and if they are we have a season’s worth of data to show us their shooting at basket will regress to the mean. There are two teams on the court though, and the Heat are going to have to deal with a Suns offense that has been as consistent as any in the league.
Phoenix’s offense is mostly generated through the mid-range area of the floor. They take 34.6% of their attempts from there, and lead the league with a 48.9 field goal percentage on mid-range shots. Their two best players, Chris Paul and Devin Booker, take a majority of their attempts from mid-range and both shoot over 50% on those shot attempts. How this offense operates against Miami, which ranks fourth in frequency of mid-range attempts allowed (26.2%) and fifth in opponent mid-range shooting (40.4%), is the matchup to watch.
The area that is available to exploit for Phoenix is the corners. The Heat give up the second-most corner 3-point attempts in the league, and they allow 38.6% shooting from there. That is music to the Suns’ ears, as they take the fourth-most corner 3-pointers as a team and shoot 45.5% from that area of the floor.
The Co-Main Event
Brooklyn Nets at Portland Trail Blazers (-1.5, 236.5)
This game has the potential to be the best one on the board tonight, but injury concerns have knocked it down to our co-main event. Kyrie Irving is not with Brooklyn on this road trip as he deals with family matters, Kevin Durant remains sidelined with his hamstring injury and James Harden is questionable with a neck injury. If Harden can't go. then it would be the Bruce Brown show at point guard for the Nets -- which might not be great. According to Cleaning The Glass, Brooklyn is outscored by 10.3 points every 100 possessions without their three stars on the floor. Throw Harden on the floor and that net rating improves to + 5.3 per 100 possessions. Harden’s presence also allows Brooklyn to exploit Portland’s weak defense even more effectively.
The Trail Blazers are one of the worst interior defenses in the league. They allow the fourth-most attempts at the rim, and the sixth-most corner 3-point attempts. Opponents shoot 64.3% and 46.2% from those areas of the floor respectively, and those weaknesses showed up in a big way against Dallas over the weekend. The Mavericks, a team that ranks 25th in frequency of rim attempts, took a total of 40 attempts in non-garbage time minutes, shot 80.0% within four feet and scored 90 points in the paint in their two-game set. If Harden plays, it is hard to see Portland keeping Brooklyn out of the painted area of the floor.
I believe Brooklyn matches up very well with Portland. Even on defense, the Nets’ "switch everything" defense has allowed them to limit opponents to just 36.8% from beyond the arc. They do rank in the bottom of the league in both rim defense and mid-range defense, but those are two areas of the floor the Trail Blazers generally stay away from on offense. However, this is all dependent on the presence of Harden. If he plays, the Nets are perfectly capable of extending the 2-6 ATS slide the Blazers find themselves on.
Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans (-6, 222)
Offense is something that will be hard to come by in the foreseeable future for Los Angeles, but playing New Orleans raises the floor of any offense. In their first game since LeBron James injured his ankle, the Lakers were held to just 0.958 points per possession by the Suns. They shot a combined 23-of-54 (42.6%) at the rim and from deep and were limited to 0.789 points per play in the halfcourt. However, that was against one of the best defensive teams in the league. Against the Pelicans, which rank 27th in rim defense (66.9%), and 29th in both perimeter (39.2%) and half-court defense (102.1), there is a chance we see a better offensive performance from this version of the Lakers.
Defensively, Los Angeles will have to keep New Orleans out of the paint, but if its game against Phoenix is an indicator, that will be easier said than done. The Suns went 27-of-40 (67.5%) inside 14 feet on Sunday and that led to 52 points in the paint. Marc Gasol will likely miss this game tonight, which means a rotation of Markieff Morris and Montrezl Harrell at center for the Lakers, neither of which is a classic rim protector.
If the Lakers can’t keep the Pelicans out of the paint, can they score enough to stay within this number?
Denver Nuggets (-7.5, 218) at Orlando Magic
The last time we saw the Nuggets was over the weekend when they took a loss at home to New Orleans as 6.5-point favorites. The Pelicans were a pesky matchup for Denver because of their ability to pepper the 30th-ranked rim defense with shot attempts; Orlando does not necessarily have that ability.
The Magic have averaged just 102.1 points per 100 possessions over their past six games, and on the season they take the fewest attempts at the rim while shooting the seventh-lowest percentage within four feet (60.8%). It is unlikely they will be able to exploit the weakness of Denver, so the onus is on their defense to hold down one of the most efficient offenses in the league. The Nuggets come in as the sixth-best shooting team in the league (39.1%), and they face a defense that gives up the fifth-most 3-pointers. Orlando gives up the sixth-fewest shots at the rim, but rank 26th in opponent shooting within four feet (66.4%). Denver hits 67.3% of their attempts at the rim, giving them another area to work on offense.
The Magic might be 6-3 ATS in March, but the numbers do not paint a pretty picture for them today against the Nuggets.
Washington Wizards at New York Knicks (-2, 225.5)
Over the last three games, New York has been limited to just 1.003 points per possession but taking on Washington’s inconsistent defense could be just what the doctor ordered.
Since the beginning of March, the Wizards are allowing 115.3 points every 100 possessions, the 25th-ranked defense in the league over that time. In fact, Washington has allowed at least 110 points in 17 straight games! Their defense has been consistently bad, but their offense has been consistently inconsistent. The Wizards went out and averaged 1.213 points per possession against the Jazz in a win last week, but could only muster 1.116 per possession against Brooklyn on Sunday. The Knicks have not allowed more than 1.042 points per possessions to four of their six opponents since the All-Star break, but both Milwaukee and Brooklyn cooked them for offensive ratings of 1.294 and 1.219 respectively. Will that defense show up here against the Wizards?
Philadelphia 76ers (-3, 216.5) at Golden State Warriors
What Philadelphia has been able to do on defense since losing Joel Embiid has been downright incredible. The 76ers have allowed just 98.8 points every 100 possessions over their last five games, and that has led to a 4-1 SU/3-1-1 ATS record and a + 11.0 net rating. That is absolutely insane. Now, they get a Golden State team that will not have Steph Curry on the floor. The Warriors score just 96.6 points every 100 possession without Curry on the floor, and that surely plays into the hands of Philadelphia. However, the 76ers are scoring just 109.9 points every 100 possessions during this five game run. Against a top defense like Golden State, will they be able to score efficiently?