Despite having three starters sitting in street clothes, the Los Angeles Clippers took care of business on Tuesday night against the Indiana Pacers and won their fifth consecutive game. Los Angeles is now 14-4 SU/13-5 ATS since the All-Star break with a league-best 119.4 offensive rating and its defense has improved tremendously.
The Clippers have allowed their opponents to score just 109.4 points every 100 possessions over this 18-game run, and last night the Pacers managed just 1.066 points per possession despite Kawhi Leonard not being on the floor. Eighteen games is not a massive sample size, but the defensive play we have seen from Los Angeles is more like the team many of us expected heading into this season.
If this turnaround is legitimate for the Clippers, their path to a Western Conference title is very realistic. The Denver Nuggets got worse with the injury to Jamal Murray, the Clippers are 2-0 SU against the Phoenix Suns and the Utah Jazz have no real wing defender to handle the likes of Leonard. The real roadblock for this team is a Lakers squad, which they are 4-2 against over the last two seasons.
Dare I say that the Los Angeles Clippers should be the favorite to win the Western Conference?
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
Dallas Mavericks (-2, 227) at Memphis Grizzlies
There is only a month left in the regular season and just 1.5 games separate these two teams in the Western Conference standings, making this a massive game in the race for these franchises in the play-in spots. Dallas is 1-3 SU and ATS in its last four games and two of those losses (to Houston and San Antonio) are flat-out inexcusable if you fancy yourself a contender. The Mavericks’ offense, specifically their shooting, has fallen off during this slide. They are averaging just 1.091 points per possession while hitting just 33.6% of their 3-point attempts. Their perimeter-oriented offense should be a good matchup for Memphis, which allows opponents to take 37.4% of their attempts from beyond the arc.
The Co-Main Event
New York Knicks at New Orleans Pelicans (-3, 220.5)
There are not many teams playing better than New York right now. The Knickerbockers extended their cover streak to six when they handled the Lakers on Monday night, and over this run they have outscored their opponents by 11.3 points every 100 possessions. Their offense has been surprisingly effective, and tonight they get another exploitable defense in New Orleans.
The Pelicans have righted the ship with three straight wins and a 2-1 ATS record. They might have a 99.7 defensive rating during this run, but that figures to be an anomaly for a team that is 27th in defensive efficiency (116.3) in non-garbage time minutes. The matchup to watch here will be Zion Williamson against a frontcourt that allows opponents to take 35.9% of their attempts within four feet of the hoop.
Los Angeles Clippers* (-10.5, 221.5) at Detroit Pistons
Los Angeles is extremely short-handed tonight, which is why bettors have seen this line drop down to where it has. Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka and Patrick Beverley will all miss the game with various injuries and they must face a Pistons team that is in the midst of a surge on offense. Detroit has averaged 114.0 points per 100 possessions since the beginning of April and they are 4-3 ATS as a result. Will the Clippers be able to defend adequately without four of their top five players on the court?
Milwaukee Bucks (-9, 236.5) at Minnesota Timberwolves*
Giannis Antetokounmpo is questionable to play today, but did go through practice on Tuesday -- a positive sign for his availability. The Bucks might have dominated Orlando last time out, but they gave up a 118.1 defensive rating in the three games prior to that win. If Giannis can't play, the Timberwolves might be pretty live here. Minnesota has the 10th-best offense in the league since the start of April and it could take advantage of a subpar defense without its best defender.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Charlotte Hornets* (-4, 212.5)
The starting backcourt for Cleveland is in question today, which makes this a brutal handicap preflop. Darius Garland and Collin Sexton are questionable to play tonight, and when those two are off the court the Cavaliers are outscored by 8.5 points every 100 possessions and have an offensive rating of 101.4 on the season. Charlotte will get Terry Rozier back tonight but won't have PJ Washington. If the Cavaliers are short-handed, expect this number to get higher than 5.5 tonight.
Brooklyn Nets* at Philadelphia 76ers (-5.5, 231.5)
This game could have carried some real weight in the race for the top overall seed, but it seems Brooklyn is willing to give up that position. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden will all miss this game tonight and role players Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tyler Johnson and Chris Chiozza will be absent as well. Who in the world is even playing this game tonight? The 76ers will more than likely win, but will they cover a line that is inflating more and more by the moment?
San Antonio Spurs (-2, 222.5) at Toronto Raptors*
Toronto is 3-8 SU/2-9 ATS in its last 11 games and tonight the Raptors are extremely short-handed. Kyle Lowry, Gary Trent Jr. and Fred VanVleet will all miss the game, and as a result a Spurs team that is 2-1 SU/3-0 ATS run is up to 5.5-point favorite on the road. San Antonio has scored 122.2 points per 100 possessions during this win streak, but that is unlikely to sustain itself as the Spurs rank 19th in offensive efficiency on the season.
Orlando Magic at Chicago Bulls (-9.5, 221.5)
Chicago has dropped its last three games and its offense has been nonexistent. Over those three games, the Bulls are averaging just 1.054 points per possession while posting a -9.8 net rating. Their offense has been much worse than I expected, but the power rating on Orlando is so low this team is laying nearly 10 points tonight. Chuma Okeke is questionable to play again, and Mo Bamba is in danger of missing this contest as well. However, this might be a number too high for a team that has allowed its last three opponents to score 115.2 points every 100 possessions.