A hearty congratulations to the Oklahoma City Thunder, as they snapped a 14-game losing streak last night with a win in Boston. The victory was Oklahoma City’s 21st on the season and they are now just two wins away from surpassing their win total. Two wins might not seem like much, but when a team is 1-14 through a stretch of 15 games doubt begins to creep into the mind just a bit.
According to Tankathon, the Thunder have the eighth-hardest remaining schedule in the league but there are opportunities over the final 10 games of the season. They face Sacramento three times, the Pacers and the Pelicans before the end of the campaign. Could they actually pull this off, or will over bettors get burned by one of the worst beats on a win total that I can remember?
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
Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns (-3, 224.5)
How can this game not be our main event today? Sure, Kawhi Leonard is out, but just one game separates these two teams in the Western Conference and the value of having the second seed is immense when you realize you likely get to avoid the Los Angeles Lakers until the Western Conference Finals. The stakes are some of the highest you will see in a regular-season setting and the game itself should be fantastic.
Los Angeles comes in off of a blowout loss to New Orleans on Monday, but there should be some confidence considering the success they have had in the regular-season series against Phoenix. The Clippers are 2-0 SU and ATS against the Suns with a + 8.2 net rating. They have gouged Phoenix’s perimeter defense, going 35-of-66 from deep in their two wins while averaging a staggering 1.23 points per possession. Now, Leonard was on the floor for both wins, so his absence is a massive factor in this contest, but the Suns have not exactly had an answer for Paul George. George has totaled 72 points on 27-of-45 shooting from the floor in the Clippers’ victories, and it was made known in their game three weeks ago how personally he is taking this rivalry. He tweaked his ankle on Monday, but should be on the floor tonight.
Ultimately, those injuries could hold Los Angeles back in this spot. Not only is Leonard expected to miss the game, but Nic Batum is doubtful to play, and both Serge Ibaka and Patrick Beverley remain on the sideline. The Suns should be able to take advantage of those absences, but they need to get their defense corrected. According to Cleaning The Glass, Phoenix ranks 24th in non-garbage time defensive efficiency, allowing 1.154 points per possessions over the last 16 games. Is this defensive regression a real thing for Phoenix?
Even if it is, this offense continues to be one of the league's best. Over this 16-game stretch in which their defense has regressed, their offense is the second-best in the league with an average of 118.6 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time minutes. Is it any surprise then that we find out that the over is 12-4 in those 16 games for the Suns? These two teams averaged just over 91 possessions in their first two meetings, and the total has dropped since the open, but it would not be surprising to see some buyback on that number to the over.
The Co-Main Event
New Orleans Pelicans at Denver Nuggets (-4, 228.5)
It has been seven games since Jamal Murray went down with a torn ACL, but the Nuggets keep on winning. Denver is 6-1 SU/3-4 ATS in those seven games with a league-leading + 9.5 net rating in non-garbage time. There is no denying this is still a formidable team, but the Pelicans do offer some challenges that the Nuggets could find difficult to handle.
New Orleans has averaged 116.9 points per 100 possessions in two games against Denver this season, and in those contests the Pelicans have exploited the league’s worst rim defense by going 35-of-49 (71.4%) within four feet of the basket. Zion Williamson, who lives at the hoop, scored 69 points against the Nuggets, went 25-of-32 from the floor and took 21 trips to the free-throw line. Since acquiring Aaron Gordon, the Nuggets have allowed the sixth-fewest shots within four feet, but are 28th in opponent shooting (68%). New Orleans clearly has the horses to exploit that.
Still, this is the third-best offense in the league in Denver, taking on the 27th-ranked defense, so it's not like the Nuggets should be pressed for points. The Pelicans are 27th in rim defense, giving up 65.9% within four feet, and 29th in opponent 3-point shooting (38.9%); Denver just so happens to rank second and sixth in those categories on offense. Both teams can exploit the other’s weakness on defense, which is why we’ve seen this total get bumped a point from the overnight.
Portland Trail Blazers* at Memphis Grizzlies (-2.5, 235.5)
For the third time in four games the Trail Blazers will face the Grizzlies, but this time it will not be in the friendly confines of the Moda Center. Memphis took both games of its two-game set last week, posting a + 5.9 net rating while dropping 1.185 points per possession. The Grizzlies obliterated the Blazers’ defense in multiple ways.
In the first game, they picked apart Portland’s poor interior defense by shooting 75.7% at the rim on 37 attempts. In the second game, they found their shooting stroke by hitting 52.2% of their 23 3-point attempts. The more likely scenario to repeat itself is their performance in the restricted area, but this defense is still a liability.
In April, Memphis actually has the worse defensive rating (113.8) than Portland (113.7). In fact, the first game was a back-and-forth affair won at the gun by the Grizzlies. The Trail Blazers still posted a 123.1 offensive rating in that game and went a combined 41-of-76 (53.9%) at the rim and beyond the arc. Portland snapped out its funk with a blowout of Indiana yesterday. The offense went off for 1.468 points per possession and the Trail Blazers shot 65.4% on 26 3-pointers. Memphis is 20th in opponent frequency of attempts from deep, so another hot shooting night from Portland would not be a shock here.
Atlanta Hawks at Philadelphia 76ers (-8, 220.5)
Atlanta has performed admirably while dealing with injuries to Trae Young and others, but now the Hawks face a Philadelphia team that is back to full strength. Ben Simmons returned against Oklahoma City and the 76ers allowed the Thunder to scored just 0.88 points per possession while blowing them out 121-90 at home. Philadelphia is a different team with Simmons on the court, outscoring opponents by 7.4 points every 100 possessions while posting a 107.1 defensive rating in those minutes. How will a Hawks team without Young, Brandon Goodwin, Kevin Huerter and Tony Snell fare against this 76ers defense?
Los Angeles Lakers (-3, 223.5) at Washington Wizards
The Wizards had their eight-game winning streak snapped by the Spurs on Monday, but it took overtime and a late technical foul on Bradley Beal to take them out. Now, they are home underdogs to a Lakers team that is 2-4 SU/1-5 ATS in its last six games. Anthony Davis is back, and his minutes restriction was lifted in Los Angeles’ win over Orlando. That is trouble for Washington, but this Lakers is team is not the dominant force it is perceived to be by the market.
When Davis is on the floor without LeBron James this season, Los Angeles is outscored by 8.0 points every 100 possessions and its defensive rating is 119.9. It is a small sample size, but this trend dates back to last season where the Lakers were outscored by 0.3 points very 100 possessions in the solo Davis minutes. Los Angeles is an average team without LeBron, even with Davis back.
Charlotte Hornets* at Boston Celtics* (-6.5, 223.5)
This is quite the spot for Boston for those handicappers that factor emotion/amateur psychology into their analysis. The Celtics have not only lost three straight and four of five games, but they were smacked by this Hornets team over the weekend. In fact, each of their last two losses have come as eight- and 11-point favorites. Today they will seek revenge without Kemba Walker on the floor, but Jayson Tatum is expected to be back. Without Walker on the floor the Celtics are still outscoring teams, but it is only by 0.9 points every 100 possessions. In those non-Walker minutes with Brown and Tatum, that net rating jumps to + 6.1. Charlotte is in a poor scheduling spot, coming off of a loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday. The situation screams Boston, but the recent results will leave bettors feeling sheepish to back Beantown.
San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat (-5, 208.5)
Miami could be short-handed today, as Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro are both questionable. For an offense that has been average at best this month (averaging 112.5 points per 100 possessions), missing those two will hurt. However, their opponent might raise their floor on offense. San Antonio was torched for 1.315 points per possession in its overtime win in Washington on Wednesday, and in April they have the 18th-ranked defense in the league. On top of that, they must figure out how to crack a defense that held them to 0.988 points per possession in a loss last week.
Chicago Bulls at New York Knicks (-5, 206.5)
The Knicks had their monster winning streak snapped on Monday, but their offense still showed up and dropped 1.172 points per possession against the Suns. Now, they turn their attention to Chicago, which has quietly strung together some solid defensive performances. Over their last six games, the Bulls have the third-best defensive rating in the league (106.8) and as a result they are 4-2 SU and ATS. New York’s offensive surge over the last month is clearly unsustainable. Does it meet its end tonight against Chicago?
Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers (-2, 212.5)
Is there really someone out there that wants to bet this game? Sure, the Magic are 1-12 SU/4-9 ATS in their last 13 games with a -17.7 net rating, but the Cavaliers are not exactly rolling right now. Cleveland has a 1-6 SU/ATS record over the last seven games and the Cavs have been outscored 6.2 points every 100 possessions. They not only have the 26th-ranked defense over that stretch, but they will be without one of their best players today, as Collin Sexton is going to miss time with a concussion.