Betting preview for Wednesday's NBA games

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Joel Embiid is back and his presence adds a fascinating wrinkle in the race for Most Valuable Payer. Nikola Jokic has started to add some distance between him and the pack, but a 35 point performance from Embiid, in which he drew 20 trips to the free throw line, reminded all of us how great he really is.

Embiid will likely fall short due to the time he has missed, and the time he is likely to miss when Philadelphia encounters back-to-backs on their schedule. However, Embiid might make this race tighter than it should be down the stretch, which could open some opportunities for bettors as we get deeper into the season. 

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

Utah Jazz (-2, 225.5) at Phoenix Suns

Can it get much better than the two best teams in the Western Conference battling it out in primetime? Phoenix rides a 6-0 SU/3-3 ATS streak into tonight’s meeting with Utah, which is coming off of a loss at Dallas on Monday night. Prior to the loss, the Jazz were 9-0 SU/5-4 ATS in their previous nine games, looking more like the team that went 22-2 over 24 games earlier in the season. Both teams are power rated to the moon by the betting market as well, making this a fascinating betting opportunity. 

The Suns have not been an underdog since a home game on Feb. 10 against the Bucks, a game they would win outright. Not only has Phoenix been favored in every game since then, but the team has been a double-digit favorite in eight of the 25 games! To open as a home underdog shows how high the rating on Utah is, but there is evidence that points to the Jazz being rated too high by the betting market. Since the beginning of March Utah is 11-5 SU but only 6-10 ATS, and they have closed as the favorite in every one of those games laying an averaged of 8.2 points! Now, they’re laying two on the road against a team that has been on par with them statistically almost all season.

Since the beginning of March the Jazz rank first in net rating, outscoring opponents by 9.6 points every 100 possessions. The Suns rank second over the same time span with a +9.3 net rating. Phoenix has the higher offensive rating (117.9) but Utah has the slightly better defense (107.8). Those numbers don’t really tell us which team has advantage here, but it paints a picture two teams that are evenly matched, so why is one favored on the road over the other?

The matchup I cannot wait to see here is the Suns offense against the Jazz defense, specifically when Rudy Gobert is on the floor. Utah gives up just 103.9 points every 100 possessions when Gobert is playing, and their defense allows nothing within four feet of the basket. As a result, the Jazz allow opponents to take 38.8% of their attempts from mid-range with Gobert on the floor, and on the season they allow the second-most mid-range shots in the league. Phoenix lives in that area of the floor. They take the seventh-most mid-range shots of any team, and lead the league in mid-range shooting (49.1%). Their two best players, Chris Paul and Devin Booker, generate most of their points from there. Paul thrives getting centers switched on to him and working them in space. How does this strategy work against Utah?

The Co-Main Event

Memphis Grizzlies* at Atlanta Hawks* (-2, 229)

Memphis is on fire. After taking a surprisingly high-scoring affair from the Heat last night the Grizzlies improved to 7-3 SU/9-1 ATS in their last 10 games. Since the beginning of March, this team is 45-4 ATS! Their defense has been rock solid, limiting their last 10 opponents to just 109.2 points every 100 possessions, and they are seventh in defensive efficiency in their last 18 games played. That defense will come in handy against the Hawks who just shot the lights out on Tuesday night. 

Atlanta has won and covered its last four games, and their offense has been carrying the load. They’ve averaged 118.2 points every 100 possessions during this winning streak, and outscored opponents by 12.1 points over that stretch. The biggest difference has been their shooting. Last night, they went 11-of-11 from deep in the third quarter, and over the last four games they are shooting 50.0% on 29.1 3-point attempts per game. That is clearly unsustainable, and against a Memphis team that 12th in non-corner 3-point defense we could see that shooting regress.

Keep an eye on the injury report tonight for Memphis. Ja Morant could miss the game with a back injury that cause him to leave their game last night, and De’Anthony Melton has already been ruled out. 

The Prelims

New Orleans Pelicans* at Brooklyn Nets (-10.5, 230.5)

Kevin Durant makes his glorious return tonight for Brooklyn, but the betting market has moved in the other direction. The Nets fell to 3-10 ATS in their last 13 games after barely getting by the Knicks on Monday night. Brooklyn has not covered consecutive games since the beginning of March, and tonight they have to face an offense that could give them all sorts of problems. New Orleans generates so much of their offense in the painted area, and as a result they rank 11th in halfcourt offense. Brooklyn gives up 97.6 points every 100 plays in the halfcourt, and they rank 25th in opponent shooting from short mid-range. The Pelicans should be able to exploit the Nets defense tonight, and that is why we’ve seen a bump in their direction. 

Washington Wizards (-2.5, 225.5) at Orlando Magic

This game is all about the health of Bradley Beal. He, along with Rui Hachimura and Robin Lopez, are questionable to play tonight. Should Beal hit the court we will likely see this get close to a five-point spread, but if he is ruled out we could get to pick here. Regardless, the market does seem to be undervaluing this Magic team. They are 6-1 ATS in the last seven games, 9-3 ATS in their last 12 as well. Should they really be catching over two points at home against a Wizards team that is 0-4 SU/1-3 ATS in its last four games with a -15.1 net rating?

New York Knicks at Boston Celtics* (-3, 214.5)

Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier will not play tonight as the Celtics try to bounce back from a beatdown at the hands of the 76ers last night. Against teams that have spectacular interior pieces the Celtics will struggle, but this is not one of those matchups. Boston’s perimeter-oriented offense, which takes 386.9% of its attempts from deep, should be able to operate against New York’s defense which gives up the fifth-most 3-point attempts in the league. The Celtics do rank 23rd in rim defense and 24th in opponent shooting from short mid-range, but the Knicks rank 29th and 26th in those categories on offense. Despite the absences of Walker and Fournier this could be a decent bounce-back spot for Boston.

San Antonio Spurs at Denver Nuggets* (-6.5, 223.5)

These two teams are heading in opposite directions. San Antonio is 2-7 SU and ATS in its last nine games with a -7.4 net rating. Denver is now 5-0 SU/4-1 ATS since acquiring Aaron Gordon, and they’ve outscored their opponents by 13.3 points every 100 possessions. The Spurs have been a team that I believe is fading, and the results tell us as much. However, the market is still overvaluing them. Just look at the game on Monday where they opened as a 9.5-point favorite over Cleveland. Denver should be able to exploit one of the worst defenses in the league tonight, and that is why the market is moving in their direction

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