Luka Doncic was absolutely incredible on Tuesday night. The shot that everyone will remember is the stepback 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left to break the tie and give Dallas its second consecutive win (and sixth in seven games). However, in true hipster fashion, the shot that does it for me came a possession earlier. Down by one with Jaylen Brown relentlessly pursuing him on defense, Doncic was desperately trying to find some space. Dorian Finney-Smith set a screen to give Doncic the space he needed, Daniel Theis was forced to switch onto the 21-year-old phenom and El Niño Maravilla went to work.
Doncic put Theis in a blender like he was working at Tropical Smoothie Café, taking a step left before crossing back to his right and driving forward. As Theis’ momentum carried him to the basket the basketball world knew what was next. Like it was on a string, Doncic yanked the ball back, created separation with his stepback and had the ball up in a flash. Before Theis knew what hit him, the Mavericks had taken a two-point lead with 15.3 seconds left on the clock.
Doncic finished with 31 points on 11-of-23 shooting from the floor while going 6-of-8 from beyond the arc. He was two assists away from another triple-double. Over his last nine games, Doncic is averaging 32.4 points, shooting 45.8 percent from deep all while putting up 7.9 rebounds and 8.9 assists per contest. Dallas is 7-2 SU/4-5 ATS in those games, but the time to start playing the Mavericks is here. The betting market turned on them, making them just a 4.5-point favorite over a poor Memphis team, and an underdog to a Boston team that is now 3-7 SU and ATS in its last 10 games. I do not know how long this run lasts for Dallas, but I will likely be on the train until it derails.
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Updated odds on every game can be found here.
The Main Event
Los Angeles Lakers at Utah Jazz (-8, 220)
Los Angeles is in the midst of a 1-4 SU and ATS slide, and it has dropped three straight heading into tonight’s contest with Utah. The problems with the Lakers offense are real. Over this five-game stretch, they are averaging just 106.6 points every 100 possessions while shooting an abysmal 30.6 percent from 3-point range, and these issues are not just isolated to this small sample size. Since Jan. 25, Los Angeles is 22nd in offensive efficiency (109.3), and 30th in 3-point shooting (30.9 percent). Even though they are 9-6 SU in their last 15, they are just 4-11 ATS, closing as a favorite of at least three points in every one of those games.
Which brings us to tonight. The Lakers have closed as an underdog just once this season; a road game in Milwaukee in which they were catching 1.5 points and won outright. I have been hunting for cheap numbers on Los Angeles, but it does not get much cheaper than + 8.5 with a team that is favored to win the NBA Finals at most books. This team is clearly hampered by injury and absences, Anthony Davis remains sidelined and Dennis Schroder is still out due to health and safety protocols, but it is not all negative for the Lakers. During this month-long slide against the number Los Angeles actually ranks third in defensive efficiency, allowing just 107.7 points every 100 possessions, and opponents are shooting just 45.6 percent from the floor. The Lakers have been one of the best perimeter defenses as well this season. Opponents take 34.0 percent of their attempts from deep and shoot 35.4 percent, something that they will need against the best 3-point shooting team in the league.
There is no denying how hot Utah is at this point. They are 21-2 SU/20-3 ATS in their last 23 games, and they lead the league in net rating by a large margin over that time ( 13.3). However, the play here is all about the number. If I go down catching 8.5 points with LeBron James and the third-best defense in the league I am willing to do so.
The Co-Main Event
Toronto Raptors* at Miami Heat* (-2, 215.5)
Miami brings a 3-0 SU and ATS run into this one, but their success on defense has been much more consistent than that. Since Jimmy Butler returned the Heat are giving up just 107.2 points every 100 possessions, the second-best defense in the league during that time. Miami has not shown the same efficiency on offense, but they are slowly breaking out of their slump. During this three-game winning streak they have averaged 110.3 points every 100 possessions, slightly higher than the 109.2 rating they have posted in their previous 13 games.
The Raptors have been on a similar path, improving greatly since a 2-8 SU and ATS start to the season. Toronto is 9-4 SU and ATS in its last 13 games, but are in a tough scheduling spot playing its fifth game in seven and nights. The Raptors dug themselves in a hole early yesterday, but still held Philadelphia to 1.091 points per possession on Wednesday night. Kyle Lowry is still in question, but this team can still maintain its defensive intensity even without him.
Golden State Warriors* at Indiana Pacers (-2, 228.5)
Indiana has not played for a week due to a swing through Texas being postponed because of inclement weather. Dallas benefitted from extra practice time during its own hiatus, so could we see a similar situation with the Pacers? Indiana has won and covered three of four games, but those three victories came against Detroit, Atlanta and Minnesota, not exactly a gauntlet of NBA elite. They get a Golden State team playning its fourth game in six nights and the last of a four-game east coast trip. This matchup is between two teams who rank 17th (Indiana) and 20th (Golden State) in offensive efficiency, but 7th (Golden State) and 10th (Indiana) in defensive efficiency. Naturally, we have seen the total jump three points to 231.5 at most shops.
Charlotte Hornets at Phoenix Suns (-9.5, 225.5)
This was going to be my co-main event, but Gordon Hayward’s questionable status for tonight has put a damper on this game. Hayward is vital to Charlotte’ success this season. When he is on the floor they have a -1.0 net rating but when he is off that rating plummets to -5.3 per 100 possessions. The Hornets will need all hands on deck to face a Suns team that is 12-2 SU and ATS in its previous 14 games. Phoenix has really taken off on offense during this run, averaging 120.4 points every 100 possessions and winning each of its last four games by double-digits.
Houston Rockets (-2, 216.5) at Cleveland Cavaliers*
Cleveland finally snapped its 0-13 ATS freefall with a win in Atlanta last night, but the market has not been sold. The power rating is so low on the Cavaliers that a team with an 0-8 SU/1-7 ATS record in its last eight games is favored on the road against them. Houston showed some fight against Philadelphia to cover a big number late, but was a no-show against Chicago earlier this week. Cleveland is really bad, but bad enough that bettors are willing to lay points with a team that is 5-7 SU/3-9 ATS as a favorite this season.
Boston Celtics* (-3, 227.5) at Atlanta Hawks*
After getting buried by Luka Doncic last night the Celtics fell to 3-7 SU and ATS in its last 10 games. The other troubling aspect for Boston is its five-game road losing streak, and overall 7-11 SU/6-12 ATS record away from home. The Celtics now have a -1.9 net rating on the road this season, a number that is lightyears away from the 5.0 net rating at TD Garden. In a season that is being played in empty arenas that is a troubling trend. However, Atlanta is not in great form. They lost to the lowly Cavaliers last night, and are now 3-9 SU/4-8 ATS in February with a -5.0 net rating. Boston has been insanely inconsistent this season, but this seems like a good spot for them considering their opponent