Welcome back! I hope you all had a nice, relaxing All-Star break and are now ready for the final stretch of the NBA season. Yes, there are two months left, but those two months are going to go at a breakneck speed. In fact, two of the teams in action tonight, Memphis and San Antonio, have 40 games to make up over the course of the next 67 days.
With so much to do, and so little time, there is no point delaying any longer ... we have games to handicap!
The Main Event
Washington Wizards at Memphis Grizzlies (-1.5, 236.5)
The second half begins with a rematch from early last week. Memphis went into Washington last Tuesday and used a 36-23 second quarter to build what would be an insurmountable lead for the Wizards to overcome. The Grizzlies were the beneficiaries of a hot shooting performance from De’Anthony Melton, who made six of the team’s 13 made 3-point attempts. That is a massive gift for the 26th-ranked 3-point shooting team in the league, and one has to wonder if they can replicate anything close to that tonight. It wasn’t just the 3-point line that was scorching for Memphis either, as the team shot 27-of-59 from mid-range (45.8%) against Washington as well.
It always gives me pause when an inefficient offense like Memphis puts together an offensive performance like that. Generally, those numbers will regress to the mean, more often than not in the immediate contest. Just look at the Grizzlies’ two games with the Clippers on Feb. 25 and 26. In the first game, Memphis averaged 1.289 points per possession, shot a ridiculous 21-of-41 from short mid-range and 11-of-17 from beyond the arc, and they blew the Clippers out. However, the next day the short mid-range shooting regressed to 13-of-33 and the 3-pointers to 9-of-26 and the Grizzlies averaged just 1.031 points per possession while getting blown out. This has been a theme for Memphis’ offense all season long, and it makes me think the adjustment on their power rating might be somewhat strong here.
Washington, much like Memphis, is a team that generates offense from the mid-range area of the floor. It’s somewhat surprising because they are quietly one of the most effective teams in terms of accuracy at the rim. In the meeting with the Grizzlies last week, the Wizards took just 15 attempts within four feet, but hit 11 of them and drew 15 shooting fouls. On the season, they rank 25th in terms of rim frequency (29.7%), but 10th in shooting at the rim (66.0%). Memphis might emphasis rim protection, but Washington exploited that last week, and the Grizzlies are about average in that area of the floor on defense (13th, 62.7%).
If Russell Westbrook (coming in on five days of rest) can consistently lead the charge toward the rim, the Washington has a chance to cover this number. The Wizards are 4-2 SU and ATS when they attempt at least 38% of their shots at the rim this season.
The Co-Main Event
San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks (-5, 220.5)
Dallas has largely been overvalued by the betting market this season, and that has showed in its 15-19 ATS mark. We saw hints of that overvalued nature in the opening line of Mavericks -5 at DraftKings, and the market responded properly, driving this number down. Dallas closed the first half on a high note, going 9-2 SU in its final 11 games, but it covered just five of those contests. They’ve been very reliant on Luka Doncic, who averaged 31.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 8.0 assists on 51.9% shooting during that closing stretch, and a team reliant on one player might win games, but they do not cover spreads.
There is not much separating these two clubs, which is why the initial number for Dallas was probably too high. The Mavericks are the 12th-best offense in the league, and the Spurs are the fifth-best defense. San Antonio averages just 111.2 points every 100 possessions on offense, but they face a Dallas defense that gives up 114.6 points per 100 possessions. When these two teams met in San Antonio the Mavericks were a 1.5-point favorite in a game that was within three points in the final seconds. Now the betting market wants you to lay five points with Dallas? That is a stretch, and I believe the market got this move correct.