The betting market had seen enough, and finally dove in head first. New York had gone 10-3-1 ATS in its last 14 games, and was on the road against a short-handed Spurs team on the second leg of back-to-back. The Knicks, who had opened as a small underdog, went off as a road favorite in San Antonio, and were subsequently blasted in the second half in a 119-93 loss. The loss is a cautionary tale for those who like to buy at the top of the market, and a lesson we should carry forward as handicappers.
Here are my daily NBA notes for Wednesday, March 3.
Updated injury report can be found here.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
*Indicates team is on the second leg of a back-to-back.
The Main Event
Utah Jazz (-2.5, 227.5) at Philadelphia 76ers
On Feb. 15 the Jazz were set to host the 76ers, but a late scratch of Joel Embiid put a damper on the contest. Before Embiid was ruled out, Utah was holding steady as a 7-point favorite, a clear sign that the market had greatly adjusted the power rating on Utah. The opening number today still signifies a strong respect for the Jazz, but clearly the market has lowered its rating of this team after a loss on the road against New Orleans, and much more human-like stretch of 3-3 SU and ATS over the last six games.
This is a pretty big shift for a Philadelphia team that has closed as the favorite in each of the last seven games, and 28 times overall this season. The 76ers bounced back from a bad loss at home against Cleveland by beating down Indiana on Monday, but today is going to be a real test for Philadelphia’s offense. Against the Cavaliers on Saturday, the 76ers offense was nowhere to be found. They averaged just 1.019 points per possession, shot 36.4% from mid-range and 37.0% on 27 3-point attempts. That led to an abysmal 0.878 points per play in the halfcourt, which has been one of the 76ers all season long.
Philadelphia loves to work from the mid-range area of the floor. They take the third-most mid-range attempts in the league, and to their credit, shoot 45.8% which also ranks third. However, when those shots aren’t falling, a team that ranks 17th in rim shooting (62.9%) and takes the third-fewest 3-points attempts (29.2 per game) is going to bog down at times. Against Utah, how well does that strategy work? The Jazz willingly give opponents the mid-range area of the floor while putting an emphasis on rim protection and perimeter defense. Even then, they allow just 39.1% on all mid-range attempts this season, the third-best rate in the league. If the 76ers continue their below-average play at the rim and from the perimeter (36.9% shooting), it will play right into the hands of a Jazz defense that ranks eighth and ninth in those categories on defense.
Still, Philadelphia boasts one of the better defenses in the league, ranking sixth in defensive efficiency (110.0), and 12th or higher in every major shooting category, but one: non-corner 3-point shooting. The 76ers, for whatever reason, give up 38.5% from that area of the floor, which is not ideal against a team in the Jazz that hits 39.7% of its attempts from there. However, given the wing defenders on Philadelphia and the inflated number on Utah, this seems like a valuable situation for the home team.
The Co-Main Event
Golden State Warriors (-1, 235.5) at Portland Trail Blazers
Anytime Steph Curry and Damian Lillard get together it is must-watch television, and tonight is no exception.
Portland snapped a four-game skid with a win over Charlotte at home on Monday and will look to make it three of four with a cover tonight as a home underdog. If they’re going to do so they must play a smidge of defense, something that has been nonexistent lately. Over their last five games, the Blazers are allowing 118.6 points every 100 possessions, the 28th-best mark in the league. In their win over Charlotte they allowed a decent 1.144 points per possession, but that was due to a second half in which the Hornets went cold and managed just 1.061 points per play. It helps that Golden State is not exactly the picture perfect offense.
The Warriors were held to just 0.835 points per possession in their loss to the Lakers, making it the fourth of five games in which they were held to 1.11 points per possession or fewer. Offense has been a problem for Golden State this season, especially when Curry takes a break. With Curry on the floor, the Warriors average 115.4 points every 100 possessions; with him off the floor that tanks to 94.7 per 100 possessions. The Blazers are reliant on their star guard as well, but they still muster a 106.1 offensive rating, much better than what Golden State brings to the table.
Brooklyn Nets (-6.5, 226.5) at Houston Rockets
James Harden makes his glorious return to Houston tonight, but he does it somewhat short-handed. Three-and-D wing Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and small-ball center Jeff Green are doubtful to play, but the market does not seem to care as much as it did when the Spurs were getting support on Monday.
Tonight, we’ve seen this number get driven up as high as 10 in most shops, largely due to the struggles of the Rockets. Houston is 0-12 SU/1-11 ATS in its last 12 games, and has been outscored by 16.8 points every 100 possessions. Their offense, mustering just 99.7 points every 100 possessions, is 4.9 points worse than the 29th-ranked team over that same stretch. Every dog has its day. Is that day for Houston tonight in a big revenge spot over its former star?
Charlotte Hornets at Minnesota Timberwolves (-1, 229.5)
Charlotte has been fighting for respect from the market, but the market has been stubborn in showing that respect. Today, the first number posted had a Minnesota team that is stuck in an 0-8 SU and ATS slide as a slight home favorite. Gordon Hayward was announced as probable, and the Hornets are starting to pop as 2.5-point favorites in most shops. The Hornets are only 6-5 SU and ATS in its last 11 games, but this is a quality team that deserves to be favored over most of the bottom dwellers of the league. The question now becomes how much is too much, as Hornets -3 begins to appear in a smattering of books.