Shooting problems run deep for Lakers

By Jonathan Von Tobel  (VSiN senior NBA analyst) 

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It was not a great week for the Los Angeles Lakers, who lost Anthony Davis to injury and saw their cover slide extend to 3-8 ATS after getting smacked by the Denver Nuggets on Sunday. The Lakers had a chance at redemption on Tuesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but their issues run deeper than Davis’ injury.

 

The Lakers are the 20th-ranked shooting offense in the league, hitting just 35.9% of their 3-point attempts this season. During their 11-game slide, they shot just 30.1% from deep, and other than LeBron James, just two players who have attempted more than 50 3-point attempts are shooting over 37% from deep. Davis’ injury is big, but if he is healthy for the postseason, the Lakers will be fine defensively. However, they need to use this time to figure out what’s ailing their shooters. 

 

With that out of the way, the theme this week is market adjustments. Both the Utah Jazz and Brooklyn Nets have seen the market make adjustments on their power rating, which opens the door for bettors. We also check in on the Milwaukee Bucks, who are looking more and more like the team that was eliminated in the second round last season.

 

THE TIME TO BET AGAINST UTAH IS COMING 

 

Did the oddsmakers finally make an adjustment to Utah’s power rating? On Monday night, the Jazz were set to host the Philadelphia 76ers when Joel Embiid was ruled out an hour before the game, causing the line to close as high as nine at some shops. Ben Simmons finished one rebound away from a 42-point triple-double, but we did not see the clash we envisioned between the NBA’s top two teams as the 76ers fell 134-123 and failed to cover.

 

However, there seemed to be quite the adjustment on Utah’s power rating when the opening numbers were posted. The Jazz initially opened as a 6.5-point favorite on Tuesday night, five points higher than the opening 1.5-point line we saw Friday night in Utah’s game against Milwaukee. Remember, the Jazz eventually closed as a seven-point favorite against the Miami Heat on Saturday as well. Are the 76ers really only a half-point better than the struggling Heat? We know that is not the case, so we can logically deduce that there has been an adjustment made on Utah’s power rating. Bettors did not get the opportunity to test that theory because of the injury to Embiid, but the Jazz have a two-game series against the Clippers starting Wednesday in which they can test this hypothesis.

BROOKLYN BECOMING VIABLE BETTING OPTION

While we have to wait to see if there has been an adjustment on Utah’s power rating, we do not have to wait with Brooklyn. The market made it clear that the adjustment had been made last week when the Nets closed as an underdog at home against the Indiana Pacers. Brooklyn went on to win and cover three straight games, including that Indiana game, heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns, which Kyrie Irving sat out with a sore lower back.

 

Analysis of the lines being set for the Nets showed the adjustment had been too much. In no world is Brooklyn worse than Indiana, and the Nets led by 35 points at one point in an eventual victory. Over the weekend they closed as a 3.5-point favorite at Golden State, just one more point than the Toronto Raptors had laid last month at the Chase Center. On Monday against the Sacramento Kings, the Nets closed laying the same number the Memphis Grizzlies did the night prior, and Brooklyn won going away. The Grizzlies and Nets, even without Kevin Durant, are not identically power rated, and the market learned that lesson. I was on the Nets in each of those three games, and I will continue to do so when they have at least two of three stars on the floor.

SAME OL’ BUCKS, SAME OL’ PROBLEMS

 

In the immortal words of the late Dennis Green, the Bucks are who we thought they were. Milwaukee ended a six-game trip with three consecutive losses, the low point being a five-point defeat at Oklahoma City. Over those final three games, Milwaukee gave up 41.9% from beyond the arc — a troubling number for the Bucks. 

Milwaukee ranks 29th in overall opponent 3-point shooting (39.8%) and 27th in opponent corner 3-point shooting (44.4%). The Bucks’ defensive philosophy, in which they put an emphasis on rim protection and almost never switch, has burned them in the past, and it might do so again this season. The Suns exploited that flaw on Wednesday, the Jazz killed them with their perimeter shooting on Friday night and the Thunder did so as well in their upset win. The Bucks are a fine team that will likely win a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference, but if they continue to roll out this defensive scheme, it is likely Giannis Antetokounmpo will be watching the NBA Finals from home again this season.

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