With Pacers surging, Clippers on long haul

Another week gone, and bettors have yet to see any NBA team separate itself from the pack. The Los Angeles Lakers seem like the surest thing on the board, but they blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead Monday night in a 115-113 loss to the Golden State Warriors. 

As teams continue to soldier on in the new year, one seems to be flying under the radar of the betting market, one has bigger fish to fry and one player’s struggles do not seem to matter to the betting market.

Let’s dive in …


Pacers’ Improvements Are Legit

When the Indiana Pacers hired Nate Bjorkgren as coach, I believed he would be able to unlock the potential Indiana frequently showed last season. He has done just that, thrusting the Pacers into the 21st century with a basketball style that reflects modern teams, not the midrange-loving style of the 1990s. Indiana has gone from taking 34.0% of its attempts from midrange, fourth most in the league last season, to just 20.8% this season. The 2020-21 Pacers are living at the rim, taking the most shots within 4 feet (44.0%), and are averaging 5.5 more 3-point attempts per game than last year’s team. The numbers are not eye-popping in offensive efficiency, at 111.7 per Cleaning The Glass. But I expect that as the season goes on, the Pacers’ offense will continue to improve. Bjorkgren has also shown the same innovation as former boss Nick Nurse on defense, busting out the box-and-one against Golden State last week in an outright win as a 3-point underdog in the Bay Area. Speaking of which, Indiana has four outright wins as an underdog, and that speaks to the market’s perception of this team. The Pacers are 4-1 SU and ATS when catching points and have covered 61.5% of their games. However, that profitable stretch could be ending as Myles Turner, a key part of the Pacers’ defensive prowess, is ailing with a hand injury that makes him day-to-day. When this team is fully healthy, I believe it can compete with almost anybody in the Eastern Conference, which is why I played Indiana at 32-1 at Circa to win the East. This team has a high ceiling, and I am banking on the Pacers to reach it in a weak conference.


Bettors, Beware Of The Clippers

The only loss the Pacers suffered as underdogs came to the Clippers on Sunday night. Los Angeles obliterated Indiana 129-96 at home for its fourth consecutive win. The Clippers have won five of six, but the spread results have not been there (3-3 ATS), mainly due to a defense that has been lackluster. The Clippers are giving up 114.3 points every 100 possessions, according to Cleaning The Glass, the No. 26 defensive rating in the league. So what’s the problem? Well, perhaps nothing. Tyronn Lue has openly talked about his tinkering with lineups and defensive schemes, mentioning after the Clippers’ win over the Chicago Bulls last week that his original bench trio of Luke Kennard, Reggie Jackson and Lou Williams was not working statistically. Just look at the qualified lineups the Clippers have used, according to Cleaning The Glass. The most-used unit is Patrick Beverley, Nicolas Batum, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka, who have played 273 possessions together. No other lineup has played more than 67 possessions together. It speaks to how much Lue is willing to sacrifice in the regular season to benefit in the postseason. For bettors, this means the Clippers will be a highly volatile team not worth betting on for the time being. After starting the season 4-1 SU and ATS, the Clippers are just 6-3 SU and 4-5 ATS in January, with losses to Utah, San Antonio and Golden State. I also don’t believe this version of Los Angeles is the version that will be playing in the postseason. When Leonard and George are off the floor this season, the Clippers have a -40.0 net rating. It is an extremely small sample size, but it speaks to the weakness of this team — the bench. Expect more tinkering and maybe a new face before the trade deadline in March.


Doncic MVP Favorite Despite Struggles

The MVP betting market is fascinating because there is no way to really gauge how the odds should be set. It is based on narratives, anecdotal evidence and “SportsCenter” highlights. There is no stronger evidence of that than the current odds. William Hill, DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet and BetRivers all have Luka Doncic as the favorite at varying prices. Why? The Dallas Mavericks are treading water at 6-7, and Doncic has been uneven, to say the least. The third-year star is averaging just 1.136 points per shot attempt, hitting only 29.7% of his 3-pointers and turning the ball over on 13.0% of his possessions. Does that sound like a player who has a 20% shot (+ 400) to win the Most Valuable Player Award? Just keep that in mind when you’re betting markets like MVP. More often than not, you’re not getting real value, especially at the top of the board.


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