NBA 8/3 betting preview. Starting the week with hoops

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The NBA keeps rolling right along in Orlando, with six more games on the docket for Monday. The slate gets underway with the Raptors vs. the Heat at 1:30 p.m. ET and concludes with the Lakers vs. the Jazz at 9:00 p.m. ET. I don’t know about you, but any day where I can watch basketball non-stop for nearly 12 hours is a pretty good day.

Monday’s slate will also feature some games that will be crucial for playoff seeding. The Pelicans vs. the Grizzlies at 6:30 p.m. ET is the headliner. The Grizzlies are holding a slim 2.0-game lead over the Spurs for the No. 8 spot in the West, and the Blazers are nipping at their heels as well.

Meanwhile, the Pelicans have dropped their first two games in Orlando, so they absolutely need a win in this contest to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. A loss would drop the Pelicans 4.5 games behind the Grizzlies with just five games left, and their chances of grabbing the No. 9 seed are fading fast as well.

Let’s break down where the betting value lies in that contest and all the other contests on Monday’s slate.

Miami Heat vs. Toronto Raptors (-4.5) — Total TBD

The Raptors are coming off an impressive win in their first game in the bubble, beating the Lakers by 15 points. They held LA to just 92 points scored, and limited the dynamic duo of Anthony Davis and LeBron James to just 34 points combined.

That continues their impressive play from before the shutdown, where they posted the third-best record and the fourth-best Net Rating.

Is it time to start taking the Raptors seriously as title contenders? I’m not there quite yet. They did beat the Lakers, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’ve struggled against good teams this season. That win brings their record to just 12-14 vs. teams with a winning record.

On the other side, the Miami Heat are coming off an impressive performance of their own. They dismantled a short-handed Nuggets squad 125-100, thanks in part to a dominating performance from their starting five. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo both did what they’ve done virtually all season, while Duncan Robinson continues to be one of the most valuable role players in the league. The Heat outscored the Nuggets by +28 points with Robinson on the court in that contest, which was the top mark on the team by a wide margin.

Ultimately, this is a matchup of strength vs. strength. The Heat have been one of the best offensive teams in basketball — they rank fifth in offensive efficiency — while the Raptors trail only the Bucks in terms of defensive efficiency.

I’ll be interested in seeing what the over/under for this game is set at. Both of these teams have been among the slowest in the league this season, and both teams played at a below-average pace in their first game within the bubble. I would imagine this total is somewhere in the 218 range, but if it’s higher than that, I would definitely consider a wager on the under.

The Pick: Pass (with a potential play on the under if its 220 or higher)

Washington Wizards vs. Indiana Pacers (-7.5) — 227.5 total

Things have gone about as expected for the Wizards so far in Orlando. They’ve played two games, and they’ve lost those contests by an average of 10.5 points. That includes an eight-point loss to the Nets, who were widely considered the only team in Orlando who might be in worse shape.

Still, there have been some positives for the Wizards. Thomas Bryant exploded for 30 points and 13 rebounds on Sunday, and last year’s first round pick Rui Hachimura scored 21 in their first outing.

Meanwhile, the Pacers are coming off a very impressive win vs. the 76ers in their first game. T.J. Warren went absolutely bananas in that contest, scoring 53 points on 20-29 shooting from the field. They’re still dealing with a host of injuries, so Warren will likely be asked to carry a huge workload for this team moving forward.

The bad news for the Pacers is they might be even thinner for today’s matchup. Victor Oladipo is expected to get the night off for rest, while Malcolm Brodgon is considered questionable.

I’m not expecting another 53 points from Warren, but I still think this contest will be pretty high scoring. The Wizards have been one of the fastest teams all season — they’ve averaged 106.3 possessions per game — while the Pacers have played significantly faster during the restart. I’m locking in this total now because I expect it to rise considerably before tip-off.

The Pick: Over 227.5

Oklahoma City Thunder (-4.5) vs. Denver Nuggets — 216.5 total

I think these are two teams heading in opposite directions, at least for the short term.

The Nuggets are dealing with a bunch of key injuries at the moment. Gary Harris and Will Barton have already been ruled out for the second straight game, while Jamal Murray is listed as doubtful. It seems very likely that the Nuggets will be without all three players, just like they were for that 25-point loss vs. the Heat. Those three players rank third, fourth, and fifth on the roster in terms of Net Rating differential this season, so their absences cannot be overstated.

The Nuggets do have some talented young players like Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol to step into the lineup, but those players have had more impact on the box score than they’ve had on the court. MPJ in particular has played 651 minutes this season, and the Nuggets have been -3.9 points worse per 100 possessions with him on the court. It’s easy to think that he can absorb some additional minutes in this situation, but the numbers suggest that hasn’t been a good thing for the team overall.

On the other hand, I think the Thunder are going to make some noise in Orlando. They took care of a struggling Jazz team in their first game, which allowed them to take it easy on some of their older players. Chris Paul was limited to 27.1 minutes, and Danilo Gallinari played just 19.1.

Both guys should be fresh and ready to go for today’s contest, which could spell trouble for the Nuggets. The Thunder have been absolutely dominant with the five-man combo of Paul, Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dennis Schroder, and Steven Adams on the court this season, outsourcing opponents by an average of +26.8 points per 100 possessions.

The only real injury that the Thunder are dealing with is to Terrence Ferguson, and that should actually work in their favor. Ferguson has been one of the worst players in the league in terms of Net Rating differential, so they should actually be better with Luguentz Dort in the starting lineup.

I don’t think Denver is equipped to handle this matchup at the moment, so I’m comfortable backing the Thunder as small favorites.

The Pick: Thunder -4.5

New Orleans Pelicans (-4) vs. Memphis Grizzlies — 238.5 total

The Pelicans and the Grizzlies square off in a game with massive playoff implications, and neither team has been at their best within the bubble. Both teams have posted an 0-2 record, so they both need a win in the worst way.

That said, I am much more bullish on the Grizzlies than the Pelicans at this point.

The Pelicans are just not a very good team without Zion Williamson, who is still extremely limited at this point. He actually played less minutes in his second game than his first game, which is not a good sign for his prospects moving forward. Even if he sees a few additional minutes today, it still seems unlikely that he’ll play more than 20 or so.

Zion’s impact on the Pelicans cannot be overstated. The Pelicans increased their Net Rating by +9.5 points per 100 possessions with Williamson on the court prior to the shutdown, which is an elite mark. With Williamson off the court, the Pelicans have been outscored by an average of -2.9 points per 100 possessions. Frankly, they’re just not very good if he’s not playing.

On the other side of this matchup, the Grizzlies actually have some encouraging things happening in their lineup. For starters, Ja Morant is seeing more minutes in Orlando than he was prior to the shutdown. He’s logged at least 37 minutes in each of his first two contests, which is roughly seven more minutes than he played during the early part of the year. The Grizzlies have unsurprisingly been better with Morant on the court than off this season, so this is an excellent development for their long term outlook.

They are also leaning more on the combo of Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke in the frontcourt, which should be another positive for them. Jonas Valanciunas is great at racking up points and assists, but his overall impact on the game is pretty minimal. JJJ and Clarke are much more versatile and raise the ceiling of this team overall.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Grizzlies are getting points in this contest. They blew a game vs. the Blazers that they probably should’ve won and dropped a game to the Spurs by two points. Those are far from inexcusable losses.

The Pelicans results have been much more concerning, particularly the drumming they took at the hands of the Thunder in their last game. I’m playing the Grizzlies for multiple units, and I’m sprinkling some action on the moneyline as well.

The Pick: Grizzlies +4 & Grizzlies ML (+150)

Philadelphia 76ers (-7) vs. San Antonio Spurs — 229.0 total

I have been driving the Spurs’ bandwagon heading into the restart and I’m not hopping off now. I love them in this spot vs. the 76ers.

If you’ve seen any of my work over the past few weeks — Western Conference futures preview, Line Movement NBA show, 8/1 betting preview — you’ll know that I believe the Spurs are a better team without LaMarcus Aldridge. They don’t just look better, but the numbers suggest they’re better too. The Spurs’ Net Rating has decreased by -5.2 points per 100 possessions with Aldrdige on the court this season, and virtually all of his teammates have posted better marks with Aldridge on the bench.

They only need one more win to hit the over on their win total during the seeding games, and I fully expect them to get it.

On the other hand, the 76ers still have a lot of questions. Joel Embiid crushed in his first game without Al Horford in the starting lineup, but the 76ers defense struggled mightily. They gave up 127 points to a Pacers’ team that frankly isn’t very good offensively. They rank just 16th in offensive efficiency this season, and they were missing their top two offensive weapons in Brogdon and Sabonis.

The public remains infatuated with the 76ers potential, but I’m starting to think we’ll never see it. Embiid and Ben Simmons just don’t fit well together.

Are the 76ers better than the Spurs? Maybe. But do they deserve to be favored by seven points? Definitely not.

The Pick: San Antonio Spurs +7

Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Lakers (-6) — 218.5 total

Things have not gone well for the Jazz in Orlando. They did manage to squeak out a win vs. the Pelicans, but they trailed by double-digits for large stretches in that contest. I already broke down how mediocre the Pelicans are at the moment, so that was a concerning sign. They followed that up with a blowout loss to the Thunder, which put them in jeopardy of falling out of the top five in the Western Conference standings. That ultimately isn’t all that important given the playoff format in the bubble, but no team wants to enter the postseason playing poorly.

Most of their struggles have been due to the absence of Bogdanovic, who was arguably Utah’s third-most important player. That has forced Jordan Clarkson into a larger role, which has not been a good thing historically. Clarkson is capable of scoring the ball, but that is basically all he can do on the basketball court.

Overall, the Jazz have been outscored by 15 points with Clarkson on the court in their first game and by 14 points with Clarkson on the court in their second game. That’s not good for a guy that is playing around 30 minutes per game.

That said, they have literally no other options. Emmanuel Mudiay is basically Clarkson with a worse offensive game. Georges Niang has a Net Rating differential of -8.1 this season, which puts him in the 12th percentile for all players. The Jazz have no choice but to hold their nose and hope that Clarkson doesn’t kill them.

If the Lakers bring their A-game, they should have no problems taking care of the Jazz. Unfortunately, who knows if that will actually happen.

The Lakers have all but clinched the top spot in the Western Conference, and they only need to win one of their remaining six games to ensure that happens. Maybe they look to just get the job done vs. Utah, or maybe they decide to give LeBron and AD some rest. Both players looked shaky in their last game vs. the Raptors, so it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see them get the night off.

Ultimately, I’m going to pass on this game for the time being, but I may revisit it later in the day depending on the news.

The Pick: Pass

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