Covers Expert Al McMordie is back with the latest edition of his weekly roadmap series to take a look at the betting landscape in the upcoming week in the NBA.
There has been a lot of belly-aching about the non-competitiveness of the NBA, with the Golden State Warriors being far and away the league's best team. But that seemingly hasn't put a lid on fan interest. Nationally televised games are up 32 percent this season, and viewership is at the highest level since LeBron James' first season with the Miami Heat.
Of course, it's also possible that the numbers would be even higher if there were teams that could threaten Golden State's supremacy. The NBA, though, never seems to lack storylines, so let's check out what's happening in the Association.
Necessity is sometimes the mother of invention. Would Golden State have been so quick to realize the talent of Draymond Green had David Lee not gotten injured? Likewise, in Utah, it took an injury to star center Rudy Gobert for coach Quin Snyder to move to a spread offense.
When Gobert was healthy, Snyder played him alongside Derrick Favors and had another non-shooter (Ricky Rubio) at the point. So with a dearth of shooting, the opposing defense could easily guard the paint. When Gobert went down, Snyder moved Favors to the center position, and inserted Jonas Jerebko as a stretch four and the Jazz offense went thru the roof.
Gobert recently came back but in the 11 games that he missed Utah went 7-4 SU/ATS, including 5-0 SU/ATS in the last five games before he returned. The Jazz also outscored their foes by 19.85 ppg in those last five games. Since Gobert's return, the Jazz have gone 1-1 straight-up, but 2-0 ATS. And Utah's pointspread win streak is now at seven games!
Will it continue? I'm not overly-optimistic. Coach Snyder has returned to starting Gobert, Favors and Rubio together, which means the defenses can go back to clogging the paint. And the other issue is that, when one really scrutinizes Utah's schedule, it becomes obvious that the offensive success can be partially attributed to the opponents played. Indeed, in Utah's last 13 games, it only played two teams currently ranked among the Top 15 in adjusted defensive efficiency (76ers, Thunder). And in those two games against the 76ers and Thunder, the Jazz had their two worst offensive games throughout this 13-game stretch, and scored 86 and 94 points, respectively. In the 11 games vs. the teams that currently rank among the 15 worst defensive teams, the Jazz averaged 112.54 ppg.
This week, Utah will face Houston at home, on Thursday, and Milwaukee on the road, on Saturday. Given that the Rockets currently rank No. 5 in adjusted defensive efficiency, don't be surprised if Utah's seven-game ATS win streak gets snapped by James Harden & Co.
The Washington Wizards have missed point guard John Wall, who is recovering from a knee injury, for the last six games, and seven of the last nine. Over this stretch Washington has gone 3-4 straight-up, and has also gone 5-2 Under the total. For the season, the Wizards are 16-8 Under the total, including 13-3 their last 16.
This week, the Wizards will continue to play without their floor leader, and will take on the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, and the Los Angeles Clippers, on Saturday. I look for another relatively low-scoring game vs. the Suns, as 13 of the last 18 meetings between these two clubs have gone Under the number.
The San Antonio Spurs have played the entire season minus their best player, Kawhi Leonard, yet the Spurs are 16-8 straight-up and 12-11-1 ATS. Last season, at this juncture, the Spurs were 19-5 straight-up, and 11-12-1 ATS. So, the fact that they are just three games off last year's pace has to be considered a huge victory for Gregg Popovich's crew.
The good news is that Leonard should be back this week, as he's been engaged in 5-on-5 drills, which is the final stage of the Spurs' rehabilitation schedule.
San Antonio has home dates on deck vs. Miami (Wednesday) and Boston (Friday), before traveling to Phoenix, on Saturday, to take on the Suns. Of these games, the match with the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics is the most interesting from a betting standpoint, given that Boston already blew out the Spurs earlier this year, 108-94, in Beantown. So, look for the Spurs to avenge that defeat (with or without Leonard), as San Antonio is 40-26 ATS in the regular season when playing with revenge from a 14-point (or worse) defeat earlier in the year to its opponent.
Earlier this season, the Dallas Mavericks handed the Milwaukee Bucks a 32-point defeat - Milwaukee's worst loss of the past two seasons. But you know what they say about "Paybacks!"
Look for the Bucks to avenge that loss this upcoming Friday, in Milwaukee. That's because .633 (or worse) NBA teams, playing with revenge from a 19-point (or worse) upset loss, have gone 86-47-3 ATS as favorites since 2000. Additionally, the Bucks are 11-4-1 ATS at home vs. Dallas since 2000. Take Milwaukee on Friday.