NBA Free Picks - ESPN Wednesday Night Doubleheader
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 4/7/2010
The second to last ESPN Wednesday Night Doubleheader of the season gives us a pair of Western Conference games with major playoff seeding implications. The Rockets are out of contention but the Jazz, Spurs and Suns are in that tight group in the standings where the second-seeded Jazz are just separated by 2.5 games from the seventh-seeded Spurs.
Utah Jazz (51-27) at Houston Rockets (39-38), 8 p.m.
How They Enter
The Rockets will not be headed to the playoffs this year. They will likely finish the season above .500, but they are eight games behind Portland and they have been eliminated for some time now. The surging Jazz have climbed all the way up to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. They have done it by winning 13 of 17 dating back to early March. The Rockets have not managed to put back-to-back wins together since April 17 when they capped a four-game winning streak. Since then they have been 4-7 SU and 3-8 ATS.
Rest and motivation will not be a factor here. Neither team is expected to rest players, the Jazz need this game and eliminated teams have been playing with pride during the home stretch of the regular season. Most players on Houston are playing for jobs next season on what should be a revamped team.
That being said, focusing just on the matchups, the biggest area the Jazz can exploit the Rockets is at the point guard position. The Jazz have Deron Williams, a premier NBA point guard who averages 10.6 assists per game. The Rockets counter with Aaron Brooks, but he averages only 5.4 assists per game and has to fill the role of the team’s leading scorer.
The Utah offense ranks in the top seven in the major statistical categories while the Houston defense ranks in the bottom 10 in all defensive categories. Their toughest challenge will be getting off decent shots; they shoot 44.4-percent from the field (26th in the league) while the Jazz are the second best shooting team in the NBA making nearly 50-percent of their shots.
Inside the Numbers
Jazz are 47-28-3 ATS overall
Jazz are 21-16-1 ATS on the road
Jazz are 2-1 ATS and 2-1 SU against the Rockets this season
Jazz are 7-2 ATS in their last nine games at Houston
The Rockets are 34-43 ATS overall this season
The Rockets are 16-22 ATS at home
The Jazz have shown no signs of fading down the stretch even after the unexpected success they have this season. They look like a bona fide contender to unseat the Lakers in the West and they present a number of matchup problems for the undermanned Rockets. The pick is Utah giving the points.
San Antonio Spurs (48-29) at Phoenix Suns (50-27), 10:30 p.m.
How They Enter
Phoenix is currently sitting in fifth place in the Western Conference but they are one of three 50-27 teams. One slip up and they could fall to all the way to the eight seed, but they are also one run away from snagging the two seed. The Spurs are in a similar predicament, after playing 77 games, these last five games will determine how steep of a hill their playoff climb will be.
The Suns’ 10-game winning streak was finally snapped with a loss at Milwaukee on Saturday. The Spurs are working on a winning streak of their own, winning four in a row. However, even more impressive is that the two wins came at Sacramento and at the Lakers and their two home wins were against Orlando and Houston. Couple those wins with huge wins over Cleveland and at Boston and San Antonio is playing its best basketball of the season, aside from a shocking letdown at New Jersey in the midst of this hot run.
The Phoenix offense still ranks first in points per game, field-goal percentage and three-point percentage. Their defense has shown slight improvements as well. The Spurs have little in common with the Suns. Their strength is with their Top 10 defense.
The Spurs have not matched up very well against the elite offensive teams in the NBA. They are 1-1 SU and 0-2 ATS against the Suns this season. When playing against the top-five offenses in the league the Spurs have gone 5-9 SU and 4-10 ATS.
Inside the Numbers
The Spurs are 42-34-1 ATS overall
The Spurs are 19-19 ATS on the road
The Suns are 44-32-1 ATS overall
The Suns are 22-15-1 ATS at home
The Spurs age has not shown throughout the season like many expected, but against the fast-paced offenses it has and no team gets up and down the floor faster than the Phoenix Suns. The pick here is the Suns giving the points.