NBA Odds and Picks: Utah Jazz at Phoenix Suns Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 4/23/2012
Barring a spectacular collapse by the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference, we know 15 of the 16 playoff teams in the NBA with the postseason set to tip off on Saturday. That lone spot left could be decided Tuesday night in what is almost a play-in game when Phoenix visits Utah.
Currently the Jazz (34-30) lead the Suns (33-31) by a single game for that eighth and final playoff spot out West. It Utah beats Phoenix, the Jazz are in the postseason. The Suns aren’t guaranteed to be in with a win but they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with Utah already.
Phoenix finishes Wednesday at home vs. San Antonio, which sounds like a potential loss. However, Phoenix could catch a huge break if San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich decides to rest some of his Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. And knowing Popovich, he may well do that even though the NBA would probably put some pressure on him behind the scenes not to do so. Utah finishes Thursday at home against a Portland team that has collapsed and is devastated by injuries.
Suns at Jazz How the Teams Enter
Phoenix was great to us last week if you followed my Thursday NBA on TNT story as the Suns covered by a half-point at home against the Los Angeles Clippers. A questionable foul call on L.A.’s Blake Griffin in the final seconds allowed Phoenix to hit two free throws and win 93-90 when the Suns were 2.5-point favorites. Phoenix followed that win with a 118-107 home loss to Denver on Saturday. The Nuggets had a whopping 26-2 advantage in fast-break points. Phoenix has alternated losses and wins in its past seven games.
Utah took advantage of the injury-devastated Orlando Magic on Saturday night with a 117-107 overtime home victory, the Jazz’s third straight win. Without Dwight Howard to worry about, Al Jefferson had 21 points, 10 boards and three blocks to lead the way. He tied the game with 21.7 seconds left in regulation. It was the Jazz’s seventh overtime game of the season. Utah is just the third team in NBA history to go for the overtime “cycle,” having played in single, double, triple and quadruple overtime games this season. The Jazz are 4-3 in their seven OT games.
Suns at Jazz Betting Story Lines
Phoenix point guard Steve Nash had 13 assists in the loss Saturday and passed Oscar Robertson into fifth place on the NBA's career assists list. Nash, with 9,897 assists, trails only Magic Johnson (10,141), Mark Jackson (10,334), Jason Kidd (11,830 and counting) and John Stockton (15,806). At 38 years old, Nash is set to become the oldest player in NBA history to average at least 10 assists for an entire season.
But that defeat was doubly painful as the Suns lost starting power forward Channing Frye to a shoulder injury in the second quarter. Frye sustained a subluxed right shoulder when he went up for a rebound with 4:33 left in the first half. The Suns' starting power forward, who leads the team with 91 3-pointers, missed nearly two weeks after dislocating the same shoulder late last season. But a subluxation isn’t as serious. The Arizona Republic reports that there’s a chance Frye could play in this one if the swelling stays under control and he is able to regain range of motion. Frye already could hold his right arm straight out after it was popped back into joint during the Saturday’s game.
If Frye is unable to play (he’s officially questionable), rookie Markieff Morris likely would start for the first time since late January. Morris had three fouls in eight first-half minutes Saturday and shot 1 for 6 from the field, making him 4 for 18 in the past three games. The Suns also hope small forward Grant Hill can return from a sore right knee. He missed his fourth straight game Saturday since a two-day return from arthroscopic surgery to repair a meniscus tear. But Hill didn’t practice Monday so it looks doubtful.
Utah could get back both Josh Howard and Raja Bell as they work their way back from knee injuries. Bell hasn't played since March 15 and Howard has been out for more than a month as well. They did practice Monday, but neither would start even if they play.
Ironically, missing the playoffs could benefit Utah. If the Jazz get in the postseason, the Timberwolves will get their first-round pick as part of the 2010 Jefferson deal. Utah protected its 2012 draft selection, so it keeps its lottery pick if the team doesn't make the playoffs. The Jazz also get Golden State’s pick if it’s not in the Top 7.
Phoenix has won the first two meetings with Utah this season. On March 14 in the desert, the Suns won 120-111 behind 26 points from Frye and 16 assists from Nash. On April 4 in Salt Lake City, the Suns prevailed 107-105 on two Nash shots in the final 14 seconds. With only 1.7 seconds left, Utah’s C.J. Miles fired up a 3-pointer from the baseline. Paul Millsap saw it was going to be short, grabbed it, and put it up and in, but it was too late.
Suns at Jazz Betting Odds and Key Trends
Utah opened as a 4.5-point favorite with the total at 203 on NBA odds. Phoenix is 34-30 ATS this season and 16-16 on the road; the Suns covered in both earlier matchups with Utah (the line was 4.5 points as well in the lone Salt Lake City meeting). Utah is 3303-1 ATS this year and 19-12 at home. Over/under records: PHX 25-39, UTA 32-30-2.
Phoenix is 5-0 ATS in its past five games after a loss. Suns are 10-1 ATS in their past 11 games following an ATS loss. The Jazz haven’t covered in their past five home games vs. a team with a below .500 road record. The over is 4-0 in Utah’s past four games. Phoenix is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The road team has covered five of the past six in this series.
Suns at Jazz Betting Prediction
The Suns have owned this series in winning seven straight and covering in six of those. And for what it’s worth the Suns are 6-4 in nationally televised games this season after going 4-12 a year ago. But I like the Jazz here. Utah didn’t have starting point guard Devin Harris in the last meeting with Phoenix and he’s playing arguably his best ball of the season right now, averaging 22.8 points and six assists in the past four games. Plus the Suns won’t have Hill and probably not Frye, either. Even if Frye does play, it’s hard to imagine he is anywhere near 100 percent. So take the Jazz and the over.
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