NBA Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 4/8/2013
In my opinion, the Denver Nuggets are easily the most entertaining team in the NBA to watch. George Karl's club is deep and plays fast. I think it could have contended for the Western Conference title. I said “could” instead of “can” because of the injury to Danilo Gallinari.
Denver enters this week having won four straight (3-1 ATS) and is in good position to hold down the No. 3 spot in the West and, thus, home-court advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs. And I suspect the Nuggets can beat a Golden State or Houston in the first round, but that's where I'd put their limit without Gallinari.
The Italian big man tore his ACL in last Friday's win over Dallas and is obviously done for the season. If you saw the play on which he was hurt, you knew it was bad right away. The 24-year-old forward averaged 16.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists this season. At 6.2 wins above replacement for the season, Gallinari has been Denver's second-most valuable player by that metric. The main problem facing Denver is that it isn't a good long-range shooting team, and Gallinari was the best of the bunch. In addition, the Nuggets are 6.7 points better for every 100 possessions Gallinari has been on the floor, the best mark on the team.
Wilson Chandler moved into the starting lineup for Saturday's game against Houston, and the Nuggets didn't miss a beat. Chandler had 21 points as Denver scored a season-high 132 points in its 20th straight home win. Houston stinks defensively, so that doesn't mean much, and in the postseason the game slows down. On the positive side, Chandler is a better defensive player than Gallinari, as is Corey Brewer, who will see a big uptick in minutes.
Even without Gallinari and injured star point guard Ty Lawson, I'd still back Denver in its games this week: Wednesday at home against San Antonio (which likely will be without Tony Parker and will be sans Manu Ginobili), Friday at Dallas (the Mavs could be eliminated from playoffs by then) and Sunday at home against Portland (loser of eight straight). Lawson is likely to miss this entire week but should return before the end of the regular season as he recovers from a complete tear of the plantar fascia in his right heel.
Thursday Or Never For Rose?
Bulls star Derrick Rose says he still hasn't ruled out playing this season as he recovers from his torn ACL, but if D-Rose doesn't play by Thursday night's TNT home game against the Knicks, the team needs to officially just shut him down.
After Thursday, the Bulls have just one home game left, the season finale against Washington. Bulls management owes it to the players who are on the court to tell them they are riding them the rest of the way and stop with the daily Rose distraction. At this point, it might actually be a negative for Rose to return as it no doubt would throw the team out of rhythm. Rose's reputation has really taken a hit in the Windy City. After all, the guy has been scrimmaging since Feb. 18.
The Bulls also got some bad news in that all-star center Joakim Noah suffered a setback with his bout of plantar fasciitis. Noah returned Sunday after missing eight games with the injury, but the Bulls were trounced by Detroit, ending Chicago's 18-game winning streak in the series. I wouldn't expect to see Noah the rest of this week as there's really no point for the Bulls to push him before the postseason.
Good, Bad News For Lakers
In a bit of a shocker, the Lakers are likely to welcome back Metta World Peace on Tuesday night at home against New Orleans. He had knee surgery in late March and was supposed to miss the rest of the regular season. The Lakers are 4-2 since he was sidelined. L.A. isn't a great defensive team, and that's one area MWP certainly contributes. The news isn't so good on Steve Nash. He has missed the past three games with a hamstring injury and isn't expected to play Tuesday night against the Hornets.
On the updated “will Lakers make playoffs” odds at Sportsbook.ag, “no” is the -160 favorite and “yes” is +130. Sunday's loss to the Clippers was costly as it dropped the Lakers a half-game behind Utah for the No. 8 spot, although the teams are even in the loss column; Utah holds the head-to-head tiebreaker. I think L.A.'s playoff chances essentially come down to Wednesday's game at Portland. It's the second of a back-to-back and the Lakers' final road game of the regular season. If they can win that (probably without Nash again), the Lakers should be able to win out with Golden State (little to play for), San Antonio (shorthanded) and Houston (also not much to play for) visiting Staples Center.
The Jazz have a huge one Tuesday night at home against Oklahoma City and then finish vs. Minnesota and at Minnesota and Memphis. Should the Jazz win Tuesday, they would appear in great shape. Wins over the Timberwolves shouldn't be a problem, and the Grizzlies quite likely will have nothing to play for in that finale.
I still lean toward L.A. making it, but if Utah upsets the Thunder, who are three-point favorites and have won 10 of the past 14 meetings, then I believe it finishes in a dead heat for No. 8 and thus the Jazz get in. Shoot, if I'm OKC I might tank Tuesday's game just to help keep the Lakers out as they could be a first-round opponent for the Thunder. OKC still has motivation to win, however, as it battles San Antonio for the top seed in the West.
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