NBA Odds and Predictions: Saturday, March 21 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
by Alan Matthews - 3/20/2015
A rather bland NBA five-game schedule on Saturday as it's definitely overshadowed by the first games of the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. However, one of those NBA games I do want to see is the last of them (10:30 p.m. ET) as Utah visits Golden State. Sometimes defense can be interesting to watch, and that will be on display here. The Jazz have been by far the NBA's best defensive team since the All-Star break, while Golden State leads the NBA with a defensive efficiency rating of 97.6 points allowed per 100 possessions. Guess which way I'll be leaning on the "over/under'" in that one? Here's look at each game.
Nets at Pacers (-7, 192.5)
Brooklyn hosted Milwaukee on Friday while Indiana was in Cleveland. This matchup could prove vital for one of the Eastern Conference's final playoff spots. Somehow the Nets and Pacers have managed to play just once this season. On Dec. 27, the Pacers won 110-85 in Brooklyn behind 20 points, eight assists and six rebounds from Rodney Stuckey. The Indiana bench outscored Brooklyn's 52-16. The Pacers' bench has combined to average 41.6 points per game (first in the NBA) and 19.8 rebounds per game (first entering Friday). The Pacers were 28th in bench scoring in 2013-14, averaging just 25.0 points per game. Indiana has won five straight in this series, two in a row at home.
Key trends: The Nets are 1-6 against the spread in their past seven against the East. Indiana has failed to cover five straight on Saturday. The road team is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in six straight Saturday games for Brooklyn.
Early lean: Take the points, go under.
Bulls at Pistons (+3, 191)
Chicago hosted Toronto on Friday, and Taj Gibson was a game-time call to return from his ankle injury. Jimmy Butler was ruled out, but he's also very close so maybe it's here. The Pistons haven't played since an ugly 94-83 loss on Wednesday in Philadelphia. It was Detroit's 11th loss in the past 12. A night after having 23 points and 20 assists in an upset of Memphis, Reggie Jackson had a triple-double of 11 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. He became the first player since Mark Jackson in January 1997 with a 20-20 game and a triple-double in consecutive games. Pistons forward Greg Monroe, who averages 16.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, missed his second straight game with a knee injury, and it's not looking good for him to play in this one. Monroe has no reason to rush as he's a free agent after the season. The season series is split 1-1. The Bulls won by 11 at home in November but lost by nine in Motown on Feb. 20.
Key trends: Chicago is 1-6 ATS in its past seven on the road. Detroit is 5-13 ATS in its past 18 at home vs. teams with a winning road record.
Early lean: Unless Butler returns, I'd take the points here even with Monroe out. Go under.
Suns at Rockets (-7, 211.5)
Houston won a third straight Thursday, 118-108 against Denver behind a career-high 50 points from James Harden. It was the ninth time ever a Houston player hit "half a hun" and first since Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon on Jan. 18, 1996. It was Harden's seventh game this season with at least 40. Phoenix caught a break Thursday against New Orleans in that Pelicans star Anthony Davis was a late scratch, and the Suns capitalized with a 74-72 victory. Brandon Knight and Alex Len sat out again for Phoenix, and I wouldn't expect them here. This is the final meeting of the season as Houston goes for the four-game sweep. Harden was almost single-handedly responsible for the last two wins. The Rockets won 113-111 on a Harden buzzer-beater in Phoenix on Jan. 23 and 127-118 also in Phoenix on a near triple-double (40 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists) from Harden on Feb. 10. Overall, Houston has won five in a row in the series.
Key trends: Houston is 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 4-1 in those five.
Early lean: Rockets and over.
Trail Blazers at Grizzlies (TBA)
Portland was in Orlando on Friday night and Memphis was in Dallas, with Grizzlies star point guard Mike Conley very questionable. The Grizzlies have won all three games against the Blazers this season (112-99, 102-98, 98-92; LaMarcus Aldridge missed that last game) and have won eight of the past nine contests in the series overall. So you know that Portland doesn't want this as a first-round playoff matchup. The Grizzlies have never swept a regular-season series against the Trail Blazers.
Key trends: The Blazers are 1-7 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 4-1 in the past five.
Early lean: Wait on Conley.
Jazz at Warriors (-10, 195)
Golden State hosted New Orleans on Friday night again without All-Star guard Klay Thompson, and he won't play in this one, either. Utah won at the L.A. Lakers 80-73 on Thursday to improve to an NBA-best 12-2 since the break. The Jazz won despite their starting backcourt going 0-for-11 from the field. The Warriors won the first two meetings with the Jazz by double digits in each but lost the most recent, 110-100 in Salt Lake City as Gordon Hayward had 26 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. Utah had a season-high 51 bench points and outrebounded Golden State 55-41. Outside of Steph Curry and Thompson, Golden State starters scored just 15 points.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 10-2 in the past 12 in this series in Oakland.
Early lean: Jazz and under.
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