Suns at Trail Blazers Picks and NBA Betting Odds
by Alan Matthews - 2/19/2013
Certainly the best game of Tuesday night in the NBA is when Boston visits Denver, but these picks aren’t about choosing the marquee matchup, rather the game in which I have the most confidence in my pick. And that’s the case with the Phoenix at Portland matchup as the NBA’s second half of the season tips off.
It’s been an ugly season in Phoenix, and not just on the court, with the Western Conference’s worst record. On Jan. 18, the team and head coach Alvin Gentry “parted ways” mutually (yeah right). Instead of turning to long-time Suns assistant Elston Turner, a man with 14 years experience coaching, or former Suns legend Dan Majerle, another assistant, GM Lance Blanks went with director of player development Lindsey Hunter, who has no coaching experience, as the interim head coach. It was a hugely unpopular move in Phoenix as Majerle is a demigod there. Both he and Turner left the team shortly afterward. Turner especially was peeved as he was a longtime assistant to Rick Adelman and was denied the chance to leave the Suns in 2011 by team officials when Adelman was hired by the Timberwolves and wanted to hire Turner.
Things haven’t gone well in Portland lately, either, as the Blazers enter the second half on a five-game skid and three games behind Houston for the final playoff spot in the West. But no city had a better All-Star Game than Portland. Why? Blazers stud rookie Damian Lillard won the Skills Challenge and Raptors rookie Terrence Ross, a Portland native and former prep star there, took the Dunk Contest.
Suns at Blazers Betting Story Lines
Portland looked like a lock playoff team back in early January when the Blazers were 20-15 following a huge comeback win at home over Miami. It’s almost as if that emotional victory sapped all of the energy out of the team as it has gone 5-13 since. The Blazers totally laid an egg in their final game of the first half, a 99-63 stinker at New Orleans. Portland shot a season-low 32 percent and made a season-low-tying 24 field goals. The Blazers were 2-for-17 from long range and no player had more than 12 points. All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge finished with a season-low seven points and was pretty much dominated by Hornets rookie Anthony Davis.
Lillard has mostly been excellent but may have hit the rookie wall, shooting 35.4 percent from the field in the current losing streak – including a ghastly 1-for-16 in a loss to Orlando – and 25.8 percent from long range. Nicolas Batum also has been terrific this season but has scored in single digits in three of the past five games. Portland guard Wesley Matthews left that Hornets game with an ankle injury and is called questionable for this one.
The Suns played well for a couple of games immediately after Hunter took over but are now slumping. They have lost four straight and eight of 10. Guys like Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat and Jermaine O’Neal have been mentioned as players Phoenix is willing to deal before Thursday’s deadline. Gortat’s value is down right now as he has totaled 12 points in the past three games. He’s averaging just 9.4 points this month and has seen his minutes decrease. Hunter has said he’s pondering changes to the starting lineup to shake the team up. Gortat could be headed to a reserve role as O’Neal has been outplaying him.
The Lakers would love to acquire O’Neal, but the Suns don’t want to help the Lakers because Phoenix gets their first-round pick this year from the Steve Nash deal if Los Angeles misses the playoffs. The Suns have been mentioned as a possible landing spot for Josh Smith if the Hawks trade him.
This is the final meeting of the season, with each winning one at home so far. On Nov. 21 in the desert, Phoenix rolled, 114-87. Gortat was 11-of-14 for 22 points in three quarters and Phoenix shot a season-high 59.7 percent from the field. On Dec. 22 in Portland, the Blazers won 96-93 behind 25 points and seven assists from Lillard. It was Portland’s seventh straight win at home in this series, the Blazers’ longest current home streak against any opponent.
Suns at Blazers NBA Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BetOnline, Portland has been opened as a 5.5-point favorite with the total at 195.5. The Suns are 21-29-3 ATS (12-14-2 on road) and 23-29-1 “over/under” (16-11-1 on road). Portland is 22-29-2 ATS (12-11-2 at home) and 27-25-1 O/U (11-13-1 at home).
The Suns are 2-5 in their past seven vs. the West. Phoenix is 0-5 ATS in its past five vs. teams from the Northwest Division. Portland is 0-4 ATS in its past four after a loss. The Blazers are 0-8 ATS in their last eight games vs. a team with a winning percentage below .400. The over has hit in five of Phoenix’s past seven road games against teams with a winning home record. The over is 6-1 in Portland’s past seven games. The home team has covered five of the past six meetings. The under is 6-1 in the past seven in Portland.
Suns at Blazers Picks and Betting Predictions
At 17-36, the Suns are on pace to finish with the worst record in franchise history since the 1968-69 expansion team. They are 4-8 under Hunter, who focuses on defense while assistant Igor Kokosko runs the offense. But according to the Arizona Republic, the Suns have gone from giving up 43.4 points per game in the paint under Gentry to 47.2 under Hunter, the NBA’s second-highest total in that stretch.
Unfortunately for Phoenix, which is looking at its highest draft pick in 26 years, this year’s draft class isn’t rated all that great, so even getting the No. 1 overall pick in the lottery isn’t likely to improve Phoenix that much. That’s why the team is so active in trade talk.
The Suns are wretched on the road at 5-23, while the Blazers are 17-8 at home. I think Portland wins this in a blowout. And you have to like the over as that Dec. 22 game was the first time in the past nine meetings that neither team scored at least 100 points.
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