Healy’s Play(s) of the Night
by JOE HEALY, February 27, 2015
Utah Jazz -5 @ Denver Nuggets
The Jazz have been one of my favorite teams to bet on this year(30-25 ATS!), as well as being surprisingly entertaining to watch for a team that runs at such a slow pace. Derrick Favors and Rudy “The Stifle Tower” Gobert comprise what is one of the league’s best frontcourts. Along with a top 30 player in Gordon Hayward this team is a lot better than their record and reputation would indicate.
The Nuggets on the other hand, are simply a bad basketball team on both sides of the ball. The 8th-worst offense in the league has only gotten worse with the loss of Aaron Afflalo, previously their best shooter before his trade to Portland. Since the All-Star break the Nuggets have scored a measly 88 points per 100 possessions, worst in the league over the stretch despite a fairly easy platter of defenses. Ty Lawson, is a great distributor and an above average offensive player, but this season he has taken a frustrating amount of mid-range shots where he shoots an inefficient 39%.
Lawson is the focal point of Denver’s offense, and when he keeps throwing up shots from the elbow at Melo-level efficiency, hope for improvement is bleak. Wilson Chandler is a formidable offensive player and takes more shots than anyone else on the Nuggets, but he’ll likely be matched up with Hayward tonight, an above average defender. If Denver is to succeed they will need production from their backcourt because absolutely no one is scoring on the Stifle Tower.
Rudy Gobert has developed into quite the respectable center, especially defensively where he has established himself as one of the top rim protectors in the NBA. Shooting on Gobert is sure to lead to some serious embarrassment, as opponents are shooting only 49% against him in the restricted area (5th best in the Association). Over a third of Denver’s shots come from the restricted area, a statistic that doesn’t bode well for their chances tonight.
Utah’s offense produces at around the league average, scoring 102.8 points per 100 possessions. Losing Enes Kanter at the deadline hurt. But Utah still has Derrick Favors who shoots an incredible 70% from the restricted area, as well as Gobert who is deadly in the pick and roll.
Unless we see Ty Lawson put up a monster night against Trey Burke and Dante Exum, something which is highly unlikely considering Lawson’s shot patterns this year, I think Utah at -5 provides great value, making it my top play of the night.
Other plays to look at tonight:
Golden State -2.5 @ Drakes – Not especially confident here because of the back to back for Golden State, but as much as I love Toronto, their record is inflated from playing in the weakest division in the weakest conference. Golden State won’t have any problems with Toronto’s below average defense.
Clippers @ Grizzlies -5 – Memphis is my pick to go to emerge out of the Western Conference, both because of their amazing defense and impressive depth. They represent a great matchup against the Clippers, able to space the floor well with Zach Randolph and force LA into sloppy rotations, leading to good scoring opportunities for Courtney Lee, and Jeff Green.
Buck$$$ -6 @ Lakers – Vegas has been surprisingly low on the Bucks all year considering their second best ATS record this year at 35-22. Their strong defense and versatile offense, full of shooters that can play any position, won’t be any problem for the pathetic Lakers.
Healy’s Play of the Night
by Joe Healy, February 26, 2015
For the average NBA fan tonight is a wonderful night. Golden State and Cleveland face off for the first time this year, an ideal matchup from just about every possible standpoint. But for your classic degenerate gambler a two game night is a bummer. Tonight, we are left with just one viable play:
Oklahoma City -5.5 @ Phoenix
Two weeks ago this game looked like it would be a huge matchup that would have a major effect on the playoff race. Since then the Suns and their point differential have fallen off a cliff.
Even before Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas were shipped away, this team was fading. Phoenix holds a 2-8 record in their last 10 games while the Thunder have gone 9-1, taking the 8 seed and a 3 game lead in the loss column, and ruining everyone’s hopes and dreams for some interesting NBA storylines in March to carry us to the playoffs.
In the Suns 10 game slump their offensive rating has dipped to a lowly 101.4 (points per 100 possessions), 17th in the league during that span behind the Lakers, Timberwolves and Celtics. While this is a sign of a stagnating offense, it’s difficult to draw conclusions based on a sample size so small and uncharacteristic of their normal performance. Under Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix runs an efficient offense, limiting mid range shots while bombarding threes and constantly attacking the paint with great athletic guards Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe. The offense is likely to rebound soon, unless the Suns decide to throw in the towel after this game and chase a decent pick, a highly unlikely scenario.
Tonight however, will not be the night the Suns offense bounces back. Phoenix will struggle attacking the paint, both because of the brutal nature of back-to-backs, and because Serge Ibaka is a beast. Ibaka’s defensive presence is vital to OKC’s success, with opponents only managing a 44% success rate on field goal attempts in the paint against him this year. With The Son of Congo patrolling the paint the Suns will have to rely heavily on the three, as teams often do against the Thunder. Opponents have taken just just over 20 3 point shots a game against OKC this year, second most in the league behind the Mavs. Yet the Thunder still rank in the top 10 in opposing 3 point field goal percentage, thanks in part to great perimeter defense by Russell Westbrook. If the Suns offense is to succeed at all tonight it will likely be through the lackluster play of Dion Waiters or Ibaka getting into early foul trouble. This, of course, is within the realm of possibility, but even with an ideal offensive night it will be difficult for the Suns defense to slow OKC’s star-studded offensive attack.
Defense was never a strong suit for the Suns, even at this year’s peak. They have no one capable of protecting the rim, as both center Alex Len and forward Markieff Morris get hammered in the restricted area. Phoenix has given up a 56% field goal percentage on all shots in the paint, 28th in the league, which means this for Russell Westbrook and Enes Kanter…..
I’m sure you are aware of the absolute tear Russell Westbrook has been on lately. Just the other night he posted another sub-30 minute triple double! There are million stats I could give you on Russell Westbrook’s February, but all you really need to see is this:
Russ is an absolute freak in the paint. His amazing quickness and athleticism makes him one of the best finishers in the game. Just look at this play from the other night, where he successfully blows by an elite defender, MKG, somehow gets by Big Al who had perfect positioning, draws the foul, and finishes (More Angles!) like it’s nothing!!! That’s because it is nothing to Russ, who does this on a nightly basis. Over half of Westbrook’s shots come from inside the paint, a stat that doesn’t bode well for Phoenix and their sketchy interior defense. Even if they are able to slow Westbrook by bringing help when he drives, the paint will open up for recently acquired center Enes Kanter, an absolute monster down low who has shot 64% from inside the restricted area. Kanter benefits tremendously from Ibaka being on the floor, a much better floor spacer than any of his previous Utah frontcourt mates. Already, despite an admittedly small sample size, lineups with Westbrook, Ibaka, and Kanter sharing the floor have killed the opposition.
Considering Oklahoma City’s significant advantages in this matchup tonight, I was shocked to see the line open at a mere five points. Thank the bleak and depressing Denver Nuggets for making Phoenix look good last night, a result that probably influenced this line more than it should have. The Thunder have been otherworldly lately, (I didn’t even mention what Kyle Singler has brought to this offense so far!) and it’s damn frightening for anybody in their wake. If Durant comes back totally healthy, this team is going to be scary as hell.