Seven days is a long time in the NBA, so let’s recap what went down last week and take a look at what to expect over the next.
The Week That Was
The Thunder are still the worst team against the spread
They may have snapped their nine-game losing streak against the spread, but the Thunder are still the worst team in basketball to bet on. We’ve been waiting for the signs of improvement, and up until the three-minute mark of their game against the 76ers, it looked like we were seeing them. Then Oklahoma City gave up a nine-point lead and needed three overtime periods to put the Sixers away before being blown out by the Knicks a night later.
At 10-19 against the spread, the Thunder are only covering 34.5 percent of their games.
Celtics begin their regression toward the mean
After their incredible start to the season both straight up and against the spread, the inevitable plateau before an assumed regression toward the mean has begun for the Celtics.
They’ve gone 3-5-1 against the spread in their last nine games and ran 1-2-1 last week. I mentioned the rookie wall Jayson Tatum needed to navigate would pop up around Dec. 13 when he played his 30th game, and the inconsistencies that come with the rookie wall appear to be setting in. After three single-digit scoring games in the first 28 games of his career, Taytum had two in three games before an improved 19-point outing in Memphis on Saturday.
A week for the underdogs
Underdogs were the way to go last week, as they covered at 68.8 percent for a 33.2 percent ROI. As if it wasn’t already a rough week for punters, nine games saw one team take over 71 percent of spread tickets, with those heavily-backed teams going an awful 2-5-2 against the spread.
The Week Ahead
Tough time for the Jazz
Utah has a challenging run of games coming up, and they’ve just lost Rudy Gobert for at least two weeks — probably more.
Here is an injury update on Rudy Gobert. He will miss at least 2 weeks. pic.twitter.com/EsDwfgI17K
— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) December 16, 2017
To round out 2017, the Jazz play: @ Rockets, @ Thunder, vs. Spurs, vs. Thunder, @ Nuggets, @ Warriors, vs. Cavaliers. All of those teams (minus the Thunder, but who knows what they will serve up on the day) are legitimate playoff teams, if not championship contenders.
That’s not to say there won’t be some value for Jazz backers, though.
The Jazz play remarkably well with Gobert out of the lineup and Derrick Favors in at the five. They are 8-4 against the spread with Gobert out, and with Joe Johnson now healthy, they’re even better positioned to cover than the first stint the Frenchman spent on the sidelines.
Wait for Favors to be removed from the league’s concussion protocol, but once he is, don’t rule the Jazz out as a valuable underdog this week.
Fade the Bulls
By winning five games in a row, the Bulls are performing the worst tank job possible. After starting the season at 3-20, Chicago has improved to 8-20, having beaten the Hornets, Knicks, Celtics, Jazz and Bucks. They are 15-12-1 against the spread for the season, but history suggests it may be best to fade them against the Sixers today.
Teams on a five-game winning streak with a below .500 record straight up have covered the following game at just 41.1 percent (30-43-1) in the last 14 seasons.
The Bulls just became the first team in NBA history to follow up a 10-game losing streak or longer with a winning streak of 5 games or more, according to @EliasSports.
— Chris Herring (@Herring_NBA) December 16, 2017
Games to watch
Lakers/Warriors x2: With these teams at opposite ends of the standings, there’s potential for at least one of these games to be a blowout. It’s worth remembering the Lakers took the Warriors to overtime and arguably should have won on the back of Brandon Ingram’s 32 points.
Cavaliers @ Bucks: On a day where only three games are played, it’s a blessing that one of them is set to be a thriller. The Cavaliers are on a tear, but the Bucks have proven they can compete on any given night. If Giannis Antetokounmpo is firing, his battle with LeBron James will be the best of the week.
76ers @ Raptors: Any game with Joel Embiid is worth watching. What makes this one particularly interesting is the hope we see him matched up against Serge Ibaka: two big bodies that don’t take a backwards step to anyone and love to run their mouth. Fingers crossed Ibaka sees more than the 22 percent of minutes he’s usually assigned to the five spot.