Moore’s Saturday NBA Betting Picks & Angles: Can Utah Slow Down Luka Doncic?
Abbie Parr/Getty Images. Pictured: Luka Doncic
Betting angles for Saturday based on matchups and trends …
Odds as of Saturday afternoon. Check out PointsBet, where Action Network users can access an exclusive promotion to get a 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150). No strings attached. No rollover required.
Mavericks vs. Jazz
- Spread: Jazz -4
- Over/under: 226
The angle: Luka, Luka, Luka
I searched high and low for a trend here. Carlisle vs. Snyder. The Mavs with Luka vs. teams with a defensive rating under 105. The Jazz vs. high-octane offenses (over 110 offensive rating). The two teams haven’t played yet this season. The Jazz are 11-8 as a home favorite ATS, Dallas is 6-3 as a road dog this season ATS.
Nothing really stands out as an edge. We’ll have to do this the old-fashioned way.
Utah plays a pretty basic scheme augmented by its exceptional individual defenders. In pick and roll, the ball-handler’s defender goes over the top to try and force the opponent inside the 3-point line, while the screener’s man (usually Rudy Gobert) drops to contain the drive and the roll.
If you don’t get over fully, you wind up giving up a 3:
This coverage is why James Harden absolutely slices and dices against Utah. It’s smart coverage, well-executed by exceptional personnel, which is why Utah’s a top-five defense every year. But it gives up big performances to great guards.
Utah gives up the most points per game to jump shots off the dribble because of this, on the 13th-highest percentage.
Now, the advantage is that the Jazz shut down high-quality spot-up shots. They are able to stay home on shooters without having to help down, and that means they give up the second-fewest catch-and-shoot jumpers league-wide, while also allowing the eighth-lowest percentage on those shots.
What all this means is that Luka Doncic, if he’s shooting well, may have an absolutely blistering day. Doncic is fifth-best in points per possession on dribble jumpers off the pick among players with at least 100 such possessions. Despite being a mediocre 3-point shooter this season, he cooks in those situations.
But Dallas as a whole takes more catch-and-shoot jumpers than any team in the league. So taking that part away is crucial.
The question is whether Doncic in particular will force the Jazz to employ a different scheme the way that Harden does. Utah tried bringing a help defender from the side and relying on help last year at times vs. Doncic. It didn’t go great:
Rubio helps here and… nope:
The Jazz went 3-1 vs. Dallas last year, however, with Doncic missing one of the contests, and Utah scoring just 68 (!!!) points in one of the losses. Utah got whatever it wanted offensively.
So here’s the big takeaway: the Jazz are ill-positioned to slow down Doncic, even with Dwight Powell out for the season following his Achilles rupture. Dallas has the shooters still to punish the Jazz for bringing help, and Utah’s natural scheme makes it too easy on Doncic.
However, Dallas’ offense is ill-equipped to handle Utah all the same. Three of the four games last year between these teams went under today’s total of 226, but that was with entirely different offenses on both sides. The Jazz are seventh in offensive efficiency this season, and second behind Dallas since December 1.
The spread is too high to feel good either way; there’s a reason it jumped to Jazz -4 from the open of 2.5 so quickly. At -4, I don’t love it, but the over seems well-positioned, despite sharp money coming in on the under.
THE PLAY: Over 226
Nets vs. Pistons
- Spread: Nets -2.5
- Over/under: 227.5
The angle: Big bag of nope
The Nets are 5-10-1 ATS with Kyrie Irving this year, and 0-2 as a road favorite. The Pistons are 4-6 as home underdogs. The Pistons are also 11-21-1 vs. Eastern Conference teams.
Do not bet this game. I believed in the Pistons yesterday vs. a Grizzlies team that appeared to be fading and they got ran out of the building.
I lean over, but don’t want any part of this one.
THE PLAY: STAY AWAY
Bulls vs. Cavaliers
- Spread: Cavaliers -1.5
- Over/under: 215
The angle: Why do I do this to myself?
I want to run away. I do. But I’m going to wind up betting the Cavs. God help me.
Home underdogs vs. East teams below .500 are 14-10 ATS this season, even if the Cavs are 4-5 in such a spot. The Bulls opened as a 1-point favorite and then money came in on the Cavs to move it in their direction. Currently, 55% of the tickets are on the Bulls, but a whopping 66% of the money is on the Cavs.
So I’m going to tail the sharps here and take Cleveland which is a decent-for-its-win-percentage 10-12 straight up vs. teams under .500.
God help me.
THE PLAY: Cavaliers -1.5
Thunder vs. Timberwolves
- Spread: Thunder -2
- Over/under: 227
The angle: The Thunder rolls back to back
The Thunder are 2-0 ATS vs. the Wolves this season. That’s a marked improvement for them under Billy Donovan vs. Minnesota, as they are 6-12 ATS overall vs. the Wolves in Donovan’s tenure.
However, OKC is on a back-to-back. The Thunder are an incredible 7-0 ATS this season on the second night of a back-to-back.
Now, I don’t expect the Thunder to go undefeated ATS in that spot, nor do I expect them to go undefeated vs. a division opponent who has given them nightmares through the years (“Andrew Wiggins plays like Michael Jordan vs. only us” is a common Thunder refrain both from fans and folks close to the team).
But I’m laying only two with a team that’s been red hot since Thanksgiving vs. a Wolves team that’s been bad at home, in a spot where the number is soft.
THE PLAY: Thunder -2
Lakers vs. 76ers
- Spread: Lakers -4
- Over/under: 218.5
The angle: Slogfest
I hate betting this Sixers team without Embiid. Just a heads up, I’m not going to put in a play on the spread, because they are infuriating and I zig when they zag and vice versa.
But the under I do like. If we look at the range of outcomes for this game, the under has by far the widest range. Either the Lakers have another bored/exhausted performance on the road trip and can’t get shots to fall and the Sixers are able to slow them down even without Embiid, or the Sixers’ pedestrian offense struggles against the Lakers’ length and inside force.
A shootout would be highly against the norm.
In games with the total under 220 this season, the under is 9-7 in Sixers games and 6-5 in Lakers games.
The under is 8-6-1 in Sixers games without Embiid this season. There’s a pretty good chance this is a defensive slugfest. There’s a lot of size on the court.
If I had a lean on the spread, I’d go Lakers. Laying less than two possessions when JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard should be able to feast (McGee is questionable with illness after missing Thursday’s game vs. Brooklyn) on cuts underneath without Embiid. But the Sixers still have size, still have great defenders, and Ben Simmons is as close to a model for the defender you want against LeBron as you’re going to get outside of Kawhi Leonard.
I lean Lakers, but will only put in on the under.
THE PLAY: Under 218.5