Wednesday’s NBA Odds, Picks & Projections: Betting Analysis for Jazz vs. 76ers, Bulls vs. Pelicans, More (March 3)
Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans.
- It's the NBA's penultimate night before the All-Star Break, featuring 10 games.
- One favorite, one over and one under are among the projections
- Raheem Palmer dives into Wednesday's NBA action and gives his three favorite picks.
For the 2020-2021 NBA season, I’ll be publishing my projections for every NBA game on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Here’s what you’ll find in my model: projected team totals, projected combined totals, projected spreads for the matchup and the implied odds for the moneyline.
Note: My projections won’t be updated in real-time throughout the day, but Action’s PRO Projections tool is dynamic and will reflect the latest injury and lineup news.
I’ll also be highlighting some of the slate’s most intriguing matchups with in-depth, game-level analysis that goes beyond the numbers.
NBA Projections Model
NBA Odds & Picks
Although projections give us a solid baseline for what a number should be, it’s also important to handicap each matchup for things that the numbers can’t tell us.
Check out my analysis for tonight’s 10-game slate.
Utah Jazz at Philadelphia 76ers
With a 23-12 record through the first half of the season, the Philadelphia 76ers have the best record in the Eastern Conference and Joel Embiid has put himself in the conversation as the league’s Most Valuable Player. What’s not being talked about enough is that the 76ers are just 8-8 against teams .500 or better and they have just five wins against teams above .500.
They defeated a short handed Celtics team twice in back-to-back games without Jayson Tatum, a Lakers team coming off a tough game against the Cavaliers, the Nets coming off a back-to-back game against the Raptors and missing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and a Mavericks team without Kristaps Porzingis. The 76ers team has simply beat up on inferior competition the entire year as they 15-4 against teams below .500 while struggling against the league’s best competition.
Now they face the team with the best record in the league right when they’ve hit a bit of adversity after losing two of their past three games against the Pelicans and Heat. The losses aside, this is still arguably one of the best teams in the league as they are second in both Offensive Rating (119.6) and Defensive Rating (107.6) in their non garbage time minutes, according to Cleaning the Glass.
The real concern for the 76ers in this matchup is that the Jazz will likely outshoot them from behind the arc. The Jazz are shooting a league leading 45.4% of their field goal attempts from behind the arc while making 40.3% of them, third among NBA teams. The 76ers are rank 12th in opponent 3-point percentage and with them making just 10.7 3s per game on offense vs. Utah’s 16.9, they could potentially be outscored by 18.6 points from behind the arc.
The Jazz have a whopping nine player shooting 37% or better from deep, which will put pressure on the 76ers to make up the difference in the 3-point shooting disparity somewhere else on the floor. Zion Williamson dominated the Jazz on Monday, scoring 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting, so one may think that Joel Embiid could do the same.
Looking back at the previous four meetings between these teams, Gobert held Embiid under 40% shooting in three games, forcing him into 7-of-20, 5-of-16 and 5-of-13 shooting nights. Ben Simmons has the ability to completely wreak havoc as he did in their first matchup when he scored 42 points on 15-of-26 shooting, however that level of aggressiveness is few and far between with Simmons.
In order for the 76ers to win, they’ll need an aggressive Simmons on offense who can also slow down Donovan Mitchell on defense. They’ll also Embiid to be dominant enough against Rudy Gobert to overcome the 3-point shooting disparity. The 76ers are a beast at home with a 15-3 record compared to 8-9 on the road, but I’m still not seeing it.
I’ll lay the points with the Jazz who will look to close out their historic first half of the season with a win.
Chicago Bulls at New Orleans Pelicans
Betting the Pelicans to go over might be the best bet in the NBA on a nightly basis as it feels like the market still hasn’t caught up to this team since they upped their pace in January.
The Pelicans are a league leading 24-9-1 to the over this season and have seen their games fly over the total in nine of their last 10 games.
All things considered, neither of these teams play much defense. The Pelicans have the second-worst Defensive Rating in the league, allowing 118.1 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes, according to Cleaning the Glass.
Their defense has declined more rapidly of late — their Defensive Rating is three points worse over the past two weeks — and they rank 27th in defending the rim (66.9%) and 28th in defending the 3-point line (39.8%). It goes without saying that if you’re bad at defending the paint and 3-point line, you’re going to be giving up a ton of points nightly. The Bulls rank 19th in Defensive Rating (113.4 points per 100 possessions this season) but they’ll be facing a Pelicans offense that has the third-best Offensive Rating (121.0) over the past two weeks.
What Zion Williamson is doing to the rest league isn’t getting nearly enough attention. He’s averaging 25.5 points on 65.3% True Shooting this season, but over the past 10 games he’s shooting nearly 70% from the field while scoring 29.5 points per game.
For those of us who were skeptical that he was worthy of all the hype coming out of Duke, he’s proving to be an unstoppable force that is must see TV every night. He’s also drawing eight free throws per game — tied for fifth in the NBA. I have no faith in Chicago’s ability to slow down Williamson, or the rest of the Pelicans.
The Bulls aren’t slouches on offense themselves as Zach LaVine’s 28.5 points per game on 52% shooting has this Bulls offense capable of scoring with anyone. The Bulls have the 11th best Offensive Rating (114.8) over the past two weeks and in conjunction with them playing the fourth-fastest pace (101.75) in the league this season, this game is likely to be exciting and high scoring affair.
My projections make this game 239, so I’ll take the over.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Dallas Mavericks
My projections make this game 221, but the market has adjusted with the uncertainty around Luka Doncic who was downgraded to doubtful with lower back tightness.
If Doncic can’t go, the Mavericks are losing a much of their offense as they are +11.8 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor vs off the floor. Even if he can go, I still lean toward the under.
Overall these teams aren’t particularly fast paced and with this being the last game before the break, I’m not expecting much of a high offensive output. The Mavericks can get hot from deep, but the Thunder do a solid job defending against 3s, holding opposing teams to just 34.8% from behind the arc.
Against the Mavericks, who are launching 40.1% of their field goal attempts from 3-point range, defending 3s will be key for OKC if they hope to slow down their ninth-ranked offense. And with Lu Dort, the Thunder have a wing they can throw at Doncic if he does suit up.
On the other side of the ball, the Thunder rank 29th in Offensive Rating, scoring an abysmal 106.0 points per 100 possessions. This Mavericks defense, which is much improved from the start of the season, should have no problem slowing down the Thunder.
If you can find a number at 221 or above, I think there’s value in betting the under.