NBA Odds, Picks & Projections: Best Bets for Jazz vs. Suns, Thunder vs. Hornets & More (Wednesday, April 7)
Jeff Swinger/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz.
- A few blockbuster matchups highlights Wednesday's NBA schedule.
- The Suns and Jazz wrap up the night battling for Western Conference supremacy.
- See that and which other games Raheem Palmer is betting on, below.
For the 2020-2021 NBA season, I’ll be publishing my projections for every NBA game on the Wednesday and Friday slate. 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 nine-game slate.
Minnesota Timberwolves at Indiana Pacers
Under normal circumstances, my model would have the Pacers listed as 7.5-point favorites in this matchup. These are anything but normal circumstances as they’re playing the back end of a back-to-back after Myles Turner went down with an ankle injury against the Chicago Bulls.
Turner’s loss is especially big against Karl-Anthony Towns as the Pacers are 4.6 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Turner on the floor vs off. It’s really no surprise we’ve seen this total get steamed up from 227.5 to as much as 231.
When you consider that Domantas Sabonis is already hurt with an ankle injury, it’s clear the Pacers are in a really tough spot in the front court. Malcolm Brogdon is also questionable for tonight’s game after missing the past three games with a hip injury.
As a whole, the wheels are really falling off for the Pacers who have lost four out of their past five games and find themselves two games behind the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Over the past two weeks, the Pacers are scoring just 108.9 points per 100 possessions, 23rd among NBA teams over that span. For all the talk of new head coach Nate Bjorkgren modernizing this offense after the firing of Nate McMillan, the Pacers are still 19th in field goal attempts from behind the arc (35.5%) and 19th in 3-point shooting percentage (36.3%).
With the offense struggling and Myles Turner’s absence hurting their defense, this is strictly a fade of the Pacers. Look for the Timberwolves to get win here and with D’Angelo Russell back in the lineup, this team can begin building some momentum for next season.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Charlotte Hornets
The Thunder are tanking. They’ve found injuries for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley, Lu Dort, Josh Hall, Mike Muscala and Al Horford agreed to sit out for the rest of the season.
Although the offense has completely collapsed over the past two weeks, scoring just 98.6 points per 100 possessions, the Thunder defense is giving up a whopping 118.7 points per 100 possessions over the past two weeks, which ranks last among NBA teams.
They gave up 132 to the Pistons, 133 to the Blazers, 140 to the Suns, 127 to the Mavericks, 111 to the Celtics and 116 to the Grizzlies over the past two weeks. This team simply can’t stop anyone and despite their offense falling off, the Thunder are playing the sixth-fastest Pace since the All Star break (101.04), which creates the perfect recipe for an over.
This total is a bit suppressed with Gordon Hayward out of the lineup as he’s a one of their key scorers and playmakers. While the Hornets are +3.4 points per 100 possessions better offensively with him on the floor, Miles Bridges is more than capable of replacing his scoring output against the depleted Thunder.
The Hornets generate most of their points from behind the arc where they’re shooting 38.7% of their field goal attempts and making the sixth-highest percentage (38.9%), but they should be able to score at the rim against the Thunder who rank 29th in Opponent Field Goal percentage at the rim (67.1%). The Hornets struggle to guard the rim as well, allowing opposing teams to shoot 66.2%, 26th among NBA teams.
The Thunder also shoot the ninth-highest percentage of 3-point field goals (38.6%) so this is really a game where both teams will be shooting a ton of 3s. With this likely being a fast paced game between two teams who should find success at the rim and will shoot a ton of 3-pointers, I like this game to go over 213.
My projections make this game 218 so I think this total is a bit short.
Utah Jazz at Phoenix Suns
The Utah Jazz have won nine out of their past 10 games, dropping Monday night’s game against the Dallas Mavericks after shooting just 12-of-44 (27.3%) from behind the arc.
The Jazz have been one of the biggest stories of the NBA season. They’ve also been bringing in the money as they are 31-18 against the spread.
Good teams win but great teams cover and the Jazz have surely been great. Flying under the radar are the Phoenix Suns are who are 35-14 and the second-best team in the West all while being a league leading 32-17 ATS, according to Bet Labs.
If you’ve been following me for a while via the podcast you know I really love this Suns team. They have a Hall of Fame point guard in Chris Paul, a scorer and closer in Devin Booker, 3-and-D wings in Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and Jae Crowder and an up and coming big man in DeAndre Ayton. They’re top 10 in both Offensive (116.9) and Defensive Rating (109.3).
Seriously, what’s not to love about this team?
Unfortunately, it’s tough to play at this level the entire year. The Suns have really seen their defense fall off a bit recently, over their past five games they rank 17th in Defensive Rating allowing 111.2 points per 100 possessions.
Despite winning six straight games and nine out of their past 10, they’ve played some tough games: They lost against the Magic, struggled against a the depleted Raptors, blew a double-digit lead to the Hornets that required overtime for a win, and went down to the wire against the Rockets. At some point every team hits a dead spot and this Jazz game feels like it could be one of those spots.
The Jazz are attempting a league high 43 3-pointers per game and making 17. In their first meeting against the Suns, they shot just 12-of-34 from behind the arc, well under expectation. Both teams are top-10 in Defensive Rating with the Jazz posting the league’s second-best Defensive Rating (107.7) in their non garbage time minutes, according to Cleaning the Glass and the Suns ranking fifth (109.3).
There aren’t many areas of the floor where these teams are weak at defending, but the Jazz should thrive in the short mid-range with floaters from Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley. The Jazz are shooting the seventh-highest percentage in the short mid-range (44.7%) and the Suns rank 18th in opponent field goal percentage (42.5%) from that area of the floor.
My model makes this game Jazz -2.5 so at -1.5 I’m seeing a bit of value on the Jazz. Also, I’m not expecting a very high-scoring game as this game is likely to have a playoff like atmosphere with this being game between the top two teams in the conference.
The Suns haven’t been defending well lately, but I’d imagine the defense steps up here, as do the Jazz. The Suns are just 23rd in pace (98.15) and the Jazz are 16th (99.5), so these aren’t particularly fast paced teams despite being efficient offensively.
My model makes this game 225 so I do like the under too but I think the strongest play is on the Jazz as they should bounce back from Monday night’s loss provided they shoot at expectation.
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