Friday’s NBA Odds, Picks & Projections: Betting Analysis for Jazz vs. Heat, Trail Blazers vs. Lakers, More (Feb. 26)
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers.
- There are nine games on the NBA schedule on Friday night.
- Raheem Palmer digs into all the action and gives out some of his favorite plays.
For the 2020-2021 NBA season, I’ll be publishing my projections for every Wednesday and Friday NBA 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.
Sacramento Kings at Detroit Pistons
Have you seen this Sacramento Kings defense recently? The Kings are dead last in Defensive Rating giving up a whopping 119.8 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes, according to Cleaning the Glass.
Looking deeper into the Kings’ defensive metrics, they are giving up 67.2% at the rim and 40.1% from behind the arc, these figures rank 26th and 29th among NBA teams.
If you can’t stop teams in the most efficient areas of the floor, you simply aren’t going to have a good defense. The Kings have lost nine straight games and during this stretch they’ve given up 123.6 points per 100 possessions.
The Kings play at the ninth fastest Pace in the league, clocking in at 101.11 possessions per game. When you combine their abysmal defense with a fast pace, you’re going to see games fly over the total, which they’ve done in eight straight games.
According to Bet Labs, the Kings have been the third-most profitable team when betting the over, going 21-10-1 this season. I’m having trouble believing that stops here even against the Pistons who score 108.3 points per 100 possessions this season.
The Pistons are just 16-16 to the over this season and are in the bottom 10 in scoring at every area of the floor, however they’ve proven they can score against bad defenses.
They’ve scored 123 and 118 in their games against the Pelicans and 122 against the Nets. The Kings are a bad defense so we should see a higher offensive output from the Pistons here.
My projections make this game 230 and although I grabbed this at 225.5, I would bet the over up to 229.
Los Angeles Clippers at Memphis Grizzlies
The way market has been pricing back-to-back games against the same team in the same venue has been interesting. Similar to the NBA bubble, I don’t believe the market should be making huge adjustments to the spread and total based off the previous game between two teams at the same venue.
The Clippers closed as 8-point favorites with a total landing at 226. Just one day later, this game is pegged at Clippers -6.5 with a total of 224.5.
My projections make this game 225 even with my model ranking more recent games and yesterday’s result more heavily than the rest of the data. This feels like an over considering the Clippers shot 40.5% from the field, went 12-of-34 from behind the arc and scored just 94 points.
The Clippers have the second-most efficient offense in the league this season behind the Brooklyn Nets, scoring 119.6 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes, according to Cleaning the Glass. Despite playing a Grizzlies team that ranks 15th in Defensive Rating (112.6) over the past two weeks, the Clippers could only muster 0.978 points per 100 possessions, a clear aberration that I don’t expect to continue Friday.
The Grizzlies allow opponents to shoot the fourth-highest 3-point percentage in the league (39.1%), so with a normal Clippers shooting performance we should expect them to put up a solid offensive output tonight.
The Clippers offense has been incredible for most of this season, but they have struggled on the defensive end of the floor, allowing 113.5 points per 100 possession this season which ranks 20th in the NBA. They also rank 22nd in defending teams at the rim this season and 26th in the mid range, so the Grizzlies should get theirs in this matchup just as they did yesterday.
I like the Over 224.5 in this matchup and would play it up to 226. I also like the Clippers team total to go over 115.5 points (-114).
Utah Jazz at Miami Heat
The Utah Jazz are in the midst of a historically great season and yet they’re still not getting any respect within the market. I make this game Jazz -9, but this game is sitting at -6.5 across the market, which is just flat out disrespectful.
The Jazz are playing at a level very reminiscent of the 2016 Golden State Warriors.
Here’s a peak at some of their highlights so far:
- 26-6 straight up, 24-8 against the spread
- No. 1 point differential +13.1 and SRS (10.97)
- No.4 Offensive Rating (116.7) and No. 2 in Defensive Rating (106.8)
The Jazz aren’t just winning these games, they’re taking them in the deep waters and drowning them reminiscent of the way that Floyd Mayweather Jr beat Arturo Gatti.
Their two losses came against the Nuggets, who shot 64.3% from deep and got 47 points from Nikola Jokic, and the Clippers, who are a bad matchup for them considering their combination of wings with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Nic Batum and Marcus Morris.
These two teams last met on Feb. 13: the Jazz shot just 12-of-46 (26.1%) from behind the arc and still won by 18. Although the Heat have won four straight games against the Kings, Lakers, the Thunder and the Raptors, I haven’t been too impressed with this team; it’s clear they’re suffering from a bubble hangover.
One of the biggest issues for the Heat is that they’re just not hitting 3-pointers the way they did last season. All of Miami’s shooters have seen their 3-point shooting percentages plummet as well, with Tyler Herro going from 38.9% to 34.4%, Duncan Robinson going from 44.6% to 39.3%, Kelly Olynyk going from 40% to 32.1% and Jimmy Butler remaining steady at 24.1%. The bad news is that they’ll be facing a Jazz team that ranks second in defending 3s, allowing teams to shoot 32% from behind the arc.
In addition, the Jazz making 17 3ss per game at 42.6% and the Heat are dead last in defending 3-pointers, allowing opposing teams to shoot 43.9%.
This is just a bad matchup for the Heat and the Jazz are a step up in class. It’s not broke, so don’t try to fix it. Lay the points with the Jazz.
Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers
I’m sure you hear all the noise from the media and your Twitter feeds by now. After watching the LA Lakers lose four straight games and five out of their past six, the public is ready to burry the reigning champs and the LeBron James’ MVP chances. I’m not buying it, though.
The NBA season is a war of attrition. The Lakers are 7.8 points per 100 possessions worse without Anthony Davis on the floor vs off, however they’re not nearly as bad as they’ve shown their last few games.
One of their biggest issues was losing Dennis Schroeder due to COVID-19 protocols. Although James may arguably be the greatest player of all time, this team lacks playmakers without Schroder and there’s only so much you can expect a 36 year old in his 18th season. Schroeder’s likely return to the lineup provides another playmaker for a team that primarily contains one dimensional 3-point shooters.
It’s no coincidence the Lakers are +5.1 points better with Schroeder on the floor this season, which primarily comes from his offensive contributions. His presence should go a long way towards helping a Lakers offense that ranks 29th in Offensive Rating, scoring just 102.3 points per 100 possessions over the last four games.
They’ll be facing a Portland Trail Blazers defense that ranks 28th in Defensive Rating in non garbage time minutes, allowing 117.4 points per 100 possessions, so the Lakers should see their offense get back on track here. The Blazers particularly struggle at the rim, giving up a field goal percentage of 59.8%, ranking 25th in the league this season.
The public is expecting the Lakers to have trouble keeping up with the Blazers’ offense, but it’s worth noting that their defense hasn’t exactly fallen off a cliff without Davis. In the past four games they’re giving up 110.7 points per 100 possessions, which is 15th in the league during that time frame.
They haven’t had an easy schedule either as they’ve played the Brooklyn Nets and Jazz during that time frame so much of their defensive rating is impacted by playing two of the league’s best teams.
The Blazers are quietly on a three game losing streak of their own and you have to wonder if Damian Lillard is running out of gas before the All-Star break given how he’s carried this roster without CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. Over the past three games, he’s averaging 28 points, but he’s shooting just 41.2% from the field and 34.3% from behind the arc — well below his season averages.
Overall, I think this number is a tad bit short and this feels like the perfect spot to buy low on the Lakers as I make this game Lakers -6.2. I’ll lay the points here and look for the Lakers to bounce back before they close out the first half of the season against the Warriors, Suns and Kings.