Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to April 4 inclusive:
Gosh, look at that, the Toronto Raptors just beat the Indiana Pacers. Again. Ho-hum. This time around, it was Toronto (+1.5 at home) winning 102-94 and improving to 2-1 SU and 3-0 ATS this year against Indiana. And the Raptors did it without two of their best players: Kyle Lowry (19.9 PER) and Amir Johnson (15.6 PER). I believe that there is what they call a “statement” game. Here’s the question, though: Was anyone in the NBA betting public paying attention? And a follow-up: Will they start now?
Seeing as the Raptors (44-32 SU, 45-29-2 ATS) have zero media footprint below the 49th Parallel, and the Pacers are pretty small-market themselves – not to mention 7-11 SU and 2-16 ATS in their last 18 games – I’m guessing “No.” And “No.” Despite all the winning, Toronto has managed to stay undervalued and remain the most profitable team in the Eastern Conference. But don’t touch that dial, because the Raptors have a very special challenge lined up for Saturday night. Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!
Gonna Do It
That’s right, it’s everybody’s favorite last-place team in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks (14-62 SU, 34-42 ATS). Our zany, blue-collar heroes are always getting themselves in trouble; on Friday, they went to the big city to play the Chicago Bulls, and they got more than they bargained for in a 102-90 loss, just barely missing the cash as 11.5-point road dogs. Oh well. Maybe the Bucks didn’t win, but at least they learned the value of teamwork and friendship.
So that’s another “L” for the Bucks, who have dropped 12 of their last 13 games to maintain their grip on last place. However, unless you’re new to betting on the NBA, you’re probably aware that Milwaukee has been highly profitable of late: 9-2 ATS in February, 10-7 ATS in March, and… 0-2 ATS in April. Okay, that does spoil the narrative a little. It also suggests the market may have adjusted to Milwaukee since that excellent run in February.
If the Bucks have indeed used up all their betting value, that makes the pick for Saturday’s matchup (8:30 p.m. ET, TSN) a lot easier. Toronto has opened as a 7.5-point favorite with a total of 196 – not much hesitation from the oddsmakers there, even though we still don’t know whether Lowry or Johnson will suit up for the Raptors. We do know they made the trip to Milwaukee, though. We also know Toronto doesn’t have another game until Wednesday.
So do the Raptors roll the dice on using Lowry (knee) or Johnson (ankle), or do they give them an extended layoff? Like I said, we don’t know. Maybe the players won’t even know themselves until game-time. But we’ve got something of a safety cushion when it comes to betting the Raptors: Nando de Colo (10.7 PER), who’s had some very good moments since coming over from the San Antonio Spurs at the trade deadline. De Colo had 10 points and five assists for the Raps in 23 important minutes off the bench against Indiana.
The Raptors also have Patrick Patterson (17.0 PER) back in the lineup at power forward, and they’ve got Tyler Hansbrough (13.3 PER) and Chuck Hayes (10.2 PER) coming off the bench, so Toronto can absorb Johnson’s lost minutes for now. I’m content to take the Raptors here on the assumption that Lowry and Johnson aren’t playing. If they do? That’s like extra gravy on your poutine.
NBA Pick: Take the Raptors –7.5 (–104) at Marathon