The way Rajon Rondo’s missing free throws, it’s no wonder the UNDER is on an 8-0 run with the Dallas Mavericks. We’re pounding the NBA odds board for Thursday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Jason’s record as of Mar. 4: 43-38-4 ATS, 3-7 Totals
The Rajon Rondo Experiment is not going so well. The Dallas Mavericks tried to upgrade their point guard situation in December, when they traded Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, Jameer Nelson, a first-round pick and a second-rounder to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Rondo. It was a risky move. Rondo is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, and he hasn’t been the same player since tearing his ACL in early 2013.
After 27 games in Dallas, things have yet to work out. Rondo has a minus-1.4 BPM for the Mavericks; he can still play some defense (plus-0.7 DBPM), but the four-time All-Star is shooting just 41.8 percent from the field, and 28.0 percent from the free-throw line. Yes, 28.0 percent. That’s why we’re more than happy to recommend the UNDER when Dallas visits the Portland Trail Blazers Thursday night (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT). The basketball odds are pending as we go to press.
You can’t blame the Mavericks (40-22 SU, 30-30-2 ATS, UNDER 36-35-1) for trying. Their collection of point guards pre-Rondo consisted of Nelson (10.0 PER), Devin Harris (15.3 PER), J.J. Barea (15.7 PER), and Ray Felton (10.4 PER). None of those four gentleman is a particularly good defender. Harris and Barea can score some, but they’re better suited coming off the bench for a team trying to win an NBA championship. As for the rental situation with Rondo, Mark Cuban can afford it. He’s still got a few billion dollars lying around here and there.
And it does look like a rental at this point. Rondo has already butted heads with coach Rick Carlisle, leading to a one-game suspension. Apparently things have been smoothed over; his teammates insist Rondo hasn’t been all that problematic. But Rondo is expected to seek a maximum contract when he hits free agency, and it’s doubtful Dallas will meet his demands – no matter how well off Cuban is.
In the meantime, Dallas has driven the UNDER to the pay window in each of its last eight games, six of those with Rondo in the lineup. Between his awful shooting and his positive contributions on defense, especially compared to the other point guards on the team, it’s easy to see why the Mavericks have been carpet-bombing the NBA odds board with UNDERs.
What’s Cooler than Being Cool?
This NBA pick would be even juicier if the Trail Blazers (40-19 SU, 30-28-1 ATS) hadn’t acquired Aaron Afflalo (10.3 PER) at the trade deadline. We were on the OVER when the Blazers visited the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night; the OVER was 3-1 in Afflalo’s four games with Portland. But even with Matt Barnes (plus-0.8 DBPM) sitting out for Los Angeles, and even with the game going to overtime, the UNDER cashed in when the Blazers won 98-93. Damian Lillard (21.6 PER) missed 12 straight field-goal attempts before scoring a lay-up in the extra frame.
That’s obviously not a typical night from Lillard. But he wasn’t the only one laying bricks out there. Afflalo was just 2-for-7 for seven points, although he was a plus-13 as the Blazers stormed back to tie the game in regulation. LaMarcus Aldridge (22.3 PER) finished with 29 points, but that was on a 12-for-30 shooting performance.
We haven’t seen Portland’s overall shooting dip as the season has worn on; however, Lillard himself was ice-cold from long distance in both January (28.1 percent) and February (26.3 percent), not to mention 0-for-7 against the Clippers. So maybe we can count on Portland after all to do its part Thursday night. Playing the second of back-to-back games with an overtime and a trip back home thrown can only help our cause.
Free NBA Pick: Take the UNDER