Free NBA Picks: Jazz Defense Will Keep It Close Against Thunder

Jay Pryce

Thursday, March 24, 2016 12:13 PM GMT

The Jazz, winners of six of their last seven, are in a dogfight for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Expect determined play tonight in OKC against an equally-hot Thunder squad. Game NBA pick and analysis inside.

Utah Jazz (35-36 SU, 35-34-2 ATS)
The Jazz square off against the Thunder for the fourth and final time this season, winless in the three previous matchups after losing the last one 104-98 in overtime. Utah has eked out at least one victory in the annual four-game series in each of the last seven seasons. Can they pull off a big upset tonight? The defense may be up for it.

After an 89-87 win over the Rockets in Houston yesterday, Utah has allowed foes to reach the century mark just once in the last 11 games (Warriors 115). It has held teams nearly eight points below what the betting market projected in the stretch, going 7-4 ATS with an UNDER record of 7-3-1. The team, in fact, owns the most efficient defense in the league in the last five games, yielding 95.9 points per 100 possessions. Utah moved into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with last night's victory. It is now a half-game ahead of Houston with 11 to go.

Despite the torrid run, and on no rest, the Jazz find themselves opening as 9-point underdogs on the NBA odds board against an equally-hot OKC team. The Thunder own the NBA's most efficient offense over their last five, scoring 121.3 points per 100 possessions. In seven games tipping off when getting 7 points or more from books this season, Utah has yielded 110.3 points on average. The Thunder were the only team to not score 100 points in regulation under these conditions the last time the two met back in December.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder (49-22 SU, 30-38-3 ATS)
Russell Westbrook notched his record-setting sixth triple-double in the month of March with a 21 points, 13 rebounds, and 15 assists performance in the Thunder's 111-107 triumph over the Rockets last time out. It's his third in a row and 15th on the season. For what it's worth, the Thunder, who own the NBA's second most efficient offense behind the Warriors with 112.9 points per 100 possessions, are 10-4-1 ATS when the five-time All Star goes ham.

Anyone who has watched the Thunder this season can tell you they are leaning on Westbrook and Kevin Durant more than in year's past. Bettors benefit, though, when the team generates greater point sharing across the board, particularly at Chesapeake Energy Arena. When the two superstars account for 26.1 percent of the team's points or less a night, OKC is 11-3 ATS, beating the number by 7.1 points on average. Over this rate, and it has covered only 5 of 17 games. In four games the two have suited up against the Jazz in the last two seasons, they've accounted for 27 percent of the team's points or more in three. To make things simpler, the Thunder are 5-27-3 ATS when they post a combined 49 points or more a night; 24-5 ATS with less. In the last three seasons, the two have put up 50 or more in only three games they have shared the hardwood at home versus the Jazz.

 

Final Analysis
The Jazz have held opponents below their team total in regulation time in 28 of 41 games when big men Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert man the paint together. They'll need another strong defensive effort to have any shot of winning this one. Gordon Hayward, the team's leading scorer with 20 points per game, is suffering from plantar fasciitis and admittedly not playing at 100 percent. He scored 22 points and put in 40 minutes in last night's game, which is encouraging. Hayward, who is just 10 for 26 from the floor against Durant in his career, will have to find ways to produce. The number here is a bit high. Respect the motivated team with a hot defense. Jazz +10 is the play for your NBA picks.

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NBA Pick: Jazz +10
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes