Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 30 inclusive:
One game. One teeny, tiny game. That’s all that separates the New York Knicks from the Eastern Conference playoffs – well, that and the tiebreaker with the eighth-place Atlanta Hawks. New York paid us off with an 89-84 victory over the Golden State Warriors (–6.5 at home) on Sunday night. It wasn’t the prettiest game in the world, but New York got the job done.
Given how important every game is from here on in, you have to figure the Knicks will keep up the intensity Sunday night (9:00 p.m. ET, MSG) when they meet the Utah Jazz at the Tox Box. The Jazz, on the other hand, are locked in a heated battle for the third-worst record in the NBA. They’re also 3-point underdogs on Monday’s NBA betting lines with a total of 196.
Can Rest When You’re Dead
So, another scrappy win for the Knicks (30-43 SU, 31-42 ATS). That’s more like what we saw earlier this month after it was announced that Phil Jackson was about to take over basketball operations. They seem to have settled on a regular eight-man rotation with Carmelo Anthony (24.9 PER) starting at small forward and Amar’e Stoudemire (18.4 PER) at power forward. Not exactly rocket science to ride your best two players, as long as Stoudemire’s knees are holding up.
They’d better. New York is all-in with this lineup, thanks to the offseason trade with the Toronto Raptors that packaged Steve Novak in exchange for Andrea Bargnani (14.5 PER). The latest word on Il Mago is that he still hasn’t been cleared for contact because of his sore elbow, and he could miss the rest of the season. Novak’s 3-pointers (43.3 percent this year) would be welcome in the Big Apple.
Kenyon Martin (12.2 PER) is also out indefinitely with his sore ankle, so there isn’t much frontcourt talent left for the Knicks to use. Or so the story goes. In reality, Jeremy Tyler (14.2 PER) and Cole Aldrich (17.0 PER) have played quite well this year, especially Aldrich, but their status as journeymen means they get to watch most of the action from the sidelines. Oh well. It’s a living.
Back on the salt flats, the Jazz (23-51 SU, 31-38-5 ATS) have been busy fulfilling their destiny as a Western Conference tank team, and their Road to the NBA Draft continued Sunday with a 116-96 loss at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder (–15 at home). It was a pretty ugly game even by Utah standards. Kevin Durant outscored the Jazz 11-9 in the first quarter.
We’ve seen Utah’s collection of prospects and veterans play some pretty good basketball this year, but the closer we get to the finish line, the less production we’ve seen from the Jazz. Let’s take a gander at their effective field-goal percentage (for and against) from January through March:
January (6-6 SU, 7-4-1 ATS): 51.6 percent for, 49.2 percent against
February (5-7 SU and ATS): 49.3 percent for, 49.5 percent against
March (1-10 SU, 3-6-2 ATS): 48.5 percent for, 56.0 percent against
That about sums it up right there. Other tanking teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks have performed well lately against the NBA lines, but the Jazz haven’t been playing with the same kind of gusto down the stretch. Could be the tanking. Could also be because the Jazz didn’t make any cap-clearing trades that may have netted them more young and hungry players looking to prove themselves. Either way, sure, let’s fade the Jazz again.
NBA Pick: Take the Knicks –3 (–104) at Marathon