Tonight in the desert, two of the three teams competing for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference will engage in confrontation and the NBA odds are calling for a tight contest.
New Orleans leads Phoenix by three games in the loss column and given the stakes, this is an absolute must win for the Suns to have any hope of closing the gap. The Pelicans have almost no room for error either, running neck and neck with Oklahoma City and trying to keep Phoenix at bay.
This time of year in the NBA, you start seeing sportsbooks sending out extremely sharp NBA Odds numbers and when you have two teams fighting for their playoff lives, the intensity is ratcheted up and more factors for sports picks have to be considered. Here is the breakdown for Western Conference roundup.
New Orleans Needs Offensive Execution on Road Trip
The Pelicans (37-30, 37-29-1 ATS) beat Milwaukee in their previous game 85-84, shooting a season-low 34.9 percent. The Bucks have tremendous length which is why they have been among the best defensive teams all season. Nevertheless, execution becomes tantamount when fighting for a postseason berth and connecting anywhere close to that kind of percentage away from the Big Easy is most likely going to lead to a loss.
''We have to execute down the stretch because those are the type of plays that will win or lose close games,'' Norris Cole said. ''That what we can continue to get better at the more we play these type of close games the more we will learn from it.
''We learned we can win shooting only 34 percent, but we defended well. And that's what it takes to win at an elite level, you have to defend regardless of how your offense is.''
Anybody can be excused for one off night and coach Monty Williams club had converted above its season average of attempts at 45.7 percent, in 10 of previous 11 confrontations. With the Suns a below average defensive team, New Orleans will look to have a bounce back performance from the field.
Phoenix Fighting but Odds Stacked Against Them
Twenty games ago, the Suns were 28-20, enjoying a four-game cushion for a playoff slot. Now Phoenix is 35-33 (35-30-3 ATS) and destined to end their season after 82 contests once again.
Coach Jeff Horancek’s is on a 5-15 (10-10 ATS) downer since the end of January and had their hand forced by Goran Dragic, who as a free agent said right before the trade deadline he was not coming back to where the cactus stand tall. Whose fault for Dragic going rogue might eventually be known, but Suns front office made the best deal they thought they could and also trade Isaiah Thomas.
That left a big void in scoring, even with Brandon Knight arriving from Milwaukee. However, rumors persist the key decision-makers for the Suns decided the highest rung on the ladder in the West was sixth or seventh with the current squad and decided to make a change.
This appears to be true, because when you research the Suns record against the nine teams which are presently ahead of them in the West, their record is a feeble 6-17 (8-14-1 ATS).
Tonight will show what kind of heart Phoenix has and how willing they are to do what is necessary to win.
Betting Odds and Head to Head
The opening betting odds had Phoenix at -1; but by this morning, the Suns were +1.5 point underdogs. The Suns are 3-1 and 2-2 ATS in the building across from Alice Cooper’s restaurant versus the Pelicans and they are 5-3 (3-5 ATS) over all the last three years against New Orleans.
New Orleans has very arduous three-games in four days road trip starting tonight. Tomorrow they will be at Golden State and Sunday at the Staples Center to face the L.A. Clippers. This season the Pelicans are 22-14 and 18-17-1 ATS with exactly one day between games, with just a +1.0 score differential.
The Suns are in the midst of playing nine of 10 contests at home and are just 2-2 thus far, but the losses were to Atlanta and Golden State. This evening will conclude the first part of the elongated home period and they will travel to Houston on Saturday and right back home the next night to face Dallas at Planet Orange. Having last played on Sunday, Phoenix is 1-1 and 1-0-1 ATS with three or more days off.
For my money, New Orleans is actually the better team at this moment. But this is the NBA and in this league, situational handicapping is very important and with Phoenix having to win the matchup and being very well rested playing at home, I’ll use the Suns to pluck the Pelicans for my NBA picks.
NBA Basketball Free Pick – Phoenix +1.5 at BetOnline