While most of the focus of the day will be on a certain college football game, we still have professional basketball on the docket and we will have four games with NBA odds to choose from today.
One contest attracting attention of NBA basketball handicappers and those making sports picks alike is Detroit at Toronto. The Pistons sent Josh Smith packing, which in part has turned their season around. First place Toronto-ended a four-game losing streak a couple nights ago against Boston and looks to get back to the business of winning.
Despite the record differences, this is a potential better than advertised matchup in Canada tonight.
Pistons Hitting on all Cylinders without Smith
Since Smith was jettisoned, Detroit is 7-1 and 6-2 ATS. Their average margin of victory has been an impressive 15.1 points a game and their lone defeat was by a mere three points to the team playing the best basketball in the NBA, Atlanta.
Why have the Pistons improved so much? Smith in modern basketball terms is a low-efficiency shooter, in laymen’s terms, a – ball hog – who was stagnating Detroit’s offense, leading to more selfish play on offense and defense.
With Smith gone, the Pistons Brandon Jennings is playing more efficiently, fellow guard Jodie Meeks has been lights out and getting frontcourt players Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in the flow of the offense has improved their play on both ends of the floor.
Detroit is still a long way from even being a .500 team, but they have moved up to 23rd in offensive efficiency from 28th or 29th when Smith was receiving the majority of the touches.
Has Toronto Regained its Edge?
On the Raptors recent six-game road trip, the team collectively lost their edge on defense. Toronto is not a great defensive outfit to begin with, ranked 21st in points allowed at 101.6 and 23rd in defensive field goal percentage at 46.2 percent. In three of those away games, the opposing team connected on 53 percent or higher of shot attempts, all which became losses and contributed to recent losing streak.
Toronto coach Dwane Casey had told beat reporters before Saturday’s Boston game he thought his team was ready to play better and they did in beating the Celtics 109-96 as 11.5-point favorites.
``I thought our defensive mojo was back,'' Casey said after the win. ``I saw guys moving their feet, cracking down, rebounding, doing the things we needed to do with activity and anticipation.''
Casey will be looking for the same type of effort from his team against Detroit tonight.
Betting Odds and Head to Head
Toronto was released as 6.5-point home favorites by the vast majority of sportsbooks and has come back slightly to -6 (-105 at . The total has been bouncing around after starting 207, it flew to 208.5 and is being offered at 208 from Pinnacle Sportsbook.
The Raptors are 7-1 and 6-2 ATS in the three years which includes being 3-1 SU and ATS at the Air Canada Centre.
This certainly will not be an easy game for the Pistons; however, the rest of the week will provide them an opportunity for success. New Orleans will visit MoTown on Wednesday and the way Detroit is playing, they can certainly compete. The same is true when they travel to Indiana on Friday and host Philadelphia the next night. No reason Stan Van Gundy’s club doesn’t play hard tonight. The Pistons are a miserable 6-15 and 7-14 ATS with exactly one day off this campaign.
This is game No. 3 of a six-game homestand for Toronto and the schedule is not very taxing playing every other day. The Raptors will also face the 76ers (1/14) and the Pelicans (1/18), with a measuring stick matchup in the middle on the 16th versus Atlanta. Toronto is 14-6 SU and .500 against the NBA odds.
These teams met three weeks ago and the play was chippy, with Toronto winning and covering 110-100 in the Motor City. It has been impressive how Detroit has managed to turn their season around, but Smith was not the lone reason why the Pistons began 5-28.
This is still a flawed roster with too many players who are scorers rather than shooters. With Toronto seemingly having their mojo back and playing more relaxed and with increased energy at home, I’ll utilize one of my NBA picks with the Raptors on Monday night.
NBA Basketball Free Pick: Toronto covers