Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to April 4 inclusive:
So the San Antonio Spurs are human after all. On Thursday, their 19-game winning streak came to a halt in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder took advantage of 18 San Antonio turnovers in a 106-94 victory, cashing in as 4-point home faves on the NBA betting lines. The Spurs were 12-1 ATS in their previous 13 games going into that matchup. It was fun while it lasted.
Meanwhile, the Memphis Grizzlies picked up a huge 100-92 win Friday against the Denver Nuggets, as they try to nail down one of the last two spots in the Western Conference playoffs. Ah, but it was the Nuggets covering as 9.5-point underdogs. Sweet, sweet cash. Memphis will try to break this 0-6 ATS streak on Sunday (7:00 p.m. ET, NBA-TV) versus the Spurs. The NBA odds board has the Grizzlies getting seven points on the road with a total of 192.
I’m not actually in a hurry to dump the Spurs (59-17 SU, 42-34 ATS) from my NBA betting portfolio. But I can’t say I’m thrilled with their prospects for the remainder of the regular season. That’s because head coach Gregg Popovich has this thing for resting his key players. Thursday’s big game saw Popovich take Manu Ginobili (20.2 PER) out of the lineup without any explanation. Who’ll be “Popped” next? It’s important enough that you should wait until closer to game-time for the answer before placing your bets.
For the most part, the Spurs have enough depth to spread around the minutes and continue to play excellent basketball. But Ginobili is still a very important piece of the puzzle. The swingman has missed 13 games this year, and San Antonio went 9-4 SU and 6-7 ATS in his absence. There isn’t much depth at small forward behind Kawhi Leonard (18.8 PER), which might be the only weakness on this team, so again, bet accordingly when the lineups are announced.
Memphis (45-31 SU, 33-41-2 ATS) definitely makes it easier to keep supporting the Spurs. Over the past three years, the Grizzlies are 0-5 SU and 1-4 ATS at Alamo City; in the season opener on Oct. 30, it was San Antonio winning 101-94 as a 6-point chalk, even though Tim Duncan (21.6 PER) only played 17 minutes because of a chest contusion. The Spurs also took a pair of games off the Grizzlies at the Forum, splitting the cash along the way.
And that was all before Memphis went on this mystery 0-6 ATS bender. It was another poor-shooting night against the Nuggets: The Grizz went 2-of-11 from downtown while hitting just 38.6 percent from the field, perhaps still fatigued from that five-game Western odyssey that took them from California to Minnesota and select locations in between.
Like the Spurs, Memphis has the depth to keep winning during these rough patches. But I see they’re not using James Johnson (18.5 PER) much these days. His minutes were cut in half in March, down to 11.0 per game, and the Grizzlies went 12-5 SU and 8-9 ATS last month. Coincidence? I think not.
Johnson might get unleashed on Sunday, though, since Tayshaun Prince (8.1 PER) will reportedly not play for Memphis after suffering a sprained left ankle against Denver. This should be a good thing for the Grizz in the short term. Johnson leads all regulars in Simple Rating (as per 82games) at plus-7.5, while Prince is a minus-2.9 this year. I’m still not ready to pick Memphis, but if Johnson does get some of Prince’s minutes, the Grizz should be worth a look going forward.
NBA Pick: Take the Spurs –7 (–105) at Pinnacle