NBA Picks: Jazz vs. Pacers

Doug Upstone

Sunday, March 2, 2014 2:45 PM GMT

Sunday, Mar. 2, 2014 2:45 PM GMT

Indiana is clinging to hang on to the best record in the NBA, while Utah is just trying to stay away from being the worst team in the Western Conference. These two squads meet Sunday night and the oddsmakers have done their best to make this a 50-50 proposition against the betting odds.

Utah on Road Trip in Which it Could Improve Record

The Jazz could hardly be considered road mercenaries at 7-21, yet those making NBA picks at least have a chance to beat the sportsbooks playing Utah away from Salt Lake City with their 13-14-1 spread record.

Off their loss at Cleveland on Friday, the Jazz are have won three of five contests away from home versus Eastern Conference foes. This entire trip is east of the Mississippi River and Utah will have very good opportunities for success this upcoming week in places like Milwaukee, New York and Philadelphia.

One place where it will not be quite so easy is in Indianapolis. In this conflict, Trey Burke and Alec Burkes have to avoid turnovers and make wise decisions. This means finding Gordon Hayward in his preferred shooting areas and making clean passes to center Derrick Favors on the blocks where both can be most effective.

The Jazz offensively rank in the bottom 20 percent in several offensive categories and have to be mentally strong and decisive to break down the NBA’s top defensive unit.

Indiana has to Hunker Down to Hold Best Record

The Pacers have been playing dull basketball of late with a 6-3 SU record and 2-6-1 ATS mark in their past nine outings. Yesterday’s 102-97 victory and non-cover against Boston began a very busy month for Indiana, playing 18 games in 31 days.

NBA basketball handicappers all acknowledge every team; no matter how talented, will have unstable periods. Unfortunately, if the Pacers want to have the best record in the league, the number of “off nights” has to be very limited, because Miami has began to make a real push and is breathing the necks of Indiana.

This creates added pressure for coach Frank Vogel’s club, who earlier this season stated their mission was to have the top seed in the East, so that if they faced the Heat in a playoff game seven, they would home court advantage. If Indiana were to fall short of stated goal, what does it do for the psyche of the team?

This will be the Pacers fifth consecutive contest against an opponent well below .500 which creates a dilemma for those working the NBA odds, not really certain of Indiana’s willingness to play a full four quarters.

Indiana is 28-3 and 19-11-1 ATS at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, winning by an average of 13.1, which is the best home mark in all three areas – SU record, spread record and margin of victory.

Utah would appear to have a chance to cover, since nearly half of the Pacers defeats have come playing in the second of consecutive days with an 8-7 and 6-9 ATS record. But upon close examination, Vogel’s squad is 3-0 (2-1 ATS) having played away and returning home with no rest and winning by a super-sized margin of 21.3 point a game.

Betting Odds and Scheduling

Most sportsbooks pushed the Pacers out at -13 with a total of 190 and by this morning we had seen slight adjustments on both with the Pacers at -12.5 and adjusted total at 189.5.

From here, Utah plays at the Bucks tomorrow night and the rest of the road trip has them at Washington and as mentioned previous at the Knicks and 76ers, certainly opportunities for victories.

Indiana will finally face quality competition with Golden State in town Tuesday and this will be followed by a three-game road excursion to Charlotte, Houston and Dallas.

Head to Head Meetings

These teams have split the past three matchups in Indy, with the Jazz 4-2 ATS. Nonetheless, Utah is 2-13 ATS on the road against teams with a .700 or higher win percentage the past three years.

Concerning the total, Indiana is 8-0 UNDER when the total is 185 to 189.5 when playing at home.

The Choice

With doubts about how inspired Indiana will be about facing another below average NBA squad, I’ll consider Utah with one of my sports picks.

NBA Free Pick – Utah plus the points

[gameodds]5/257045/?r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]

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