It's a light schedule in the NBA on Sunday, and the biggest mismatch on paper looks to be Utah at San Antonio. The Spurs opened as 10.5-point favorites at BetOnline's NBA odds with a total of 195.
Jazz Clamping Down
Utah was one of the worst defensive teams in the league for much of 2014, but the team has turned it around of late, allowing less than 100 points in nine of 12 games -- not coincidentally those three the Jazz did allow triple digits were losses. The Jazz held two teams, Philadelphia and Chicago, under 80 points. OK, not a big deal doing that vs. the Sixers, but it is against the Bulls. A big part of the defensive improvement has been the emergence of second-year Frenchman Rudy Gobert. The 7-foot-1 Gobert is averaging 2.23 blocks per game, fourth in the NBA, and on pace to become the first Jazz player to average at least two blocks per game since Andrei Kirilenko in 2006-07. Gobert obviously affects several other shots he doesn't get his hands on. The Jazz really do have some solid young pieces in Gobert, Australian rookie Dante Exum, 22-year-old guard Trey Burke, 22-year-old center Enes Kanter, 23-year-old forward Derrick Favors, 23-year-old guard Alec Burks (out for season) and 24-year-old forward Gordon Heyward. Utah just doesn't have that one superstar -- it's much like the Orlando Magic of the Western Conference.
The Jazz come off a 94-85 home win Friday against the Lakers to end a three-game losing streak. Probably didn't hurt Utah's cause that Kobe Bryant sat out for Los Angeles. Heyward had 31 points and seven assists, while Favors had 18 points and 10 rebounds. Jazz rookie Rodney Hood, the No. 23 overall pick, returned after missing seven straight games with an injury and had five points and five rebounds in 21 minutes. Utah has won eight of its last 15 after a 6-19 start.
The Jazz are 21-19 against the NBA betting spread and 16-24 'over/under.'
Spurs Almost Fully Healthy
It's still hard to know if the Spurs are serious NBA title contenders again because they so infrequently have had their Big 4 of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili available for the same game, either due to injury or Coach Gregg Popovich resting some of his guys.
However, the Big 4 all played in Friday's impressive 110-96 win over Portland as Leonard scored 20 points after missing the previous 15 games with a hand injury. The Spurs, who were 7-8 in those 15 games without Leonard, looked like the offensive machine they were in the 2014 NBA Finals win over Miami as six players scored in double figures. San Antonio also had 34 assists in that game. The Spurs' projected starting lineup of Duncan, Parker, Leonard, Tiago Splitter and Danny Green played together for only the second time this season. The team does remain without key reserve guard and Marco Belinelli, who has missed four straight games with a groin injury and expected to miss at least another week or two.
The Spurs are 19-21-1 against the spread this season and 20-21 'over/under' on NBA betting odds.
On Dec. 9 in Salt Lake City, the Spurs were 9-point favorites on NBA odds but were upset 100-96 (total was set at 194) as Utah snapped a nine-game losing streak at the time -- in the second of a back-to-back for the Jazz, no less. Favors had 21 points and eight rebounds, while Heyward added 20 points and seven boards. It was Utah's first win in the series since 12/12/12. Duncan had 23 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Spurs. Ginobili was just 3-for-17 from the field for 10 points. San Antonio played without an injured Parker. San Antonio had swept Utah in four games last season, winning three by double digits. The Spurs have won seven straight at home in the series.
NBA Pick: Always tough to handicap a Spurs game, making an NBA pick on this spot is dard mayorly because you never know who Popovich will sit, but the team doesn't play Monday so all hands should be on deck.
Free NBA Pick: Give the points and go 'Over' at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Utah has covered just five of its past 21 in San Antonio. The 'over' is 12-3 in the Spurs' past 15 at home.