It’s very simple for the Memphis Grizzlies: Win, and they’re in. But the NBA lines have the Phoenix Suns favored to survive Monday’s matchup and get one more crack at the Western Conference playoffs.
Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to April 13 inclusive:
You have to be impressed with the Memphis Grizzlies. Just when it looked like they were going to slip out of the playoff hunt in the Western Conference, they win three games in a row SU and ATS to take over eighth place. The Grizzlies are one game ahead of the Phoenix Suns with two games remaining. What’s that? Memphis and Phoenix play each other on Monday? Well, that should be a good game. The Suns are 3.5-point home faves on the NBA odds board with a total of 198.
Name Is Prince
The Grizzlies (48-32 SU, 35-42-3 ATS) were definitely firing on all cylinders in Sunday’s 102-90 win over the Los Angeles Lakers (+12 at home), even if those pesky Lakers were able to get the matador push. The massive Memphis frontcourt won the rebounding battle 52-32; Marc Gasol (17.9 PER) led the way with 18 points and 15 boards, and five other Grizzlies had at least five rebounds against L.A.
Tayshaun Prince (8.1 PER) was one of those players. He was a game-time decision on Sunday with a sprained left ankle, but he started and played 21 minutes, scoring nine points with five rebounds and a pair of assists. I’ve asked this before, I’ll ask it again: Is this a good thing for Memphis? Prince is known as a premium defender whose contributions don’t always show up on the stat sheet. Having said that, Prince has a Simple Rating of minus-2.9 at 82games. The man whom I’ve been pimping out all year, James Johnson (18.5 PER), leads all Memphis regulars at plus-7.5. He played one minute on Sunday.
As for the Suns (47-33 SU, 51-28-1 ATS), they’re going to finish the season as the NBA’s most profitable team. They even beat the basketball lines in Saturday’s pivotal 101-98 loss to the Dallas Mavericks (–4.5 at home). Goran Dragic (21.5 PER) was able to suit up for Phoenix as expected; he was held to 13 points on 6-of-18 shooting, but it was enough to make yet another of my NBA picks look silly. More food for the trolls.
Too bad Dragic wasn’t quite his usual self, because Phoenix had the advantage over Dallas otherwise. Here’s how the Four Factors for that matchup broke down, according to the fine folks at Basketball Reference:
Effective Field Goal Percentage: Phoenix 51.3, Dallas 56.3
Turnover Percentage: Phoenix 17.0, Dallas 18.2
Offensive Rebound Rate: Phoenix 26.7, Dallas 23.7
Free Throws per Field Goal Attempt: Phoenix 0.231, Dallas 0.152
Three out of four ain’t bad. But the Suns aren’t likely to have the same success against that Memphis frontline. The Grizzlies are second in the NBA in offensive rebounding at 28.0 percent, well ahead of No. 14 Phoenix at 26.6 percent and No. 23 Dallas at 24.5 percent. Johnson might not be getting any minutes, but Ed Davis (16.3 PER) is good for 3.4 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes, and Kosta Koufos (16.5 PER) provides another 4.2 offensive boards/36 when he gets to play.
The Grizzlies have won all three of their games against Phoenix this year, SU and ATS, although the last two were when the Suns didn’t have Eric Bledsoe (20.0 PER) in the backcourt. It’s up to the Suns to hit those 3-pointers on Monday if they want to keep their season alive, and they couldn’t get it done in those other three games, Bledsoe or no Bledsoe. I’m gonna stick with what’s working. May the sphere be with you.NBA Pick: Take the Grizzlies +3.5 at Bodog