It’s a short week in the NBA, with All-Star Game activities starting Friday. Angles explore the Pistons' poor play against poor teams, the Rockets' ability to get to the free-throw line, and the Bucks' "under" run in competitive matchups.
The Pistons have won four of five since trading for All-Star forward Blake Griffin. The media is enamored with the move. Bettors have a different opinion. Detroit covered the spread in just one, besting a -2.5 line in a 111-91 victory over the Trail Blazers last week.
The Pistons have tended to roll over against poorer teams this season. They have two lined up this week before the All-Star break: the Pelicans on Monday and the Hawks on Wednesday. Since jumping to a 10-3 SU and ATS record to begin the year, Detroit is just 7-13 SU and 4-14-2 ATS versus teams with an average scoring margin less than zero. This includes failing to cover 9.5 points in a 115-106 win over the Nets last Wednesday with Griffin starting. Overall, the Pistons are losing by 3.0 points per game in this situation, yet tipping off as 2.3-point favorites. Poor defense is the problem, yielding a 47.2 opponent field-goal rate.
The Pelicans own a -0.5 and the Hawks a -4.2 points differential for the year as of Sunday. With your NBA picks, lean each against the spread as Detroit finds a way to shockingly come up short once again.
Tuesday, Feb. 13: Rockets vs. Timberwolves
The Rockets (43-13 SU), one game back of the Warriors for the top spot in the Western Conference standings, do a lot of things right. One of the least-heralded elements is their ability to get to the free-throw line and subsequent execution. Houston ranks second in the NBA, averaging 25.6 visits to the charity stripe. Its 78.8-percent success rate from the line is 10th best.
This facet of the Rockets’ game is proving profitable against the spread versus opponents that foul infrequently. Essentially, they can turn any team into hackers and take advantage at the line. Against foes averaging less than the NBA mean of 20.0 personal fouls per game, Houston is 19-3 SU and 15-7 ATS, covering a -6.6 line by 5.4 points per game. With Chris Paul and James Harden starting, the records run 12-1 SU and 10-3 ATS, besting the number by a whopping 8.5 points per contest.
Houston is at Minnesota on Wednesday. The Timberwolves’ 17.8 fouls per game are second fewest in the league behind the Spurs. Lean the Rockets as they turn this matchup into a whistle-happy affair.
Thursday, Feb. 15: Nuggets vs. Bucks
Look for Milwaukee to go off as a short-priced favorite of 3 points or less on the NBA odds board when hosting Denver. If Giannis Antetokounmpo suits up, pick the "under" without hesitation. It has hit in the Bucks’ last 10 games with the Greek Freak starting, when tipping off either an underdog or chalk of less than 4 points.
The margins aren’t even close. A 194.8 final tally is coming up 15.2 points short of a 209.9 average game total. At least one team has scored 97 points or fewer in all but one: a 110-103 win at high-flying Washington on Jan. 6.