Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to February 18 inclusive:
If you happened to catch Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game, you could tell Tony Parker wasn’t all right. He played just 11 minutes for the Western Conference (–3.5), scoring four points and finishing at minus-5 in a 163-155 loss. So it wasn’t much surprise when the San Antonio Spurs decided to give Parker some time off. He’ll be out for the next few games to give him a chance to recuperate from his various injuries.
It also wasn’t much of a surprise when San Antonio (+6 away) went out Tuesday night and beat the Los Angeles Clippers 113-103 without Parker. That runs the Spurs’ record to 6-1 SU and ATS in games where their starting point guard has sat out. They’ll try to make it 7-1 on Wednesday when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers, who have announced that LaMarcus Aldridge will miss at least the next week with a groin injury. Despite this, the early NBA lines have Portland favored by 3.5 points with a total of 212.5.
Leonard Part 6
It’s a bit disingenuous to pin San Antonio’s success on Parker’s absence. Those seven games have been sprinkled liberally throughout the regular season, and more recently, the Spurs (39-15 SU, 26-28 ATS) have been dealing with a spate of injuries that has left the team at 10-7 SU and 6-11 ATS since Jan. 13. Also joining Parker (19.8 PER) on the disabled list of late: Kawhi Leonard (17.6 PER), Manu Ginobili (19.3 PER) and Tiago Splitter (16.6 PER). However, Ginobili returned on Tuesday and led his team at plus-19 despite playing only 15 minutes off the bench, and both Leonard and Splitter could join him at any time.
Of all four of these players, Leonard is the most difficult for San Antonio to replace. Backcourt depth is not an issue with Patty Mills (19.0 PER) and Cory Joseph (14.7 PER) manning the point and Marco Belinelli (15.1 PER) hitting 44.8 percent of his trey attempts – you may have seen him win the 3-point contest during the All-Star Weekend. Boris Diaw (15.2 PER) has also done a fine job manning the paint alongside Tim Duncan (22.0 PER).
Leonard, meanwhile, brings something special to the table that the Spurs can’t replace at small forward. After two years at San Diego State, Leonard was a productive two-way player right out of the box in 2011-12, giving San Antonio a rare combination of strength, agility and a freakish wingspan. When healthy, Danny Green (12.6 PER) has been supplying 3-pointers and solid defense in Leonard’s absence, but Green can’t handle the ball like Leonard. San Antonio needs him back.
Not as much as the Trail Blazers (36-17 SU, 29-24 ATS) need their best player back. Aldridge (22.4 PER) is the centerpiece of Portland’s No. 3-ranked offense, which was No. 1 not too long ago, but has cooled off over the past couple of months to sit at 108.7 points per 100 possessions. That cooling off has led to a 5-8 ATS record over the past 13 games.
Wednesday’s matchup (10:00 p.m. ET) will be the first time any of Portland’s starting five has missed a game this season. And to complicate matters down low, Joel Freeland (11.3 PER) sprained his right MCL last week and isn’t expected back until sometime next month. That leaves rookies Thomas Robinson (13.9 PER) and Meyers Leonard (11.4 PER) to do some heavy lifting alongside Robin Lopez (17.0 PER) while Aldridge sits out. And since this is Portland we’re dealing with, the NBA betting market doesn’t appear to have taken much notice. Jump on this line while it’s available.
NBA Pick: Take the Spurs +3.5 at BetOnline