NBA Odds, Picks & Projections: Betting Analysis for Suns vs. Pelicans, Thunder vs. Bucks, More (Friday, Feb. 19)

Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans.

For the 2020-2021 NBA season, I’ll be publishing my projections for every NBA game on Wednesday and Friday slates. Here’s what you’ll find in my model: projected team totals, projected combined totals, projected spreads for the matchup and the implied odds for the moneyline.

Note: My projections won’t be updated in real-time throughout the day, but Action’s PRO Projections tool is dynamic and will reflect the latest injury and lineup news.

I’ll also be highlighting some of the slate’s most intriguing matchups with in-depth, game-level analysis that goes beyond the numbers.

NBA Projections Model

NBA Odds & Picks

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Phoenix Suns at New Orleans Pelicans 8  p.m. ET
Detroit Pistons at Memphis Grizzlies 8 p.m. ET
Oklahoma City Thunder at Milwaukee Bucks 8 p.m. ET
Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Clippers 10 p.m. ET

Although projections give us a solid baseline for what a number should be, it’s also important to handicap each matchup for things that the numbers can’t tell us.

Check out my analysis for tonight’s nine-game slate.

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Phoenix Suns at New Orleans Pelicans

Pick Under 231 (DraftKings)
Gametime 8 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass

Sometimes the bets that cash are the hardest ones to make. I’m hoping this game falls intoMy projections make this total 229 while the market has this line at 231. that category. Despite the Pelicans’ string of overs since going from one of the slowest-paced teams in the league to one of the fastest over the past 15 games, the Suns still play at the fourth-slowest Pace in the league (97.37).

The Pelicans have been lighting up the scoreboard lately going over in seven straight games and eight of their past 10 games, however their past five games have come against the Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, Pistons, and Mavericks. Those teams rank 26th, 24th, 18th, and 30th respectively in Defensive Rating this season, so they aren’t exactly playing a murder’s row of opposing defenses and all of these offenses have been solid as well.

By comparison, the Suns rank eighth in Defensive Rating. The public is on the over here and I’m looking to fade them as I think this number is just a few points too high given this matchup against a Suns team that plays at a slower pace and has a better defense than what the Pelicans have faced recently.

My projections make this total 229 and I’ll take the under here 231.

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Detroit Pistons at Memphis Grizzlies

Pick Over 219.5 (BetMGM)
Gametime 8 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass

This total has been steamed down from 222 to 219.5, but I don’t agree with the line move as my projections make this game 222.

The Grizzlies are allowing 120.5 points per 100 possessions over the past two weeks, 25th among NBA teams during that time frame.They’ve gone over the total in 10 out of their past 11 games and I have trouble believing that stops here as this team ranks 11th in Pace (100.42) this season and are eighth in Offensive Rating (119.2) during this same stretch.

The Pistons’ defense isn’t anything to write home about either as they rank 22nd in Defensive Rating, giving up 113.6 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes, according to Cleaning The Glass. They’ve been particularly bad on the road defensively, giving up 115.1 points per 100 possessions, six points per 100 better than what they allow at home. It’s not a coincidence that the over in Pistons road games are is 9-5 this season, according to Bet Labs.

Overall, with the pace that the Grizzlies play at and two bad defenses, I like this game to go over.

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Oklahoma City Thunder at Milwaukee Bucks

Pick Under 231.5 (BetMGM)
Gametime 8 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass

These two teams played last Sunday with this total going under 228.5 and I’m not seeing how the adjustment to 232 is warranted even with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander playing in this matchup.

Although much of the talk surrounding the Bucks during their five-game skid has been their defense, their offense has fallen off a cliff. The Bucks are scoring just 110.3 points per 100 possessions during the last five games, which ranks 19th in the NBA over that stretch.

This roster’s depth is being tested without Jrue Holiday. Without him in the lineup to break down the defense, the Bucks are struggling in their half court offense.

Meanwhile, the Thunder defense ranks sixth in Defensive Rating over the past two weeks, holding opposing teams to 110.1 points per 100 possessions. The Bucks have an advantage scoring at the rim in this matchup, but the Thunder Luguentz Dort and Al Horford to defend Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Bucks have slipped defensively, but they’ve started to change their defensive scheme to switch on pick-and-rolls as opposed to dropping down, which frequently left wide open jumpers to opposing teams. This should be beneficial against the Thunder who attempt the seventh-most 3s in the league.

After giving up Offensive Ratings of 118.1 and 116.3, I’m expecting a better defensive performance from this Bucks team tonight. My projections make this game 229, so I’ll take the under here.

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Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Clippers

Pick Clippers +5 (PointsBet)
Gametime 10 p.m. ET
TV ESPN

The Utah Jazz have outperformed their market expectations unlike any team we’ve seen in recent memory. They’re on a Warriors-esque run this season: They’re 24-5 straight up, 22-7ATS, 21-1 in their last 22 games and they’ve won nine straight. They’re taking opposing teams into the deep waters and drowning them with an average margin of victory of 15.25 points over this stretch.

The Jazz leads the league in Net Rating (12.6) and SRS (10.27) while ranking third in Defensive Rating (120.2) and fourth in Defensive Rating (107.6). They’re also making a league leading 16.6 3-pointers per game and shooting 42.3% of those shots, also first among NBA teams.

Most people would say you’d be a damn fool to step in front of this freight train. I’m not most people.

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? If there’s any place to find out it’s here against a Clippers team that will likely get Kawhi Leonard and Paul George back in the lineup Friday. The Clippers are +17.1 points per 100 possessions with Leonard on the floor and +12.2 with Paul George on the floor.

This is major for a Clippers team that played the Jazz tough just two nights ago, holding a 51-46 lead at halftime and controlling the game until the Jazz eventually wore them down. Even without their two stars, the Clippers did a solid job at defending and preventing catch-and-shoot 3s — the bread and butter for this Jazz team.

While Gobert is an issue in this matchup as the Jazz were +22 in the 14 minutes him and Ivica Zubac shared the court, the Clippers have the athleticism on the wings to give the Jazz problems.

These two teams played at full strength on Jan. 1 with the Jazz getting the 106-100 win, however they were able to build a nine-point first half lead with the Clippers shooting just 31.8% from the field and 6-of-16 from being the arc. While the Clippers outscored the Jazz 35-22 in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to three with two minutes to go, they could never quite get over the hump in a game where they were 3.5-point road favorites.

It’s amazing how the perception of these teams have changed over the course of the past month. We’ve seen a 7.5-point line move from that time through now and if Leonard and George play I’m not sure it’s warranted.

This is where I step in and play the Clippers as my projections make this game a PK and they should have a solid chance at winning this game outright.

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