Nightly Picks: Night Two

Once more unto the breach, dear friends”


In which our valiant hero again attempts to conquer the enigmatic lands of predictive analysis.

Miami Heat (-12.5) versus Milwaukee Bucks

The Heat, as per usual, have not had a strong start to the season.  However, with Larry Sanders expected to miss the next six or so weeks, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade should not have too difficult a time finishing through the Milwaukee defense. At least Sanders thumb did the world a service before its demise:

Washington Wizards (+6.5) at Dallas Mavericks

Coming off what may be their best game of the year, an overtime loss to the Thunder, Washington looks to take advantage of a mediocre Dallas defense.  Through eight games the Mavericks have surrendered 106 points per 100 possessions.  While Washington has been no better on the season, the integration of Marcin Gortat has slowed their progression towards last season’s levels. While the absence of Emeka Okafor removes the anchor of what was a top five defensive unit, Washington retains the surrounding personnel.  Okafor, while good, is not irreplaceable.

Detroit Pistons (+10) at Golden State Warriors

Despite two recent losses, the first without Steph Curry, the Warriors have impressed to start the season. Detroit, contrary to expectations, has overcome spacing issues on offense, scoring 105.5 points per 100 possessions. Detroit, on the second night of a back to back, appears unlikely to win in Oakland, but has the interior defensive presence to mitigate the chances of a dramatic blowout.

New Orleans Pelicans (-2) at Los Angeles Lakers

While the Pelicans have suffered through offensive and defensive inconsistency to begin the season, they have one significant advantage over the Lakers: good players.  Los Angeles has done a good job embracing the high variance strategies optimal for underdogs, gunning threes and gambling defensively, but has already lost to the Pelicans, and does not have the defense to contain New Orleans’ bevy of creators.

Also of note:


Nightly Picks: The Return

To the degenerate gamblers worldwide, for they shall inherit the earth… on this next hand, I swear.


Atlanta Hawks (-2.5) at Charlotte Bobcats

Although both teams are 3 and 3, this is not an even game.  Basketball-Reference’s Simple Rating System ranks Atlanta at 0.00, exactly average, while Charlotte is -5.75 27th in the league.  While SRS is not incredibly predictive, it provides a nice summary of the relative schedule difficulty and performance of teams. With the much maligned Josh Smith and his shot selection now in Detroit, the Atlanta defense has suffered.  Al Horford is a very good defender, and one of my favorite players in the league, but he cannot entirely compensate for Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver’s weak perimeter defense and Paul Millsap’s absent interior protection.  However, the Atlanta offense has been excellent, scoring 106.9 points per 100 possessions, and Charlotte, while better than in years past, is simply not a very good team.

Memphis Grizzlies (+6.5) at Indiana Pacers

Indiana, though undefeated, has not been untouchable to start the season, facing close finishes versus the Pelicans and Nets.  The excellent defense typical of these teams has only consistently appeared in Indiana, as Memphis has allowed 105.1 points per 100 possessions 18th in the league.  However, so long as Memphis has Marc Gasol and Tony Allen on the roster they should capable of dominant defensive performances, especially against an Indiana offense that is prone to some very ugly spurts, scoring 102.6 points per 100 possessions, 16th in the league.  Do not think that the Pacers are “due” for a loss, a basic gambler’s fallacy. Indiana is 5-2 against the spread (Memphis is only 1-5), and 6.5 quite a few points to be giving a team that just shut down the mighty Warriors offense.

San Antonio Spurs (-6.5) At Philadelphia 76ers

Although Philadelphia, with the emergence of Michael Carter-Williams, is a more talented team than expected, the Spurs, resolute in their march against time, will not halt for the upstart Sixers. San Antonio has been out of rhythm offensively, but boasts the third best defense in the league, allowing 96.7 points per 100 possessions.  Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green leave San Antonio capable of defending Philadelphia’s perimeter creators, while Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes can do little to defend Tony Parker’s forays to the rim.

Orlando Magic (+3) at Boston Celtics

In this matchup of expected tankers, one bold team must shrug off the narrative and win.  Of course, the Magic have actually done a pretty good job of this so far, beating the Clippers and destroying the Nets and Pelicans.  While the Celtics have three wins as well, including a win over Orlando, they have not played at the same level.  Both the Celtics offense and defense rank below Orlando’s, and, without Rajon Rondo in the mix, Orlando has a much more talented squad. Home court advantage has historically been worth around three points, meaning Vegas thinks that these teams are approximately even (or at least they think that the betting public thinks so, which may be a more accurate conclusion).  Orlando, despite what single game results may show, has been a better team so far this season.

Cleveland Cavaliers (+8) at Chicago Bulls

It may have been more efficient to abandon these picks and simply say “all the road teams”.  Both Cleveland and Chicago have struggled this season. Chicago should be a much better team, but has not adapted to a re-structured read-and-react offense and is not performing near its potential defensively.  Cleveland, much like Chicago, has floundered on offense, as Mike Brown coached teams are wont to do, but has excelled defensively, as is also typical of teams under Mike Brown’s tutelage.

Utah Jazz (+3) versus Denver Nuggets

The first home team picked on the night, Utah, faces a team whose starting center, Javale McGee, is expected to miss an extended period of time with a stress fracture in his left leg.  While Javale has not exactly excelled to start the season, anything that results in more minutes for J.J. Hickson is inherently bad. The Jazz awful start to the season may be remedied by every NBA teams favorite medicine, an opponent completely lacking in defense.

Detroit Pistons (+4.5) at Portland Trailblazers

Detroit and Portland are in similar positions. Both teams have solid young cores, along with veteran stars in Josh Smith and LaMarcus Aldridge, and are fighting for a playoff spot from the fringes of their conference.  However, the Pistons and Blazers face contrasting problems. Detroit faces a spacing crisis, but should be an effective defensive team, while Portland has incredible offensive firepower and little to back it up on the other end.

Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Clippers: Off the Board

As of 12:06 Monday morning, Pinnacle Sports and Bovada Online have not released a line for this matchup.  I would guess that the Clippers, at home, will be favored by around three points.  Both teams offer incredible offenses, questionable defenses, and MVP candidates. This should be a very, very fun game.

Nightly Picks for 3/14/13

San Antonio vs. Dallas -8

If Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard return from injury, the Spurs, 30-3 at home, should be able cover against the recently decent Mavericks.  With Duncan on the court, the Spurs outscore their opponents by 11.8 points per 100 possessions, a significant improvement from their still impressive 6.3 rating differential with Duncan off the court.  Kawhi Leonard, the versatile forward who has emerged as an elite defender, should slow Mavericks forward Shawn Marion, while Duncan guards offensive catalyst Dirk Nowitzki.  Though the Mavericks have been an improved defensive team over the last month, their guards Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo struggle with off ball defense, while Danny Green, Corey Joseph, Manu Ginbobli, and basically the entire Spurs roster excel at taking advantage of defensive breakdowns and miscommunications.

Portland vs. New York -4

During tonight’s game versus the Denver Nuggets Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler both suffered game-ending knee injuries, and will likely join Amar’e Stoudamire on the Knicks’ list of max-contract players in dress clothes.  In their game against Portland, the second night of a back to back, the Knicks may be without their two most important players.  Without Chandler to anchor the defense and Anthony the offense, the Knicks will likely struggle against the Blazers, who’s 106.2 offensive rating places them 11th in the league.  With Chandler off the court, the New York Knicks allow 105.4 points per 100 possessions, the same rating as the 13th ranked Philadelphia 76ers.  However, counter intuitively given Chandler’s defensive fame, it is the Knicks’ offense that falters with Chandler off the floor, dropping 8.2 points per 100 possessions from 112.6 to 104.4.   The Blazers are 20-11 in Portland, and should be able to beat the depleted Knicks.

Year to Date: 19-7

Picks for February 26th, 2013

Golden State at Indiana +7.5

The Pacers have won 10 of their last 15 games and overtaken the New York Knicks for 2nd place in the East.  Over those 15 games, the Pacers have outscored their opponents by 12.9 points per 100 possessions (per  Meanwhile, the Warriors have struggled over the same span, winning only 7 of their 15 games, and have been outscored by 4.2 points per 100 possessions (per  However, in these teams first matchup, the Warriors did an excellent job denying Paul George the ball off the dribble handoffs Indiana runs to give him favorable position.  By forcing Paul George to catch the ball further from the basket and helping down on David West, the Warriors should at least keep this game close by limiting the Pacers 22nd ranked offense, which only scores 103.2 points per 100 possessions.

Orlando at Philadelphia +10.0

With the return of Thad Young, Philadelphia is a better team than Orlando as currently constructed.  However, the 76ers only have 7 wins all season by more than 10 points, and have struggled to separate themselves even from weaker teams.

Miami Heat vs. Sacramento Kings -15.5

The Miami Heat have one 11 straight games, while Sacramento has continued their struggle, winning only 2 of their last 10 games.  Sacramento runs the leagues worst defense, allowing 111.8 points per 100 possessions, a flaw that will prove fatal against Miami’s tied for league leading offense.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls +7

Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and the Cavs should be able to take advantage of Taj Gibson’s recent injury and the strain it will put on the Bull’s defensive rotations.  Though Chicago’s 4th ranked D will likely trap or pocket Kyrie Irving in the pick and roll, Irving scores 1.08 points per possession in isolation, good for 2nd in the Nba.  Irving’s ability to draw fouls on Joakim Noah and score efficiently to end the game should allow Cleveland to pressure the Bulls in Chicago.

Milwaukee Bucks at Dallas Mavericks +5.5

Though the Bucks starting guards Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are generally highly inefficient, they should be able to penetrate freely against the Maverick’s weak perimeter defenders and take advantage of the Maverick’s non-existent interior defense. J.J. Redick should provide a nice boost off the bunch for the Bucks, as Maverick’s guard O.J. Mayo generally struggles with off-ball defense.

Minnesota Timberwolves at Phoenix Suns +1.5

Though they are still without Kevin Love, with a healthy Andrei Kirilenko and a recovering Ricky Rubio, the Wolves are a much better team than the Phoenix.  The lowly suns have the league’s 23rd ranked defense and 27th ranked offense, and may find further difficulty scoring if Ricky Rubio is healthy enough to pressure Goran Dragic into an inefficient game.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Charlotte Bobcats +16.0

Charlotte has both the worst record and point differential (-9.2) in the league, while the Clippers have the both the 4th best record and point differential (+6.3).   Charlotte’s surrenders 111.8 points per 100 possessions, trailing only the Kings in the race for most porous defense, while the Clippers score 109.2 points per 100 possession (a rating that would be much higher had Chris Paul not missed several games).  Though 16 is a lot of points, Charlotte’s defense may be unable to keep this game within reach.


Year to Date: 12-6

Picks for February 13th, 2013

San Antonio at Cleveland + 5.5
      Despite playing without their big 3, San Antonio just beat the Chicago bulls in Chicago by double digits. Though the cavaliers have been playing well recently, the spurs, even without their stars, will likely out execute the cavaliers.
     Indiana vs. Charlotte -10
Indiana is simply a much better team than the no longer 7-5 bobcats. The bobcats should struggle to score against the pacers vaunted defense.
Los Angeles Clippers vs.  Houston -10
      James Harden will not play due to an ankle injury he suffered during last nights game against the warriors. With Harden out the clippers will be able to load up strong-side help on Jeremy Lin and force him to try and initiate offense under Chris Paul’s defensive pressure.
Brooklyn vs. Denver -2

With Denver sitting Danillo Gallanari and Andre Igoudala, Brooklyn should be able to handle Denver at home.

Atlanta at Orlando +4

Boston vs. Chicago -2

Toronto at New York +8.5

Wash at Detroit +2

Portland at New Orleans +5

Utah at Minnesota -2

Sacramento at Dallas +10


Year to date:  5-3

Picks for February 11th, 2013

Indiana Pacers -8.0 vs. Brooklyn Nets

Though the standings would indicate that this is a relatively even matchup, the Nets are only 9-18 versus teams above .500.  The Nets will likely struggle to score against the league’s top defense, while the Pacers, though in a permanent struggle to score, will have a favorable matchup in David West against either Reggie Evans or Kris Humphries.  Given that the Nets are on the second night of a back to back, the Pacers have a reasonable chance to win this game handily.

Los Angeles Clipper -5.5 at Philadelphia 76ers

With Chris Paul back in the line-up the Clippers (30-11 with Chris Paul) should are a reasonable bet to beat the struggling 76ers, especially with Thad Young injured.  Without Young on the court, the Sixers have been outscored by 11.8 points per 100 possessions.

Charlotte Bobcats +4.0 vs. Boston Celtics

Last night, the aging Celtics played a triple overtime game versus the fast paced Denver Nuggets.  Kevin Garnett played 47 minutes, Jason terry 43, Avery Bradley 46, and Paul Pierce 54.  Though the Celtics are a much better team than the Bobcats, Celtic’s coach Doc Rivers may be forced to play his best players limited minutes the night after a grueling victory.

Cleveland Cavaliers -6.5 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

The ailing Wolves are only 1-9 in their last 10 games, while the Cavaliers have found success since the additions of Marreese Speights and Wayne Ellington.  The Wolves lack the interior defense to guard Kyrie Irving (not that he is guardable regardless), and, barring the return of Andrei Kirlenko will struggle to generate efficient opportunities with an offense that scores 1.8 points per 100 possessions more with Kirlenko on the court and is missing several vital players.

Detroit Pistons -4.0 vs. New Orleans Hornets

Though they are only 2-3 since trading for Jose Calderon, the Pistons were outscored by merely 0.4 points per game, and played only one team below .500, the then surging Los Angeles Lakers.  Calderon’s presence allows Brandon Knight to adopt a more natural scoring-centered roll, while enabling the Pistons to concentrate the offense around Calderon and Greg Monroe’s superior passing ability.  On the second night of a back to back, and possibly without Eric Gordon, the Hornets may struggle to overcome the Calderon-era Pistons, who have a positive .027 efficiency differential and an offense scoring 1.093 points per possession, comparable to the 7th ranked offense, since trading for Calderon.

Washington Wizards +4.0 at Milwaukee Bucks

Since the return of John Wall January 12th, the Wizards are an impressive 9-7, and are only allowing 96.3 points per 100 possessions.  Though the bucks boast an impressive interior defense, per they rank 15th in the league at defending the pick and roll ball handler, 13th against the roll man, and 27th versus the post up. The Wizards should be able to attack the Bucks defense with John Wall – Nene pick and rolls, especially if they are able use this action to create beneficial post position for Nene.

Atlanta Hawks +4.0 at Dallas Mavericks

As Dirk Nowitzki has returned to form and Darren Collison has provided a more steady contribution the Dallas Mavericks have improved over the last month.  The Atlanta Hawks, conversely, have fallen off the torrid pace they started the season at, and are suffering through Josh Smith trade rumors and a Louis William’s acl injury.  Though recent performance may suggest otherwise, the Hawks should be able to challenge Dallas as Josh Smith and Al Horford harass Dirk defensively.

San Antonio Spurs +1.5 at Chicago Bulls

The Bulls have struggled against top-level teams, and, though Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli are both likely out for the Spurs, the Bulls defense will struggle stop San Antonio’s efficient machine with Joakim Noah hobbled.