We have eight games on Monday’s NBA schedule, highlighted by a Western Conference showdown between the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers. This intriguing battle, which will air on ESPN, has a 10 p.m. ET opening tip.
Prior to that game, Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors travel to the Bayou to take on the New Orleans Pelicans. The contest, which is also going to be on ESPN, has a scheduled 7:30 p.m. ET start time.
NBA Odds & Picks
|Click on a game to skip ahead|
|Magic vs. Pistons||7 p.m. ET|
|Trail Blazers vs. Hawks||8 p.m. ET|
Magic vs. Pistons
|Pick||Total Under 210.5|
|Tipoff||7 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
Brandon Anderson: Folks, what we’ve got right here is a downright tank-off.
The Orlando Magic are 20-44. The Detroit Pistons are 19-45. Yes, these are the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference and they’re the worst teams in the NBA outside of Houston. While everyone else focuses on the playoff races, this is low key a pretty significant game for both teams.
The loser gets the inside track to finishing with the second-worst record in the league, which means at least the No. 6 pick in the NBA Draft and slightly more than a 50/50 shot at moving up into the top four for someone like Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs or Jalen Green. It’s a top-heavy draft, and for two teams without franchise players, this really matters.
These teams know it, too. They’ve shut down every potential winning player within reason. The Pistons are sitting Jerami Grant, Cory Joseph, Wayne Ellington and Hamidou Diallo. The Magic will sit Terrence Ross, Otto Porter, James Ennis, Michael Carter-Williams and Chuma Okeke, and they’re already without Markelle Fultz and Jonny Isaac, plus all the better players were traded.
These teams are treating this like a Summer League game, and one they want to lose. That means lots of poor shot selection, a glut of turnovers, and bad basketball all around. More than anything else, it means bad offense.
Both teams are having a hard time scoring. The Pistons are scoring just 103.3 points per game over their last 10 outings, with 110 or fewer points in all but one of them. They’re allowing 108.6 PPG during that stretch. The Magic have been even worse. They’re at only 101.5 PPG over their last 12, with 112 or fewer points in all but one contest.
These teams aren’t scoring, because they’re rolling out ugly lineups featuring plenty of rookies and other guys at the NBA fringe.
This is a low line, but there’s a real chance neither of team hits 100 points. If either of them gets even close, that might mean a quick hook for Cole Anthony or Saddiq Bey or whoever is playing well enough to accidentally threaten a winning game. I’ll play the under 210.5 and would play to 209 as my top pick.
Trail Blazers vs. Hawks
|Tipoff||8 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
Raheem Palmer: The Portland Trailblazers looked dead in the water about a week ago. After losing five consecutive games and seven of their last eight, many wondered if this was the end of the Blazers as we knew them.
Would star Damian Lillard request a trade? Would head coach Terry Stotts get fired? Will the Blazers break up the Lillard-CJ McCollum backcourt? Chris Haynes released an article suggesting that Lillard didn’t have the pieces around him to compete for a championship, and given their relationship many assumed Lillard was linked to the story.
Although Lillard’s connection to the story remains unfounded, the East coast road trip has been a magic elixir for Portland’s recent struggles as it has won four in a row against the likes of the Pacers, Grizzlies, Nets, and Celtics. Now, they look to continue that streak against the Atlanta Hawks, whom they’ve previously defeated by a 112-106 score back on Jan. 16th.
Personally, this is where I fade the streak. The Blazers have been great, particularly on the offensive end of the floor, where they’re scoring 126.5 points per 100 possessions, but they were fortunate to catch the Pacers, Nets and Celtics not at full strength.
The Hawks are finally healthy and sit at 35-30, tied for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. With Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic and John Collins finally back in the lineup, they’re come off a 108-97 victory over the Chicago Bulls and look to build some momentum.
I can’t help but think this is an ideal spot for this team given the circumstances. The Hawks should have no problems taking advantage of a Blazers’ defense, which is giving up the fifth-highest frequency of field-goal attempts at the rim (36%) and is 19th in field-goal percentage at the rim at 64.7% percent.
The Hawks are also fifth in field-goal percentage in the midrange, shooting 44.5% and should also have no problems scoring against a Blazers team which is allowing the fifth-highest field-goal percentage in the midrange at 44.2% percent.
As a whole, the Blazers don’t do a good job at defending any area of the floor, as they’re 29th in Defensive Rating, allowing 117 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes according to Cleaning the Glass.
The Blazers aren’t very good at closing out possessions by defensive rebounding, as they’re ninth in Defensive Rebound Rate (74.2%) and now face a Hawks team that is seventh in Offensive Rebound rate at 26.9% percent. That said, I expect Clint Capela to pick up a ton of points on tip-ins while generating second-chance points for the Hawks against a tired Blazers team on a back-to-back set.
The last time these teams played, Atlanta led the majority of the game before fading on the second half of a back-to-back series, as they played in Utah the night before. This time, I expect Portland to fade as it plays its fifth game in seven nights. I’ll lay the two points and go with the Hawks.