Northwest Division rivals clash on Monday night when the Portland Trail Blazers take on the Utah Jazz. This line was late to the party this morning because of some injury considerations, but it’s popping up market-wide and will be one of just four late games in the NBA today.
The busy schedule features a lot of basketball on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, with only Rockets vs. Sixers, Trail Blazers vs. Jazz, and Warriors vs. Lakers this evening.
In this How to Bet preview, we’ll look at some betting opportunities for Game 525/526 with the full-game side and total and also some derivatives and props.
The Jazz are a five-point home favorite for this matchup. This game should be one of the three on TNT, but instead, the tripleheader features the Pelicans vs. Grizzlies, Rockets vs. Sixers, and Warriors vs. Lakers. The NBA needs a flex option, but this probably is the least buzz-worthy of the games because of the lack of star power.
In any event, with Utah as a favorite in the key number range and a total of 215, this should be a good one.
Blazing a Trail on the Road
This is the start of three games in four nights on the road for Portland. They’ll play back-to-back division games against the Jazz and Thunder and then visit the Suns. I discussed a lot of travel situations in my weekly situational betting spots piece that you’ll want to keep handy throughout the week.
The Jazz, meanwhile, are enjoying a lot of home games. Utah was in Los Angeles on January 16, but that has been the only road game since January 7. Utah won’t be on the road again until Sunday.
Who Wants To Take Point?
The Jazz need some help at the point guard position. Ricky Rubio and Dante Exum have been out of action since the first week of January and both are listed as day-to-day, even though they’ve each missed two weeks. Exum is out until February and Rubio is questionable for tonight after going through a full practice on Sunday.
Even third-stringer Raul Neto has been out. That has led to more ball handling and even higher usage rates for Donovan Mitchell. It seems to have worked, as the Jazz have won six in a row and eight of nine.
It turns out that having the ball in your best player’s hands more often is good for results.
Even though the offense has picked up with Mitchell running the show, Utah is still winning with defense. The Jazz rank third in DRtg in the NBA at 105.3 and aren’t that far behind the Pacers for second. Only the Bucks have a higher DREB% and the Jazz are just outside the top 10 in TOV%.
Portland is a middle of the road defensive team, but ranks eighth in ORtg. That will be the key to tonight’s game. Will the Jazz be able to have success against Portland’s offense? The Jazz offense has gotten stronger with more touches for Mitchell, although if Rubio returns tonight, that may slow progress down a little bit.
Out for Revenge
The only other time these two teams played this season, the Jazz won in blowout fashion. Utah won 117-96 in Salt Lake City and had a huge game shooting 55.4 percent from the floor. It wasn’t the best of spots for Portland, as the Trail Blazers had a big game with Golden State on deck.
Mitchell was fairly quiet in that game, as he paced all Jazz scorers with 19 points in 31 minutes. Three bench players were in double figures in the win, including Exum, who was 7-of-9 from the floor. Rubio had 14 points and six assists. The Trail Blazers may not have to deal with either one, which could increase their chances of getting some revenge.
Teams should shoot more threes against the Jazz. Utah has allowed a 35.9 percent three-point percentage on the season, but only 31.4 percent of opponent shots have been from distance. The Jazz actually lead the league in lowest percentage of threes allowed, but are only 15th in defending them. Utah is fifth in two-point defense.
Portland doesn’t shoot a lot of threes, but Terry Stotts may want to have Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum chucking away more from deep in this one to take away Utah’s excellent advantage on the interior in Rudy Gobert.
I do believe that is an adjustment that the Blazers look to make. Lillard took 16 two-pointers and five threes in the first meeting and McCollum took 11 two-pointers and three threes. The Blazers should look to shoot over the defense in this one. That would lead me to the over. The Jazz offense has been more potent with Mitchell running the point and the Blazers should take more long jumpers.
As far as a side play goes, if the game works out as I expect, it will be a higher-variance game that hinges on whether or not the Blazers can make shots. I wouldn’t be too interested in that, but I would look for Lillard over points and also McCollum over points.