Most won’t recall my NBA and MLB picks at The Sports Geek in the past, but for those that don’t know me, I’ve been around on the site for a bit. You can usually catch me making my daily NBA DFS FanDuel picks, but I’m now also making NBA and NCAA picks going forward.
I started off with a big win (Celtics, +7.5) last night. Nobody hates a 1-0 start and I’ll try to keep the fun times rolling tonight, as well.
My first look at the Friday night NBA betting board was met with indecision. There are hypothetically a lot of viable routes tonight, but the spreads seem a little trickier than usual. That has me potentially going against the point spread game tonight, as there could be value too good to pass up in Indiana.
The Detroit Pistons are (gasp!) kind of good at basketball this year. They head into Indy to battle the Pacers, who have kept their collective heads above water since the Paul George trade, but are still a middling team that can’t defend. Somehow, Vegas liked the Pacers enough to make them the mild favorites early on Friday.
Unfortunately, I didn’t act quickly enough, as Bovada already altered the price for this game and turned it into a true pick’em. That’s fine by me, because my first inclination was to roll with the visiting Pistons. Regardless, let’s break this thing down and see if that’s the right call in this Central Division matchup.
Detroit Pistons (-110) @ Indiana Pacers (-110) Total: 210
Full disclosure; I really only have eyes for the Pistons as a straight up bet. I still want to break down why, of course.
The Over could be in play with the hometown Pacers potentially dictating the pace, while their awful defense could give way to Detroit pouring it on thick. These two did combine for 211 total points in the first meeting this year, as well. That interests me, but a more inviting bet is the Pistons, straight up.
In the past, I would hesitate to back the Pistons when they’d go on the road. Last year they were a truly atrocious road team and were often blown out when they ran into an even remotely decent squad. It’s impossible to know if they’ve shed that “terrible road team” label yet, as the NBA season is still fairly young.
The good news is the early returns aren’t abysmal. The Pistons are 3-3 away from home so far this season and they’ve been better even when they’ve lost away from home. Detroit just lost a tough game in Milwaukee by four points and lost by four earlier this year in a shootout with the Wizards.
The Pistons also got smoked in L.A. against the Lakers, but that looks like a trap game in hindsight, after they went into the Oracle Arena two days prior to take down the defending champion Warriors. Suffice to say, while Detroit still isn’t an amazing road team, there are signs that they’re improving in that regard.
A huge reason for overall optimism when talking about the Pistons is big man Andre Drummond. Formerly a free throw liability (the dude shot below 42% every year of his career), Drums has miraculously risen his charity stripe clip to 63%.
It’s anyone’s guess if that actually holds, but Drummond being able to hit freebies means he doesn’t need to be taken off the floor strictly because of his shooting woes on the line. It also means opponents can’t just use “Hack-a-Drum” as a strategy on defense.
Drummond actually went 0-7 from the line in his first run-in with the Pacers, but overall he’s improved in that facet of his game. That, and his presence (21 rebounds against the Pacers in the first showdown) should both keep the Pistons involved on the boards and lead to foul trouble for Myles Turner (4 fouls in just 25 minutes in the first meeting).
This game isn’t just about the battle at center, though. Detroit is the longer and more physical team at both ends. They thrive on team defense and enter tonight’s contest ranking 8th in the NBA in defensive efficiency. Drummond being able to play on both ends of the court effectively has given them an anchor, while the arrival of stud two-way guard Avery Bradley via trade has also turned a solid defense into an elite force.
Bradley has also taken some pressure off of Reggie Jackson offensively, as he can get his own shot and help create for others. Tobias Harris has also been a monster off the bench, starring for the second unit while connecting on an absurd 50% of his three-point attempts. As a whole, Detroit’s offense has been more balanced and has surprisingly been one of the most efficient units (8th) in the entire league.
All of this is bad news for the Pacers. Indiana can certainly push the pace (8th in the NBA) and fill it up offensively (tied with Detroit, 8th), but they’re running into an elite defensive team that plays at one of the slowest paces (24th) in the NBA. Two entirely different teams are going to battle and logic suggests the more methodical team should prevail.
That’s what happened the first time around, as Bradley forced Victor Oladipo to a rough 8-21 shooting night and Indy shot a collective 43% from the floor. Detroit, meanwhile, was their efficient selves (53% from the floor) and easily exploited Indiana’s brutal defense (25th in efficiency).
Vegas is giving the Pacers too much respect simply because they’re at home. Indiana is a fine offensive team when they’re hot, but they have not been in a groove lately. They’re just 8-7 overall, 5-5 over their last 10 games and 3-3 on their home floor. Detroit, meanwhile, is off to a scorching 10-4 start and has won 8 of their last 10 contests.
If the Pistons are really to be looked at as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, they need to continue winning games they’re expected to. The oddsmakers surprisingly list this as a pick’em, but I love Detroit to get the win.