Come on Cleveland! The Pistons shot 43% from the floor, five points worse than the Cavs, turned the ball over an equal number of times, yet still outscored Cleveland by 11 in the fourth quarter to notch a comeback victory. I took the loss in the process, and it’s one of the few times this season I have been genuinely surprised. Losses happen and the NBA is long, winding journey of a regular season. But the way Cleveland completely fell apart in the last five minutes was pretty jarring to see…
We will try to get back on track tonight with a nice slate of action to choose from. I like the Pacers going to Philly who is on a back to back, and I like Boston, who is playing outrageous defense, at home against Dallas. But my favorite play of the night is below, and will rest on some time-honored handicapping principles…
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Today’s Free Pick:
Toronto Raptors at Utah Jazz -4
The Raptors fought valiantly in defeat last night at The Oracle as the Warriors raced to a record-tempting 12-0 record. But the hangover effect is dangerously in play tonight on the back end of a road back-to-back against an undervalued Jazz team. If the Jazz had playoff pedigree, this line would likely be six or seven. Since the Jazz are still a little unproven, the line is slimmer than it should be.
I’ll take that edge and hopefully profit from it.
The Jazz’s defensive prowess has been well-documented on our site. I have cited their defensive efficiency stats on several occasions, and though they slipped a tiny bit with Gobert and Hood missing some action, they still remain one of the most stifling teams in the NBA. Both are healthy tonight and ready to lead a defense allowing just 91.8 points per contest.
They have struggled in the past with Toronto, but be cautious about putting too much stock in past season’s results. This is a new Jazz team, one that regained competence around mid-season and is a genuine playoff contender this season. The previous two years will muddle up a lot of statistics. This team went from Enis Kanter to Rudy Gobert in the middle of the defense protecting the rim. That is the two opposite ends of the Bell Curve. This team finished last season strong after the move, and has one of the more impressive 5-5 records in the NBA. Eight of their first ten games have come on the road, and many against playoff level teams. Tonight, they get a day’s rest, get to play at home, AND host a team on the back end of a west-coast back-to-back.
That’s a lot of chips in the Jazz’s favor. I am going to push mine in as well.