I certainly got burned last night. I took the Cleveland Cavaliers to cover their -7.5 point spread in Atlanta and they won by exactly seven points. That alone is a burn, but the fashion in which they did was deflating. Both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade bricked free throws to close out the final minute.
That’s right, the Cavs had an 8 or 9-point win (and covering) within their grasp, and they couldn’t finish the job.
That was a major bummer and handed me my second loss in a row. I’m still a respectable 7-5 on the year with my NBA picks, but these last two losses have been rather annoying.
Still, it’s onward and upward, as Friday brings forth a fun 8-game betting slate.
The game that stands out the most to me on this slate resides in Memphis, as the Grizzlies continue their slide and welcome a tough San Antonio Spurs team to town. Normally Memphis would be a solid bet to keep this close or even win on their home floor, but they’re down Mike Conley and other role players like Chandler Parsons and Mario Chalmers are also iffy for this one.
That has me liking the Spurs tonight, with the only decision left being to take them to cover or just roll with them as a straight up pick:
San Antonio Spurs (-4.5) @ Memphis Grizzlies (+4.5) Total: 195
I think the Spurs are worth considering as a straight up bet (-180), but I’d prefer to have a little more value than that. Considering the Spurs just beat Memphis this week (104-95) and this spread looks pretty nice at My Bookie, I think getting San Antonio to cover is probably the best play.
There is a lot supporting that betting angle, too. For one, LaMarcus Aldridge just wrecked this Memphis defense merely days ago, when he poured in 41 points. Marc Gasol also had a difficult time keeping pace with Ridge down low, while the Grizzlies have been relegated to spare parts.
The Spurs will have to go get a second straight win against the Grizzlies on the road, but they’ve fared well in this series. The Spurs won their third straight game against Memphis the other day and have now taken the Grizz down in 8 of their last 10 meetings.
Memphis isn’t close to full strength and to put it bluntly, they’re flat out reeling these days. The firing of former head coach David Fizdale was probably the start of revealing a lack of substance with this Grizzlies team. That’s played a hand in their recent free fall, which has seen them drop nine games in a row.
Picking against teams with long losing streaks can be dangerous. I just got burned by an Orlando Magic team that had lost nine straight games, so I’m hoping that’s not a bad omen and I’m not ultimately playing with fire here.
That’s really my only concern with this pick, though, and it’s not exactly a rational one. This current rendition of the Grizzlies is not good. They seriously need Marc Gasol and Tyreke Evans to have the games of their lives and they need to clamp down with elite defense.
That’s not impossible, but the Spurs just got Tony Parker back and are starting to get healthy. Kawhi Leonard won’t be ready for this one, but the Spurs are still humming along, as they come in with three straight wins behind them and are also a strong 7-3 over their last 10 contests.
The Spurs are forever about balance and resolve. This team has been ridiculously impressive without their best player and they still remain one of the NBA’s stingiest defenses (4th in defensive efficiency). They’re not half bad on offense, either, as Ridge has carried them on that side of the court and kept things stable (15th in offense efficiency).
I think Tyreke Evans and Marc Gasol need to be huge in this game for the Grizz to stand a chance, but logic doesn’t support that notion. The Spurs have always been a tough matchup for Gasol, who hasn’t topped 16 points in any of his last five games in this matchup. Evans can create and score, but doing so is incredibly tough against such a disciplined team defense – one that specifically tends to make life hard on opposing point guards.
The matchup, pace and style all favor the Spurs. Both teams like to run the floor slowly, grind games out and defend. The Spurs will more often than not beat Memphis at that game, because it’s their approach. These are similar teams in philosophy, but one is far healthier and far better right now.
The ATS data favors the Spurs, too. San Antonio has admittedly been shakier on the road, but they’re 8-6-1 against the spread as overall favorites. Against a struggling Memphis team that is banged up and can’t get in a groove, I expect San Antonio’s road struggles to be a non-issue tonight.