There are eight NBA games on Sunday, but only five will be a part of the main slate that gets underway at 6:00 p.m. ET with the final game tipping off at 8:00 p.m. ET. Let’s survey the slate and pick the best bets for Sunday night.
Editor’s Note: Jazz PG/SG Donovan Mitchell (concussion) has been ruled out tonight vs. the Timberwolves.
Are we trying to catch a falling knife or have the Jazz hit rock bottom? Utah has lost 10 of their last 12 games. However, things could turn around on Sunday. Their schedule has been brutal of late — two games vs. Phoenix, at Golden State and at Memphis. Rudy Gobert will be out again, but if Donovan Mitchell clears concussion protocols he should be able to return to his regular role and lead this team to victory (this line opened with the Jazz +1). Even without Mitchell, which this line suggests will be the case, the remaining Jazz lineup has a fighting chance against the below-average Timberwolves.
D’Angelo Russell and Patrick Beverley are questionable vs. the Jazz. Russell missed Minnesota’s last game and Beverley has missed the last five. Josh Okogie is also questionable, leaving Minnesota’s backcourt awfully thin. Clearly the real injury to monitor is Mitchell, and with the early line movement, it seems that the big money believes that he is close to playing. If he is available, this line will swing even more in favor of the Jazz. That’s not an issue, but what about the Jazz sans Mitchell. Over the last six games without Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz’s No. 1 ranked offense has dropped to 18th. In December, they had the sixth best defense in the NBA, but without Mitchell they rank 23rd. On the surface, those numbers suggest that they do not stand a chance against the below-average Timberwolves, but those data points all come from tough matchups.
The best games to analyze are the matchups with the Rockets and Pistons. Mitchell missed both of those contests. The Jazz lost to the Rockets, but the Rockets made nearly 50% of their 3-point attempts. Against the Pistons, the Jazz won by ten. The Timberwolves are better than both of those teams, but not by much. Minnesota has failed to cover in seven of their last nine games.
Editor’s Note: Mavericks PF Kristaps Porzingis (knee) has been ruled out Sunday vs. the Magic, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.
Dallas has played in four straight blowouts and three have gone in their favor. This is favorable for the Mavs on multiple fronts. The obvious is that if the Mavs are crushing their opponents, then they are likely to cover for the fourth time in five games (the blowout loss was to Golden State and the Mavs shot a miserable 35% from the field). The second benefit of having played in blowouts in every game for over a week is that their stars are rested. Luka only logged 31 minutes against the short-handed Pacers and Porzingis played 11 minutes on Saturday night. Normally, traveling from a home game to Orlando for the second game of a back-to-back would be a serious disadvantage (this is one of the reasons this line is not higher), but given the Mavs’ recent schedule, they should be fine, especially against arguably the worst team in the league (10-40, 22-28 ATS)
The Magic opened the season with one the most road-heavy schedules in NBA history, but that might have been a gift (4-18 home, 6-16 ATS). Orlando has won two of their last three. They beat the slumping short-handed Bulls (Alex Caruso, Zach Lavine and Lonzo Ball were out) that were in the middle of a long spell of road games. They also beat the Pistons in a game where the Magic were a rare favorite. Most telling is that the Magic have been double-digit dogs 19 times this season. The Magic have covered in four of their last five games when they’re underdogs of less than 10 points but more than five. However, those covers were against weak teams that were only hefty favorites because the Magic are that bad. Based on the spreads given to those teams, the Mavs should be a double-digit favorite in this contest.
Cavaliers -7.5 (-110)
This season, when healthy, the Cavs have not only been one of top teams in the East, but they’ve been a cover machine. While they will be without Lauri Markkanen, Jarret Allen is back in the lineup. Kevin Love has been unbelievable in a constrained veteran role and Rajon Rondo is providing helpful minutes off the bench. The same can be said of Cedi Osman. The Cavs may not have the best first team, but their rotation is deep and there isn’t much fall off when the second line takes the court. That cannot be said of most teams and that’s why Cleveland not only wins but covers.
In contrast, Detroit’s starters are weak (very young) and their bench is weaker. Detroit ranks dead last in Net Rating (-9.6). Their offense efficiency rating is the second-worst in the NBA and their defense is seven spots from the bottom. Proving this further is that the Pistons just lost to the Magic on Jan. 28 and failed to cover the +3 spread. Cleveland is 3-1 ATS this season when favored by 7.5 points or more. They failed to cover their last large spread, and it was a lofty 12-point spread, but the Cavs held a 17-point lead toward the end of the third quarter against the Thunder before going ice cold and shooting 26.7% from the field in the fourth quarter and turning the ball over seven times.
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