Sunday night saw the top picks for this year’s NBA Finals – Miami and Oklahoma – fall in upset fashion to Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers respectively, reminding everybody in the process that this is a fairly unpredictable season in the Association.
Unpredictability was the buzz word for basketball at both collegiate and professional level this past weekend and the same may well prove to be true in this upcoming week.
Casino Review has picked out three of the key fixtures on Monday’s NBA schedule to see if any more upsets are on the horizon.
Memphis Grizzlies @ Philadelphia 76ers
7:00 PM ET
Memphis (28-15, 11-8 road) arrives in the City of Brotherly Love on Monday looking to continue to keep within touching distance of the pacesetters out west. Memphis currently occupies the #4 spot in the Western Conference, but the Spurs, Thunder, and Clippers are extending the gap.
Philadelphia (18-25, 12-10 home) would simply be happy with a playoff spot at this juncture. The Sixers – without new signing Andrew Bynum all year – have had a rough time of it, currently finding themselves 2½ games back of the #8 spot in the East.
At a glance this one is a major mismatch. Memphis has limited opponents to a league best 89.2 points per game while Philadelphia has struggled scoring and shooting. However, this might not be as easy as many would think for the Grizzlies.
Philadelphia defeated Memphis 99-89 on Dec. 26, the only time the sides have met this season. What’s more, Memphis is playing in the second night of a back-to-back series, having lost at home to New Orleans at home on Sunday night. The Grizzlies have not been a solid side on the road either. Philadelphia will be in with a chance.
Favorite: Memphis Spread: 2½ Total: 178
Take: MEMPHIS – Whilst Philly has a chance, the Grizzlies are 12-4 against Eastern Conference opposition this season, and will be looking for payback following December’s loss, which came during a period of four losses in six games. Take Memphis (25-17-1 ATS) to cover the spread against an inferior Philadelphia (19-24-0 ATS). Take the total to go under, as it has done in 27 of 43 Memphis games.
Houston Rockets @ Utah Jazz
9:00 PM ET
With the season series tied at 1-1, Houston (24-22, 9-14 road) and Utah (24-20. 15-4 home) will be looking to gain an advantage over their opponent as well as continue on the winning path.
Houston has won two straight, and three of four, following a season-long seven game losing streak. The Rockets currently sit at #8 in the Western Conference.
Utah won in last outing and has scored four wins in five, and eight in 11. The Jazz have also taken six straight home games, moving up to the #7 spot in the process.
The two sides meet at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday night, with Houston looking to continue its high-scoring ways. The Rockets average 103.6 points per game, good enough for second in the league. The high-scoring, fast-paced offense has come with some consequences though. The Rockets give up 102.9 points per game (27th) and have turned the ball over more than any other side in the league. Utah meanwhile will look to hold off the run-and-gun Rockets, something the side achieved the last time the two sides met in Utah, a game that finished 102-91 in favor of the Jazz.
Favorite: Utah Spread: 3 Total: 209½
Take: HOUSTON – Take the Rockets – who have breached the 100-point mark in 21 of the last 30 games – to continue scoring big, upsetting the Jazz in the process. Take the total to go over.
Indiana Pacers @ Denver Nuggets
9:00 PM ET
Still embroiled in a tough Central Division chase with the Chicago Bulls, Indiana (26-18, 10-15 road) will look to gain some ground on Monday. That might be a tough task though. The Bulls play the hapless Hornets at the United Center, and the Pacers face a tough trip to the Mile High City.
Denver (27-18, 17-3 home) has taken three straight against Indiana, including a 92-89 victory in Indianapolis on Dec. 7. Furthermore, the Nuggets gave won six of the last seven against Indiana when playing at the Pepsi Center. Things get a lot worse when you consider that Denver has lost just three home games all season.
Indiana shouldn’t bow down just yet. Of those three losses, one was to Washington and one to Minnesota, both sides that are not as good as the Pacers. For the record, the other loss came to Miami; a team Indiana beat 87-77 on Jan. 6. The Nuggets have also struggled against Eastern Conference opponents this season, compiling a 7-6 record. The Pacers meanwhile have gone 12-8 against the West.
Indiana also happens to be the best team in the league at limiting an opponent’s field goal percentage (.419), and has given up just 89.9 points per game. Only Memphis has bettered that number. Add to this the fact that these are the top two rebounding teams in the league and you have the blueprint for a punishing game of basketball.
Favorite: Denver Spread: 6½ Total: 196
Take: DENVER – Winners of nine of the last 11, the Nuggets will take advantage of the fortress they call home. The side simply has too much firepower, even for the rough and ready Pacers’ defense. However, expect this to be a tight game with the Pacers (22-22 ATS) covering the spread and the total going under.