Monday, April 15 2024
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The NBA couldn’t have asked for a more exciting set of games to open its inaugural In-Season Tournament. The Grizzlies and Blazers went to overtime. Knicks-Bucks, Warriors-Thunder and Nets-Bulls all effectively came down to a final possession. Cleveland lost to Indiana, but overcame a 17-point deficit to at least make the game interesting. Even the “blowout” of the night saw the Nuggets defeating the Mavericks by only 11 points. The basketball itself was excellent.

On paper, Friday’s schedule has the potential to be even better. Night No. 2 of the In-Season Tournament features nine games instead of the seven we saw last week, and several contending teams, including the Lakers, Celtics, 76ers, Clippers and Suns, are all making their tournament debuts. As always, we have against-the-spread picks for all nine games on the slate, so here are our picks for the second night of the In-Season Tournament.

(Lines via Sportsline)

The 76ers have now won six games in a row. They’ve covered an eight-point spread in four of those games. One of the ones they didn’t was a win over the Boston Celtics, arguably the NBA’s best team, and the other was on the road, by exactly seven points, against the Toronto Raptors. Only Boston has a better net rating than Philadelphia right now. If we trusted the Pistons to end the Killian Hayes charade and just start Marcus Sasser next to Cade Cunningham, they’d be a tempting cover. For now? Ride the Philadelphia heat wave. The Pick: 76ers -8

I’m aware that Washington just won by 16 in Charlotte. I’m aware that most metrics, through seven games, have these teams in a relatively similar position. But I don’t know when I’m going to get the opportunity to bet against the Wizards as a favorite again, so I’m taking it. If you’re looking for an analytical reason to back Charlotte, here’s one: the Hornets have been the unluckiest team in the NBA in terms of opponent’s shooting. Teams playing against the Hornets have made 46.4% of their wide-open 3’s this season. If that regresses, their superior roster wins out over a Washington team that shouldn’t be favored over anyone. The Pick: Hornets +2

The real pick here is the under. Brooklyn can’t score without Cam Thomas. So far this season, Thomas is responsible for over 23% of all Nets points, and just as a reminder, he came off of the bench on opening night and missed most of Wednesday’s win over the Clippers due to his ankle sprain. Brooklyn is simply too injured to realistically contend in this game, and the Nets are playing against a Celtics team that is blowing out just about everyone right now. Boston’s last four wins have all come by double digits, including a 10-point victory over a healthier Nets team in Brooklyn. The Pick: Celtics -10.5

The Rockets look like a professional basketball team for the first time since James Harden left, but their record is a tad misleading. Their four wins have come over a thus far disappointing Kings team, the Hornets and the half of the Lakers roster that isn’t already on crutches. Opponents are shooting 69.6% against the Rockets in the restricted area. That’s a pretty problematic stat when you’re about to play against Zion Williamson, who is currently averaging 18 paint points per game. The Pick: Pelicans +2

Utah Jazz at Memphis Grizzlies

This is the ultimate matchup of the stoppable force (the woeful 30th-ranked Grizzlies offense) against the movable object (Utah’s No. 27-ranked defense without Walker Kessler, its only good defender). The difference here is that injuries haven’t deprived Utah of all its depth. The Jazz can pivot into five-out lineups with Kelly Olynyk at center fairly easily. But the Grizzlies are so thin that they simply lack the personnel to punish the weaker Jazz right now. Toss in the four points you’re getting on the line and this is an easy pick. The Pick: Jazz +4

This is a line based on preseason expectations rather than what we’ve actually seen on the court thus far this season. The Timberwolves are one of four teams outscoring opponents by at least 10 points per 100 possessions. The Spurs are the only team in the NBA getting outscored by at least 10 points per 100 possessions. The best Eastern Conference team by net rating is the Celtics. The best Western Conference team by net rating is the Nuggets. They’ve lost three combined games. Two of them are to the Timberwolves. This team is a real-deal contender and it’s playing against a team starting a small forward at point guard. The line is several points off here. The Pick: Timberwolves -6.5

Los Angeles Clippers at Dallas Mavericks

Teensy tiny sample alert, but: through two games, the Clippers are scoring a dreadful 97.7 points per 100 possessions with Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard on the floor together and are getting outscored by 16.4 points per 100 possessions in those minutes. That group is going to get better with time, but right now, it has no idea how to play together. Lineups featuring Westbrook and a center have predictably had almost no spacing. Harden is still adjusting to a role in which he has to fire off of the catch instead of dribbling endlessly. That’s not a great place to be against a Mavericks team that very much knows what it is through three games. Luka Doncic does everything. Kyrie Irving does what’s left. Everyone else defends. The Clippers might be the pick in April. Right now? Lean on the team with an identity. The Pick: Mavericks -2

Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns

This is obviously a tough game to pick without knowing whether Anthony Davis or Bradley Beal will play, but Phoenix has handled the uncertainty better than the Lakers have thus far this season. The Suns dealt with far worse injury issues than the Lakers thus far this season but have actually managed to outscore their opponents. The Lakers are getting outscored by 7.2 points per 100 possessions thus far this season. When these teams played two weeks ago, the Suns led for most of the fourth quarter and ultimately lost by just five despite missing Bradley Beal and Devin Booker against a healthy Lakers team. I’d probably avoid betting this game without knowing who is playing, but if you need to make a pick, take the team that has handled its injuries better so far this season. The Pick: Suns -3.5

This one is a no-brainer. Sacramento’s defense is getting torched at the rim. Only the Mavericks are allowing a higher field goal percentage in the restricted area than Sacramento’s 72.3%. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the NBA’s best penetrating guard, and without De’Aaron Fox to match points with him, the Kings are going to need an outlier 3-point shooting game to keep pace here. The Pick: Thunder -2.5



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