In all the hoopla of March Madness, we have an NBA matchup that is worthy of The Finals with Brooklyn at Utah. The Jazz has the best record in the league and the Nets are fourth overall, which should set up a great game on ESPN.
There are some potential problems about what kind of contest we will have and who Brooklyn coach Steve Nash will have available. We already know Kyrie Irving did not travel with the Nets as part of their three-game road for “personal reasons”. Guard Landry Shamet did not go with the team to Portland for last night’s game and he’s not expected to be in Salt Lake City this evening either. And James Harden was “questionable” for the Blazers, though he played 40 minutes in the victory.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Utah Jazz
That makes for a tough assignment for sportsbooks like Sugar House to generate NBA odds. Presently, Utah is a nine-point favorite and that could be a changeable situation.
Nets Will Have to Regain Defensively Intensity
When Brooklyn (30-14, 23-21 ATS) posted an 11-1 SU and ATS record from Feb. 10th to Mar. 11th, there was one noticeable difference. Sure, the team had grown and the players had greater connectivity that helped. However, the real difference was the defense was playing better. That’s not to say the Nets were going to measure up with some of the all-time great NBA defensive units, that would be laughable. Yet in this period, Nash’s squad held half their opponents to 46 percent or lower shooting.
Prior to winning against the Trail Blazers last night, Brooklyn has allowed Indiana, Orlando and Washington all to connect on better than 51% or more of their shot attempts. Last night they dug in and held Portland to 40%, which keyed the 116-112 victory.
The Nets are the top-scoring team in the league, but not having Irving against Utah’s No. 3 offense, and being on the road, makes for a rugged assignment. That’s where the Nets defense has to rise to the occasion if they expect to win for the 17th time in 19 tries.
Utah Looks to Recapture Magic
After a truly incredible period of play, Utah (31-11, 27-15 ATS) has settled back and is .500 in its past 10 games (3-7 ATS). It was inevitable coach Quin Snyder’s club would hit a dull period and that coincided with playing eight away contests in 10 tries, which makes sense that would happen.
The Jazz will try and get back in tune, opening a four-game home stand beginning tonight. Utah’s decline has come about playing defense like Brooklyn and they have fallen from second to fifth in field goal percentage defense.
In their losses or closer than anticipated outcomes, across the board by those Utah players interviewed, the answers all came back to the same theme, a lack of effort and willingness to play all four quarters with purpose.
Though the regular season will last a month longer than usual, most players that have played in the league for four years or more, they are familiar with this being a hard time staying focused. Of course, they want to win, yet, it’s not quite time to ramp up for playoff-mode and this is affecting Utah.
Though Nets might not have all their horses, that’s not Utah’s fault and this is an opportunity to make a statement.
The Point Spread Winner
We had uncertainty about what the line would be because of what is going on with Brooklyn, making it a hard call for NBA picks.
Here is what we do know. The Nets are 13-8 and 12-9 ATS on the road, winning by just a little bit over three points a game.
Utah is a superb 16-2 and 14-4 ATS and their margin of victory in their building is 13.1 PPG, which is far and away the best in the NBA.
Because neither defense is playing well at the moment, not sure what to expect in that department. This suggests the offenses will be the key element in this conflict. If Irving was playing, backing Brooklyn would appear to hold value, but since he’s not, it’s difficult to think the Nets can take this SU or ATS unless Harden has a monster game, which he’s capable of.
For our money, it just doesn’t make sense to not take Utah at home, given their record and having a personnel advantage.
NBA Picks: Jazz -9 points (-110) at Sugar House