The Portland Trail Blazers have been surprisingly good, but the Phoenix Suns are the better NBA pick for Thursday’s contest.
Phoenix Suns vs. Portland Trail Blazers
at Moda Center
He probably won’t win the Most Valuable Player award this year, but where would the Portland Trail Blazers (21-14 SU, 19-16 ATS) be without Damian Lillard? There isn’t much talent left in Portland’s cupboard now that C.J. McCollum (foot), Jusuf Nurkic (wrist) and Zach Collins (ankle) are all out indefinitely; despite that, Lillard has kept the Trail Blazers in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, leading Portland on a 9-4 SU and ATS hot streak heading into the All-Star break. But is it all smoke and mirrors? The Blazers could be due for a wake-up call this Thursday when they host the Phoenix Suns (24-11 SU and ATS), one of this year’s most profitable picks in online sports betting. The Suns have been even more dominant than Portland in recent weeks, going 13-2 SU and ATS since early February. They’ve opened as 2.5-point road favorites at BetMGM, but with both teams performing well, it might be better to look at the total instead.
These are two of the slowest teams in the league, so in theory, the Under could have some value here. It’s hard to say – there aren’t any totals on the board at press time, which is a bit strange. Also, the Suns only have the Under at 18-17 this year, while the Over is 19-16 for the Trail Blazers. That includes 14-9 since McCollum (plus-1.0 VORP) went on the injured list, and he’s one of Portland’s most gifted scorers. The Blazers are definitely a different team with Gary Trent (minus-0.1 VORP) starting in McCollum’s place. Trent is a good outside shooter, hitting 40.6 percent from long range this year; defense isn’t his strong suit, though. In fact, Trent might be the worst defender on this team, and that’s saying a lot when they have Carmelo Anthony (0.0 VORP) logging heavy minutes off the bench. Credit Lillard (plus-2.6 VORP) for playing lights-out and keeping Portland in contention for now.
Maybe the totals are slow to come out because Phoenix swingman Devin Booker (plus-0.5 VORP) was a late scratch for the All-Star Game with a sprained left knee. Then again, Booker is expected to play Thursday after putting in a full practice the day before. Cameron Johnson (plus-0.5 VORP), meanwhile, remains iffy after going into COVID-19 protocol last week. Johnson has played reasonably well in his sophomore campaign, but the Suns can easily shift those minutes to Jae Crowder (plus-0.6 VORP) and the revitalized Frank Kaminsky (plus-0.4 VORP), among others. Since the total is still on hold at the moment, I’m going to stick with recommending a small bet on
Phoenix; this is the more healthy and talented team of the two, and their stability is exactly what we need in a chaotic situation like this. Bet accordingly, and enjoy the game.
NBA pick: Suns –2.5 (–110) at BetMGM