Yes, the Utah Jazz took it on the chin on Friday night against the Miami Heat. Well, the defending Eastern Conference champions are capable of rising to the occasion, and that's what happened.
So now the Western Conference leaders have to respond. Will they do that against the Orlando Magic. That is the question we ask ourselves, as they lay a lot of lumber in this 8:05 PM ET start. BetAnySports customers will be able to get reduced juice on this game, not to mention real-time wagering coming by way of Sports Betting Prime.
The Jazz got 30 points from Donovan Mitchell in Miami, but the Heat overcame that with a lot of things, including 33 out of Jimmy Butler, in the 124-116 Miami victory. That dropped their record to 26-7, but Utah had won eleven of their previous 12 games.
In the Western Conference, you've got the defending champion Lakers; the Clippers, who are thought to have underachieved last season with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George; and last year's conference runner-up, the Denver Nuggets, who have of the premier players in the league in center Nikola Jokic.
Yet it's the Jazz who are positioning themselves for home court advantage in the playoffs. How are they doing it?
Well, it helps if you've got an emerging superstar like Donovan Mitchell, as well as a defensive anchor in Rudy Gobert, the French native who has been referred to as the "Stifle Tower."
Utah leads the league in three-point attempts and are third in three-point accuracy, and that's a pretty profitable combination. They are second in the league in Defensive Rating, and opponents have shot just 44.3% against them.
You have to give a load of credit to Quin Snyder, who had been kind of neglected, even after having coached big-time college ball at Missouri, having to rebuild his career by going to the D-League, then Russia.
So here are the numbers at BetAnySports by which we will be making our NBA picks on this game:
Utah Jazz -9
Orlando Magic +9
Over 221 points -110
Under 221 points -110
The Magic have a very capable coach in Steve Clifford, who stresses discipline in the area of "ball security," but his problem is the same as it was in Charlotte - he just doesn't have enough personnel. And with the injuries his team has suffered, it just got worse.
Markelle Fultz, a #1 overall NBA draft choice who had possibly found himself a home, is out for the year. Aaron Gordon, a good small forward, will be missing until mid-March. Rookie guard Cole Anthony has fractured ribs and will be out for at least a couple more weeks.
This is a decidedly non-explosive team. They are currently dead last in the league in shooting percentage (42.9%). They have scoring in double digits (below 100) in 12 of their last 25 games. They've got an All-Star pivot in Nikola Vucevic, but aside from that they are in a big fix as far as firepower is concerned.
And let's talk about firepower for a moment. Utah scores 51 points through triples per game, allowing just 33. That is an 18-point difference over their opponents on a per-game basis. And that is the kind of thing that Orlando can't overcome. And Jazz has consistently out-performed the number, with a 24-8-1 ATS record.
With the added factor that Utah is coming off a loss, there is really no other way to go than to lay the points.
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