Season Results: 1-2, +.55 Units
Denver Nuggets +1 (-120) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder 1st Quarter – 1 Unit
The Oklahoma City Thunder have been the upside surprise of the season – currently sitting just 1 win away from surpassing their opening Season Win Total of 34. Moreover, they have been the best ATS team in the NBA, with 66% hit rate.
For whatever reason, they have been far closer to expectations in 1st Qs. While the Thunder have the 11th best overall scoring margin, they have just the 20th best scoring margin in the First. 20th exactly matches their stacked-ranked Preseason, Season Win Total, i.e their implied Pre-season Power Rating.
The Thunder also have the 20th best 3rd quarter scoring margin. So the entire breadth of their substantial overperformance has been in Quarters 2 and 4, where their scoring margin ranks 5th and 2nd respectively. That begs the question: Is their overall overperformance entirely attributable to the rise of Dennis Schröder, who gets the bulk of his run to close out halves?
Schröder has no doubt been a big part of it. More generally, the Thunder thrive when they go to a three-guard lineup. OKC plays best when veteran Chris Paul plays alongside Schroeder, as well as, standout sophomore Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Despite this trend, their biggest lineup happens to be by far their most common lineup. Starters, Chris Paul, SGA, Danilo Gallinari, Terrence Ferguson & Steven Adams together have a -3 net margin on the season. We have seen this phenomenon with other teams, like the 2014-19 Warriors. They trout out a bigger lineup to start the game, despite the fact that the unit regularly posts less than stellar results.
The threat the Nuggets pose is a key example as to why the Thunder take on this strategy. The Thunder want to match size with size, so that other teams cannot establish their tempo and get ahead in the foul game. I think this strategy falls right into the Nuggets hands, as the Nuggets want Jokic manipulating passes through slower, less agile defenders.
Denver Nuggets -4.5 (+155) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (Alt Spread) – 1 Unit
Denver has won 9 of their last 10 matchups vs. the Thunder. While OKC was one of the hottest teams in the Association coming into the extended All-Star break, my instinct is that the time off induced a reset, brining both organizations back toward their historical trendlines.
If we look at each of these franchises Elo Rating over the past 5 years, the Nuggets have been consistently the stronger team. The Nuggets are treated like old news, even as they look to finish top 2 West in for the first time in franchise history since their first two years in the NBA (76-78). I think there is undervalued excitement in the organization about this team’s potential. With Paul Millsap back in action and off of his minutes’ restriction, I look for the Nuggets to surge coming out of the All-Star break.
While missing Will Barton still hurts, the breaking news that Michael Porter Jr. will play vs. OKC has been underappreciated by the betting market. This line should be Nuggets -2.5.
Dallas Mavericks -4 @ Orlando Magic -1 Unit
The NBA is new again. I always ask myself. How different would my assumptions be if had only started watching NBA basketball in 2015 when the 3-point revolution took off, or in 2017 when the movement had reached full flight.
Road favorites have covered 53% ATS since 2017. Road favorites of more than 3.5 are 57% ATS since 2017, as well as 57% this season.
I think this makes sense. Most current models – which encapsulate decades of NBA data – overvalue points in games with traditionally short spreads. Teams are much more likely now than in 1999 to end the game on a 14-3 runout. Not only are winning teams more likely than ever to hit a couple clinching threes down the stretch, but trailing teams, too, are far more likely to chuck themselves out of contention in the final minutes. Mathematically, to chuck it is often your best chance down 5 or 6.
Power-ranking-wise, the Mavs should be about a 4-point favorite. However, all the trends favor Dallas here, breaking the tie.
Dallas is 11-3 as an away favorite & Orlando is 2-9 as a home underdog this year.
Additionally, the Magic have only covered 8 of 27 games against teams with winning records this season. Like we saw when the Bucks came to town a few weeks ago and eviscerated them, Orlando just doesn’t have the horses to keep pace with the league’s upper echelon.
Lastly, the All-Star break mitigates the travel disadvantage here for Dallas. Road favorites traveling West to East after the All-Star break are 63% ATS (15-9-1).