Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 10:00 AM EST. Odds subject to change.
Indiana -6½ over Utah
7:00 PM EST. By now you probably know how prolific the Pacers' offense can be and how instantly prolific they've been this season. If not, let's do a quick review. Through six games, Indiana is averaging a whopping 125 ppg. In seven contests, six have gone over the total. Their games average 13.7 points over the closing line, and tonight we're sure the home-team will continue to pounce. After all, that's the approach that works for the high-octane Pacers- they're 2nd in the NBA in tempo and 1st overall in offensive efficiency, meaning they choose to blitzkrieg opposing defenses and challenge them to keep up for all four quarters. Most teams have fallen short.
The reason we can't play on tonight's over (the total is between 241 and 242) is because of their opponent. The Jazz, who rank 15th in offensive efficiency, are going through some growing pains. All-star Lauri Markkenan is consistent - he's averaging 24 ppg and shooting 47% from the field and 44% from beyond the arc - but he's pretty much the only player who is. Jordan Clarkson and Talen Horton-Tucker, their two starting guards, have been abysmal. Clarkson is usually a playmaker and consistent contributor in points, but so far it hasn't come to be this season. Horton-Tucker has never been very good offensively, so we're not as surprised about his output. John Collins, who transferred from Atlanta, has been effective offensively in most games, but his typical defensive prowess has all but disappeared. The Jazz are a said 28th in defense through 8 games- not a great mark when you're about to face the supersonic Pacers.
Will Hardy, the second-year coach who was Greg Popovich's apprentice and then an assistant in Boston, has a lot to figure out about his Jazz. The 35 year old Utah HC has been open and honest about their struggles, admitting to the media that they have a lot to work through. They're applying heavy analytics in practice to assess shooting advantages and they're applying different defensive sets based on opponent. So far, it hasn't been stellar.
Utah was on the road Monday and they have another tough road game at Memphis on Friday. The Pacers remain home and welcome the Bucks tomorrow. Since we don't think one situation is worse than the other, neither affects our handicap of this game.
What does affect our handicap is the current state of the Utah Jazz. Hardy seems like a bright young mind and he's known for his emotional intelligence and ability to bring players together. We're sure he'll figure something out, eventually. To wager on the Jazz in this spot, however, and expect that they've made substantial changes in just two days seems a bit reductive. The Jazz are clearly in flux and experimentation-mode, while the home-team Pacers know exactly who they are, they're healthy, and they look like they could be this year's Cinderella team with their slew of offensive talent. We like Indiana to roll at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Indiana -6½ +101 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.02)