Oskeim Sports previews the Utah Jazz/Houston Rockets game on Wednesday. Oskeim recommends taking the Jazz plus the points as one of his free sports picks.
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The Jazz entered the postseason as one of the hottest team in the league, winning 28 of their final 34 regular-season games. Utah is now 32-9 SU in its last 41 games after eliminating the Thunder in six games behind rookie phenom Donovan Mitchell.
Mitchell averaged 28.5 points in the series, including scoring 38 in Game 6. Mitchell averaged 20.5 points per game during the regular season before finding a different gear in the first round against Oklahoma City.
Houston applies to a negative 21-45 ATS system that invests against certain .751 or greater home favorites in the postseason, provided they are matched up against a .501 or greater opponent.
Utah is 9-4 ATS in its previous thirteen games when playing with two days of rest, whereas the Rockets are 1-4 ATS in their last five games with two days of rest.
Most importantly, double-digit underdogs off a loss in Game 1 of a playoff series are a profitable 41-22-1 ATS. This trend alone is strong enough to consider making the Jazz one of my free sports picks for today.
Since 2006, NBA teams off a straight-up and ATS loss despite shooting 50% or better from the field are a profitable 82-51 ATS in their subsequent game versus .701 or greater opposition.
Trading Joe Johnson & Rodney Hood
Utah’s front office dramatically improved the team’s postseason trajectory by trading Joe Johnson and Rodney Hood in early February.
Johnson had a plus-minus of -99 points during his tenure in Salt Lake City, while Hood owned a plus-minus of -75 points. Meanwhile, newly-acquired Jae Crowder has posted a plus-minus of +9.2 points per 48 minutes with the Jazz.
Houston’s Unsustainable Variance in Game One
The Rockets took advantage of a physically-drained Utah squad that arrived in Houston with just one day of rest after advancing past the Thunder in the First Round.
With little time to make the transition from playing a team that runs no offense and relies on 1-on-1 (Oklahoma City) to an opponent that is prolific from beyond the arc (Houston), the Jazz suffered a 14-point loss in the series’ opener. Houston led 64-39 at halftime and went on to cover the 11.5 closing number 110-96.
Houston was also the beneficiary of positive shooting variance in the opening game of this series, making 17-of-32 of its three-pointers (53.1%).
Variance was not as kind to the Jazz, who made just 7-of-22 of their three-point attempts (31.8%). The Rockets avoided Rudy Gobert by taking just 30 percent of their shots at the rim.
Instead, Houston spaced the floor and chucked up an endless number of three-pointers, with Harden making 7-of-12 from beyond the arc.
Houston attempted a three-pointer on 37 percent of its possessions in Game 1, which is consistent with the 3,470 three-pointers it attempted during the regular season.
However, variance becomes more likely in games in which teams shoot a lot of three-pointers, and it’s highly improbable that the Rockets will make over 50 percent from beyond the arc in Game 2.
Utah also struggled from the charity stripe, converting just 13-of-22 of its free throws (59.1%). The Jazz shot 78.1 percent from the foul line on the road during the regular season so Sunday’s effort was completely random.
Quin Snyder Needs to Find a Better Way to Utilize Rudy Gobert
Coach Snyder needs to find a better way to employ Gobert against the Rockets’ wide-open attack. The Jazz were 9.7 points per 100 possessions better with Gobert on the floor versus off during the regular season. Equally important, Utah’s defense is 8.8 points per 100 possessions better with Gobert on the court.
I’m not going to overreact to Game 1’s results because the Jazz were both physically and emotionally drained but I am concerned by the fact that Gobert posted a -10.6 net rating across three meetings with Houston during the regular season.
The Loss of Ricky Rubio
Utah point guard Ricky Rubio sustained a left hamstring strain in Friday’s series-clinching win over Oklahoma City. Rubio has been playing the best basketball of his career under head coach Quin Snyder and assistant coach Igor Kokoskov and his absence is worth 1.6 points to the point spread in Game 2.
My math model only favors Houston by 8.7 points after taking into account Rubio’s absence. Jae Crowder will be a key factor to Utah’s chances in the absence of Rubio.
After averaging 6.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 24.4 minutes per game through the first four games of the playoffs, Crowder is averaging 17.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists in 33.3 minutes per game over the past three postseason contests.
Utah was 16-7 ATS against teams averaging 106+ points per game in the second half of the regular season and I expect Snyder to make the necessary adjustments prior to Game 2.
Finally, Houston is a money-burning 9-20 ATS at home following a double-digit home win, 1-10 ATS after covering the spread in three consecutive games as a favorite and 15-26 ATS after covering the Vegas number in two or more consecutive games, including 1-9 ATS as home off three or more straight ATS wins.
Grab the inflated number with the Jazz as one of Oskeim’s free sports picks for Wednesday, May 2.
Oskeim’s Free Sports Picks for Wednesday:
- Utah Jazz (+11) (-110) over Houston Rockets
- Detroit Tigers (+108) over Tampa Bay Rays