We have another decent NBA card on tap Tuesday, with seven games underway. Teams keep pushing towards the playoffs, so you can expect some tough competition throughout the league.
The featured contest takes place on the West Coast, with Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers welcoming the struggling Toronto Raptors. The game, which will be broadcast live on TNT, is scheduled for a tip at 10 p.m. ET.
Brandon Anderson and Raheem Palmer each have a choice for you on the calendar. Check out each of their picks below, with their in-depth thoughts and in-depth analysis to support those picks.
NBA odds and picks
Warriors vs. Pelicans
Brandon Anderson: I’m sorry, but did everyone miss Monday’s “Marvel” gamecast?
I know people really want Zion Williamson to be in the playoffs, but the New Orleans Pelicans aren’t good enough and we saw it when all the Captain America heroes in the world couldn’t bring Black Widow. and Iron Man to relevance. By the way, it was Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball.
The Warriors took control of the game early, taking a 39-21 lead in the first quarter, then mostly took the lead the rest of the time. New Orleans had no answer for Steph Curry, who had the look he wanted, and there was nothing they could do to limit Draymond Green, who recorded a triple-double.
Most disturbing of all were the firing figures. And I’m not talking about 3 point numbers either. The Warriors were 39% of their shots from behind the arc, Curry going 8 of 18 and the rest of the team shooting 9 for 26. It’s perfectly normal and sustainable at this point. However, the 2-point defense was the real problem for New Orleans. Golden State shot 30 of 44 from inside the arc, making 68% of their attempts at 2 points.
New Orleans have been bad on defense all year, and the Pelicans are even worse without Steven Adams. It wasn’t Curry’s 3 that killed New Orleans, but his back cuts and layups. Green separating the defense with his pass wasn’t helping matters either.
One night later, I don’t know why something should be different. Golden State is getting far too easy. The club might not back down, but a win here effectively seals the Warriors’ place in the play-in tournament by essentially knocking out the Pelicans, so a win is big for both teams.
New Orleans is still not ready for this battle. Captain America needs more help.
Now where can I get these hero points?
Raptors vs. Clippers
Raheem Palmer: The Los Angeles Clippers have quietly lost three games in a row and find themselves half a game behind the Denver Nuggets for the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoff race.
While I’m sure seeding doesn’t mean much to the Clippers, chemistry and continuity does. For the second game in a row, Los Angeles has both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the lineup. Although Serge Ibaka (back) and Patrick Beverley (hand) are still out, the rest of the squad are in good health and a game against mediocre Toronto, who arguably lacks their best wing defender at OG Anunoby, is ideal for a team looking to get out of sarcasm.
The Raptors look to next season, letting their stars rest in Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam in key locations, so the opportunity to be a part of the play-in game really didn’t affect the decisions of this team.
Despite a win over the Lakers, who are trying to adjust to the return of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, it doesn’t change that this isn’t a team you want to bet on against strong teams. The Raptors lost by 17 to the Knicks; 13 with fillets; and 10 at the Nuggets in three consecutive games. That said, I really like this place where the Clippers have a dominant victory.
Unlike seasons spent under head coach Nick Nurse, in which he fielded a top-5 defense, Toronto is struggling to defend itself. The Clippers are first with a 3-point shooting percentage and a team struggling to keep the perimeter, allowing opposing teams to shoot 38.1% from behind the arc (23rd among NBA teams).
They are also struggling to defend the rim, as they are 22nd in the opponent’s goal percentage with 65.1%. They also allow the sixth highest frequency of midrange jumpers (32.9%) and the fourth highest field goal percentage on midrange shots at 43.4%. That means Leonard and George, who are in the 83rd and 75th percentile for midrange accuracy, should have a field day.
This is simply a lag for the Raptors. The Clippers are second in the offensive standings, scoring 119.2 points per 100 possessions in their waste-free minutes. Los Angeles faces Toronto, which struggles to score and ranks just 14th in the offensive standings, scoring 112.8 points per 100 possessions. This has been the case since Leonard left Toronto, when the Clippers beat twice last season in double digits.
With Los Angeles eager to break a three-game losing streak and build chemistry against a worse version of Toronto, which looks to next season, this seems like a great place to score points.
From a numbers standpoint my model doesn’t capture how I see these two teams match up, the data making this game at Clippers -8.72, but from a crippling standpoint I think there has some value. I’ll take the Clippers 1H -5.5 and the full set -9 on the spread line.