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Tuesday Underdogs Preview Article


Man Crush on Kyle Guy
Daily Upset Alert: NBA Underdog Picks

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Indiana Pacers
Tuesday, April 27, 2021 at 7 p.m. ET at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis

No Sabonis, No Problem

Tonight, Indiana is an underdog likely at least in part because Domantas Sabonis is injured.

While it’s easy to cast doubt upon a team that is missing its third-leading scorer, there is no basis for it from a betting perspective.

In the seven games that the Pacers have played without Sabonis, they are 4-3 ATS.

To put that figure into perspective, Indiana this season is 25-35 ATS.

So they have a winning ATS record without Sabonis and easily a losing one with him.

If anything, oddsmakers adjust the spread too heavily for Sabonis’ absence.

Indiana Offense vs. Portland Defense

In each of its past three games, Indiana has exceeded its scoring average — on the season, the Pacers rank 11th in averaging 114 points per game.

This trend promises to continue against a Portland team whose defense helps explain its ingoing five-game SU losing streak, part of which is a product of allowing Memphis to score 120 and 130 points respectively in its last two games.

Indiana matches up well against Portland because the Pacers love to attack the basket. They average a league-leading 36 field goal attempts within five feet of the basket.

Various Pacer players, like Malcolm Brogdon, love to drive inside.

Since Brogdon became a Pacer, he’s grown more comfortable moving to the basket and has adjusted to his reduction in spot-up shooting opportunities.

Teammate Caris LeVert is also someone who will drive to the basket a lot.

Like Brogdon, he ably finds teammates after forcing the defense’s hand by beating his on-ball defender one-on-one or by demonstrating comfort in the pick-and-roll.

While Brogdon averages six assists per game, LeVert averages 4.1.

With its focus on attacking the basket, Indiana matches up well against a Portland defense whose rim protection has struggled throughout the year.

So far, the Trail Blazers allow the seventh-highest field goal percentage within five feet of the basket. Moreover, they do a poor job of limiting attempts this close to the basket.

Portland Offense vs. Indiana Defense

Because of how bad its defense is — Portland ranks 25th in limiting opposing points per game — It’s impossible to like Portland when you don’t like its offense.

Offensively, the Trail Blazers rely heavily on three-pointers. They are one of two teams who average more than 40 three-point attempts per game.

Defensively, Indiana is comfortable guarding the perimeter partly because of its ability to switch on ball-screens, which is enhanced by LeVert’s presence in the lineup.

In a ball-screen situation, Pacer bigs will sometimes switch onto an opposing player until the original on-ball defender, who had been screened, recovers to his man.

Partly because of its ball-screen coverage, Indiana allows the lowest rate of open three-point attempts and the third-lowest rate of wide open three-point attempts.

So Portland won’t easily be able to do what it wants to do on offense, whereas Indiana’s offense can be maximally comfortable against Portland’s anyhow porous defense.

Best Bet: Pacers ATS (Odds TBA)

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Charlotte Hornets
Tuesday, April 27, 2021 at 7 p.m. ET at Spectrum Center in Charlotte

Hornet Offense vs. Buck Defense

As a result of its focus on defending the basket via drop coverage on ball-screens, sending extra help inside, and its difficulty in experimenting with different ball-screen coverages, Milwaukee’s perimeter defense continues to be vulnerable.

The Bucks rank 28th in limiting opposing three-point attempts. Perhaps most notably, they allow the second-highest rate of wide open three-point attempts.

Their vulnerability on the perimeter will be problematic against a Hornet offense that owns the seventh-best three-point percentage while attempting one of the highest rates of three-pointers especially in their most recent play.

While one may try to counter that the Bucks, too, are effective from deep. Home court will be meaningful because Milwaukee’s three-point percentage is 1.4 percent lower on the road whereas Charlotte’s is one percent higher at home.

Milwaukee is favored as heavily as it is not because of its defense — which ranks seven spots below Charlotte’s in limiting opposing points per game — but because of its offense.

Yet Milwaukee’s advantage on paper from behind the arc vanishes in Charlotte.

Milwaukee Offense vs. Charlotte Defense

Milwaukee is one of the more vulnerable teams in terms of turning it over.

By jumping passing lanes and in other ways, Charlotte forces turnovers at the 10th-highest rate.

The Hornets’ ability to accrue turnovers often leads into instant offense. They love scoring in transition and they are almost equally effective in terms of accruing fast break points.

Besides trying to outpace the Hornets from behind the arc on their home floor, Milwaukee will still want to score a lot inside.

They like attacking the basket either to score or to facilitate their drive-and-kick game.

But as measured by opposing field goal percentage within five feet of the basket, Charlotte owns the fourth-best rim protection.

In addition to the arguably improved overall defense and rim protection of PJ Washington and Miles Bridges, Charlotte boasts other guys with effective defensive ratings whose on-ball defense limits an offense’s number of easy paths to the basket.

An overall stiff and lately stiffer Charlotte defense will continue limiting its opposing points while also using defense as yet another source of scoring.

Best Bet: Hornets +9 at -105 with Bovada


Man Crush on Kyle Guy
Kind of glad I took Charlotte instead. I just hate the spot that Minnesota is in. Pacers at +6 and Hornets at +10 now. Would have preferred the "over" in the latter game if Milwaukee didn't have such a solid transition defense. I hope/think that 10 is too high. Really like the way Charlotte half-court D has been playing for a while now. I just hope their recent effort against Brooklyn isn't indicative of how they'll handle other top-level scoring teams.