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Tuesday Upset Picks Preview Article


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

Brooklyn Nets vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. ET (TNT) at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans

Brooklyn’s Rim Protection

Because Brooklyn always gets attention for its offense, I want to highlight Brooklyn’s interior defense.

The Nets allow the seventh-lowest field goal percentage within five feet of the basket while doing an above-average job of limiting shot attempts that close to the basket.

They’ll employ a variety of coverages on ball-screens in order to help protect the paint.

Newcomer Blake Griffin will participate in this variety, sometimes executing a hedge and recover, sometimes switching, and sometimes playing drop coverage.

His backup at center tonight will be DeAndre Jordan, who the Nets have employed in a lot of drop coverage.

In Jeff Green, the Nets have a versatile guy who is able to switch.

Both the switches that Net defenders accomplish as well as Jordan’s utility in drop coverage help them protect the paint.

Switching negates the effect of a ball-screen because the screened defender does not have to worry about recovering back to his man.

Drop coverage keeps the defender closer to the basket so that he’s more easily positioned to deter shot attempts at the basket.

As measured by defensive rating, Griffin has been the most effective big man for the Nets.

When Griffin hedges or at least shows, he deters the opposing ball-handler from driving until the original on-ball defender recovers.

While quick guards, perhaps predictably, have given Griffin trouble on switches, New Orleans doesn’t have someone like a De’Aaron Fox who can feast upon slow-footed defenders.

All of this information about the Net interior defense is relevant because the Pelicans are very reliant on scoring inside.

New Orleans attempts the second-highest rate of field goals within five feet of the basket per game.

In contrast, the Pelicans have been unreliable from behind the arc throughout the season. Currently, they rank 27th in made threes per game.

Their rather one-dimensional offense will struggle tonight thanks to Brooklyn’s higher-quality interior defense, which is anchored by a variety of well-used and effective bigs.

Brooklyn Offense vs. New Orleans Defense

Perimeter defense has been a drastic issue for the Pelicans throughout the year.

They allow the eighth-highest rate of open three-point attempts and the fourth-highest rate of wide open three-point attempts.

Because the Pelicans allow so many uncontested and comfortable three-point attempts, they allow the second-most three-pointers to be made per game.

It’s important to know about this defensive weakness of New Orleans because the Nets like to rely rather heavily on making threes.

The Nets rank sixth in three-pointers made per game. They’re actually more effective in this respect on the road.

They are led by sharpshooter Joe Harris, who is coming off a rare bad performance in his last game against Miami’s highly ranked defense.

In April, Harris is still converting 40 percent of his three-pointers despite being a characteristically high-volume shooter.

Harris loves to come off ball-screens. A teammate will set a screen to free him up, allowing him to square his shoulders to the basket and to take advantage of the favorable shooting opportunity.


Note two trends that further support a play on Brooklyn.

The Nets haven’t lost back-to-back games since February.

Moreover, they are on a 7-0 ATS run as single-digit underdogs.

Best Bet: Nets ATS (Odds TBA)

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Sacramento Kings
Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 10 p.m. ET at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento

Sacramento’s Rim Protection

Throughout the year, the King interior defense has been one of the worst.

Sacramento’s interior is filled with big men who show awful defensive ratings.

With a lack of guys who can hold their own one-on-one or otherwise, the Kings allow the second-highest field goal percentage within five feet of the basket.

The Kings are also terrible at preventing shot attempts close to the basket — they allow the second-most of these per game — largely because they have guards who will often get beat inside by the opposing ball-handler.

Minnesota Offense vs. Sacramento Defense

Minnesota matches up well with Sacramento because the Timberwolves love to live at the basket. They attempt the third-most field goals per game within five feet of the basket.

The Timberwolves regularly beat and cover the spread against other teams who are weak in their defensive interior because interior defense is a relatively important factor for their games.

I’m thinking of teams like Orlando and New Orleans as teams who are weak inside and served as prey for Minnesota.

One guy who will give Sacramento trouble inside is Anthony Edwards.

The Rookie of the Year candidate is averaging over 20 points per game since March. He loves to attack inside and get to the rim.

Sacramento Offense vs. Minnesota Defense

I prefer Minnesota’s defense because it can keep the King half-court offense one-dimensional.

The Timberwolves are great at limiting open and wide open three-point attempts.

So they will run a team off of the three-point line and instead allow shot attempts within nine feet of the basket.

Particularly within five-to-nine feet of the basket, Minnesota’s defense is at its most effective, which is bad news for a King offense that likes to attempt a lot of shots from this range.

Best Bet: Timberwolves ATS (Odds TBA)


Man Crush on Kyle Guy
I had to pick two upsets... I definitely prefer the Minny/Sacramento "over" to the spread in that game. I also like the "under" between the Hornets and Knicks.