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The Race To The Play-In, Scoring Falls & Ant Edwards Rising

The Playoffs are just around the corner, but there is still plenty to play out to finish the NBA’s regular season. Those towards the bottom of each conference, in particular, are under pressure to perform every night.

Racing To The Play-In

The NBA has become obsessed with changing things in recent years. Some changes have been good; their backtrack on overvigilent referees has had a positive impact on the game over the last month (more on that soon). It remains to be seen whether or not the in-season tournament catches on, with the novelty likely to wear off somewhat next year.

However, the Play-in Tournament is a winner. At a time of year when waiting for the playoffs can feel like a drag, there is genuine competition in the league. Whether jostling for position at the top or fighting for a chance to compete towards the bottom, the state of the NBA changes every night.

The Western Conference is a treat. While the Denver Nuggets are $2.40 favourites to win it, there is a suggestion around the league that nobody wants the No.1 seed and a possible First-Round matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers are no guarantee of featuring at all. They’re likely to earn a shot in the Play-in tournament ($1.02). Still, that first Play-in game, at this stage, will be against the Phoenix Suns or Sacramento Kings – on the road. Should the Lakers win that, it could well be the Golden State Warriors waiting on the other end for a do-or-die game to become the 8th seed.

Western Conference Play-in Tournament Odds

Los Angeles Lakers – $1.02
Golden State Warriors – $1.02
Sacramento Kings – $1.45
Phoenix Suns – $1.45
Dallas Mavericks – $1.80
New Orleans Pelicans – $3.60

The Eastern Conference isn’t quite so daunting. Unlike the Houston Rockets, who could yet sneak into the Play-in out West ($7), the Brooklyn Nets ($15) are unlikely to make the leap. Unless the Philadelphia 76ers can bring Joel Embiid back early enough for him to get reps in, the No.1 seed Celtics aren’t worried about the Chicago Bulls or Atlanta Hawks in the First Round.

Boston will finish this NBA season with one of the best net ratings in league history. The Hawks currently rank 20th due to their 28th-ranked defensive rating. Meanwhile, the Indiana Pacers might be able to score on anybody, but their 25th-ranked defensive rating is an issue. Only a top defensive team will be able to stifle the Celtics and threaten an upset. That team isn’t among those contending for the Play-in.

Eastern Conference Play-in Tournament Odds

Atlanta Hawks – $1.02
Philadelphia 76ers – $1.03
Indiana Pacers – $1.83
Miami Heat – $1.83
Orlando Magic – $12

Bet Now East & West Play-in Tournament

The Scoring Rumours

Scoring has been a topic of conversation throughout the whole NBA season.

While plenty predicted it being the case when the league put all of their eggs into the offensive basket at every opportunity, more points don’t necessarily equal more entertainment. In fact, the best games this season have been the lower-scoring, grinding affairs. Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors, in particular, comes to mind.

So, the suggestion is that the NBA has instructed officials to stop blowing the pea out of the whistle. The league admitted as much when the evidence became too much to ignore.

The memo notes that the NBA conceded they want to “evaluate the state of offensive vs. defensive balance with a focus on legal guarding position and level of contact on pathway plays to the basket.”

Per Seth Partnow at The Athletic, scoring has significantly dropped since the end of January. Up until January 21, teams averaged 115.6 points per game for 231.2 points between them. Since then, however, scoring has fallen to 112.8 and 225.5 points per game. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a big drop, particularly when you consider the fact that scoring typically increases throughout an NBA season.

Free throws are down. The wildly frustrating technicals have dropped, but so too have the relatively controversy-free defensive three-second fouls.

As a result, Unders punters have been cashing in.

Unders hit at 49.5% up to February 10th. More recently, games have finished under the points total at a whopping 61.4% clip.

It’s not going to last forever. The numbers will catch up and inch closer to 50%, but it’s something to keep an eye on. The numbers will help, but many could see the change in officiating before the number crunchers had enough data to deal with. We’re looking out for when totals catch up to the new trend, or if the trend changes once more and offence again rules the league.

Edwards Is Him

He’s been telling us…

Plenty already knew.

Now, there is no doubt that Anthony Edwards is that guy.

Edwards was presented with a difficult situation as the No.1 seed in the West when Karl-Anthony Towns went down, but he has risen.

Quite literally, at times.

He could have tried to shoot the Timberwolves out of this Towns-free period. We’ve seen time and time again, a player try to do everything himself when the team is short, often with little success. Edwards, however, it passing better than ever. He’s making the right play which still ends with him scoring often enough to average 26.9 points per game in March.

The No.1 seed is slipping from the Timberwolves. They are currently the 3rd seed, 1.5 games back on the Oklahoma City Thunder at 1st. Still, they’ve exceeded expectations all season. There is a good chance they do so again in the playoffs.

There is the Rudy Gobert questions that need to be answered. Towns isn’t a proven performer in the post-season either. But Edwards seems to be prepared for everything, and a deep playoff run isn’t out of the picture.

Durant Climbs

Kevin Durant is a polarizing figure in the NBA.

He does things differently, and not everybody agrees with his approach and motivations. However, there is no denying his ability to put the ball in the basket.

NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Update

It’s not often that you see a rookie in this conversation so late in the NBA season, but Victor Wembanyama isn’t a typical rookie. Averaging 10.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 3.4 blocks per game, the French sensation is on the second line of betting to win Defensive Player of the Year at $5.50.

He’s unlikely to win it, though…

We all heard the claims of ‘the worst trade of all time’ last season, but the Minnesota Timberwolves are now the 3rd seed in the Western Conference, and Rudy Gobert’s impact on the defensive end has been a significant part of their rise. The Timberwolves play with the best defence in the league, allowing only 108.9 points per 100 possessions. Gobert has consistently been part of an NBA-best defences. It took an off-season to carve it out, but he’s here again, averaging 12.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. His 5 defensive win shares have him at the top of the pile. As a result, Gobert is a $1.14 favourite to pick up another DPOY.

Other Contenders: Jarrett Allen – $71, Anthony Davis – $91, Bam Adebayo – $91.

TOP 6 NBA CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS

TEAMCURRENT PRICELAST WEEK’S PRICE
Boston Celtics$3.10$3.20
Denver Nuggets$3.70$3.90
LA Clippers$6.50$6.50
Milwaukee Bucks$8.50$8
Oklahoma City Thunder$18$18
Dallas Mavericks$18$-
Bet Now NBA FUTURES

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