Detroit Pistons vs. Toronto Raptors
NBA Point Spread Pick: Toronto -6.5 points (February 12th 2017)
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The Raptors reached the Eastern Conference finals last year and were actually tied at two-all with the Cavs, before losing. However, the Cavs were blown out in the final two games of the series and any serious thought that the Raptors were somehow in Cleveland’s class should be dismissed quickly by noting that Cleveland’s four wins over the Toronto in that series came by margins of 31, 19, 38 and 26 points!
Toronto plays host to the Pistons on Sunday at Air Canada Centre. The Pistons come in off a 103-92 home loss to the Spurs on Friday. Detroit has a formidable frontcourt led by center Andre Drummond (14.7-13.8) plus three quality players in Harris (16.4-5.1), Morris (14.2-4.5) and Leuer (11.1-5.6). Harris is the team’s leading scorer but recently, Leuer has been starting. The backcourt features PG Jackson (15.5-5.6 APG), SG Caldwell-Pope (14.1) and Ish Smith (8.4-4.9 APG) coming off the bench. Despite this solid seven-man rotation, the Pistons rank only 24th in points scored at 101.5 PPG, a clear indication that there is little or no depth on the bench.
Depth is an issue often for Toronto, as outside of an All Star starting backcourt featuring DeRozan (27.9-5.3) and Lowry (23.0-4.7-7.0) plus center Valanciunas (12.3-9.9), head coach Casey really can’t count on the remainder of his roster to do much. Making matters worse, DeRozan has fought nagging injuries throughout the year (he recently missed four games with an ankle injury) and as we saw often in last year’s playoffs, shooting slumps appear all too often with Lowry. He’s a workhorse (37.7 MPG is tied for the most) but he’s shooting just 33.3 percent over the past four contests!
Toronto was 22-8 through Dec 26 but is just 10-12 since. The 32-22 Raptors have fallen three games behind the Celtics in the Atlantic Division and are now also behind the surging Wizards, leaving them with just the No. 4 seed. The winner of the 4 vs 5 matchup gets the Cavs in t shecond round, something Toronto can’t afford! The good news here is that the Pistons are a poor road team (9-18 SU & 10-17 ATS) and don’t figure to be able to match the Raptors basket-for-basket here on their homecourt, where Toronto averages 112.7 PPG. An added bonus is that the Raptors have not played since Wednesday (a disappointing 112-109 loss at Minnesota), their first three-day break of the season. Lay the points with Toronto.
Sacramento Kings vs. Detroit Pistons
NBA Point Spread Pick: Pistons -6.5 (January 23rd 2017)
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Detroit is worth a look here at home against the Kings. The Pistons have been a major disappointment so far this season, but they are coming into this one having won 3 straight and will be playing their 3rd straight at home. I don’t see Detroit overlooking this game against the Kings, despite the fact that Sacramento has lost 5 straight and 8 of their last 9 overall. That’s because the lone win during this stretch for the Kings was a 100-94 victory at home against these Pistons. A game in which Detroit managed to blow a 18-point lead. Those kind of losses don’t sit well and this one is fresh in the minds of the Pistons. Give me Detroit -6.5!
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Detroit Pistons vs. Utah Jazz
NBA Prediction: Utah -8.5 (January 13th 2017)
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The 24-16 Utah Jazz are tied with OKC atop the Northwest Division and the team’s most recent win, 100-92 at home vs the defending champion Cavs, signaled this team’s rising status in the Western Conference.The Jazz host the 18-23 Detroit Pistons Friday night (late game in the ESPN doubleheader), who come in having lost 10 of their last 14 games overall.
Detroit will be playing its fourth contest of a five-game road trip with last night’s 127-107 loss to the Warriors leaving them 1-2 on the trip, after opening with a one-point win at Portland. I guess one could say they are lucky to not be 0-3. The Pistons rank 5th on the season in points allowed (100.9 per game) but have struggled to slow opponents since enduring a five-game losing skid in mid-December. In the team’s 3-3 start to January, they are allowing 117.2 PPG (note: one game was a double-OT contest).
Defense has been Utah’s strength all season, as the Jazz rank first in both points allowed (94.9 PPG) and opponents’ FG percentage (36.9%) plus while the Jazz are near the bottom in points scored (98.4 PPG ranks 28th), the team shoots well (46.3% overall, including 36.9% on threes, both of which rank 8th). Six players scored in double figures for Utah in the win over the Cavs, including all five starters. Gordon Hayward led the way with one of his best performances of the season (28 points on 10-of-12 shooting). “When he is playing like that, he is a real leader, and that’s what we need,” Utah center Rudy Gobert said. Hayward and Gobert both continue to make strong cases for All-Star consideration. Hayward is averaging a career-best 22.2 points per game this season on 45.9 percent shooting (adds 5.9 RPG and 3.5 APG). Gobert is imposing on the defensive end and has 10-plus rebounds in 25 straight games and has notched 27 double-doubles this season. Gobert is also averaging career highs in points (12.3 per game), rebounds (12.3) and blocks (2.5).
The Pistons have covered their last three visits to Salt Lake City, including winning SU last season. In fact, Detroit sweep the season series last year but did so in averaging only 93.5 PPG. That won’t cut it here. The Jazz are more efficient with PG with George Hill returning to the lineup and he’s been back the last three games (Hill averages 18.2 PPG and 4.4 APG in the 12 games he’s played TY). This marks Detroit’s FOURTH game in seven nights and expect them to lose again here. Lay the points.