|Trail Blazers Odds||-2.5|
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
|Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
On Saturday night, the Portland Trail Blazers host the defending Western Conference champions Phoenix Suns in their home opener.
The Suns appeared to have an NBA Finals “hangover” during their first game against the Denver Nuggets. They had a long, grueling season, and star guard Devin Booker played in the Olympics, too.
But that feeling quickly went away after the Suns beat down the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday evening. Is this a spot for them to have a let-down on a back-to-back or can they continue this momentum?
The Trail Blazers also had their own disappointing start after losing outright to the Sacramento Kings as large favorites. They’re looking for their first win under new coach Chauncey Billups.
Suns in Letdown Spot After Beating Lakers
The Suns were so close to getting the franchise’s first championship last summer. After leading 2-0 in the NBA Finals, the Bucks stormed back with four consecutive wins to send Chris Paul and the Suns home empty-handed.
During the regular season, they ranked sixth in Offensive Rating (116.3) and Defensive Rating (110.4) and third Net Rating (5.9), according to NBA Advanced Stats They are one of four teams (Bucks, Clippers, Jazz and Suns) that finished in the top 10 in both categories. Phoenix also ranked first in Assist-to-Turnover Ratio (2.15) and third in Effective Field Goal percentage (56.4%).
The Suns did not make too many moves over the offseason and brought back the same core. They have a nice mixture of talented young pieces such as Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton. They extended contracts to Bridges, Landry Shamet, but one notable exclusion was Ayton, who did not agree to terms with the Suns on a maximum extension he was seeking. He is still suiting up and showing up for work, but there could be some morale issues within the Suns’ locker room due to this.
The Suns are on the second game of a back-to-back. They played the Lakers on Friday evening and had to fly overnight to Portland. These travel and fatigue concerns should be considered and are already factored into the spread.
Blazers Trying to Change Identity, at Least a Little
Despite the disappointing loss on Wednesday to the Kings, the Trail Blazers have some optimism heading into the season. They finished last season with the No. 2 Offensive Rating (117.1), only trailing the Brooklyn Nets in that category, per NBA Advanced Stats.
However, there was a disappointing contrast in their defensive metrics, as they were a pathetic 29th in Defensive Rating (115.3). This has been their identity for several seasons and their overall mediocrity caused the Blazers’ front office to part ways with former head coach Terry Stotts and bring in former player and first-time head coach Billups.
Here is a summary of their key offseason moves:
- Additions: Larry Nance Jr., Cody Zeller, Tony Snell and Ben McLemore
- Departures: Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Jones, Enes Kanter
Nance is a major upgrade to their interior defense. Last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the On/Off numbers show that the Cavs Defensive Rating improved by seven points (116.9 to 109.9) when he was on the court, per Basketball Reference. His predecessor, Enes Kanter, had the opposite effect on the Trail Blazers’ defense.
Zeller is another big man who adds some much-needed depth to the Blazers’ frontcourt. This will be sorely needed against the talented big men of the Western Conference, like Rudy Gobert, Anthony Davis and NIkola Jokic.
Overall, the team got better. But, does it justify the Trail Blazers being favorites against the Suns on Saturday?
Suns-Trail Blazers Pick
Trail Blazers are 2-point favorites against the defending Western Conference champion.
The Suns beat the Lakers in L.A. on Friday night and are forced to travel and play the next day on the road against the Trail Blazers. I could see this as a let-down spot. The Suns’ tired and unmotivated legs may have no interest in chasing around the potent Trail Blazers offense.
Since the 2012-2013 season, teams on a second night of back-to-back after a game where they faced a team they last met in the playoffs, they have gone 11-21 ATS, per my personal database based on Sports Data Query Language.
I make the line on this game Blazers -3. They have the rest advantage and will be motivated to get their first win, while the Suns are in a let down spot after their big victory against the Lakers.
Pick: Play Blazers up to -2.5