Trail Blazers vs. Mavericks Odds
|Trail Blazers Odds||+5.5|
|Time||8:30 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
|Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
After a start to the season where the headlines demanded our attention off the court, the focus is coming back to the product on the court. And what a product the NBA has right now. Every night it feels like there are at least two to three (if not more!) genuinely fun games to dive into, and with the resurgence of the Eastern Conference, they are often spread throughout the night for maximum viewing pleasure.
Saturday night has 16 teams in action, with, as promised, several fun matchups, including the surprise Portland Trail Blazers (9-3) heading to Dallas trying to keep the good vibes going against the Mavericks (6-5).
Most folks would likely have guessed those two records would be switched in the early season, so let’s see what’s been going on with these two.
Trail Blazers Embracing Defensive Identity
The Blazers have undoubtedly gotten off to a great start in the win column, with their 9-3 record landing them second in the Western Conference. This comes just a season after they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
However, there are a few pink (not fully red) flags when it comes to expecting this level of production moving forward. For one, the Blazers’ Net Rating (+2.5) paints the picture of mid-tier playoff team and not a top seed.
As such, their Pythagorean record is 7-5, which would have them a few notches down the standings ladder. It’s also very early in the season, where a close game or two going your way can swing the perception of the team greatly.
All that being said, there’s legitimately a lot to love here.
They’ve actually played a pretty solid schedule so far, 10th in the league, and they have quality wins over: Suns (twice), Heat, Pelicans, and Nuggets. They’ve played seven of their 12 games on the road so far, and they haven’t even had perfect health.
Damian Lillard has missed five games already; Jusuf Nurkic has missed the last two games; even Anfernee Simons has missed two games. In fact, Josh Hart is the only player in their rotation who has yet to miss a game this season.
The team has made a marked improvement on the defensive side of the ball, and that is powering their success. They’ve slowed down the pace, and potentially as a result, they have the sixth-best Defensive Rating in basketball entering Saturday.
Their wing depth on that end is impressive, with Josh Hart, Justise Winslow, and Jerami Grant all doing well defensively this season, especially Hart and Winslow. And this is all before getting defensive maven Gary Payton II back on the court.
In short, this team seems pretty legitimate, just maybe not No. 2 in the West (not that anyone was really saying that).
Can Luka Doncic Maintain His Usage With the Mavericks?
In fact, the books are very much not saying that, as the Mavs, despite sitting 2.5 games behind the Blazers in these early standings, are pretty considerable favorites on Saturday night.
It makes sense, though. The Mavs have been on the flip side of the early luck dragon. In fact, their net rating and Pythagorean record are both better than the Blazers, and they’ve done it against a harder schedule.
They are riding a two-game losing streak, but they lost both those games without their second-most important player, Christian Wood, and Wood is probable to return against the Blazers on Saturday.
All things considered, it’s definitely fair to call the Mavs the better team at this moment in time.
One thing to watch, however, is Luka Doncic’s level of fatigue. One storyline that was popping in the first few weeks was how in shape Doncic looked early on in the season, especially compared to past seasons when he had to play himself into shape. The theory went that Doncic had a summer full of EuroBasket to stay in shape, and that’s why he was looking so good.
There’s a flip side to that, though. Playing basketball all year round is no joke. Just ask any player in the WNBA. It’s even more of a drain for a player who is quite literally setting all-time usage records for his team. The last few games, with Wood out of the lineup, Doncic has looked worn down at times. It’s mighty early in the season for that.
I wouldn’t be shocked if the Mavs try to put the hand brake on a bit of Luka’s usage, knowing just how long the season is, and all on top of his eventful summer.
Trail Blazers-Mavericks Pick
As we talked through above, there isn’t a huge edge on the side in this one. Especially with Jusuf Nurkic still questionable, Mavericks by 5-5.5 is a solid range.
However, the total is more ripe for the picking. The books did a good job setting a low number — the total of 217.5 is the among the lowest on the board Saturday — but I still see some value in the under down to 214.5.
These are two teams in the bottom three in Pace so far this season, as well as two of the top nine defenses in the league. The two best scorers in the game are Doncic, who I talked about being fatigued above and has to face a full bullpen of lengthy wing defenders on Portland, and Lillard, who has been in and out of the lineup this season and coming off a game missed.
Unsurprisingly, I will be eyeing some prop unders for this game, both for point totals, but also points + rebounds + assists totals since the books will undoubtedly lower the props for these two slow pace teams, but may well not drop them by enough. As always, follow me in the app for those plays.
Pick: Under 217.5 (half unit)
NBA Article Plays: 11-10-1 (2.6% ROI) | NBA Action Network App Plays: 115-103-5 (8.9% ROI)