Utah at San Antonio
Time: 8 PM CT, NBA League Pass
Spread: SAS -5.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Utah Jazz have won four-straight games to improve to 23-28, and the Jazz currently trails No. 8 Denver by 3.5 games. Utah travels to face San Antonio as 5.5-point underdogs in NBA action Saturday night on NBA League Pass. The Spurs have posted a 22-5 mark at home this season, but have lost five of its past 10 overall. The betting total is set at 196 points according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
The Spurs have gone 5-5 over its past 10 games, but still, maintain a 1.5 game lead on the Minnesota Timberwolves for the No. 3 spot in the West. It is tough to consider the Spurs contenders without Leonard in tow and doing his thing, but Gregg Popovich has predictably kept his Spurs competitive while the former Finals MVP recovers. San Antonio has a +3.1 point differential and is 22-5 at home this season. They possess the best home record in the Western Conference.
Most recently, the Spurs loss 102-91 to the Houston Rockets. Danny Green had 22 points on 9 of 18 shooting, but San Antonio shot just 42 percent from the floor as a team.
Pau Gasol struggled with just six points and seven boards. Gasol has averaged 3.4 assists over his past five games, and over that span he has averaged just 2.0 turnovers per game. No matter what Pop does, he gets the best of his players, and while Gasol’s role has changed to that of a facilitator, he still functions as a great scorer when shooting, evidenced by his 47 percent field goal percentage (47.5 over the past five).
LaMarcus Aldridge has more or less assumed the No. 1 role in the offense as he did while in Portland. The perennial All-Star is averaging 22.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.15 blocks per game while posting the team’s best PER (excluding Leonard’s nine games) of 23.8. Rudy Gay has transitioned well into Pop’s system and is scoring 11.5 points in just 22 minutes a game while shooting 33 percent on his 2.0 three attempts per game. The Spurs average just 8.9 made threes per game while shooting at a team clip of 36.5 percent, and no Spur makes more than Danny Green’s 1.7 per game. That approach is somewhat atypical of the other successful teams in the West like Golden State and Houston, but the Spurs play the most stringent defense of those clubs in holding opponents to just 97.4 points per game.
Donovan Mitchell is making his run for the 2018 Rookie of the Year Award. The Jazz now is playing a faster pace to utilize the skills of rookie Donovan Mitchell. He had 35 points and five rebounds on 10 of 20 shooting (5 of 11 threes) in the 99-88 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. Mitchell is looking like a future superstar, and the Jazz has some nice young pieces around him, but his emergence may shape the future of the Jazz’ building effort. With an offensive cog like Mitchell around Gobert, it may be that the Jazz shapes its attack around Mitchell, with Rudy Gobert simply being the defensive anchor he is. Mitchell had another 40 point outing in the Jazz’s 129-97 win over Phoenix the last outing.
Mitchell is averaging 24.6 points per game over his last 10 outings while shooting 49.5 percent from the floor. In January, he averaged 23.4 points per game, no longer showing any signs of all of being a rookie. Mitchell also comes up with 1.4 steals per game over his past 10 games, while having scored 33 percent of his 9.6 threes attempted per game. Mitchell was taken No. 13 overall but is definitely in the top-3 of whatever becomes of this draft class. He has the shooting range and slashing ability to become nearly unstoppable, and the Jazz may not have had a weapon of his caliber since the Stockton/Malone era. He’s now averaging 19.7 points per game and it likely will be 20-plus by season’s end.
“Spida,” as Michell refers to himself, is better than the likes of Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, and the multitude of semi-stars the Jazz have rostered, and the Pacers are much about a young prospect of their own in what could be an exciting showdown between two of the league’s best-unheralded talents.