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San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz Pick

by | Last updated Dec 5, 2018 | nba

San Antonio Spurs (11-12, 11-12 ATS) vs. Utah Jazz (11-13, 11-13 ATS)
When: Tuesday, December 4th, 2018 – 9:00 pm ET
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena – Salt Lake City, UT
By: Kyle Cash, NBA Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: SAS +6/UTA -6 (GTbets Sportsbook)
Total: 214.5

NBA Advent

To celebrate the holiday season, let’s countdown with a fun NBA fact or statistic related to the number of days left until Christmas:

22 – Up until the Miami Heat won 27 straight and the Golden State Warriors started the season 24-0, the longest consecutive win streak in modern-NBA was a 22-gamer by the 2007-08 Houston Rockets. After Yao Ming went down for the season, Tracy McGrady took the Lost Boys on a Moneyball-esque run to the playoffs with an improbable streak for the ages.

Last Night in the NBA

Wow. When you’re on, you’re on. Russell Westbrook only needed a so-so effort to ruin Reggie Jackson’s night, and the Thunder blew the Pistons away in their home arena. In our heavyweight bout, it’s a decision by KO for Steven Adams over Andre Drummond. As Apollo Creed said – ding ding.

NCAA Basketball: West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Florida Gators Pick

Elsewhere in the league, Nikola Jokic messed around and got a triple-double, Steph is officially back, and Harden did that thing that he does where he makes every shot and scores a bunch of points. The MVP race is getting spicy.

Let’s throw some cold water on ourselves with possibly the least aesthetically pleasing national television match-up of the season. The San Antonio Spurs get to celebrate their victory over Damian Lillard with a trip to see The Book of Mormom in Salt Lake City versus the Utah Jazz. Mitt Romney’s team comes into the game as a 6-point favorite over the team from the Alamo with the total set to a moderately high 214.5 points.

Analytics, Schmanalytics

It’s been said before, but it’s truly shocking to see the depths to which the San Antonio Spurs have fallen since the end of the Tim Duncan era. We ripped the tags off of DeMar DeRozan too soon, and now we aren’t even able to return him to the store. Sundays performance aside, DeRozan hasn’t been nearly up to snuff to fill the Kawhi-shaped hole in Pop’s roster, particularly on the defensive end. The Spurs have compounded their roster deficiencies by refusing to adapt to the modern pace-and-space 3-point party that they themselves originally popularized. They’re attempting the second-least 3-point shots per game despite leading the league in 3-point percentage, and it’s shocking to see the trendsetting Spurs fall to the wayside of a scoring revolution.

Against the Jazz, however, their lack of a 3-point shooting offense may work in their favor. Utah is allowing the second least amount of opponent 3-point attempts per game, and their analytic-inspired defensive is designed to funnel teams towards the mid-range jumper – a shot in which the Spurs have made the bread and butter of their attack. DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are two of the best mid-range shooters in the league, and that’s where the majority of their shots come from; the Spurs are top-2 in the league in shot attempts from 10-16 and 16-23 feet. Death by mid-range; what a way to go for the Jazz. Discuss in our NBA forum

DJ Jazzy Joe Ingles

In my pre-season prediction of each team’s record, I believe I had the Jazz in the mid-50s and the 3-seed in the Western Conference. Even with Donovan Mitchell’s objectively putrid shooting splits, I didn’t anticipate Utah slipping down as far as they have. But there’s evidence that a heel turn is on the horizon. With the Stifle Tower looming over the Salt Lake City skyline, the Jazz boast a potentially formidable defense. In fact, they’re allowing the same percentage of shots from each area of the floor as they did last year when their defense was tied for best in the league. For some reason, teams are just making bad shots against them, but something’s gotta give. And since it’s unlikely to be Donovan suddenly turning into Magic Johnson, my money is on the defense starting to click.

In a game versus the Spurs, the defense should be on full display. The Spurs boast a top-10 offense by Offensive Rating, but they play at the league’s third-slowest pace and are unlikely to get into a shoot-out any time soon. An ugly slugfest is the exact game environment that the Jazz want to create, and one in which they thrive. In the second half of last season with a healthy Gobert and a soaring Mitchell, the Jazz were 25-10 in games where the pace was less than 100 possessions per game, a mark that will surely be in play for tonight’s matchup. The Jazz make defense sexy, and it’s about time they get back on the horse.

Four Factors of Winning

Since we’re all about finding the edge here at Predictem.com, let’s take the time each day to dive into the stats that lead to winning basketball games. According to a theory posited by Dean Oliver, a win in basketball can be narrowed down to four factors: shooting, turnovers, rebounding and free throws. Each day, I will take a look at the areas that each team excels at or is susceptible to, and we will see if we can find a specific reason why Team A will beat Team B.

Since we’re now living in a new alternate universe, the Spurs and the Jazz are both bad at defense now. Old Biff must’ve taken the DeLorean and traveled back to 1955 – we even have President Biff in office. Both teams rank in the bottom-10 in opponent effective field-goal percentage with the Spurs coming in second-to-last in the NBA. Offensively, the Spurs lack of outside shooting knocks their rating down to 22nd, while the Jazz are fighting their way back to league-average at efficient scoring. Donovan Mitchell probably isn’t helping them out in that department.

Defensive discipline comes with age and wisdom, so it’s no shock to see that the Spurs allow the least amount of enemy free throws per game. The Jazz, on the other hand, draw the fifth most-amount of fouls per game while committing only the 12th most themselves. The Jazz accumulate fouls on 1/3 of their possessions, but if the Spurs can defend with control, it might limit Utah’s offensive attack.

Lastly, we come down to the issue of ball control. The Jazz take it away a bunch (10th in the NBA) but turn it over even more (4th worst) while the Spurs never turn it over (best in the league) but refuse to gamble on defense (26th in opponent turnover rate). And there’s nothing to see here rebounding-wise; both teams get back on defense – no offensive rebounding – and grab opponent’s misses (both top-8 in the NBA). Let’s call that one a wash.

Best Bet

Between last season’s playoffs and regular season, the Utah Jazz finished with an elite 32-15 record at home. This season? They are just 2-6. However, only one of their losses was borderline inexcusable (to the Sacramento Kings). Dropping games at home to the Warriors, Raptors, Grizzlies and Pacers isn’t exactly like losing to the Cavs and the Knicks. And for all we know, that might be the caliber of team that the San Antonio Spurs turn out to be. Outside of DeRozan and Aldridge, they’re severely lacking in talent – a side effect of drafting in the high-20s for two straight decades.

There’s an old adage that young guys and role players perform better at home than on the road (see: Boston Celtics 2018 playoffs), and I think that this will apply to both teams in this one. I’m not convinced that Bryn Forbes and Davis Bertans’ shooting prowess will translate to the Salt Lake City arena, and Donovan Mitchell is due for a coming-out party eventually. Despite their similar records, I think that these two teams are traveling in vastly different directions, and it’s time for Utah to reassert their dominance at home. Step up your game, Mormons – your team needs you tonight.

Final Score Prediction: Utah Jazz 101 – San Antonio Spurs 89

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