NCAA Basketball Utah Jazz (38-22, 36-21 ATS) vs. Phoenix Suns (39-24, 37-26 ATS), The Purple Palace, Phoenix, Thursday, March 4th, 10:30 PM Eastern, TNT
By Z-Man of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Suns -1 1/2/Jazz +1 1/2
If the playoffs started today the Utah Jazz would be hosting the Phoenix Suns for the opener of the four-vs.-five seed Western Conference first-round series. So Thursday night’s game between these two teams at the Purple Palace is very possibly a preview of what might happen come post-season time.
Most basketball bookies opened Thursday’s game with the Suns favored by a point, and the total proffered at 213. But most places also quickly bumped Phoenix a half-point, to -1.5.
Utah is 63 since the All-Star break, but two of those losses came vs. the Kings and, Monday night, the Clippers, two teams who are a combined 4575 this season.
Phoenix is 82 since the break, after swamping the Clippers in LA Monday night 127-101 as four-point road favorites.
So through Wednesday’s action Utah trails first-place Denver by a game and a half in the Northwest Division, while Phoenix trails the first-place Lakers by eight games in the Pacific. More importantly, the Jazz own the four spot in the Western Conference standings, with the Suns in the five spot, just a half-game back.
Statistically speaking, Utah leads the league this season in FG shooting at 49%, ranks 14th in 3-point shooting at 35% and 24th in FT shooting at 74%. At the other end of the floor the Jazz rank eighth in FG defense at 45% and ninth in rebounding at +2.0 per game.
The Suns ranks third in the league this season in FG shooting at 49%, first in 3-point shooting at 40.5%, and 12th in free-throw shooting at 77%. They also rank 14th in FG defense at 46%, and 18th in rebounding at +0.0 (dead even) per game.
In the only meeting so far this season between these two teams Utah rallied from a 17-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Suns 124-115 in SLC back in January. The Jazz shot 52% from the field and outrebounded Phoenix 48-31, and covered the pointspread as seven-point home chalk. The game also cruised over its posted total of 221.
Phoenix shot 49% from the floor that night and went 17/30 from 3-point range, but could not overcome a 58-36 Jazz advantage in the paint.
Last season these two teams split four games, and three of those games went over the totals. So over the last five games in the series between these two teams Utah is 3-2 both SU and ATS, while the totals have gone 4-1. And discarding the overtime period these teams played in their last meeting of last season, those last five games have averaged 213 points. Which happens to match exactly the total posted on tonight’s game.
Also, over those last five games in this series, the Jazz have outshot the Suns from the floor 47% to 46%, and outrebounded them by a 47-42 per-game margin.
Utah is 14-14 straight up and 1611 ATS on the road this season.
The Suns are 23-7 SU and 1812 vs. the numbers at home this season.
On the injury front, Phoenix G Goran Dragic, who put up a career-high 32 points in that loss to the Jazz five weeks ago, turned an ankle Wednesday night vs. the Clippers and is uncertain for Thursday’s game. Also, Utah PG Deron Williams has been bothered by a sore wrist for much of the season, and he missed two free-throws that would have tied Monday’s game with the Clippers in the last 20 seconds. And Jazz F Andrei Kirilenko has missed recent action with a bad back. So bettors may want to check the official injury report closer to tip-off before playing this game.
Utah is 34-25 on the totals this season, as Jazz games are averaging exactly 200 points.
Even as the Suns lead the league in scoring at 109 PPG, and rank 28th in points allowed at 106 PPG, they’re just 2734 on the totals this season. Although, since the All-Star break, Phoenix is giving up 97 PPG.
The Jazz are rated at +1.3 over the Suns on Sagarin’s PREDICTOR chart at USAToday.com. But with Sagarin’s NBA home-court advantage of 3.1, Phoenix is about a two-point favorite over Utah for Thursday’s game on the Sagarin line.
Z-Man’s Pick: The Suns are 7-1 in their last 8 games. There is no reason to think that this hot streak won’t continue on their home court tonight. Take the Suns to cover the spread.