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NBA Notebook: Jalen Green heats up, Sabonis makes history, Denver Nuggets bets, Coach of the Year candidates, and more

Welcome to another edition of the weekly NBA Notebook!

This week we’ll be looking at Jalen Green’s scorching March, Anthony Davis dominating the Pacers, and why there’s still value in Coach of the Year futures.

Jump ahead here:

Let’s dive in!

Last week I was writing about the red-hot Houston Rockets and how they were making things interesting in the race for the final play-in spot but were probably destined to come up short. It appears I didn’t give them their proper due. Houston has now won nine straight games and sit just half a game back from the slumping Golden State Warriors for the 10th spot.  

And while success has many fathers, this all begins with the play of Jalen Green. Green has had a relatively underwhelming few seasons as a No. 2 overall pick, and through most of this season didn’t look much better.  

But in March Jalen Green has stepped on the gas pedal and is averaging 27.8 points on 62.1% true shooting, including nearly 50% from the field and over 40% from three. Green was always athletic for a two guard, but he’s mixing in attacks at the rim with an ultra-confident jump shot.  

Most importantly, the Rockets are dominating his minutes because of his strong play. The Rockets are +180 in raw +/- in March and have won Green’s minutes in every game. The Rockets are +400 to participate in the play-in tournament, while Golden State is -800, and given the way Green is playing those odds will not last.  

Domantas Sabonis of the Sacramento Kings is making history. Last night Sabonis recorded his 54th straight double-double, passing Kevin Love for the most consecutive double-doubles since the NBA-ABA merger.  

Sabonis has had an outstanding season despite not making the All-Star team. And though he’s on the smaller side for a true center and is not an outstanding interior defender, he does add a ton of value for the Kings' offense. It’s not just double-doubles either, as Sabonis also leads the league in triple-doubles this year.

Matt Williams of ESPN noted that following last night’s triple-double, Sabonis is now the fifth player in NBA history to record 25 triple-doubles in a season joining a prestigious group including Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Russell Westbrook, and Nikola Jokic.  

The Clippers' slide that began last week has gone from bad to worse. Not only are the Clippers 4-6 in their last 10 games, but everyone else in the Top 7 of the Western Conference is at least 7-3 in their last 10 games.  

They dropped into the fifth seed with their loss to the Indiana Pacers on Monday night in a game that never felt close. L.A. somehow topped their ugly loss to the Atlanta Hawks from a week ago with an even worse loss to the Philadelphia 76ers without Joel Embiid.  

Far more disturbing, and critical for bettors, is that the Clippers have a negative 11.7 spread differential over the past two weeks, per Cleaning the Glass. That means they are underperforming the spread by that many points on average over those eight games.

NBA Spot Bets: Nuggets against Suns and T-Wolves, AD to dominate Pacers

The Denver Nuggets are hosting the Phoenix Suns in a rematch of the Western Conference semifinals on Wednesday. While there has been enough roster turnover since that series to make a direct one-to-one comparison foolhardy, there is a bet I have my eye on.  

The series they played featured several high scoring games. The Suns have no answers for Jokic or Aaron Gordon posting up inside, even less so with the trade of Deandre Ayton, and now the possibility that Jusuf Nurkic might be absent due to an ankle injury.  

The Suns, meanwhile, present some problems for the Nuggets as well. The scoring trio of Bradley Beal, Devin Booker, and Kevin Durant give them an arsenal on the wing that few teams can handle. I’ll be keeping an eye on the team total for Denver for this one as well as the game total to see if there is value.  

On Friday the Los Angeles Lakers are heading east to play the Indiana Pacers for the second time in a week. Anthony Davis posted a cool 36 points and 16 rebounds against the Pacers on Sunday, and I like his chances to dominate this diminutive Indiana team inside again.  

The Pacers as a team are small and not overly physical outside of Pascal Siakam. Myles Turner seems to have lost a step as a rim protector and he was never a great rebounder to begin with.  

While this is just the second regular season meeting for the two teams, they also played in the In-Season Tournament Final. Davis posted a monstrous 41-point 20-rebound game to seal the deal in Las Vegas. I have my eye on his points and rebounding props ahead of Friday.  

Finally, and also on Friday, the Minnesota Timberwolves are in Denver to take on the reigning champs. The Wolves are amazingly still in contention for the No. 1 overall seed despite the Karl-Anthony Towns injury.  

While the performance of Anthony Edwards has captured many of the headlines, it has been the play of Naz Reid that has been the most direct replacement for Towns' unique talents. Reid was clocking between 20 and 22 minutes most of the season as a backup but has been thrust into a starting role the last four games and continues to see his role in the offense expanded.  

Reid is shooting a career best 42.1% from three on the season and has topped that by shooting 45.8% from deep in March. Reid’s spacing and size will be critical as the Nuggets look to pack the paint against Edwards’ drives, so I’ll be looking at the value of Reid Over 2.5 threes on Friday.

NBA Futures Update: Jokic's MVP odds, Finch for Coach of the Year?

Has Jokic locked up the MVP? It seems possible as he moved from -275 to -1100 this week, the shortest odds he has held all season. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is second now at +900 (was +400), with Luka Doncic a distant third at +1800 (was +700).  

It comes after Shai had arguably his worst game of the season against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks this week. Meanwhile, the Nuggets continue to create separation at the top of the West standings.  

Next up, Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault seems to be running away with the race for Coach of the Year. Daigneault is at -450 this week, and while Chris Finch of the Timberwolves was at +550 last week, he has dropped to +1400 this week. Jamahl Mosley of the Orlando Magic has moved into second place at +550.  

While I have liked Daigneault to win this award for a couple of months now, this is at the point where buying on Chris Finch’s odds makes sense.  

The chances of the Wolves beating the Thunder in the standings are slim, but that will not be the decisive factor in determining who wins the award. The Wolves were dealt a serious blow when Towns went down, and how they perform from here will make or break Finch’s candidacy.  

So far so good. The Wolves are 5-3 without KAT, and that includes quality wins over the Clippers, Warriors, and Cavaliers as well as multiple competitive losses.  

Coach of the Year is all about the narrative of doing more with less. Ironically, by losing one of their All-Star players Finch has a chance to make up ground against his competition if the Wolves can stay afloat.

Injury Update: Russ returns, Ingram goes down and Mitchell remains out

Donovan Mitchell underwent surgery to repair a nasal fracture and will be re-evaluated in one week. However, Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported that lingering difficulties with the bone bruise in his knee will have Mitchell out for additional time.  

Mitchell’s knee did not respond well to a recent PRP injection. The Cavaliers are in a dogfight to stay in the three seed and Mitchell’s absence opens the door for both the Knicks and Magic to escape Boston’s side of the bracket.  

Brandon Ingram suffered a bone bruise of his own, after falling awkwardly when his knee buckled against the Magic this week. Luckily Ingram’s injury will not require surgery and he will be re-evaluated in about two weeks. In the meantime, expect increased usage by Zion Williamson, CJ McCollum, and Trey Murphy III.  

Russell Westbrook made his return for the Clippers on Monday night after missing 15 straight games with a fractured hand. Westbrook added 14 points, seven assists, and four rebounds in his return. Russ allows the Clippers to play small ball, which could see reduced production from the likes of Ivica Zubac and the other Clippers bigs.

He Said It

“It’s like that SpongeBob meme when Squidward is looking out the window and he sees SpongeBob and Patrick having fun. [Mikal] is Squidward.” - Josh Hart on what it must be like for Bridges to watch his former Villanova teammates thriving in New York (per Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News)

Odds mentioned in this article were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change.

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