Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans are running out of time in their playoff chase as they prepare to face another rookie sensation in Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday.
Both squads are 0-2 in Orlando's NBA bubble thus far, but the Grizzlies are still holding on to the No. 8 seed in the West. If the ninth seed is within four games or less when the regular season ends, Memphis faces a play-in matchup. Right now, the Pels are 3.5 games back, but are in 11th place.
In abe Insights' preview, you'll find the best odds available for this exciting clash of postseason hopefuls, along with advanced stats to consider from a betting perspective and a breakdown of how wagers should trend.
Date: Monday, August 3
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Grizzlies 37%; Pelicans 64%
Spread: NO -4.5
Moneyline: MEM +170; NO -175
The big difference for the Grizzlies since the COVID-imposed break is Jaren Jackson Jr. He'd been hurt prior to the pandemic, but now he's healthy and averaging 27 points over the past two games. He's just behind Morant as Memphis' leading scorer, so his return is significant.
Not much to report on the injury from for New Orleans, other than the fact that the team remains steadfast that it won't sacrifice its bright future by pushing Williamson back into big minutes too soon.
1.78 vs. 1.65: The Grizz are ninth in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio, whereas the Pelicans are 16th. Ball security is going to be important in what should be a tight, back-and-forth affair where quality of possessions is paramount.
103.93 vs. 103.27: To further feed that narrative, these are the number of possessions per contest both teams average, or PACE rating. By this metric, New Orleans plays the third-fastest of any team in the Association, and Memphis is seventh.
37.1 vs. 34.9: This final stat duel shows the significant advantage the Pels have in 3-point shooting percentage. If the favorites heat up from beyond the arc, it may not matter as much if Williamson isn't in action for the vast majority of the night.
Both top overall draft picks have more than lived up to the hype, Zion in his abbreviated action and Morant as a season-long leader for one of the NBA's most surprising teams in Memphis.
It's also admirable how candid both young, ascending stars are. Williamson made no secret about his displeasure with the organization putting him on a minutes restriction of about 15 per game.
"It's very tough, to be honest, because as soon as I start to break that sweat, I look over and that horn is for me and I have to come out the game," Williamson said, per ESPN.com's Andrew Lopez.
Speculation has been that the NBA's expanded bubble field was, in part, designed to see if the Pels could sneak their way into the playoffs. Because Zion plus playoffs equals ratings and money. Pardon the conspiracy equation, but Morant is among those who didn't think it was quite right.
Whatever the case may be, the bubble has certainly delivered its fair share of thrills, and this showdown is exactly what the league designed it for. If the Grizzlies are in fact the superior squad, they can all but dispatch of New Orleans and not have to worry about a quick play-in series once the regular season is over.
On the other hand, there's more pressure on Memphis to close the deal and separate itself from teams like the Pelicans, the Gregg Popovich-coached Spurs and the Blazers, who have seen center Jusuf Nurkic absolutely ball out in his two contests back from injury.
Oddsmakers seem to love New Orleans in this one, yet the Pels have looked flat and have been outplayed badly since blowing a double-digit lead to the Jazz in the bubble opener.
Look for the Grizzlies to come out firing and ready to prove they merit the eighth seed. Their status as underdogs is only going to fuel motivation, along with Morant being overshadowed by Zion despite being the clear Rookie of the Year.
With that analysis in mind, look for action to favor the Grizzlies' spread, but the popularity of the Pelicans will likely trigger a bigger handle on New Orleans' moneyline. As for the points total, it's really high, and wagers are bound to like the Over due to the game's fast pace.
Note: Odds current as of 11:25 a.m. ET on Monday, August 3.
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