The NBA's Orlando bubble action tips off Thursday night with the Utah Jazz taking on the New Orleans Pelicans.
With only eight games remaining in the regular season, Utah is seeking to improve its playoff seeding in a crowded West, where the Nos. 3 through 7 teams are separated by four games. The Pelicans are fighting to take the last postseason spot from Memphis, making every contest all the more critical for them.
Read on below for abe Insights' Pelicans-Kings betting preview, featured advanced statistical and wagers analysis, along with the best odds available and other factors gamblers should consider in this matchup.
Date: Thursday, July 30
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Jazz 47%; Pelicans 56%
Spread: NO -2.5
Moneyline: UTA +114; NO -125
Despite a period of months to recover, the Jazz's second-leading scorer, Bojan Bogdanovic, won't be in action due to a wrist injury. That leaves more of a burden on young guard Donovan Mitchell to be Utah's ball-dominant spark.
Rookie sensation Zion Williamson is a game-time decision for New Orleans. Prolific Pelicans 3-point shooter JJ Redick dealt with a hamstring injury prior to the pandemic hiatus, but is healthy now and could make the offense even more dangerous.
58.7 vs. 56.7: Despite Bogdanovic being down, the Jazz are elite in terms of offensive proficiency. Their true shooting percentage is two points above the Pels for the season, which is significant, and barely behind Miami for the NBA lead.
28.8 vs. 25.8: Even though Rudy Gobert can provide problems for Zion and the Pelicans down low, it's worth noting New Orleans is fourth in the NBA in offensive rebound percentage, whereas Utah is just 24th.
103.96 vs. 98.95: The final stat here is PACE rating, or averages possessions per contest, and it clearly illustrates the crazy contrast in styles of play between these two adversaries. New Orleans is eager to press and get out and run, while the Jazz make their music with half-court execution.
Not having Bogdanovic and his 20.2 points per game is probably going to prove costly to the Jazz in the bigger playoff picture. What they do have is a fundamentally-sound, smart team that plays solid defense, albeit reliant on Gobert to a fault at times.
When Gobert is off the floor, Utah's net rating drops at a rate of -6.6 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass. Bogdanovic has a personal net rating of +9.8, and Gobert's is +11.
All this is to say much of Thursday's outcome will be decided on whether or not Zion suits up. The rookie phenom, albeit with a small sample size of 19 games, is already blowing fans and peers away with his dominance. In addition to averaging 23.6 points per game, Williamson is worth 29 Expected Wins Added over an 82-game season.
It's logical for New Orleans to be cautious in the early going of the young phenom's career, yet the minutes restrictions and lengthy wait for his rookie debut should be sufficient enough. This young, electrifying team has a playoff bid to play for.
If Williamson, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Jrue Holiday and former Jazz big man Derrick Favors can all contribute to their capabilities on defense, the Pelicans could be one of the most dangerous teams in Orlando. The problem is, a potential meeting with the Clippers or Lakers in the postseason's opening round if they do get the eighth seed.
Don't discount Utah, but in a vacuum on a neutral court, it's clear New Orleans has the upper hand in athleticism, variety of scoring options and upside.
As the underdog this season, the Jazz have an 8-5 record against the spread (fifth-best percentage of covers league-wide), per TeamRankings.com. New Orleans ranks in the top 10 in covering as favorites with a 16-13 mark.
Something will have to give there, but Zion's popularity, particularly if he plays, should push the majority of moneyline and spread action toward the Pelicans. Do keep a watchful eye on his status leading up to the game for odds shifts.
In terms of the points total, New Orleans hits it at a 58.6% clip when favored. When the Jazz are underdogs, they're sub-.500 (6-7) at hitting the Over. Accounting for the adjustment it'll to playing an actual competitive game for the first time in months in an unfamiliar venue, expect wagers to gravitate toward the Under.
Note: Odds current as of 1:45 p.m. ET on Thursday, July 30.
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