- After going to overtime in Phoenix on Thursday, the Celtics must turn around and take on the Jazz in an emotionally charged environment tonight.
A perfect 3-0 night on Thursday pushed Three at 3's current streak to 19-5 (79.2%). Read on for three more picks to kick off the weekend, including a strong value play for Gordon Hayward's return to Salt Lake City.
1. Washington Wizards at Orlando Magic (+3)
7:00 pm ET
Since the start of last season, the Wizards are just 14-28 against the spread when playing teams with a winning record, and only 20-38 against the spread when playing as a favorite. Relative to the expectations of spreads, they shrink against good teams and underdeliver when they're expected to win, as well.
The Magic haven’t cooperated with the Three at 3 selections so far this year, but grudges won’t do anybody any good when trying to pick winners. The way the Wizards have played this season—extremely poorly—suggests Orlando actually matches up a lot better with them than one might think. On the season, free throws account for more of Washington’s offense than only three teams in the league. (The Wizards are making 24.8 free throws per 100 field goal attempts.) But Orlando’s defensive free-throw rate currently ranks seventh in the league. Alone, those numbers might not seem important, but they mean that a struggling Washington offense—22nd in the league in offensive efficiency rating—is relying on drawing fouls to make up for its stagnant play in the halfcourt. Orlando doesn’t appear to be a team that will allow them to do that.
On the defensive boards, the Wizards allow opponents to rebound 32.3% of their misses, which should mean plenty of second-chance opportunities for a lengthy Magic frontcourt. Even with John Wall and Bradley Beal ostensibly being the two best players on the court on Friday night, look for the Magic to come away with the W.
Pick: Magic (+3)
2. Detroit Pistons at Atlanta Hawks (+5)
The Hawks haven’t exactly been inspiring to start season, but there are plenty of reasons to believe that Atlanta will come through tonight. First, the potential mismatch at the point guard position. It’s never a great idea to focus too much on just one matchup, but Trae Young has the opportunity to really explode here. Young will spend most of his time being guarded by Reggie Jackson, an arrangement that is not going to end well for Detroit. On the year, Jackson has a defensive rating of 111.6 points allowed per 100 possessions. That is not a good number, nor is his -7.9 net rating. The Pistons simply aren’t very good defensively when Jackson is on the floor, and that’s a problem considering he’s playing 30.4 minutes per game. Meanwhile, Young is one of the most talented young players in the league. He has his doubters—and his shooting percentages leave plenty of room for improvement—but Young is capable of getting to the basket whenever he wants, and he does a great job of setting up his teammates. Jackson might have a size advantage over him, but Young will be able to get by him at will.
Like Detroit, the Hawks have had their share of issues on the defensive end this season, as they currently rank just 22nd in the league in defensive efficiency rating. But they’ll be aided tonight by the fact that they’re going against an unimaginative Pistons offense that is 25th in the league in offensive efficiency rating.
Pick: Hawks (+5)
3. Boston Celtics at Utah Jazz (-5.5)
The Celtics head to Utah after defeating the Phoenix Suns 116-109 as a 10-point favorite on Thursday. Trailing by 20 at halftime and down 97-89 with about 90 seconds remaining in the game, Boston was able to force OT and pull out a miraculous win. Kyrie Irving essentially dragged his team across the finish line in that one, pouring in 39 points while also adding seven boards and six assists. But that remarkable performance took so much out of him that he won't be able to play tonight. Boston should have handled Phoenix with ease, which would have allowed Brad Stevens to give his starters some rest on the front end of a back-to-back. No such luck.
Playing in front of what will be a raucous home crowd—the people in Utah really don’t like Gordon Hayward—the Jazz will be amped up for this one. Utah is already feeling good after finally earning its first home win of the season the other night (117-102 over the Dallas Mavericks), and the Jazz are now 23-12 against the spread when coming off a win by 10 points or more since the start of last season. The Jazz defense, so dominant a season ago and still led by Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles, has a great chance of getting back on track against a Boston offense that has looked out of sorts to open the year. Despite having one of the most talented rosters in basketball, the Celtics are just 18th in the league offensive efficiency rating. That’s not likely to get any better in what should be a comfortable victory for the Jazz.
Pick: Jazz (-5.5)
Overall Record: 32-20-2