NEW ORLEANS HORNETS (40-31)
at UTAH JAZZ (36-36)
Tip-off: Thursday, 9:00 p.m. EDT
Line: New Orleans -1.5, Total: 191
A month ago, this would have been a premiere point guard matchup between Chris Paul and Deron Williams. A week ago, it would have been Chris Paul and Devin Harris. Instead, it’s looking like Chris Paul versus Earl Watson. Basketball lines.
The Jazz not only threw it into rebuilding mode when they dealt Deron Williams at the trade deadline, but now they’re walking wounded, as well as weary, after playing in Oklahoma City Wednesday night. Among their injuries: Harris (hamstring) and Derrick Favors (ankle), the two cornerstones of the Williams trade, are both doubtful. Andrei Kirilenko is questionable at best after tweaking his knee Wednesday night, and leading scorer Al Jefferson is probable, but dealing with a finger injury. Mehmet Okur is still out for the season.
The Jazz were game against the Thunder Wednesday night, though, within arm’s length until midway through the fourth quarter in a 106-94 loss. Jefferson went for 32 points on 14-of-18 shooting and 12 rebounds, and Paul Millsap added 18 points and seven boards. C.J. Miles was ice cold though, going 2-for-12 the field. He’s now 3 for his last 21. Their bench was completely outmatched. Rookie Gordon Hayward, who replaced Kirilenko, scored seven points on 1-of-10 shooting, while Raja Bell had three points in 21 minutes and had a plus/minus of -17 on the night. Basketball betting lines.
While the Jazz are on a quick turnaround, the Hornets haven’t played since Saturday. They lost a tough home game against Boston that day, 89-85, as Chris Paul had a brutal game. While he had 15 assists, Paul was 0-for-9 from the field, the first time in more than four years he failed to make a field goal in a game. The long rest was needed for New Orleans, as all five of its starters played 36-plus minutes, and its starting frontcourt logged 41-plus minutes apiece. The off-night broke up a string of strong games for Paul. After returning from a concussion on March 12, he averaged 28.7 PPG on 58.5% shooting from the field and 11.3 APG. With his body seemingly wearing down over the past two seasons, the extra rest means more to New Orleans than it would to most teams. A well-rested Paul could be a vintage Paul once again.
The Hornets have dropped eight of 10 games, SU and ATS, against Utah, but this is going to be a much different—much weaker—Jazz team they’ll encounter Thursday night. The fresh legs of Paul and Company should get the better of Utah on the road. They’re a perfect 5-0 SU and ATS with three-plus days of rest this year, while Utah is 7-11 ATS (39%) on zero days rest. My pick is New Orleans.
The FoxSheets has numerous trends to back the Hornets, including this one:
Play On – Road favorites (NEW ORLEANS) – after going over the total by 30 or more points total in their last five games, winning between 51% and 60% of their games on the season. (53-21 over the last 5 seasons, 71.6%, +29.9 units. Rating = 3*). Basketball scores.
I’m also going with the Under, due in part to this rare five-star trend from the FoxSheets:
NEW ORLEANS is 21-4 UNDER (84.0%, +16.6 Units) after failing to cover 2 of their last 3 against the spread this season. The average score was NEW ORLEANS 90.9, OPPONENT 89.0 – (Rating = 5*).