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NBA picks: Spurs vs. 76ers and Lakers vs. Jazz

Profile Picture: Danny Howard

August 3rd, 2020

The NBA reboot is in full effect Monday night with two games featuring potential NBA Finals contenders. At 8:00 p.m. ET, the Philadelphia 76ers lock up with the San Antonio Spurs, and at 9:00 p.m. ET, the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Utah Jazz on ESPN. Here’s what to expect for this Monday’s battle in the bubble.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Tue, August 4 2020, 12:05 AM

Philadelphia 76ers

Spread

-7

Moneyline

-290

Total

O 227.5

San Antonio Spurs

Spread

+7

Moneyline

+230

Total

U 227.5

The 76ers suffered an upset in a must-win game against the hobbled Indiana Pacers, but they’ll get a chance to return to their winning ways against the Spurs. Joel Embiid’s 41-pont effort went to waste as the Sixers defense gave up 53 points to T.J. Miller, resulting in the 127-121 loss.

There was much talk about the Sixers and their new rotation, but the Pacers torched them from the onset and the Sixers looked out of sorts. Shake Milton provided no points and three turnovers as the starting point guard, and Ben Simmons was a non-factor at forward. Outside of Embiid’s efforts, Tobias Harris put up 30 points and eight rebounds. It was the Sixers' defense that couldn’t come together soon enough to prevent the critical loss.

The spat between Embiid and Milton off-court suggests that this team is continuing to struggle with their chemistry. Aside from that, the Sixers played well on offense and get a chance to bounce back against one of the most ineffective defenses in the NBA. They aren’t in for an easy night, especially as the Spurs have been playing inspired basketball behind DeMar DeRozan and their young core.

San Antonio’s wins over the Kings and the Grizzlies came with their ups and downs. Against Sacramento, they shot a tremendous 53.3% from the field and DeRozan’s strong fourth quarter finish propelled them to victory. Dejounte Murray played the hero against Memphis on Sunday. Yet, their defense continues to be their Achilles heel.

The only advantage the Spurs have is that they may be catching the Sixers at a time when they are battling a new rotation as well as rust. While the Spurs are 2-0 in the reset, they won’t last long in a firefight with Embiid and Harris. Should the Spurs find some way to exploit Philadelphia’s weakness, or get off to a hot start like Indiana did, they might stand a chance.

The Sixers can’t expect to win many games fighting with each other or trying a new scheme with so few games remaining. At the same time, the Spurs are facing a legitimate team that have them beat on both sides of the court.

Unless the Sixers’ defense checks out again, or the team continues to struggle with their chemistry, they should take this without much trouble.

NBA free pick: 76ers moneyline

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Utah Jazz

Tue, August 4 2020, 1:05 AM

Utah Jazz

Spread

+6.5

Moneyline

+205

Total

O 217

LA Lakers

Spread

-6.5

Moneyline

-260

Total

U 217

Both teams are coming off of a loss heading into this one, but if anyone is worse for wear between these teams, it’s the Jazz. Utah was lucky that the Pelicans ran out of gas to steal a win last Thursday, but they were blown out of the water by the Thunder two days later.

Whether it was the carried over strain of the Pelicans game or the sudden jump in competition, the Jazz looked awful. Utah shot 39% from the field and 25.8% from the three-point line. Their defense checked out early as the Thunder had a 24-point lead at halftime and opened the fourth quarter with an 18-point lead.

The Jazz got blown out by the Lakers in their two previous meetings. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Golbert aren’t going to provide the same one-two punch as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, or the suffocating defense of the Toronto Raptors, but they’ll need to be better than they were on Saturday. Paramount to them avoiding a two-game skid is getting off to a better start in the first quarter, but they’ll have to do it against the league’s best team.

As the Jazz try to shake off the rust on defense, the Lakers need consistency. In the 107-92 loss to the Raptors, Los Angeles shot a paltry 35.4% from the field and a combined 34 points from LeBron James and Anthony Davis. This came after a vicious, narrow victory over the Clippers where Davis alone scored 34.

Though they have one of the toughest schedules in the bubble, the Lakers are sure to enjoy a perceived step down in competition. Expect Los Angeles to continue tormenting the Jazz by forcing plenty of turnovers, giving James and Davis a chance to make up for their performance against Toronto.

Los Angeles handled the Jazz in their previous two meetings, often bullying them on defense and having no trouble finding shots from anywhere on the court. Both times, the Lakers walked away with big wins without breaking a sweat, including a 26-point beating the last time they played.

The Lakers will get back in the win column with room to spare, taking advantage of another Utah first-half meltdown. As the game continues, the Lakers might beat the fight out of them as early as halftime and walk off with another thumping of the declining Jazz.

NBA free pick: Lakers -6.5

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