Teams trending differently meet as the streaking Utah Jazz welcome the reeling New York Knicks to Salt Lake City on Tuesday. Online betting odds have Utah as a massive favorite as the Jazz have won eight straight and are unbeaten at home (4-0) while the Knicks have dropped two straight and seven of their last 10.
The Tom Thibodeau-Knicks have turned back the clock and are playing basketball like it’s the late-2000s. That worked earlier in the season but the Knicks are once again looking like a lottery-bound franchise.
Utah has been one of the NBA’s best teams and is overachieving based on simply being the tenth-best team to win the NBA title per NBA odds. Facing the Knicks, anything short of a blowout and a statement victory will be a bust for the Jazz.
Knicks: Solid Defense
The Knicks made NBA news by signing former Bulls and Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau, who didn’t waste any team turning the team into a slow-paced yet gritty defensive unit.
The Knicks are a counterflow to the prototypical NBA team today: they are last in the NBA in pace at 96.8 but fifth in defensive rating at 106.9. New York allows the fewest points (103.6) and lowest field goal and 3-point percentages (43.1% and 31.4%).
So they’re really good at defense. But are they horrible on offense ranking last in points scored (102) and sixth-lowest in offensive rating (105.5). F Julius Randle has evolved into an All-Star caliber player with 22.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game.
Outside Randle, the Knicks have nobody else to rely on to produce offense reliably. Their backcourt is one of the worst with only G Alec Burks (in six games) having a true shooting percentage (TS%) above 56.5%, the league’s average last season. If the Knicks can’t score from the back, they won’t be winning too many games.
Jazz: Peak Form
Utah has arguably been the NBA’s best team and sits behind the Los Angeles teams in the West. The Jazz’ eight-game winning streak included victories over the Bucks, Cavaliers, and Warriors. Chalk this to their revitalized defense, but they have also been a top-five offense this year (113.7 rating).
Guard Donavan Mitchell has been his usual electric self (24.3 points, 5 assists), but it’s the elevated play of fellow guards Jordan Clarkson and Mike Conley that have moved Utah’s needle.
Clarkson should be a frontrunner for Sixth Man of the Year with his 17.4 points (second in the team) on a whopping 62 TS%. Conley has bounced back from last year’s disastrous showing and is putting up 16.4 points and 5.9 assists on a 59.7 TS%.
The return of F/C Derrick Favors has helped stabilize Utah’s defense and overall better shooting from deep,40.3 percent, 2nd in the NBA, has the Jazz hitting peak form this early. The question is how long they can keep this up and if they have another gear.
Jazz Will Outduel the Knicks
Utah is a significant favorite who should cover per our online sportsbook. It plays a similar brand of basketball against the Knicks but does it more effectively and should trounce the visitors.
Both the Jazz and Knicks have a defense-first brand of play, but the Jazz can actually play offense and have had significantly better production from its backcourt. The Knicks’ backcourt of R.J. Barrett, Elfrid Payton, and Austin Rivers are a combined -6.6 in offensive box plus-minus. Barrett and Payton have a TS% under 50 percent. Gross.
The Jazz are my most confident of NBA betting picks for Tuesday. The Knicks can put up a fight and make it harder for Utah to score, but the Jazz will do the same to the Knicks. Ultimately, Utah should outwrestle the Knicks and pull away. This should be a blowout for Utah.
Pick: Utah Jazz to win and cover