We have just 4 games on the NBA schedule for Thursday night. Mavericks-Pistons isn’t a game that would have been on anyone’s radar before the season began, but it’s suddenly turned into a fairly interesting contest. The Mavericks have surprisingly morphed into one of the league’s elite teams early in the year, while the Pistons have stumbled out of the gates following their playoff berth a season ago.
The Pistons have dealt with some injury issues, but once they get back to full strength they should be able to challenge for a playoff spot in the watered-down Eastern Conference. Andre Drummond has been incredibly impressive thus far, while Blake Griffin is continuing to work his way back from the knee issue that kept him sidelined for the first couple of weeks of the season. Reggie Jackson has also played just a game-and-a-half all year long.
Dallas is off to a 16-7 start, which has them sitting third in the Western Conference behind both Los Angeles teams. The Mavs are just a game-and-a-half behind the Clippers and 5 games adrift of the Lakers for the top spot overall. Needless to say, nobody expected the Mavs to make a move toward the top of the conference this early on.
MyBookie has the Mavs as 5-point favorites to beat the Pistons tonight in Mexico City. The line has since been moved to Dallas -5.5 with -110 juice on either side. The game also has a relatively low implied total of 219 points.
2019 ATS Home
2019 ATS Away
2019 O/U Home
2019 O/U Away
Pistons’ One-Man Show
While Luka Doncic has garnered just about all of the headlines for the Mavericks to this point, the guy that has stood out for Detroit is Drummond. All the big man is doing thus far is averaging 17.5 points, 16.7 rebounds and 3 assists per game along with just under 2 blocks and 2 steals a night. He has been everywhere for the Pistons to this point.
While it hasn’t translated into a winning record, he hasn’t had a whole lot of help. Drummond looked primed to lead the league in rebounding for the fifth time in the last 6 seasons. The 16.7 boards per game he’s averaging so far in 2019-20 would be a career-best if he’s able to keep it up. No player in the NBA has averaged at least 16 rebounds per game over the course of a full season sins Dennis Rodman in 1996-97 with Chicago.
Griffin was phenomenal last season in his first full campaign in a Pistons uniform. He’s been limited to just 12 games so far this year due to injury, though, and his numbers have suffered. He’s still averaging over 18 points per game, but he’s shooting just under 40 percent from the field and his peripheral numbers (4.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists) are lacking. There aren’t that many rebounds to go around with Drummond on the floor, but Griffin did average 7.5 per game a season ago.
The Pistons’ offense ranks 11th in the league in efficiency, which is pretty impressive considering they have played most of the season without their starting point guard. Bruce Brown and Luke Kennard have given the Pistons solid minutes on the wing, while Derrick Rose has provided a scoring boost off the bench.
Detroit’s defense has been middle-of-the-pack. They’re 17th in rating, which means they could have issues tonight against a Mavericks offense that has been among the very best in basketball.
Luka’s Continued Excellence
It’s worth repeating that Luka Doncic is a 20-year-old playing his second season in the NBA because we have never seen a guy this advanced at such a young age. Even LeBron James wasn’t nearly this dominant when he was Doncic’s age, which is saying something considering LeBron was basically a star from the jump.
Luka has arguably become the MVP frontrunner this season for his exploits. After unanimously winning NBA Rookie of the Year last season by averaging 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6 assists, Luka is up to 30 points, 9.2 assists and 9.8 rebounds so far this season. He’s doing all this despite shooting just 32 percent from 3-point range, a number that should improve as the season progresses.
Doncic has led Dallas to wins in 10 of their last 12 games overall, a stretch that includes victories over contenders like the Rockets, Lakers and Raptors. The Mavs lost their last game at home against Sacramento, which was a surprise, but Dallas did rally from a hefty deficit to make the game close in the final minutes.
The Mavericks lead the NBA in offensive rating, scoring 114.6 points per 100 possessions. I’m a little dubious that they can be the NBA’s best offense over the course of an entire season, but they’ve proven me very wrong to this point. I didn’t even think Dallas would be a playoff team this season, yet they look like a lock as it stands today.
The Mavs have improved to 14th in defensive rating after spending most of the first couple of months in the bottom-10 in that department. The emergence of Kristaps Porzingis defensively has been a major factor, while Doncic has improved his performance on that end of the floor since last year.
This game being in Mexico City makes things a little wonky. Mexico City is over 7,000 feet above sea level, so this game could be even more physically daunting than your standard game in Denver. Denver is a notoriously difficult environment for road teams because of the elevation, so we’ll see whether fatigue plays a factor for either side in this one.
All things equal, I like Dallas here. They have far more firepower than the Pistons do these days, and I’m not at all convinced that Detroit has any defender capable of handling Doncic or Porzingis. The 5.5-point spread accounts for the neutral site here, but I think Dallas beats that pretty easily. Bet the Mavs to cover on Thursday night.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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