Betting preview for Friday's NBA games

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Jonathan Von Tobel gives bettors an in-depth preview of every NBA game on tonight's slate, including injury reports.

What in the world happened in Milwaukee last night?

With 6:55 left to go in the fourth quarter Bobby Portis sank a 20-foot jumper to put the Bucks up 122-103 over the 76ers. Those who laid any one of the numbers with Milwaukee pre-flop were ready to cash their tickets and move on with the day; I had turned off the game accepting defeat. But then, basketball happened.

Philadelphia went on to outscore Milwaukee 14-2 the rest of the way and got inside the number, losing 124-117, for one of the most agonizing beats of the NBA season. The two points for the Bucks came on two trips to the free throw line for Giannis Antetokounmpo in which he split his attempts. The second half over died, the side died and so did many bettors’ hopes and dreams. 

Updated odds on every game can be found here.

Updated injury reports on every game can be found here.

*Indicates team is on the second leg of a back-to-back.

The Main Event

Boston Celtics* at Brooklyn Nets (-6, 232.5)

Our main event today has a ton of injury question marks floating around it. Kevin Durant was upgraded to questionable this morning, and that fits with the timeline given on Sunday when he was initially injured. For Boston, Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams and Evan Fournier are inching closer to a return. All three are questionable to play today, which makes this somewhat difficult to handicap.

Brooklyn looked very human in the three games it played without Durant this week. The Nets lost on a buzzer-beater to Miami and fell to Toronto while getting outscored by 3.0 points every 100 possessions, due to a defense that gave up a 117.3 rating. Brooklyn gives up 1.9 points fewer per 100 possessions with Durant on the floor, but he obviously ratchets up the heat offensively with his presence. If he plays, this matchup becomes a head-scratcher for Boston as it has no true wing presence to deal with the size of Durant. In his one game against the Celtics, he dropped 29 points on 9-of-16 shooting. That game came back in December, but Boston has not added an elite defender that can guard a seven-footer like the Slim Reaper.

On the other hand, Brooklyn could have some real trouble with Boston’s perimeter-oriented offense. The Celtics have dominated April with a 9-2 SU/7-3-1 ATS record thanks in large part to an offense averaging 114.2 points every 100 possessions. Boston is taking 42.4% of its attempts from deep this month and shooting 38.6% on those shots. A majority of those attempts have come from above the break, and that is an area that the Nets have had trouble defending. On the season, Brooklyn ranks 21st in opponent shooting on non-corner 3-point attempts (37.3%), and it also ranks 23rd in opponent shooting from short mid-range (43.9%) an area of the floor in which Boston takes the eighth-most attempts of any team in the league.

This number has been fluctuating back-and-forth, and it will continue to do so until we get an idea of what these injury reports will look like.

The Co-Main Event

Miami Heat (-5, 213.5) at Atlanta Hawks

Trae Young will not play as he deals with his ankle sprain, and both Clint Capela and Danilo Gallinari are questionable. Those injuries explain the Miami Heat laying this number on the road. Miami has won and covered three straight, and while the opposition has not been insanely strong (Brooklyn, Houston, San Antonio), the Heat were pretty fantastic posting a + 17.2 net rating in non-garbage time minutes in those contests. Now they get to face a Hawks team that could be pressed for offense without Young on the floor.

In the minutes with Young off the floor, Atlanta is outscored by 4.8 points every 100 possessions, and its offense averages just 1.075 points per possession. When Young went down at the end of the third quarter, the Hawks led by eight points, but in the fourth quarter and overtime they averaged 1.087 and 0.625 points per possession. One could argue that the Knicks are one of the best defensive teams in the league, but so is the Heat. Through this three-game run Miami has allowed 1.015 points per possession, and the Heat have the ability to lock up this offense without Young.

However, it is not like the Heat have been the most consistent team on offense this season. Over this three-game run, Miami is averaging 117.1 points per 100 possessions and shooting 40.7% from deep, but what reason do bettors have to believe that this offensive surge is real? The one positive is that this shooting streak actually extends throughout the month of April, as the Heat are hitting 37.5 of their attempts from deep this month. If that continues, we could see this team start to look more like the team that won the Eastern Conference last season.  

Still, this number feels somewhat high. Miami was laying just 1.5 to San Antonio and 4.5 to Houston, but is a 5.5-point favorite on the road against Atlanta. That is a very big role reversal for a team that is just 6-5 ATS this month. The Hawks still have some good talent like Bogdan Bogdanovich and John Collins, and if Gallinari is on the floor you can expect this number to drop. 

The Prelims

Memphis Grizzlies at Portland Trail Blazers (-2.5, 233)

Will either of these teams be able to stop the other? Memphis is averaging 119.3 points per 100 possessions on offense in the month of April and much of that is predicated on getting into the paint. They have attempted 35.5% of their attempts this month within four feet of the basket and 22.2% of their mid-range shots in the short mid-range area of the floor. Portland has consistently failed to keep teams out of the paint this season, allowing the fourth-most attempts at the rim and allowing opponents to shoot 65.1% in that area of the floor. The Grizzlies should be able to exploit a soft interior defense, and their transition offense, which ranks second in efficiency (133.7) will be able to have success against the Blazers’ defense that gives up 127.4 points every 100 plays in the fastbreak.

Memphis is not perfect, though. The Grizzlies might have the second-best offense in April, but they have the 23rd ranked defense as well. Memphis has allowed the ninth-most 3-point attempts of any team in the league and the sixth-most above-the-break 3-point shots this season, something that plays into Portland's hands. The Trail Blazers take the most above-the-break 3-point shots, and rank fifth in shooting on those attempts (38.6%). They also take quite a few long mid-range shots, an area which Memphis ranks 17th in opponent shooting (41.7%). If Portland has a good shooting night, then bettors could see a pretty high-scoring affair tonight.  

Denver Nuggets (-3, 228) at Golden State Warriors

Steph Curry had his 30-point game streak snapped the other day against Washington, and the Warriors only managed to average 1.018 points per possession in a loss. Golden State is so dependent on Curry to generate offense that when he can't, this offense goes into the tank. Is he going to be able to put together another vintage Curry game against Denver today?

The Nuggets are 4-0 SU/2-2 ATS since losing Jamal Murray to injury, and their defense has slightly regressed to allowing 114.2 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time minutes. The loss of Murray has also coincided with Monte Morris injuring his hamstring, so the backcourt for the Nuggets is precariously thin -- and that is not what you want when facing Curry. Is Facundo Campazzo capable of staying in front of the two-time MVP?

Los Angeles Clippers (-11.5, 221) at Houston Rockets

Bettors can expect Paul George back on the floor today for Los Angeles, but this team is still pretty beat up. Kawhi Leonard is still out with foot soreness, Serge Ibaka and Patrick Beverley are both still out and Rajon Rondo is questionable to play. Having said that, this team is still performing at a high level. They are 18-5 SU/16-7 ATS since the All-Star break, and the solo Paul George minutes have been fruitful. When George is on the floor with Kawhi off, the Clippers are + 4.5 with a 109.4 defensive rating. George himself has been playing really good basketball, averaging 32.9 points on 54.2% shooting from the floor over his last seven games. It does seem like this is a matchup in which this offense could thrive.

Houston is 1-7 SU/2-6 ATS in its last eight games with a -14.3 net rating. Their defense has been abhorrent, allowing 120.1 points per 100 possessions and 42.9% on 36.1 3-point attempts in non-garbage time minutes. This might be an inflated spread given the poor play of the Rockets, but their defensive play does not instill confidence.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Charlotte Hornets* (-1, 209.5)

The Hornets were downright awful last night against Chicago: They averaged 0.936 points per possession in non-garbage time minutes while going a combined 20-of-50 (40.0%) at the rim and beyond the arc. This team has been limited offensively since losing Gordon Hayward and Malik Monk, but they are better than the showing yesterday. Now, they must bounce back against a Cleveland team 2-5 SU/3-4 ATS in its last seven games and coming off of a win over that very Bulls team. The win for the Cavaliers was built upon an insane shooting night in which they went 16-of-34 from deep while averaging 1.247 points per possession, but that is unlikely to repeat itself. The betting market respected Charlotte yesterday against Chicago but was burned. Now, the line is moving against them today. Is this an overreaction to a bad night?

Washington Wizards (-9, 230) at Oklahoma City Thunder

At this point, there is not much to say about the Thunder. They are winless in the month of April with a -20.1 net rating. Offensively, the only option they have is either Luguentz Dort or Aleksej Pokusevski and both are questionable to play today. Washington is 8-1 SU/7-1-1 ATS in its last nine games with a + 4.8 net rating and has all the motivation in the world now that they are in control of the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference. The market is right in pushing this up to double-digits.

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