Betting preview for Saturday's NBA games

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Denver really can't seem to catch a break. Just one minute into their loss to Golden State they lost Will Barton to a hamstring injury. In a matter of days, the Nuggets’ backcourt has been absolutely ravaged by injury. 

Barton joins Jamal Murray and Monte Morris on the sideline with injury. As we know, Murray is done for the year, and while we could say both Morris and Barton could return at some point, we are drawing closer to the end of the regular season. Will they be back in time? 

The compact nature of this schedule has been brutal on the athletes of the NBA, but some teams have been unluckier than other. A contender has almost been reduced to ashes in Denver, and that just stinks.

Updated odds for every game can be found here.

Updated injury reports for every game can be found here.

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

The Main Event

Philadelphia 76ers at Milwaukee Bucks (-7.5, 229.5)

Ben Simmons will remain on the sideline and Joel Embiid is questionable to play, but given the weight of this contest I would expect to see Embiid on the floor. Regardless, the 76ers will need to put forth a better defensive effort than the one they had on Thursday. In their 124-117 win, Milwaukee torched Philadelphia for 1.24 point per possession thanks to a 20-of-40 shooting night from beyond the arc. Simmons’ absence hurts the 76ers’ ability to defend at a high level though, as Philadelphia allows 2.8 more points every 100 possessions when he is off the floor. If Embiid can't play, then bettors will see a 76ers team that is skilled defensively (106.2 defensive rating), but really limited on offense (107.9).

Milwaukee was not the only team to turn in a solid shooting performance on Thursday, though. The 76ers went 12-of-27 on 3-point attempts, but the difference between 12 made 3-point attempts and 20 is 24 points and that showed on the scorecard. Philadelphia is a skilled shooting team but the 76ers do not take many attempts, which puts them behind in matchups like this. If they are not going to play a high level of defense then they need to make up that gap between made 3-point attempts. It might sound easier said than done, but Milwaukee’s 25th-ranked perimeter defense is perfectly exploitable.

As with many of these matchups, this is all dependent on the injury report and the presence of Joel Embiid. If Embiid can't play, we can expect this number to get to about 8.5 at most shops; if he plays the Bucks will likely be favored by 6.5 at home. It’s an early game so keep an eye on the morning report.

The Co-Main Event

Toronto Raptors at New York Knicks (-3.5, 216)

New York looks to keep its 8-0 SU and 11-0 ATS runs alive today with an early meeting against Toronto. There’s been some real steam here, pushing this line from New York -3.5 to a pick at almost every shop. Mitchell Robinson and Alec Burks are not going to play but a move like this suggests a player like Julius Randle isn't going to play today. If that is the case, the Knicks’ offense will be pretty pressed for production. In the non-Randle minutes, New York is outscored by 1.7 points every 100 possessions and manages just 106.2 points. If it is a moved based on the Knickerbockers being due for a loss, then it makes absolutely no sense.

Toronto has won and covered four straight and outscored its competition by 8.5 points per 100 possessions. The Raptors have handled their business, but wins and covers over the likes of Oklahoma City, Orlando and San Antonio do not really scream "dominant team." Their shooting has been their most reliable weapon during this win streak: They have taken over 40% of their attempts from deep in all four games and have shot at least 39.1% from beyond the arc in each game. How will that strategy fair against the best perimeter defense in the league?

In all honesty, such a massive line move with no real indication as to a reason makes this a tough handicap. The Raptors are not power rated higher than New York, but this game sitting at a pick says the market believes that is the case.

The Prelims

Detroit Pistons at Indiana Pacers (-5.5, 224.5)

Detroit had its 5-1 ATS run brought to an end with an ugly loss to San Antonio, but it looks like the majority of their veterans are back on the floor today with both Cory Joseph and Jerami Grant listed as probable to play today. A fuller roster will help take on a Pacers team that is 1-3 SU and ATS in its last four games with a -6.4 net rating. Indiana has really fallen off on offense lately, scoring just 106.5 points every 100 possessions. The Pistons have been pretty plucky on defense with their young core, but with Grant and Joseph back this team’s defensive rating suffers. The Pacers are a pretty overrated team, and this might sound crazy, but I find myself more attracted to Detroit when they are rolling with young guys.

Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat* (-5, 210.5)

It should not come as a massive surprise that Miami disappointed as a 6.5-point favorite last night against Atlanta without Trae Young or Clint Capela; the surprise was the fashion in which it went down. Miami gave up 1.283 points per possession and allowed the Hawks to go 19-of-22 within four feet of the basket. That kind of a performance on defense likely will not happen again. However, can you count on one of the most inconsistent offenses in the league to show up?

Chicago’s offense erupted for 1.247 points per possession against Charlotte the other day, but we can expect more of the offense that was held to under 105 points each of the two games prior to that. I trust Miami on defense but I do not trust them enough to lay points with them in any role.

San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans (-2, 228)

DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay are questionable to play for San Antonio and their 6-3 ATS run is in danger against New Orleans. The Pelicans snapped out of an 0-4 ATS slump by blowing out Orlando, but they still are not trustworthy in matchups with teams power rated similarly to them. The matchup to watch is inside today. San Antonio gives up the third-most shots within four feet and New Orleans takes the most as an offense. With Zion Williamson on the court, the Pelicans take over 44% of their attempts at the hoop and they shoot 66.2% on those attempts. Is San Antonio able to have success when its defensive strategy plays into the hands of New Orleans’ offense?

Los Angeles Lakers at Dallas Mavericks (-2, 216.5)

Three key players are on the mend in this matchup. For Dallas, Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber are questionable to play with injury. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is questionable for Los Angeles as well. All three are key role players for their respective teams, and Porzingis’ presence has the ability to alter the point spread with his absence. Anthony Davis is on a minutes restriction, and that seems to be inflating the power rating of Los Angeles. The Lakers gave up 1.173 points per possession to Dallas the other day and the Mavericks could still find success on offense even without Porzingis

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PRO TIPS

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PRO PICKS

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