Betting preview for Saturday's NBA games

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Just three days into the second half and we already have our first major injury. Joel Embiid hyperextended his left knee after landing on it awkwardly in Philadelphia’s 127-101 win over Washington on Friday. The injury is not serious, but Embiid will miss an extended period of time, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania:

 

 

Two to three weeks might not seem like a long time, but in a condensed second half this could be quite a blow to the 76ers' quest for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Should Embiid miss the entire three-week timeline, that it put him on the shelf for games against the Bucks, Lakers, Clippers and Nuggets during a West Coast trip the team embarks on next week. Brooklyn trails Philadelphia by just one game in the Eastern Conference, and Milwaukee by just 2.5 games. Yes, the overall goal is the NBA Finals, but falling into the second or third seed means a second-round series with a team like Milwaukee, something I am sure Philadelphia would like to avoid.

Then there are the ramifications of the MVP race. Embiid had become the favorite to win the award at quite a few shops, but this extended absence opens the door for quite a few players to gain ground over the next two months. As of this morning, FanDuel was one of the only shops with MVP odds still on the board, and LeBron James was listed as the + 150 favorite to win the award, followed by Nikola Jokic at + 230 and Embiid at + 600.

Should Embiid miss the whole three weeks that would mean 18 games missed for the MVP candidate, or a quarter of the season. Is 75% of a season enough to win the award in voters eyes?

Updated injury reports can be found here.

Updated odds for every game can be found here.

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

The Main Event

Dallas Mavericks at *Denver Nuggets (-2.5, 226.5)

The condensed nature of the second-half schedule is front-and-center here, as the Nuggets find themselves on the second leg of a back-to-back while the Mavericks are playing in their third game in four nights. Dallas played it safe with its stars last time out, resting both Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic on Thursday against the Thunder, so fatigue should not be a massive piece of the handicap here, at least for Dallas.

Denver got a dramatic win over Memphis last night thanks to Nikola Jokic’s contest of Ja Morant’s potential game-winner in the waning seconds. It was a solid performance for the Nuggets defense, which gave up just 1.042 points per possession and held the Grizzlies to 11-of-30 shooting from the all-important short mid-range area of the floor. The win was the fifth straight for the Nuggets, who are 4-1 ATS over this run while averaging 119.5 points every 100 possessions, and that offensive play is where the analysis for this game begins.

The Nuggets come into this meeting with the Mavericks ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, averaging 117.9 points per 100 possessions. They are 10th or higher in every shooting category tracked by Cleaning The Glass, and the fourth-best half-court offense in the league, averaging 101.9 points every 100 plays in the halfcourt. Meanwhile, Dallas sits at 25th in defensive efficiency on the season, allowing 114.8 points every 100 possessions. The Mavericks really struggle in two areas: At the rim, and in the halfcourt. Opponents take 32.3% of their attempts with four feet of the basket and shoot 65.4% when they get there. Denver might not take a ton of shots at the hoop, but they finish at the seventh-best rate in the league (66.9%).

The problems at the rim for Dallas lead to open shooters in the corners, and the Mavericks give up 42.2% on corner 3-pointers as a result, an area of the floor the Nuggets happen to rank third in on offense (45.9%). An inability to contain dribble penetration for Dallas, has lead to opponents success at the rim and in the corners, and it is a reason why they rank 23rd in half-court defense, allowing 98.2 points every 100 plays. On paper, it seems like quite a lopsided matchup in favor of Denver’s offense, but the Nuggets are not without fault.

Dallas might struggle defending the rim, but not a team is worse within four feet of the basket on defense than Denver. The Nuggets allow opponents to shoot 69.4% at the rim, the worst mark in the league. Those struggles, like the ones Dallas has, leads to the Nuggets ranking 16th in opponent corner shooting (40.1%). The problem here is that the Mavericks are not a team that generates much pressure within four feet. They rank 26th in rim frequency (29.7%) despite ranking sixth in shooting at the rim (67.0%). Consistent pressure at the basket should be part of the game plan today for the Mavericks, but it is just not something we have seen them execute throughout this season.

Still, Dallas can exploit a shoddy perimeter defense that is ranked 20th or lower in all three categories. The Mavericks generate a ton of their offense from the arc. On the season they take 40.3% of their attempts from deep, and their shooting has improved greatly recently. Since the start of February, Dallas ranks 11th in shooting, hitting 37.7% of their 39.3 attempts per game. 

The Co-Main Event

Sacramento Kings at Atlanta Hawks (-3.5, 240)

It’s not a great day in the NBA when our co-main event is between two teams with a combined 32 wins, but a lack of defense and the potential for anarchy puts this game here. Atlanta comes in off of a dramatic win over Toronto, needing a Tony Snell buzzer-beating 3-pointer to take down the short-handed Raptors on Thursday night. Despite taking on a team without Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, the Hawks allowed 1.132 points per possession and 17-of-37 from deep. That defense will likely have trouble with a Kings team that can score with most of the teams in this league. 

Sacramento took care of business against the Houston Rockets on Thursday night, but that is obviously nothing to brag about right now. The Kings’ offense continues to operate at a pretty high level, averaging 123.3 points every 100 possessions over its last four games. Their offense revolves around success at the rim (67.5% shooting) and from the corners (46.1% shooting). The Hawks allow the 10th most attempts at the rim this season, which means the Kings could find success on that area of the floor, but this total is this high because of Sacramento’s own issues on defense.

The Kings are still last in defensive efficiency this season, giving up 119.8 points every 100 possessions. They are 28th in rim defense (67.7%), 28th in opponent 3-point shooting (39.5%) and 29th in non-corner 3-point shooting (39.7%). Not only could Atlanta take advantage of those areas of the floor, but they also have a distinct advantage on the glass. The Hawks are the fourth-best offensive rebounding team in the league, grabbing 28.1% of their misses. Sacramento comes in 25th in opponent offensive rebounding rate (26.8%). That rebounding has allowed Atlanta to thrive in half-court situations, and they rank 11th in points per putback play on the season, something Sacramento ranks 21st in. 

The Prelims

New York Knicks (-5, 213.5) at Oklahoma City Thunder

I’ve been pretty clear that I believe the Knickerbockers are due for a second-half regression, and that began with a blowout loss to Milwaukee. Part of that regression is their defense, but the other part of that is an inflated power rating from a strong first half, and we could be seeing that here. The Knicks opening as a five-point road favorite despite the fact that Derrick Rose and Austin Rivers remain unavailable, and Immanuel Quickley and Elfrid Payton are both questionable is a sign of their potentially overvalued nature. Yes, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is out for Oklahoma City, but in the six games without him this season the Thunder are 2-4 SU/4-2 ATS. 

Milwaukee Bucks (-10.5, 238.5) at Washington Wizards*

Since that 7-1 SU and ATS run, the Wizards are back to being the Wizards. Washington is now 1-4 SU/2-3 ATS in its last five games with a -9.6 net rating. Three of those losses have come by double-digits, and they have been getting absolutely crushed in transition, allowing 1.412 points or per transition play in their last three games. Milwaukee has all of the strengths to exploit Washington here.

The Bucks rank first in transition frequency and points added per 100 possessions in the fastbreak (+ 3.9), and eighth in overall transition efficiency (128.8). The Bucks rank second in rim shooting (69.6%), the Wizards are 24th in rim defense (65.5%). Milwaukee has the fourth-best shooting offense in the league (39.3%) and Washington owns the fourth-worst perimeter defense (38.7%). What in the world is stopping this from being a slaughter?

Toronto Raptors at Charlotte Hornets (-2, 229.5)

Charlotte fell asleep at the wheel against Detroit the other day, needing Terry Rozier to score 12 of its final 15 points to close out the Pistons. Now, they take on a short-handed Raptors team who almost surprised the Hawks on Thursday. OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet remain sidelined due to health and safety protocols. Even with those absences, the Raptors might have enough shooting to pick apart the Hornets’ 23rd-ranked perimeter defense (38.1% allowed)

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Betting Splits: Percentage of handle & tickets from DraftKings for every game on the board, updated every 10 minutes. GO HERE.

NFL Power Ratings3 sets of numbers from Steve MakinenGO HERE.

CFB Power Ratings3 sets of numbers from Steve MakinenGO HERE.

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Follow The Money: Consider schedules before betting on a team. What happened before and what is coming up can impact if a team is worth backing. Like SEA hosting CAR (off their bye) with SF in Week 15.  View more tips.

The Greg Peterson Experience: Have a value in mind for a dropoff to a backup quarterback from the starter, as many QBs are injured at this time of the season. View more tips.

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Dave Tuley: Saints +3.5. ​​​View more picks.

Greg Peterson: Troy +16 vs San Diego St. ​​​View more picks

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Betting Splits: Percentage of handle & tickets from DraftKings for every game on the board, updated every 10 minutes. GO HERE.

NFL Power Ratings3 sets of numbers from Steve MakinenGO HERE.

CFB Power Ratings3 sets of numbers from Steve MakinenGO HERE.

View more CFB tools for Pro subscribers

View more NFL tools for Pro subscribers

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VSiN PrimeTime: Be aware of injuries on the offensive line, skill positions get the most publicity, but if an elite tackle is out it could have a huge impact on the game. View more tips.

A Numbers Game: If you’re just getting into soccer betting, make sure you know exactly what you’re betting. i.e. Double chance, to win, to advance, etc. View more tips.
 
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Chuck Edel: Kansas State +2.5 vs TCU. View more picks.

Kenny White: Fresno State +3 vs Boise St. View more picks.
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