Betting preview for Sunday's NBA games

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The Brooklyn Nets found themselves in a solid buy-low spot yesterday against the Golden State Warriors, and they delivered with a strong 134-117 win (and cover) at the Chase Center. Kyrie Irving might have led the Nets in scoring, but I thought James Harden stole the show.

Since Harden has become a Net, he has been absolutely spectacular. With him on the floor Brooklyn has a 5.8 net rating, and last night he dropped 16 dimes as he continues to thrive in the role of point guard for this team. However, let's continue to monitor this team's defense with Harden on the floor. Most would say there is no 'D' in Harden due to his lack of effort on that end of the floor, but the numbers say something else.

In his time at Brooklyn, the Nets' defensive rating improves by 7.6 points every 100 possessions. This could just be a short sample-size anomaly, but Harden has always been slightly better than perceived on defense, especially in the low post. If Brooklyn somehow become adequate on defense, this league better watch out -- and Harden could be a key to finding that adequacy.

Note: *indicates that team is on the second leg of a back-to-back

Updated injury reports can be found here.

Updated odds for every game can be found here.

Portland Trail Blazers at Dallas Mavericks (-5, 236.5)

Since CJ McCollum went down with his foot injury, the Trail Blazers have been one of the most undervalued teams in the league. Portland is 7-5 SU and ATS since that injury with a -0.4 net rating. The Trail Blazers  failed to cover the first three games without McCollum, and are actually 6-3 SU/7-2 ATS in their previous nine games, 5-1 SU and ATS in the last six. This all matters because it shows how undervalued Portland has been of late, but also because Dallas has been worse across the board than Portland has been over this same stretch.

The Mavericks are 7-8 SU/4-11 ATS in the 15 games they have played over the same time span. They have a -4.5 net rating and rank 30th in defensive efficiency, allowing 120.6 points every 100 possession. Sure, the Mavericks have won four straight and five out of six, but they are only 2-4 ATS over those six games with a break even net rating (0.0). Their offense has improved dramatically, but they are still allowing an astonishing 124.8 points every 100 possessions. Even in their win over New Orleans the other night, they allowed the Pelicans to average 1.34 points per possession. Thanks, but no thanks on laying points with Dallas here.

Minnesota Timberwolves at Toronto Raptors (-9, 229.5)

Minnesota had its cover streak snapped two nights ago against Charlotte due to a defense that gave up 1.176 points per possession, 65.7 percent at the rim and 57.1 percent from the corners. Karl-Anthony Towns being back in the fold raises this team’s floor on offense, but does nothing to improve a defense that is 25th in efficiency. Even worse for this matchup is the Timberwolves’ struggles in transition: Minnesota gives up 1.324 points per play (27th), and opponents add 4.3 points per possession to their overall offensive efficiency in transition against them (30th)! Those are not categories you want to struggle in against the Raptors. Toronto ranks third in points added per possession in transition and 13th in overall fastbreak efficiency. They also have the second-highest transition frequency rate in the league, meaning Minnesota’s weakness in that area is going to be exploited time and again tonight.

Toronto is also just playing better basketball. The Raptors are coming off of a loss in Boston, but are 10-6 SU/8-8 ATS over the last month. The 8-8 ATS mark signifies the market’s overvaluing of Toronto, and that ultimately gives me pause laying such a large number. Toronto has had its own struggles on defense, ranking 16th in efficiency over these 16 games and Towns adds a dynamic on offense they might have trouble containing. 

San Antonio Spurs (-2, 230) at Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte got back on the cover train on Thursday with a 120-114 win and cover over Minnesota. Charlotte improves to 13-7 ATS over its last 20 games, 6-3 ATS over its previous nine. The Hornets’ shooting has really taken off over the last nine games, as they are hitting 42.9 percent of their 37.3 attempts per game during this run. They must maintain that shooting against a Spurs team that is 7-3 SU/6-4 ATS in its last 10 games with the 10th-best defensive rating in the league (110.8).

Milwaukee Bucks (-11.5, 225.5) at Oklahoma City Thunder

There is something about the road that allows Oklahoma City to thrive. They are 11-2-1 ATS this season when away from home, and they’re coming off of a road trip in which they went 3-0 ATS despite losing all three games. However, when playing at home they have stumbled out to a 3-7-1 ATS mark. This might be a meaningless trend, but it is worth noting the stark contrast in performances from Oklahoma City. Milwaukee will look to maintain those issues for the Thunder as they come in 0-2 SU and ATS in their last two games. Usually the final game of a long road trip is a terrible spot for road teams, but given the results of the Bucks’ last two contests, I would expect a fully focused Milwaukee squad today. 

Los Angeles Lakers (-2, 216) at Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets could be very short-handed tonight when they host the Lakers. Gary Harris is out until at least Tuesday, Will Barton will not play tonight due to personal reasons and Jamal Murray is questionable with an ankle injury. Yet, this number opened as low as Lakers -2 and is still sitting around Lakers -3 as of my writing. Los Angeles was in a buy-low spot on Friday, but needed a strong second half to overcome Memphis an eventually cover in a 115-105 win at home. The Lakers might be in a 3-7 ATS slide, but they are 7-3 SU in those games and still rank first in defensive efficiency over the poor cover run. Meanwhile, Denver continues to struggle, ranking 19th in defense since a road loss to the Spurs on Jan. 29, and they are 2-5 ATS in those seven games 0.6 net rating.

Orlando Magic at Phoenix Suns* (-8.5, 218.5)

You might be tired of hearing it, but the  Magic are a great example of buying low on the market. Orlando has covered its last two games on this west coast trip, beating Sacramento on Friday night for just its second win in nine tries. Now, they face a Phoenix team at the top of its market price due to an 8-1 SU and ATS run. It might seem like another opportunity to buy low on Orlando, but the injury report changes that dynamic. Evan Fournier, James Ennis, Cole Anthony and Al-Farouq Aminu are all questionable, which gives Phoenix another fantastic opportunity to extend its winning streak.

Memphis Grizzlies (PK, 229.5) at Sacramento Kings

Injuries are the center of this intriguing matchup in Sacramento. De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley are both questionable here for the Kings, which has led the market to make Memphis the short road favorite. The status of Fox and Bagley will decide where this number closes today. Sacramento was just catching 4.5 a couple of night ago at home against Philadelphia, and now are catching 1.5 against a Memphis team without Desmond Bane and De’Anthony Melton and a questionable Brandon Clarke? Bettors can gamble on the status of Fox and bet it now but if he is ruled out they’ll be stuck with a number that will surely close higher if he does not play.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Los Angeles Clippers (-10.5, 220.5)

The Cavaliers are in a tailspin, and it does not look like they will be able to pull themselves out of it tonight. Cleveland is 1-8 SU/0-9 ATS in its last nine games with a league-worst -17.5 net rating. Their offense has been abysmal, averaging just 102.8 points every 100 possessions during this nine-game slide. Will they be able to find their stride against a Clippers team that is starting to get its legs back? Paul George remains sidelined today, but Los Angeles continues to thrive on offense, averaging 119.3 points per 100 possessions since his injury. The market got caught undervaluing the Clippers on Friday night, but the power rating has evened out with an 11.5 on the board as of this morning.

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