Betting preview for Thursday's NBA games


Last night was one of the best nights of this current NBA season. We had four games with single-digit final deficits, three of which came down to the final possession. There star performances -- like 47 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo or 46 points from Zach LaVine -- and there were bad beats (condolences to Clippers backers last night). But most important of all, there were lessons to be learned. 

The betting market had seen enough after the Brooklyn Nets loss to Detroit on Tuesday, and was all over Indiana at the window. The Pacers eventually closed as small favorites on the road, but never came close to covering. Brooklyn led by as much as 35 points, and slapped the hands of those with Indiana tickets.

In no universe should this Pacers team be rated higher than the Nets, and we saw that yesterday. Brooklyn has its flaws, but this is still a quality team, even without Kevin Durant.

Here are my NBA game notes for Thursday, Feb. 11:

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

Updated injury reports can be found here.

Updated odds for every game can be found here.

Miami Heat (-3, 218) at Houston Rockets

Since Jimmy Butler has returned, the results have been there for the Heat, but the covers have not. Miami has won three straight and four of their last six games since Butler came back from dealing with COVID, but the team is just 1-1-4 ATS. In all six of those games Miami has been laying six points or more, showing the betting market’s respect for this team, but it is clear the Heat have needed time to work through the rust that comes with your team being ravaged by injury and disease.

Since Butler’s return the team has a + 4.6 net rating, and that is largely due to a solid defense that has allowed 1.073 points per possession. The positives are there for the Heat, but the market may have been too quick to improve the power rating on Miami without considering the time it takes for a team to work its way back to form.

Their defense should come in handy against a Rockets team that has some problems on that end of the floor. Houston has lost and failed to cover three straight, which coincides with the loss of Christian Wood to an ankle injury. When Wood is on the floor this season, the Rockets are averaging 112.4 points per 100 possessions; when he is off the floor that offensive rating drops to 104.4 per 100 possessions. So, it is no surprise to see that Houston has managed just 102.1 per 100 over the last three games without Wood. 

The Rockets’ once reliable defense has started to show some cracks as well, giving up 120.8 points every 100 possessions during this losing streak. With the full complement of John Wall, Eric Gordon and Victor Oladipo available, I expect this defense to find a form similar to the team that is currently third in defensive rating. It is likely why we have seen this total drop three points.

Toronto Raptors* at Boston Celtics (-3.5, 222.5)

The Celtics return home after a tough west coast trip, during which they went 2-3 SU and ATS with -3.7 net rating. Surprisingly, it was Boston’s defense that failed it, allowing 1.181 points per possession to their opponents on this road trip. It is early in the season, but this Celtics team has put forth much better effort when playing at home, so this could be a solid bounce-back spot for Boston. They are 5-3 SU/6-2 ATS at TD Garden this year with the fourth-best defensive rating at home (107.2) and the 10th-best net rating (+ 5.0). 

That defense will be necessary to get a cover against a Toronto team that comes in on a 5-1 SU and ATS run that has been ignited by an offense averaging 124.3 points every 100 possessions. The Raptors’ 3-point shooting has come around, and the team is making 16.2 attempts per game through this winning streak. That includes last night’s win over Washington in which they hit 17-of-29 attempts in non-garbage time minutes. Boston comes into Thursday giving up just 36.1 percent shooting from 3 to opponents this season, so the battle along the perimeter will go a long way toward deciding the winner in this contest.

Indiana Pacers* (-3, 219) at Detroit Pistons

It is safe to say the market overreacted last night, making Indiana a short favorite in Brooklyn. The Pacers were handed a 104-94 loss that was not anywhere as close as the final score indicates. Indiana’s offense was abysmal, averaging just 0.978 points per possession against a defense that had been allowing 1.186 per possession over the last 13 games. The loss drops Indiana 0-4 SU and ATS over its last four, but the problems are deeper than that. Since Jan. 17 the Pacers are 4-9 SU/3-10 ATS with a -5.0 net rating. Bettors are supposed to feel comfortable laying points with this team on the road?

Detroit, on the other hand, is playing some of its best basketball of the season. The Pistons are 6-3 ATS in their last nine games, but there are still some troubling signs. Over this stretch they still have a very poor -4.9 net rating with an offense that is averaging just 108.5 points per 100 possessions. The market has started to come around on the Pistons, so bettors must keep that in mind as they attack this game. 

Orlando Magic at Golden State Warriors (-5, 225.5)

After getting a rare cover against Chicago last week, the Magic reverted back to their uninspiring ways. Orlando has dropped its last two games, failing to score over 100 points in games against Chicago and Portland. Now going back to Jan. 8, the Magic are 3-14 SU/4-13 ATS with a league-worst -12.8 net rating. While their defense has been poor, it has been an abysmal offense that manages 103.5 points every 100 possessions that has been their Achilles Heel. Now, they must face a Golden State team playing quality hoops.

The Warriors are 7-6 SU/8-5 ATS over their last 13 games with a + 5.2 net rating, and their defense has been spectacular. Through this stretch they are allowing just 108.0 points per 100 possessions, and they held San Antonio to 97.0 per 100 in their two-game series. However, the market is so low on this Orlando team that almost no value remains with the Warriors. Keep in mind that Golden State closed as an underdog in six of its past seven games. To go from underdog to massive favorite is quite the role reversal, and you have it here tonight with the Warriors. Evan Fournier and Cole Anthony are questionable tonight for Orlando as well, so track those injury reports here.

Philadelphia 76ers (-5.5, 229.5) at Portland Trail Blazers

Philadelphia is in the midst of a four-game trip along the west coast, and the 76ers could be without some bodies tonight. Seth Curry made a brief appearance on the injury report this morning and Shake Milton is doubtful to play. Despite that the 76ers are sizeable favorites on the road, and rightfully so. Philadelphia is on a 9-2 SU/8-3 ATS run over which it has outscored opponents by 5.6 points every 100 possessions. They cut down the red-hot Kings on Tuesday night, and now they must contain a Portland offense that has maintained its efficiency despite the missing bodies.

The Trail Blazers are averaging 114.3 points every 100 possessions since losing CJ McCollum to injury, the 10th-best offensive rating in the league over that time. However, their defense is just as bad, and despite the offensive success they have still been outscored by 3.2 points every 100 possessions. Like many teams, the Blazers have no real answer for Joel Embiid. Five of Portland’s last seven opponents have shot 69 percent or better at the rim, and with Embiid on the floor Philadelphia’s rim shooting improved by 7.1 percent. If Portland cannot contain Embiid, it must find success against fifth-ranked defense in the league.

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