Betting preview for Thursday's NBA games

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When is the betting market going to learn? With 20 seconds left on the clock Damian Lillard had the ball at the top of the key, his Trail Blazers down 124-123 to the Pelicans. Lillard took the ball in his left and drove past Lonzo Ball to get within four feet of the hoop. As he went to finish Ball fouled him, Lillard’s attempt bounced off the glass and in to give Portland a 125-124 lead with 16.4 seconds left and a free throw attempt to make it a two-point game. One desperate mid-range shot attempt from Brandon Ingram later, and the Portland Trail Blazers had won, and covered, their sixth consecutive game.

 

Portland is now 9-3 SU/10-2 ATS in its last 12 games, but the streak is not what surprises me; it’s the market’s refusal to buy in that gets me. In each of Portland’s last four games the line has moved against it, including last night where the Blazers opened catching three and closed as a 4.5-point underdog. The time to play against Portland is coming, but to do it with one of the worst defensive teams in the league was not that time.

 

Now that we’re warmed up, let us begin!

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.

 

 

The Main Event

 

Brooklyn Nets at Los Angeles Lakers (-2.5, 236.5)

 

The best offense in the NBA against the best defense. Kyrie Irving taking on LeBron James. In what world would this not be our main event of the day?

 

Fresh off of their comeback win over Phoenix the Nets head to Staples for what could be a preview of the NBA Finals. Brooklyn has won and covered their last four games, posting a 10.0 net rating during their winning streak. This has largely been due to an offense that continues to operate at an insane level, averaging 126.4 points every 100 possessions. Keep in mind, Kevin Durant has not played in three of these four games! The Lakers continue to perform at a high level on defense, even during this 4-8 ATS slide that they have been on, giving up just 107.5 points every 100 possessions. One might think that this is the biggest defensive test the Nets have faced, but keep in mind they dropped identical 1.337 offensive ratings on top 10 defenses in Phoenix and Golden State.

How the market handles this game will be fascinating to track throughout the day. Kyrie Irving has already been upgraded to probable, so we know the starting backcourt will be available for Brooklyn. Thus far, the market has not budged on the opening number, and I would expect buyback on three if it gets there anytime throughout the day. As far as the total goes, it is not surprising to see this one actually drop despite the 22-4 run to the over in Brooklyn games. Los Angeles should be able to stifle the offensive efficiency of the Nets somewhat, but this is a Lakers team that is comfortable in transition. That could lead to a faster game than some expect.

 

The Co-Main Event

 

Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks (-6.5, 233.5)

 

Stuck in the midst of an 0-4 SU and ATS slide, the Milwaukee Bucks face a Toronto team that could be without Kyle Lowry. Even if Lowry does not play, the Bucks still need to focus on defending the perimeter, something that has burned them and caused opponents to average 119.4 points every 100 possessions during this losing streak. Not having to face Lowry would help though, as Toronto has a -0.2 net rating when he is off the floor this season. The biggest hit for the Raptors without Lowry is a defense that gives up 110.9 per 100 possessions when he is on the floor, but 115.8 per 100 when he is off.

 

The surprising part about this slide for Milwaukee has not been the defensive issues (When you rank 29th in opponent 3-point that is going to happen), but it has been an offense that is scoring just 112.9 points every 100 possessions. Jrue Holiday has been out due to a positive COVID test, but even with him on the floor their offense is averaging 119.1 points per 100 possessions on the season. Should Lowry not play this seems like a “get right” spot for Milwaukee, but bettors should keep in mind the line opened a point higher due to the Lowry injury. Laying more points for a team on a losing streak is not something I am keen on.

 

The Prelims

 

Miami Heat* (-1.5, 223.5) at Sacramento Kings

 

For the second consecutive night the Miami Heat open as a small road favorite against a Western Conference opponent. Last night, Miami’s offense scuffled once more, averaging 1.037 points per possession in an overtime loss to Golden State. In the second half on Wednesday night, the Heat could muster just 0.88 points per possession, and they ended up falling overtime. They are now 2-7-1 ATS since Jimmy Butler returned from COVID, an indication that the market still might be too high on this team from a power rating perspective. Their failing offense has been a big reason why they have struggled, but a meeting with the worst defense in the league could help raise the floor for that unit.

 

Sacramento is now 0-4 SU and ATS since their 7-1 SU/8-0 ATS run that culminated with a win over the Clippers. During this slide they are giving up an astonishing 123.6 points every 100 possessions. The Kings already rank 30th in defensive efficiency this season, and there has been no indication of that improving. It is likely why we have seen this total get bumped up four points from the open, but Miami is still a skilled defensive team that is perfectly capable of containing Sacramento’s offense.

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