Betting preview for Thursday's NBA games

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Happy trade deadline day! The deadline for deals is noon on the West Coast, and as of this morning we did get an intriguing swap between Chicago and Orlando. 

The Bulls landed big man Nikola Vucevic and Al-Farouq Aminu in exchange for Otto Porter Jr., Wendell Carter and two first-round picks. As of now, they are reportedly pursuing Lonzo Ball as well, clearly trying to make a push for their first postseason berth since the 2016-2017 season. Vucevic is a solid scorer who can stretch the floor, and will fit very well alongside Zach LaVine running pick-and-pops that will force opposing centers to come out to the perimeter.

How much this improves the Bulls’ chances to win an Eastern Conference that has a clear gap between the top three and the rest of the conference remains to be seen, but clearly Chicago is focused on competing for a seat at the table now.

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

Portland Trail Blazers at Miami Heat (-4, 218.5)

The offense for Miami has completely disappeared. During this 0-4 SU and ATS slide, the Heat's offensive rating of 102.6 is last in the league, and as a team they are shooting 27.7% from beyond the arc. The Heat’s shooting being an issue is not necessarily a surprise(they are 28th in 3-point shooting at 34.7%, but what has been surprising is the struggles at the basket. Miami is the league’s second-best team in terms of rim shooting (68.6%), but over this four-game losing streak the team has hit just 55.2% (64-of-116) of their attempts within four feet. These struggles matter in a matchup with Portland, because the Trail Blazers really have trouble keeping opponents out of the paint.

Just look at Portland’s last nine games: The team is just 5-4 SU/2-7 ATS and its defense has been the catalyst behind their struggles by giving up 121.6 points every 100 possessions. Recently, the Trail Blazers have had to face opponents who are just deadly at the rim like Miami, and those games have not gone well. Over the course of their last five games (New Orleans, Dallas, Brooklyn), Portland has allowed opponents to shoot 74.1% at the rim (100-of-135) and score an average of 50 points in the paint. Against a Heat team that has averaged 29 attempts at the rim over the last four games, the Trail Blazers’ interior defense will be tested again.

As we know, though, the Trail Blazers have a high-level offense that could potentially take apart a suddenly vulnerable Heat defense. During this losing streak, Miami has allowed 115.0 points every 100 possessions, and some of that is tied to a perimeter defense that has been getting gouged from the corners. The Heat’s opponents over the course of this losing streak have gone a combined 29-of-53 (54.7%) on corner 3-point attempts. Defensively, Miami has been much better on the interior this season, but over its last four games there has been much more dribble penetration allowed, which has led to teams kicking out to open shooters. 

Portland is an offense that does not take many attempts at the rim (29.2% rim frequency) and that has led to them ranking 23rd in corner 3-point attempts (8.0% of attempts) and 27th in shooting from the corners (34.6%). However, they take the most non-corner 3-pointers of any team in the league (36.1% of attempts), an area in which Miami allows the second-most attempts of any team in the NBA. If Damian Lillard and company have a hot shooting night, it could be trouble for Miami.

The Co-Main Event

Washington Wizards at New York Knicks (-2.5, 226.5)

When you have an opportunity to clinch a win total, you deserve the spotlight -- and that is the situation the New York Knicks find themselves in today. A victory cements the over on their preseason win total of 22.5 and all that is standing in their way is a Wizards team that is 2-9 SU/5-6 ATS in its last 11 games.

Washington has been inconsistent on both ends of the floor, managing just 108.5 points while giving up 116.0 per 100 possessions. In their game on Tuesday, the Knicks lit the Wizards up from the perimeter, going 14-of-27 (51.9%) in non-garbage time minutes. Julius Randle, the odds-on favorite to win Most Improved Player, hit 7-of-10 3-pointers himself, leading the way with 37 points. It was an outlier performance for New York’s offense that had been held to under 100 points in regulation in the three previous games. 

The one thing Washington does consistently well on offense is attack the paint, and its road to victory lies there. In their loss to the Knicks the other day, the Wizards shot just 57.6% on 33 attempts at the rim. That performance snapped a six-game streak of shooting 64.7% or better within four feet and in five of those games they shot over 70%! New York gives up the eighth-most attempts at the rim of any team in the league, so if Washington can correct the issues at the cup they will find themselves in a better situation than they were earlier in the week.  

The Prelims

Los Angeles Clippers* (-6, 221.5) at San Antonio Spurs*

These teams run it back for a second consecutive night, and the Spurs are going to have to figure out quite a bit in 24 hours to avoid another blowout.

Defensively, San Antonio was cooked from multiple areas of the floor. Los Angeles was effective inside and outside with a 16-of-21 performance at the rim and 12-of-24 night from beyond the arc in non-garbage time minutes. Offensively, the Spurs were held to just 1.048 points per possession. While they had a fine night at the rim (15-of-19, 78.9%), they were held to a combined 19-of-53 (35.8%) from mid-range and beyond the arc. San Antonio ranks in the bottom half of the league in both categories on offense, but Los Angeles does give up 43.5% on mid-range attempts and 37.7% to opponent 3-point shooters.

A hot shooting night is not out of the question for the Spurs, but do you really want to rely on that when betting a team?

Philadelphia 76ers (-4.5, 211.5) at Los Angeles Lakers

On the surface this game looks like a dud, but I am fascinated to watch this one unfold.

In two full games without LeBron James on the floor, Los Angeles has had nothing on offense. The Lakers have managed just 101.5 points per 100 possessions while shooting just 55.1% at the rim (27-of-49). Against one of the worst defensive teams in the league (New Orleans), they averaged just 1.032 points per possession. Now, they must somehow score consistently against a Philadelphia team that has allowed just 99.0 points every 100 possessions since losing Joel Embiid to a hyperextended knee.

The market has definitely come around the 76ers without Embiid, closing them as a road favorite over Golden State, and driving this number today as high as 76ers -6 as of my writing this morning.

Golden State Warriors at Sacramento Kings (-2.5, 223)

It’s not surprising to see Golden State struggle on offense without Steph Curry on the floor, but it is worth pointing out that each of their opponents since the Curry injury are two teams that are inside the top 10 of defensive efficiency. The Kings are not exactly on that level, and there is a chance that raises the floor of this offense.

If the Warriors can turn things around against a low-level defense, their own defensive unit has been playing at a high enough level to make them dangerous against an opponent like Sacramento. In the three games without Curry, the Warriors have allowed just 104.5 points every 100 possessions. Golden State ranks seventh in opponent rim shooting and sixth in opponent short mid-range shooting, two areas in which Sacramento ranks sixth and seventh respectively. This will be quite the matchup, and it will require the Kings to play defense against a limited offensive opponent, something they haven't done all season long, but should be able to do today.

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PRO TIPS

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PRO PICKS

Matt Youmans: Washington +6 vs Texas. View more picks

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