Betting preview for Thursday's NBA games

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It was a somewhat boring night in the association on Wednesday. Seven teams won their games by double-digits, and favorites won the day with a winning 8-4 record, including 7-5 against the spread.

The biggest story emerging from last night should probably be Joel Embiid cementing his status as an MVP candidate with 28 points, six rebounds and two assists in the 76ers’ 107-106 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. Embiid was incredible, getting to the line almost at will, finishing with 13 free throw attempts while consistently going at Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol in the post in one-on-one situations.

Having said that, keep an eye on Embiid’s status in the next couple of games. He took a hard fall on his ailing back last night, and while he finished you’d assume the 76ers will allow him to rest when he can over the next few contests.

The Utah Jazz also improved to 12-2 SU/ATS in the month of January with their beatdown of the Dallas Mavericks last night. Utah winning has become such a normality that it is barely worth a mention.

On to tonight’s four games!

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

Updated injury reports can be found here.

L.A. Clippers at Miami Heat* (-5.5, 215.5)

This might come as a surprise, but the Clippers without Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Patrick Beverley are not good! The lack of shot creation without Leonard and George was apparent on Tuesday night as the Clippers managed just 1.021 points per possession, shot 54.8 percent at the rim and 30.8 percent from deep. The ability to create open looks is vital in halfcourt sets, and Los Angeles struggled immensely there, managing just 0.866 points per play.

It wasn’t just the offense, either. Atlanta averaged 1.102 points per possession against Los Angeles, and without a high-level perimeter defender the Clippers couldn’t contain Trae Young who scored 38 points on 12-of-23 shooting while getting to the free throw line 11 times. Luckily, Miami does not have that dynamic scoring guard on its roster to take advantage of poor on-ball defenders like Reggie Jackson or Lou Williams.

In fact, Miami still might not have anyone at all.

The Heat come into this one on the second leg of a back-to-back, getting trounced by Denver 109-82 on Wednesday night. Miami grinded out just 0.884 points per possession in non-garbage time minutes, which has been the problem the last seven games for this team. Over those seven games, Miami has the worst offensive rating (102.2) and net rating (-10.6). Why seven games? That is when the Heat lost Tyler Herro to injury. He was a game-time decision on Wednesday night, so there is a chance he makes his return this evening.

If Herro is not going to play, and Butler remains sidelined as well, you’re asking a team that has statistically been the worst team in the league over the last seven games to cover a number as a favorite. That does not seem like a winning strategy to me. However, reports have surfaced that Butler could be back this week, so keep an eye on injury reports throughout the day.

Betting Trends

  • Los Angeles is 4-0 SU/3-1 ATS after a SU loss this season.

L.A. Lakers* (-10.5, 217.5) at Detroit Pistons*

Fresh off of a primetime game in which they were handed their first road loss, the Lakers must get up to face the lowly Pistons. Detroit is on the second leg of a back-to-back itself. Cleveland wiped the floor with the last night, averaging 1.184 points per possession while dropping 122 points. It was a bad loss, but it was not really reflective of how this Pistons team has played of late.

Detroit has been a decent team against the number this season. They are 9-8-1 ATS on the year, but they perform better at home, where they are 6-4 ATS overall and 6-2 ATS as a home underdog. Statistically, it makes sense that the Lakers would open as a double-digit favorite on the road against this team, but is Los Angeles bringing the same intensity it usually does in a spot like this?

Generally, the Lakers have responded well after a loss this season. They are 4-0 SU/3-1 ATS after a SU loss this season, and LeBron seems to be on a mission to win the MVP award after being snubbed last year. However, this is the fifth game of a seven-game east coast trip, the second leg of a back-to-back and sandwich spot between games against Philadelphia and Boston. The Lakers are perfectly capable of winning and covering spots like this, but will they want to tonight?

Betting Trends

  • Detroit is 6-2 ATS as a home underdog this season, but 1-4 ATS against the Western Conference.
  • Detroit is 5-2 ATS after an ATS loss this season.

Golden State Warriors* at Phoenix Suns* (PK, 219.5)

Things are not going well for the Suns. After dropping last night’s game to Oklahoma City as an 8-point favorite, Phoenix falls to 1-5 SU/ATS in its last six games and is now in an 0-3 SU/ATS slide heading into Thursday night. The offense continues to be an issue over this slide. Last night, the Suns could muster just 0.97 points per possession against the Thunder and that brought their offensive rating during this losing streak to 1.053 points per possession. Devin Booker is not due back until the end of the week, so there is no savior coming to fix these problems tonight.

Meanwhile, Golden State proved me wrong over its two-game series with Minnesota. They held the Timberwolves to 1.043 points per possession, and swept the series while covering both contests as 8.5-point favorites in both. Is this team continuing to improve, or did they catch a short-handed Minnesota team that is 2-11 SU (5-8 ATS) in January at the right time?

Remember, these games are on neutral courts, so when the market opened this game as a pick it was telling you that these two teams are equal. Is that true, even without Booker on the floor? I would say no, and the market did too.

Betting Trends

  • Phoenix is 3-1 SU/ATS on no rest this season.

Portland at Houston (-4.5, 228.5)

Houston is on a roll! Fresh off the “John Wall Revenge Game”, the Rockets are now on a 3-0 SU/ATS run, and playing some solid defense. Their three opponents (Detroit, Dallas, Washington) managed just 98.3 points every 100 possessions with the Rockets outscoring them by 14.5 points over that stretch. One could argue that stretch of opponents is not that impressive, and they would be right, but is this one tonight any better?

Portland is extremely short-handed with the losses of CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic to serious injuries. Robert Covington is dealing with a concussion as well, and Zach Collins continues to be sidelined. Portland is 2-3 SU/1-4 ATS in its last five games because of these missing pieces, and its offense has dropped off to 1.091 points per possession while its defense continues to scuffle along.

It might seem like an easy play on Houston, but remember that you’re buying at the top of the market with the Rockets tonight. They are playing well, taking on an injured team that has failed to cover four of five. The betting market has inflated Houston’s power rating because of these factors.

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