Betting preview for Wednesday's NBA games

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It has been a while since I poisoned your mind with James Harden propaganda, and there is no time like the present!

Harden did it again last night, dishing a career-high tying 17 assists in Brooklyn’s 116-112 win over Portland. For the third time this month Harden played 40 minutes, and this performance came despite his neck injury that currently has him as questionable tonight against Utah.

Availability is the most underrated aspect of Harden’s game, and he continues to show that as the season drags on. He is league leader in minutes per game, and Brooklyn is 23-7 with him in the lineup since they acquired him from Houston. Tonight will be great for his MVP candidacy if he starts and leads the Nets to yet another win without his teammates Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

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

Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks (-3.5, 230.5)

The road has been an unfriendly place for Boston, and after another loss away from home they are 1-9 SU and ATS in their last 10 contests on foreign courts. That loss also drops them to 8-15 SU/7-16 ATS on the road this season! In this season, filled with empty gyms and neutral courts, it's odd to see the Celtics struggle so much in these situations, but it has to be considered as they enter a road game with the Bucks, who are 17-5 SU/13-9 ATS when playing at Fiserv Forum.

Boston’s problem when playing on the road is a defense that gives up 114.9 points every 100 possessions, the eighth-worst mark in the league. Their lack of size is a massive problem, and that showed itself in the team’s latest road loss in Memphis. The Grizzlies crushed the Celtics inside, going 24-of-34 (70.6%) inside four feet while scoring 80 points in the paint and grabbing 34.5% of their missed shots. Interior defense has been a problem for this team all season long due to its small frontcourt, and it shows in its defensive rankings at the rim (24th) and from short mid-range (26th). What will happen tonight against the best rim shooting team in the league?

Milwaukee is a different team with Giannis Antetokounmpo on the floor, and that difference on offense begins at the cup. With Giannis in, the Bucks take 35.2% of their attempts within four feet of the basket, compared to just 27.6% of their attempts when is off the floor. Their rim shooting spikes to 72.2% and they make 19.5 free throws every 100 field goal attempts with the Greek Freak leading the charge. Boston will likely be up against it in his minutes, and with Tristan Thompson not playing due to health and safety protocols an already weak frontcourt becomes weaker.

However, the Celtics do have very skilled perimeter players, and that is where their hope lies in this matchup. Boston is a solid shooting team that takes 33.5 3-point attempts per game while shooting 37.6%, and they face a perimeter defense that has not done much in terms of defending the 3-point shot. Opponents take 38.3% of their attempts from deep against Milwaukee and shoot 38.0% which is the eighth-worst rate in the league, according to Cleaning The Glass. The volume of 3-point attempts the Bucks allow might have something to do with the team ranking second in attempts allowed within four feet of the basket, but that does not lead to such a high shooting percentage.

If Boston’s perimeter play is up to snuff they can stay within a number like this, but have you seen anything from the Celtics to make you think they would show up here? 

The Co-Main Event

Denver Nuggets* (-1, 224) at Toronto Raptors

The betting market clearly has a distorted view of the Raptors’ power rating at this point, and that has shown over the last two weeks. Toronto is in the midst of an 0-9 SU/3-6 ATS skid, but it’s the numbers they’ve been laying that show us the overvalued nature of this team. They closed as nine-point favorites in Houston, and 7.5-point favorites in Cleveland, both games that resulted in losses. Today, the market deemed there to be just one point of difference between these two teams, and I do not believe that to be the case.

Toronto has regressed defensively during this losing streak, allowing 118.3 points every 100 possessions. Denver comes in with an offense that is averaging a league-leading 119.1 points every 100 possessions over the last 11 games. The Nuggets have flaws on defense, specifically when it comes to keeping teams out of the paint, but the Raptors are the sixth-worst rim shooting team in the league (60.7%). Can they actually exploit those issues? Oh, and are Kyle Lowry and Norm Powell going to play? This is the last game before the deadline, after all.

The Prelims

Los Angeles Clippers (-6, 220) at San Antonio Spurs

For the first time in over a month, the Clippers covered consecutive games when they came back from a 22-point fourth quarter deficit to beat the Hawks on Monday. Tonight, they try to make it four of five when they take on San Antonio. The Spurs have dropped their last two, and their loss to the Hornets snapped a 4-0 ATS run. San Antonio continues to play at a very high level on defense, allowing just 108.9 points every 100 possessions. That defense will be tested tonight against a Clippers team that has averaged 116.9 points every 100 possessions over the same time frame.

Los Angeles loves to work from the mid-range area of the floor, and the Lakers are the best shooting team in the league, two things that might bother San Antonio. The Spurs rank 26th in opponent shooting percentage from long mid-range (44.6%) and 20th in opponent corner 3-point shooting (40.7%). The Clippers rank 13th and first in those categories on offense. However, until you see a consistent effort from this Los Angeles team is it worth swallowing that many points?

Charlotte Hornets (-3, 225) at Houston Rockets

Has the market overreacted to the loss of LaMelo Ball? In its last game, Charlotte closed as a five-point underdog to San Antonio, but ended up winning the game outright. Ball is a massive piece for this team, but he is the only other major piece missing for the Hornets. Now, they open as three-point favorites on the road against a Rockets team that snapped a 20-game slide the other day. Golden State was laying 11 here just last week. Are the Warriors really eight points better than Charlotte without Ball?

Atlanta Hawks (-3, 235.5) at Sacramento Kings

A rematch from two weekends ago, the Kings might have revenge on their mind after they blew a double-digit lead to this Hawks team in Atlanta. The Hawks are now 8-1 SU/7-2 ATS in their nine games under Nate McMillan, and are coming off of a loss to the Clippers in which they gave up a 22-point fourth quarter lead. Los Angeles got them for 1.289 points per possession, and that same defense must hold off a Sacramento offense that comes in averaging 115.4 points every 100 possessions in the month of March. Atlanta has been in the midst of a really soft portion of its schedule, and a team like the Kings continues that trend, but the Kings are a tough out for anyone with a susceptible defense.

Brooklyn Nets* at Utah Jazz (-6, 233.5)

Harden’s status is front-and-center yet again for the Nets, as they head to Salt Lake City for the second leg of a back-to-back after handling business last night at the Moda Center. Harden has been dealing with neck soreness that had him as a game-time decision yesterday, and that will likely be the case tonight in Utah. He put in 40 minutes last night, and was very vocal about his resistance to resting, but the market clearly thinks that Harden will not be on the floor tonight.

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A Numbers Game: Pay attention to stats and trends that are completely lopsided. For example, Matt Rhule and the Panthers are 1-25 straight up when allowing their opponent to score 17 or more points.

Follow The Money: Be aware of Miami's backloaded schedule when betting either side of their 11.5 win total. In December: at SF, at LAC, at BUF, vs GB.

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Adam Burke: Washington -2.5 vs UCLA

Pauly Howard: Golden Knights Under 97 points for the season.

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Betting Splits: Percentage of handle & tickets from DraftKings, updated every 10 minutes. GO HERE.

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