NBA betting market report: Daily picks, advice for Friday 12/31

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Welcome to the daily NBA betting market report, your source for analysis on the betting lines for the day in professional hoops. For updates throughout the day follow me on Twitter, or check out The Edge daily at 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT.

All game lines via VSiN NBA Odds page.

Market Report for Friday, December 31st

*Indicates team is on the second leg of a back-to-back

**Lines are opening numbers

Phoenix Suns (-3.5, 214.5) at Boston Celtics

Hopefully the new year brings some good tidings for Boston, because this team is in a bad place to end 2021. The Celtics come in off two poor losses against the Timberwolves and Clippers, both of which were missing key pieces and extremely short-handed. That brought Boston to 5-9 SU in the month of December, but an 8-7 ATS record over the same span means things were not all bad for Beantown. However, the betting market seems to have seen enough. After closing -5.5 at Minnesota and -6 at home against Los Angeles the Celtics are now 4.5-point home underdogs to the Suns. Phoenix is a quality team with a high power rating, but this smacks of a market overreaction, especially once you consider the personnel issues for the Suns. JaVale McGee, who had a brilliant game against Oklahoma City the other night, was added to the COVID protocol yesterday. That makes it five players, including Deandre Ayton and Jae Crowder, and head coach Monty Williams who will not be available for the Suns tonight. The loss of McGee makes the Suns extremely small, and second-year pro Jalen Smith will likely get the start at center. In an extremely small sample size Smith has been a fine option at center, but given the losses of personnel it’s hard to swallow these many points on the road. Boston is still a solid defensive team, and with Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart on the floor without Jayson Tatum they have a + 12.7 net rating and opponents put up just 0.984 points per possession. The Celtics are in poor form, but this is a buy-low spot worth getting involved in.

Play: Celtics (+ 4.5)

Chicago Bulls (-3.5, 219) at Indiana Pacers

Five players, including Lonzo Ball, are in COVID protocol and Alex Caruso remains out with a foot sprain. It matters not for Chicago, which is still a road favorite if DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine are available. Indiana disappointed against Charlotte last time out, losing outright as a 2.5-point favorite and managing just 1.029 points per possession against the second-worst defense in the league. The Pacers are now dealing with a COVID outbreak on the roster, as four players were added to the protocols. Those players include Malcolm Brogdon and Chris Duarte, so an already thin backcourt loses even more depth with the news. Indiana is 2-5 SU and ATS in its last seven games with a -6.2 net rating and two of their most important backcourt pieces are unavailable. Call me jaded, but no way the Pacers are worth looking at here.

Dallas Mavericks at Sacramento Kings (-1, 217.5)

Luka Doncic remains in the COVID protocol with seven other Maverick players. Among the others are Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber, Trey Burke and Boban Marjanovic, making this team somewhat difficult to get a read on. Doncic has missed the last nine games and the Mavericks are 4-5 SU/5-4 ATS, but have outscored opponents by 5.7 points per 100 possessions. If that doesn’t illustrate how volatile this team is I don’t know what will. Jalen Brunson has filled in admirably as the team’s lead guard during this stretch, averaging 20.7 points and 7.3 assists on 50.4% shooting from the floor, but outside of him and Kristaps Porzingis there is not much offensive support. In their loss to Sacramento on Wednesday both Brunson and Porzingis combined for 49 points on 50.0% shooting from the floor. However, only one other Maverick scored in double-digits and only three players hit multiple 3-point attempts. Dallas still only lost the contest by a point, but there is too much volatility around this team to make a solid pre-flop handicap.

Miami Heat (-4.5, 215) at Houston Rockets

Jimmy Butler is questionable to play with an ankle sprain, but there are 13 other Heat players who are listed as out with either COVID or injury. In fact, the team’s last game against San Antonio was postponed due to a lack of player availability. Butler has played just three games in the last month, and he’s not had much run with the makeshift lineup that could be out there tonight for Miami. Houston only has four guys out in the COVID protocol, so it is not surprising to see the line shift ever so slightly to the home side here, but don’t expect me to get involved in this one. Again, there is way too much uncertainty around one side here to get an accurate read on this contest.

Atlanta Hawks at *Cleveland Cavaliers (-1, 215.5)

Atlanta also has 13 players listed as out with either COVID or injury, but the most important piece in Trae Young is back on the floor at least. Young has played the last two games, both against Chicago, and both were blowout losses in which the Hawks gave up 130 points and 1.299 points per possession. Given the limited personnel it is likely the poor defense shows up yet again today, but will the Cavaliers be able to take advantage? Cleveland fell and failed to cover in its first game without Ricky Rubio, and the offense managed just 1.0 point per possession. Darius Garland is not expected back until about Jan. 4, and while Jarrett Allen could return tonight his presence does nothing for this offense. Having said that, should Allen play this gives Cleveland its monster frontcourt pairing of Allen and Evan Mobley which will give them an edge over the short-handed Hawks. With those two on the floor together the Cavaliers allow 97.7 points per 100 possessions and 79.8 point per 100 plays in halfcourt situations. It’s why this team is favored, and should Allen return I would expect a bump in favor of the home team. 

Los Angeles Clippers at Toronto Raptors (-5.5, 210)

The hits just keep coming for Los Angeles, and the latest loss is a big one. Literally. Ivica Zubac is the latest addition to COVID protocol for the Clippers, meaning the team could be without four of its original starting five. There is hope though, as Reggie Jackson has been upgraded to questionable as he makes his way back from COVID and it seems likely he will be available. If that is the case the Clippers might be worth backing once more. Los Angeles flexed its defensive muscles in Boston on Wednesday night, limiting the Celtics to 0.932 points per possession and 0.624 points per play in the halfcourt. The team still has competent defenders in Eric Bledsoe, Serge Ibaka, Marcus Morris and Justise Winslow, and Luke Kennard has emerged as a consistent presence on offense. Toronto is as healthy and whole as it as ever been with both Precious Ahiuwa and Khem Birch probable to play, as well as Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Scottie Barnes, but just because they’re all back does not mean the continuity returns immediately. Also, it is important to remember that crowds in Toronto have been limited to just 1,000 people which makes homecourt potentially weaker for the Raptors. Overall, the Clippers proved to be undervalued the other day in Boston, and that looks to be the case once more here.

Play: Clippers (+ 6.5)

New York Knicks (-6, 206.5) at Oklahoma City Thunder

COVID has begun to make its way through the Knicks’ roster, and the latest addition to protocol is Julius Randle. In all, New York has seven guys listed out due to injury or COVID, but the most impactful are Randle and Nerlens Noel. The Knicks have won and covered three straight against less than stellar competition, but that does change much here against a short-handed Thunder team. Oklahoma City has six guys out with injury or COVID, and both Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kenrich Williams are questionable to play. With SGA and Williams in question and Josh Giddey still out it is easy to pass on this affair.

San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies (-6.5, 225.5)

Despite having eight players out due to COVID or injury the Memphis Grizzlies continue to deliver. They made a strong fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Lakers for their third consecutive win and improved to 11-4 SU in the month of December. Ja Morant has been his usual self since returning from injury, and in his last two games he’s totaled 74 points on 51.9% shooting from the floor to keep Memphis afloat. However, this number seems somewhat high considering the form of their opponent tonight. San Antonio lost to Utah last time out, but is still on a 4-0 ATS run and in December the team is 8-6 SU/10-4 ATS with a + 6.4 net rating and an offensive rating that is third-best in the league over that stretch. The Spurs are also relatively healthy, with Lonnie Walker being the only impactful player on the injury report as of this morning. This line has dropped from -6.5 for Memphis to -5 and I completely agree with the line move. The Grizzlies have delievered due to Morant’s greatness, but it’s hard to swallow points and need a 30+  point showing from a single player and expect to win regularly.

Minnesota Timberwolves at Utah Jazz (-10.5, 224)

When these two teams met last week the Jazz were -15 at close after Karl-Anthony Towns was ruled out with COVID. This number is much lower this time around, but for good reason. While Towns is still sidelined, Anthony Edwards could make his return tonight and Utah is resting Mike Conley while Joe Ingles is questionable to play. Minnesota showed its limitations in the loss to the Knicks on Wednesday night, and its surely going to be a challenge to score against Utah even with Edwards on the floor. It is not surprising to see the market push this back to -12.5 given the personnel issues for the Timberwolves but given the two potential absences for the Jazz, it could be another cover in Salt Lake City for Minnesota tonight should Edwards play.

Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers (-6, 229)

Eight players are out with injury or COVID for Portland, and among them are Robert Covington, CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons. It is why a team like Los Angeles, which is 1-6 SU/3-4 ATS in its last seven is laying such a large number. The Lakers have the second-worst net rating in the league over that stretch (-10.3) and they are an abysmal 5-12 ATS as a home favorite this season, showing the overvalued nature of this franchise in the market. However, it is not out of this world to think this team is in a better spot here tonight. LeBron James is probable to play and he continues to deliver. He comes into tonight on a run of six consecutive 30-point games, and is averaging 32.4 points, 10.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists during this slide. Should some of the other Lakers decide to show up this could be a get-right spot against Damien Lillard and a cast of no-names.

Best Bets Summary

Celtics (+ 4.5)

Clippers (+ 6.5)

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