NBA Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Friday, December 23rd

By Jonathan Von Tobel  (Senior NBA Analyst) 

December 23, 2022 10:44 AM
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Welcome to the daily NBA best bets page, your source for analysis on the betting lines for the day in professional hoops. For updates throughout the day follow me on Twitter, and make sure to subscribe to the Hardwood Handicappers podcast!

All game lines via the VSiN NBA odds page

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

**Lines are opening numbers

Best Bets

Record: 31-38 | Units: -8.02 | ROI: -11.95%

Los Angeles Clippers at Philadelphia 76ers (-3, 216.5)

Considering recent form, this could very well be a preview of the NBA Finals. Los Angeles comes into this game on a solid 5-2 SU/6-1 ATS run, most of which transpired at home. Much of the success is due to the more frequent availability of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. In fact, in games that Leonard plays the Clippers are 10-2 SU/8-4 ATS this season. With Leonard and George on the floor together, something that will happen tonight with both available, Los Angeles is outscoring opponents by 21.8 points per 100 possessions much of which is due to a 94.6 defensive rating in those possessions. This will be the ultimate test for a Clippers team which I believe to be rounding into the form we all expected them to take this season.

Meanwhile, the 76ers have found their own stride during this homestand which concludes with this contest tonight. Philadelphia is 6-0 SU/5-1 ATS in these games with a +14.9 net rating in non-garbage time. This run coincides with James Harden’s return, which has boosted this offense’s output to 117.4 points per 100 possessions in the games he has played. However, five of the six opponents Philadelphia has faced during this homestand rank 18th or lower in non-garbage time defensive efficiency, and by all accounts Los Angeles is an elite defensive team rounding into form.

This is a meeting between two teams I believe to be great candidates for bettors to buy low on in the futures market. The 76ers can be an incredible offensive team, and they are still not fully healthy as Tyrese Maxey is still sidelined. Meanwhile, as the Clippers get regular availability from Leonard and George they continue to put forth elite numbers that can put them among the best in the NBA. Tonight, I believe Los Angeles has the edge with its defensive play and will be backing them. This will be a massive step up in competition for Philadelphia, which has been able to pick on some of the weakest defenses in the league during this run.

Play: Clippers (+3.5)

Best Bet Recap

Clippers (+3.5)

The Rest

*San Antonio Spurs at Orlando Magic (-6.5, 227.5)

Orlando has covered nine straight and is 7-2 SU over the course of those contests. The Magic’s defense continues to thrive during this run, allowing only 109.3 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time. The team could be getting healthier today as well, with both Wendell Carter Jr. and Gary Harris being upgraded to questionable. Meanwhile, San Antonio was dispatched by New Orleans last night and will likely be without leading scorer Keldon Johnson for a third straight game. Not surprisingly, this line is now -7 across the board, and unless Johnson plays I would not expect it to head back toward the Spurs.

Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers (-4.5, 215.5)

Cleveland continued its dominant home run by dismantling Milwaukee on Wednesday night, and they look to continue that tonight against Toronto. The Cavaliers are now 16-2 SU/14-4 ATS at home this season, and they come into this game on a 5-0 SU run. The Raptors have covered their last two games, snapping the Knicks’ win streak last time out, but it will be interesting how their offense looks tonight. Cleveland is one of the defenses in the league in both halfcourt and transition settings. Toronto might be a great transition offense, but this halfcourt offense ranks 28th in offensive efficiency (90.5). The Cavaliers should be able to limit their opportunities in transition, and as a result, force them into inefficient halfcourt possessions. The market has not taken a side on this, but the total has dipped to 214.5 in a few shops. Until jumping in on Cleveland do make sure to confirm Evan Mobley’s status, as he is questionable to play. 

Chicago Bulls at New York Knicks (-5.5, 225.5)

New York had its 8-0 SU and ATS run snapped on Wednesday by Toronto, and now it hosts Chicago which it has owned so far this season. The Knicks are 2-0 SU and ATS against the Bulls, outscoring them by 15.2 points per 100 possessions across the two games in Chicago. The Bulls have found some consistency since then, and come in on the back of two straight wins and covers against Miami and Atlanta. If the result is going to be different this time around Chicago has to be better defensively. The Bulls gave up 1.192 points per possession in the two losses and allowed the Knicks to grab 36.0% of their missed shots. Alex Caruso will also miss this game due to injury, which does not help Chicago on the defensive end of the floor. The market has knocked the hook off this line, but that is about all the movement we have seen early.

Detroit Pistons at Atlanta Hawks (-9, 233)

Despite getting back both Dejounte Murray and John Collins the results have not come for Atlanta. They have dropped both games and their inconsistencies have appeared yet again. In the win over Orlando they failed to cover because they blew a 12-point lead in the last three minutes by giving up a 13-0 run and 1.24 points per possession. Atlanta then went to Chicago and put up 1.05 points per possession against a poor defensive team and lost. Detroit is in relatively poor form recently, allowing over 1.2 points per possession in five of the last six games, but there is no real way to gauge which version of Atlanta is going to show up on a nightly basis. 

Minnesota Timberwolves at Boston Celtics (-9, 232.5)

Regression has hit the Boston Celtics in a big way. The team is 1-5 SU/0-5-1 ATS in its last six games, and its offense has fallen off a cliff. In the first two months of the season the Celtics were averaging 123.0 points per 100 possessions while shooting 41.4% from beyond the arc, but during this six-game slide their offensive rating is 107.4 and their shooting has plummeted to 32.0%. These things will likely correct themselves to a certain extent, but bettors are getting no discounts betting on them to break out of this slump. There are also some injuries to consider here. Marcus Smart is questionable with a non-COVID illness, and both Rudy Gobert and Kyle Anderson are questionable for Minnesota. This line ranges from 8.5 to 9.5 depending on where you shop, so anyone who wants to get involved should get the best number available.

*New Orleans Pelicans at Oklahoma City Thunder (-2, 232)

New Orleans put down San Antonio last night, but it did give up 42 points and 1.68 points per possession in the fourth quarter. That might be something, or it might be nothing. Regardless, it will have to be better tonight against Oklahoma City, which can get up and down the floor with the best of the league. Brandon Ingram will remain sidelined with his toe injury tonight, and Zion Williamson has been in COVID protocol which means he will likely miss this game. The Thunder have covered five of six, but this number does stick out. Let’s say this homecourt regression we’ve seen this month is real. Is Oklahoma City equal to New Orleans without Ingram and Williamson? That is the question bettors must ask themselves tonight.

Dallas Mavericks (-5.5, 221.5) at Houston Rockets

Dallas has shown slightly more consistency lately, but this is still one of the worst cover teams in the league at 11-19-2 ATS (36.7%). The Mavericks have shown some slippage defensively lately, allowing 116.6 points per 100 possessions to its last six opponents, so tonight will be a test of that regression. Houston has been terrible on offense, and its offensive rating over the last seven games (105.4) is much worse than its season long rating (109.2) which ranks 28th in the league. Dallas is pretty beat up coming into tonight, which might change the mind of those looking to back it. Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, Kemba Walker and Josh Green are all out tonight. That is a great amount of personnel for an already thin team.

Indiana Pacers at Miami Heat (-6.5, 225)

Jimmy Butler is expected to be back on the floor for Miami tonight, but that should not be enough for bettors to get behind the Heat tonight. The market has been stubbornly high on Miami this season, and after consistently failing to meet those expectations the team enters this game with a league worst 10-21-1 ATS (32.3%) record. Meanwhile, Indiana has found some more stable ground with covers in three of four, including a massive road win in Boston on Wednesday night. However, an injury report with Tyrese Haliburton and Aaron Nesmith among others leaves this game in doubt from the Pacers’ standpoint. 

Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets (-5, 234)

Two weeks ago these two teams met in Portland, and the Nuggets grabbed a thrilling road win. It was a high-scoring affair that had under 100 possessions for both teams, but it went well over the total due to poor defensive play on both ends of the floor. It is hard to make a case for anything else tonight, as these teams come into this game ranked 24th (Portland) and 25th (Denver) in non-garbage time defensive efficiency. Having said that, the market did open extremely high on the total here. When these two teams met in Portland the closing total was 227.5 and this opening number of 234 is obviously six points higher than that. Should pace remain the same and the efficiency dip one could make a case for the Under based solely on the opening number which the market has, as this is down to 232.5 at a few shops. Jamal Murray is questionable to play tonight as well, and his absence would push this total down even more.

Memphis Grizzlies (-2, 226) at Phoenix Suns

How real are the road struggles of the Memphis Grizzlies? The Grizzlies were in Denver on Tuesday and got blown out by the Nuggets to fall to 6-9 SU/3-10-2 ATS away from home. They are failing to cover road games by 7.3 points per game, the second worst rate in the league. However, this could be a spot to exorcize some road demons. Phoenix is going to be without Devin Booker and Cam Payne tonight, and both Jock Landale and Josh Okogie are questionable. The Suns are getting thinner by the day, but the results are not necessarily negative, as they come into this game 3-1 SU and ATS in their last four. The market is up to 2.5 in favor of Memphis here, but until they show some consistency in these settings there is little reason to lay points on the road with them, even against a beleaguered team like Phoenix.

Charlotte Hornets at Los Angeles Lakers (-4, 235)

Russell Westbrook should be back on the floor for Los Angeles after getting the night off in Sacramento on Wednesday. This will obviously be a boon for the Lakers which come into this game with a 3-6 SU/2-6-1 ATS record in their last nine games. Los Angeles has had some issues defending during this slide, allowing opponents to average 117.0 points per 100 possessions and 1.313 points per play in transition. That matters tonight against Charlotte, which will try to push the pace and score in the fastbreak. The Hornets are hardly in good form themselves, coming into this game on a 1-8 SU/4-5 ATS slide over which they have been outscored by 10.3 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time, the worst net rating in the league over that span. The market is down to 3.5 here despite Terry Rozier potentially being in line to miss his third consecutive game.

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