I'm gambling angry Wednesday after a second-straight losing day betting on the NBA. Instead of being down in the dumps, I'm going to demolish the Association tonight. Or at least I hope to.
Below, I break down and make picks for the Pacers-Magic, Hawks-Thunder, and Timberwolves-Pelicans. Also, I'll explain why the OVER LeBron James' point prop vs. the Spurs is a good look.
You can listen to the audio versions of these handicaps on my recently launched NBA Hoops At Lunch show on the OutKick Bets Podcast feed Monday-Friday.
(Word to the wise: It’s the “load management” era in the NBA and random injury news. NBA players are sitting out more games. It would behoove you to wait until the final injury reports before betting.)
Indiana Pacers (24-25) at Orlando Magic (18-29)
The Pacers are 2-0 straight up but just 1-1 against the spread (ATS) vs. the Magic this season. Indiana got a bogus win Tuesday over the Chicago Bulls and sharps know it.
Per both VSIN and Pregame.com, the public is nearly split 50/50 on how to bet this game. Nearly 75% of the cash is on the Magic at the time of writing.
This is your quintessential Pros vs. Joe’s game. Typically, it’s wise to follow the money when it’s counter to the public because professional bettors place a lot bigger wagers than your average Joe.
The reason for Magic love in the market is because they are the healthiest they’ve been all season. Orlando wing Jonathan Isaac returned to the floor after being sidelined with an injury since the COVID Bubble in 2020.
The Magic are starting a legitimate backcourt now that PG Markelle Fultz and SG Gary Harris Jr. are finally healthy. Orlando is deep in the frontcourt with several bigs to clog the paint.
Magic wing, and No. 1 overall pick, Paolo Banchero, is already the best player on the floor, with a possible exception to Pacers big Myles Turner.
It’s rare for Orlando to be this big of a favorite and it suggests the sportsbooks want pro-Indiana money. Since 2021, the Magic have been greater than -4 at home in just three games. They are 2-1 SU but just 1-2 ATS.
NBA Best Bet #1: Magic -6 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook, up to -6.5
Atlanta Hawks (24-24) at Oklahoma City Thunder (23-24)
The Thunder took down the Hawks 121-114 in Atlanta in their 1st meeting this season, on Dec. 5. OKC outperformed Atlanta in three of the “four factors”.
Thunder PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (SGA) beat Hawks PG Trae Young at his own game. Trae spends a lot of time at the foul line but SGA went 15-for-15 from the charity stripe in OKC’s win earlier this season.
Atlanta has an inefficient offense and OKC is 9th in defensive rating. Per CleaningTheGlass.com (CTG), the Hawks are 6-11 SU vs. top-10 defenses with a -4.5 adjusted nRTG ranked 20th.
The Hawks are 28th in shot quality as well and lead the NBA in mid-range field-goal-attempt rate. The Thunder average by far the most drives to the basket per game. OKC is 3rd in paint points per game (PPG) and Atlanta 26th in paint PPG allowed.
Over the past two weeks, the Thunder are 2nd in adjusted nRTG, 2nd in defensive rating, and 1st in ATS margin. OKC is 15-8 ATS at home this season and 9-5 ATS as a home ‘dog with a +8.0 ATS margin.
(Buyer beware: OKC has a poor ATS record in the -2.5 to +2.5 corridor).
NBA Best Bet #2: Thunder +1.5 (-105) at DraftKings, down to pick 'em
Minnesota Timberwolves (24-25) at New Orleans Pelicans (26-22)
Surprise, surprise New Orleans has the worst non-garbage time offensive rating in the NBA over the past two weeks, per CTG. It’s pretty easy to explain why: NOLA was missing its two All-Stars, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.
They have lost five consecutive games including Tuesday vs. the Nuggets, 99-98. NOLA is 2-4 SU and ATS on the second of a back-to-back (B2B) this season.
The Pelicans beat the T-Wolves 119-118 at home in their first meeting this season on Dec. 28. Zion played in that game and dropped 43 on 14-of-21 shooting.
Ingram and Williamson lead the Pelicans in adjusted on/off net rating (nRTG). But, Ingram is set to make his return to action Wednesday.
There is chance that Ingram has to knock off ring rust and/or just be less effective in his first game back. Ingram’s main gift is scoring and if he’s not scoring but is eating up usage then that could hurt the Pelicans as a whole.
Timberwolves wing Anthony Edwards is having his best season by points per game (24.3 PPG), field goal shooting (45.8%), 3-point shooting (36.7%), rebounds (6.0), and assists (4.4).
I like how Edwards is playing lately and I project he has a strong end to the season. Edwards scored 27 points vs. NOLA earlier this season and he has one of the highest usage rates in the NBA.
Minnesota is 2nd in shot quality in the NBA, per CTG, and takes a high volume of shots at the rim. NOLA has the worst defensive field goal percentage vs. field goal attempts at the rim.
Finally, the T-Wolves have covered five of their past six visits to New Orleans.
NBA Best Bet #3: Timberwolves +3 (-110) at DraftKings, down to +2.5
Memphis Grizzlies (31-16) at Golden State Warriors (23-24)
This is a spite bet. Memphis sat All-Star Ja Morant out of its last game at the Sacramento Kings, most likely in anticipation of this game against the Warriors. Memphis overlooking the Kings is my problem with the Grizzlies.
They act like they’ve been there before and Memphis hasn’t. When asked about which team he was most afraid of in the middle of December, Ja said the “Celtics” and that he wasn’t afraid of anyone in the West.
The Warriors rightfully waxed the Grizzlies on Christmas 123-109 without Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins. Now that Golden State is at full strength, those other guys get a chance to little brother Memphis.
Don’t overlook the injury to Grizzlies big Steven Adams. He’s the reason Memphis is one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA. Without Adams on the floor, the Warriors are going to own the boards.
Warriors big Kevon Looney grabbed 22 rebounds in Golden State’s close-out series win over Memphis last year in the playoffs.
Fellow OutKick writer, local Tennessean and Grizzlies fan, Mark Harris reminded me of something early Wednesday morning. The Grizzlies suck on the West Coast and are 0-3 SU on their current road trip.
This season, Memphis is 5-11 SU (-5.8 SU margin) and 2-13-1 ATS (-9.4 spread differential) on the road vs. Western Conference foes.
Lastly, the Warriors blew a double-digit first-half lead in a 120-116 home loss to the Nets in their previous outing. Klay Thompson went 0-for-7 from 3 and it was Golden State’s 1st home game back from a 5-game road swing.
The bottom line is the Warriors won’t lose two straight at home. Golden State is 14-8-1 ATS at home and Memphis is 1-4 ATS in its last five visits to the Bay Area.
NBA Best Bet #4: Warriors -3 (-115) at DraftKings, up to -4
San Antonio Spurs (14-33) at Los Angeles Lakers (22-26)
LeBron is 178 points away from breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record. Here’s the thing: The Lakers start a 5-game road trip Saturday and play at the Garden vs. the New York Knicks Tuesday, Feb. 2.
LAL has three road games before that visit to New York and their next two road games are at the Pacers and Pelicans. You know LeBron wants to break the record at the Mecca of Basketball.
He is averaging 35.0 PPG this month on 51.8% shooting and went off for 46 Tuesday vs. the Clippers. LeBron has scored 31 or more points in just 18 of his 38 games this season.
However, LeBron has gone Over 30.5 points in seven of his 10 games in Jan and his usage is the highest its been all season this month (36.7%).
Also, this is the second of a B2B for the Lakers and LeBron balls on no rest. This season, LeBron is averaging 37.8 PPG on the second of a B2B on 69.4% true shooting (.548/.455/.944).
In two games vs. the Spurs this season, LeBron is averaging just 30.0 PPG but he’s done so on 67.9% true shooting (.500/.500/1.000).
LeBron scored 21 against San Antonio on Nov. 25 and 39 the next night. If LeBron keeps his usage up, he should soar Over 30.5 points Wednesday vs. the Spurs.
(Buyer beware: Anthony Davis is set to make his return to action Wednesday so LeBron’s usage could drop. The angle of breaking Kareem’s record at MSG is strong enough to get down on LeBron’s scoring prop but AD’s return dings that. Proceed with caution and only put a half-unit on this line).