Thursday's 3-game NBA card is complete garbage and can only be made better with gambling. The Association probably doesn't even realize how much sports betting helps its product.
Maybe the NBA doesn't want to compete with Thursday Night Football or maybe it's a league-wide "load management" night. Either way, I've got a couple of bets in the Nets-Trail Blazers and Spurs-Kings meetings Thursday.
Brooklyn Nets (6-9) at Portland Trail Blazers (10-4)
This is the first meeting between Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard since 2019 while Durant was still playing for the Warriors.
The Trail Blazers have won four of their past five games -- 4-1 against the spread (ATS) -- with a 117-110 win vs. the Spurs Tuesday following a six-game road stand.
Brooklyn is in the last of a four-game West Coast trip. The Nets are 1-2 straight up (SU) and ATS in the first three games and have lost back-to-back to the Lakers and Kings entering Thursday.
Trail Blazers crush bad defenses
The Nets rank 22nd in non-garbage time defensive rating, according to CleaningTheGlass.com (CTG). Rebounding is the major reason why their defense ranks so poorly.
Brooklyn is dead-last in rebounding rate and 23rd in second-chance points per game allowed. The Nets are 28th in defensive 3-point shooting percentage and 20th in defensive FT/FGA rate.
Granted, it's a small sample size, but the Trail Blazers are 4-0 SU vs. teams with bottom-10 defenses, per CTG. Portland has a +12.8 adjusted net rating (nRTG) in those games (ranked second) and a +12.0 ATS margin (first).
Furthermore, the Trail Blazers are third in 3-point shooting percentage and second in offensive FT/FGA rate.
Portland gets better looks
Per CTG, Portland's shot quality ranks fourth in the NBA whereas Brooklyn's ranks 27th. Some of this is due to the Nets not closing out defensive possessions with rebounds. Most putback or second-shot attempts are easy shots.
The Nets attempt the fourth-highest rate of mid-range field goals and the Trail Blazers are 3rd in defensive field goal percentage vs. mid-range jumpers. Both teams run a high frequency of isolation offense but Portland's defensive efficiency vs. iso-ball is ranked fourth.
NBA Best Bet #1: Trail Blazers -2 (-115) at DraftKings Sportsbook, up to -3
San Antonio Spurs (6-9) at Sacramento Kings (7-6)
Most casual NBA bettors would stay away from the Kings as a 7-point favorite. But, Sacramento will win by margin here because both teams play at a breakneck speed and San Antonio cannot stop anyone.
In fact, the Spurs rank seventh in pace, the Kings are eighth in pace and both teams have a bottom-five defensive rating. However, Sacramento has the second-most efficient offense in the NBA.
According to CTG, San Antonio is 1-4 SU vs. top-10 offenses with a -13.5 non-garbage time nRTG (29th) and a -6.4 ATS margin (25th).
When these teams face bottom-10 defenses, the Spurs are 1-3 SU with a -16.3 non-garbage time nRTG (30th) and a -9.0 ATS margin (29th). Whereas the Kings are 3-2 SU with a +5.4 non-garbage time nRTG (12th) and a +10.0 ATS margin (third).
On top of that, San Antonio gives up too many easy buckets. The Spurs allow the second-most points off of turnovers per game and the second-most paint points per game (PPG).
Finally, the Spurs have the worst transition defensive efficiency in the NBA and allow the second-most fastbreak PPG. The Kings get out in transition at the fifth-highest rate and score the fifth-most fastbreak PPG.