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The NBA’s Thursday slate features an NBA on TNT primetime doubleheader when the Cleveland Cavaliers host the Memphis Grizzlies followed by the Los Angeles Clippers at the Milwaukee Bucks.
Not only do I have action on both Grizzlies-Cavaliers and Clippers-Bucks but I also took a shot at the New Orleans Pelicans vs. Dallas Mavericks matchup. Below are my handicaps and picks for all three.
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.)
Memphis Grizzlies (32-19) at Cleveland Cavaliers (31-22), 7:30 p.m. ET
The Grizzlies won their 1st meeting with the Cavaliers this season 115-114 at home just 15 days ago (Jan. 18). They eked over the 227-point total by just 2 points but Cleveland was without All-Star SG Donovan Mitchell.
The 1st two quarters of Grizzlies-Cavaliers last month trended Over the total and both in the 2nd half went Under the total. Both teams made defensive adjustments mid-game and I like those adjustments to carryover into this matchup.
Also, casual bettors might see Grizzlies-Cavaliers went Over the total sans Mitchell and think “Cleveland’s offense will have even more success in this meeting”.
But, the Cavs only score 1.6 more points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time when Mitchell is on the floor, per CleaningTheGlass.com (CTG). Mitchell ranks in the 68% of combo guards in adjusted on/off net rating (nRTG).
Grizzlies SG Desmond Bane was “questionable” to play Wednesday in the 1st of Memphis’s back-to-back (B2B) so I wouldn’t be surprised if Bane sat Thursday.
Even if Bane plays, Memphis’s struggles offensively on the road. The Grizzlies are 20th in non-garbage time offensive rating on the road, per CTG.
They are 4th in adjusted defensive rating in away games though. Plus Memphis’ offensive rating ranks just 26th in the NBA over the past two weeks, according to CTG.
The injury to Steven Adams hurts the Grizzlies’ offense more than their defense. Per CTG, Memphis scores 8.1 more points per 100 possessions when Adams is in the game.
Memphis is 2-5 Over/Under (O/U) on the 2nd of a B2B this season with a -7.1 O/U margin. Cleveland is 5-8 O/U when playing with a rest advantage with a -6.1 O/U margin.
The Cavaliers’ 3rd-best defensive rebounding rate and will help them control the pace. Cleveland plays at the slowest pace in the NBA as well.
Slowing down the pace would be terrible for the Grizzlies. They rank just 23rd in points per 100 half-court plays run, per CTG.
Sharp money is hitting on the Under. DraftKings Sportsbook is reporting via VSIN that 80% of the bets placed are on the Over but the total has ticked down from a 226-point look-ahead.
It’s kinda corny to say “the sportsbooks are laying a trap” yet they are definitely “booking faces”. This means oddsmakers are adjusting the lines according to WHO is betting instead of what team is getting action.
NBA Best Bet #1: UNDER 223.5 in Grizzlies-Cavaliers (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook, down to 223
New Orleans Pelicans (26-26) at Dallas Mavericks (27-25), 8:30 p.m. ET
Four of the last five Pelicans-Mavericks meetings have gone Over the total including three consecutive, two of which were this season.
Mavs All-Star Luka Doncic is averaging 35.5 points per game (PPG) in those two games vs. the Pelicans with 10.5 rebounds and 8.5 assists.
New Orleans is 12-4 O/U as road ‘dogs in 2022-23 with a +3.9 O/U margin. While Dallas is 16-8 O/U as home favorites with a +2.9 O/U margin.
The Mavericks are shooting 40.8% from behind the arc vs. the Pelicans in their six meetings since the beginning of last season. That should continue Wednesday.
Dallas is 3rd in offensive wide-open 3-point-attempt rate (3PAr) because its opponents are overly concerned with Luka. And rightfully so. NOLA is 7th in defensive wide-open 3PAr.
“Wide-open 3s” are defined by the shooter having at least six feet worth of distance from the nearest defender. The Pelicans don’t close out on 3s because they have to make up for weak interior defense.
According to CTG, the Pelicans have the worst defensive field goal rate vs. shots at the rim. But, they are 7th in shot frequency at the rim and 8th in paint PPG.
Dallas’s frontcourt defense is nothing to write home about. The Mavericks are without two bigs: Christian Wood and Maxi Kleber.
Between Dallas’s small frontcourt and New Orleans’ giving up good looks from 3, both offenses should have success Wednesday.
NBA Best Bet #2: OVER 223 in Pelicans-Mavericks (-110) at DraftKings, up to 225
Los Angeles Clippers (29-25) at Milwaukee Bucks (34-17), 10 p.m. ET
I just cannot help myself with this f***ing Clippers team. I’m ready for them to hurt me again. As long as the Clippers are at full strength, they’ll be my No. 1 power-rated team in the NBA.
Neither Kawhi Leonard nor Paul George are on LAC’s injury report. The Clippers win-loss record is a disappointment compared to preseason expectations but Kawhi and PG are ballin’ when available.
Leonard has a +14.2 adjusted on/off nRTG and George is +13.0, according to CTG. Kawhi is in the 99% of wings in this metric and PG is in the 98%.
Clippers 3-point specialist Luke Kennard recently returned to action. Kennard has a +7.6 adjusted on/off nRTG and LAC’s effective field goal shooting improves by 3.1% when Kennard is on the floor.
LAC’s improved health is showing in their results. Over the past two weeks, the Clippers are 6-1 straight up (SU) and 5-2 against the spread (ATS).
The Clippers have the 3rd-best adjusted nRTG (+6.0) and 2nd-best ATS margin (+7.4) in that span, according to CTG.
Finally, according to Pregame.com, this is a Pros vs. Joes game in the consensus market. Roughly 55% of the money is on the Clippers whereas more than 60% of the bets placed are on the Bucks.
Typically, it’s smart to follow the money when it’s counter to the public because professional bettors wager a lot more dough than you or I.
NBA Best Bet #3: Clippers +4.5 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook, down to +3.5
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