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Now that the NFL season is wrapping up, the NBA begins to take centerstage on the weekends. The Association has three primetime games scheduled Saturday, two of which I’m betting.
Below, I’ll handicap and make bets for three NBA games for the New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers at Atlanta Hawks, and Los Angeles Lakers at Boston Celtics.
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.)
New York Knicks (27-23) at Brooklyn Nets (29-19), 5:30 p.m. ET
The Nets crushed the Knicks 112-85 as 3.5-point home favorites in their first meeting this season on Nov. 9. Brooklyn was missing All-Star Kyrie Irving who was suspended for reasons I don’t even want to get into.
But, that was a different NYK team. It was before Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau cut veteran SG Evan Fournier’sand PG Derrick Rose’s minutes and completely took SG Cam Reddish out of the lineup.
Thibs replaced those minutes with combo guard Immanuel Quickley and SG Quentin Grimes. Quickley leads the Knicks with a +11.5 non-garbage time on/off net rating (nRTG), according to CleaningTheGlass.com (CTG).
Grimes has a +3.8 non-garbage time on/off nRTG. NYK wing R.J. Barrett was awful early this season. Barrett has turned it around though and January is his best month in points per game (22.0 PPG) and offensive rating (114).
Nets All-Star Kevin Durant destroyed the Knicks and is still sidelined with an injury. KD put up a triple-double (29-12-12) and had a +61 nRTG vs. NYK earlier this season.
Also, Nets PG Ben Simmons is “questionable” to play and backup wing T.J. Warren is listed as “doubtful”. These absences could loom large for a Brooklyn squad without its best player.
Durant is their leader in non-garbage time on/off nRTG, according to CTG. KD has been out for the past eight games. Brooklyn is 2-6 straight up (SU) and 3-5 against the spread (ATS) over that span.
The Knicks are 7-3 ATS vs. teams with a winning record. But, even if we agree that the Nets aren’t the same without KD, NYK is still 6-1 ATS in their last seven visits to Brooklyn.
NBA Best Bet #1: Knicks (+100) moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook, up to -125 before laying up to -2.5 with NYK
Los Angeles Clippers (27-24) at Atlanta Hawks (25-24), 7:30 p.m. ET
The Hawks upset the Clippers 112-108 as 2.5-point road ‘dogs in LA earlier this month in their first meeting this season.
However, LAC was missing two starters and important pieces in their offense: Paul George and SG Luke Kennard. Both of whom are active for this meeting in Atlanta.
George has a +11.5 adjusted on/off nRTG (2nd on LAC) and Kennard has a +8.3 adjusted on/off nRTG (4th), per CTG. PG is effectively LAC’s point guard while Kennard is a sharpshooter who provides ultimate floor-spacing.
Clippers PF Marcus Morris Sr. is “questionable” to play and that would be “addition by subtraction” for them. Morris has a -2.2 adjusted on/off nRTG and his backup, PF Nicolas Batum, has a +9.4 adjusted on/off nRTG (3rd).
Even though Morris is in LAC’s starting 5, I’d actually prefer if they gave him the night off. Also, the 1st Clippers-Hawks game this season was an off-night for both Kawhi Leonard and wing Norman Powell.
Kawhi scored 29 points but it was on an inefficient 39.1% shooting. Whereas Powell hit just 3-of-13 shots for 14 points. Since then, Leonard hasn’t shot worse than 50.0% from the field in any of his eight games played.
Leonard is averaging 29.0 PPG over that span on 59.0% shooting (44.7% from behind the arc). Powell has balled since that game too. He is scoring 21.2 PPG on 53.6% shooting (54.4% from 3) in just 27.3 minutes per game off the bench.
Powell is part of the reason the Clippers have a lot more depth than the Hawks. LAC’s bench averages 11.0 PPG more than Atlanta’s (42.4-31.4 PPG).
At the end of the day, this price is too reasonable to pass up. I expect the Clippers to be a contender by season’s end and the Hawks to be a play-in team.
(Buyer beware though because I’ve whiffed with LAC several times this season.)
NBA Best Bet #2: Clippers -110 moneyline at DraftKings, up to -130 before laying up to -3 with LAC
Los Angeles Lakers (23-26) at Boston Celtics (35-15), 8:30 p.m. ET
Boston eked past the Lakers 120-116 in overtime in LA on Dec. 13. Celtics-Lakers bettors chopped vs. the closing line of Boston -4. Anthony Davis and LeBron James combined for 70 points on 55.1% shooting vs. the Celtics earlier this season.
They were outgunned by Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum who scored a game-high 44 points on 51.7% shooting (50.0% from 3-point land). Boston All-Star Jaylen Brown chipped in another 25 points.
The Celtics enter Saturday on a 3-game losing skid and are 0-5 ATS in the last five games. The Lakers have won three of four (3-1 ATS) including Davis’s 1st game back from injury Wednesday vs. the Spurs.
AD was out from December 28 to January 24 and now that he is back in the lineup, I actually think the Lakers can compete for a playoff spot. Davis was dominating pre-injury and LeBron has been getting buckets all season.
He is averaging 27.2 PPG on a career-high 59.0% shooting with a career-high 12.1 rebounds per game and 2.2 blocks. If that AD returns to the Lakers, look out Western Conference.
LeBron is 158 points away from breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record and Celtics-Lakers is a primetime game.
I’m looking forward to a vintage LeBron game vs. the Eastern Conference champion. The Lakers have a higher net shot quality, per CTG, and they attempt the highest rate of field goals at the rim.
Celtics defensive big Robert Williams III appeared to tweak something in an alley-oop vs. the Knicks Thursday. If Williams isn’t 100%, the Lakers could have a lot of success in the paint Saturday.
NBA Best Bet #3: Lakers +7 (-110) at DraftKings, down to +6
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