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The biggest NBA regular-season matchup to date tips off on ABC Saturday when the Boston Celtics visit the Golden State Warriors in an NBA Finals rematch. Below, I’ll handicap and give a pick for the Celtics-Warriors, Clippers-Wizards, and Thunder-Cavaliers.
Los Angeles Clippers (14-13) at Washington Wizards (11-15)
We’re rolling with the Clippers in the first half when they visit the Wizards at Capital One Arena for a 7 p.m. ET tip-off.
This exact bet was 0-2 last season but, to be fair, LAC was missing its two best players. That leads me to my first factor in this Clippers-Wizards handicap …
The Clippers have more depth
LAC’s bench is averaging an NBA-high 42.3 points per game (PPG) while D.C. is ranked 20th with 17.9 PPG. The Clippers’ bench is getting stronger.
Clippers All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George recently returned to action as did SG Luke Kennard. Washington’s bench on the other hand should be getting weaker.
Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal has been ruled out already and has missed the last two games. Once these teams play their second units, the Clippers should smoke the Wizards.
Furthermore, it’s a …
John Wall ‘Revenge Game’
Motivation is at an all-time low in the NBA. You have to pounce on rare motivational spots in regular-season NBA action. This is Wall’s third game vs. his former team and he balled out in the other two.
Last season, Wall put up 26.5 PPG with a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in two meetings with the Wizards while playing for the Houston Rockets.
Clippers starting PG Reggie Jackson is getting a “rest” day so Wall is in the starting 5 Saturday. D.C. has one of the worst defenses in the NBA, especially in the backcourt.
Wall is going to blow past the Wizards’ defenders and continue the recent trend of …
LAC jumping out to early leads
Over the past five games, the Clippers are 4-1 against the spread (ATS) in the first half. Whereas the Wizards are 1-4 ATS over that span.
LAC has a +5.3 straight up (SU) first-half margin over the last three games and D.C. has a -8.3 SU first-half margin.
I’m looking at the short-term because basketball is a streaky sport, the Clippers just got back their two All-Stars and the Wizards just lost their lone All-Star.
NBA Best Bet #1: Clippers -3 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Boston Celtics (21-5) at Golden State Warriors (13-13)
I have to hold a major L. I thought that Ime Udoka shit would matter and it doesn’t. The Celtics are crushing teams. Boston dismantled the Phoenix Suns Thursday in a game that was a lot worse than the 125-98 final score indicates.
The only game the Celtics has lost in their last nine was to Miami 120-116 in overtime Dec. 2. It took a sensational performance from Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler and it was the second of a Celtcs-Heat back-to-back. It’s not too late to reverse course on Boston.
Perhaps I’m buying high but the Celtics are playing angry. Their recent victims include the Heat, Mavericks and Kings and three straight road games at the Nets, Raptors and Suns. All of these teams were .500 or better.
Credit goes to Celtics All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown first and foremost. All of their teammates have chipped in and found a role.
The Warriors are missing SF Andrew Wiggins. Aside from Draymond Green, this is the worst injury for Golden State here. The fact of the matter is Tatum and Brown can get whatever they want Saturday.
Also, the counterpoints to this handicap are obvious. The public is hammering Boston. This is a Warriors’ home game and they are the defending champions.
The Celtics are public favorites in a primetime game and we know how the public does vs. sportsbooks in those spots. I’ll add to that by stating this is the best version of Steph Curry we’ve ever seen.
Based on how well the Celtics are playing compared to how mediocre the Warriors have been, I’ll roll the dice with Boston.
NBA Best Bet #2: Celtics -2.5 (-115) at DraftKings Sportsbook, up to -3
Oklahoma City (11-14) at Cleveland Cavaliers
Buyer beware: OKC is a strong road ‘dog (9-2 ATS), Cavs leading scorer Donovan Mitchell is listed as “questionable” on the injury report, and Cleveland lost last night (Friday) to the Kings sans Mitchell.
That said, the Cavaliers are 9-2-1 ATS at home with a +5.8 ATS margin and throttle bad offenses and the Thunder are 21st in offensive rating.
Per CleaningTheGlass.com (CTG), Cleveland is 10-1 SU vs. bottom-10 offenses with a +14.3 non-garbage time net rating (ranked first) and +8.4 ATS margin (first).
Over the past two weeks, OKC is dead-last in non-garbage time offensive rating, per CTG. Cleveland leads the NBA in defensive rating for the season. The Cavs’ defense is a bad matchup for the Thunder.
Cleveland bigs Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley are the reason the Cavs allow the second-fewest paint PPG. OKC averages the most drives per game but don’t have the shooting to pull Cleveland’s bigs out of the paint.
Finally, the Cavaliers have a significant edge over the Thunder on the glass. Cleveland is sixth in rebounding rate and second in second-chance PPG allowed. OKC is 27th in rebounding rate and 29th in second-chance PPG allowed.
NBA Best Bet #3: Cavaliers -5 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook, up to -5.5
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