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The NBA Friday slate is absolutely loaded since the Association takes Christmas Eve off every year and only 10 teams play this Christmas. My favorite gambling looks are in Clippers-76ers, Bucks-Nets, Trail Blazers-Nuggets, and Hornets-Lakers.
Wait for the final injury reports to be released before placing a bet because more and more NBA players are sitting games out nowadays.
Los Angeles Clippers (19-14) at Philadelphia 76ers (18-12)
As of early Friday evening, neither Clippers All-Stars Kawhi Leonard nor Paul George is on LAC’s injury report. If Kawhi and PG are in the lineup, the Clippers are almost an auto-bet for me.
Apparently, the public disagrees. According to VSIN, nearly 75% of the money at DraftKings is on the 76ers at the time of writing. I’ll happily fade the public with LAC at full strength.
When Kawhi and PG are on the floor together, the Clippers score 21.8 more points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time, which is the best 5-man lineup in the NBA, per CleaningTheGlass.com (CTG).
The Clippers have Christmas off whereas the Sixers head to the ‘Big Apple’ to play the New York Knicks. Philly will get a fully focused LAC who, on paper, is the best team in the NBA in my humble opinion.
NBA Best Bet #1: Clippers +3.5 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook, down to +2.5
Milwaukee Bucks (22-9) at Brooklyn Nets (20-12)
Don’t look now but the Nets are creeping up the Eastern Conference standings. Brooklyn has won nine of 10 including seven straight games and is 5-4-1 against the spread (ATS) in those games.
The Nets have been playing much better than the Bucks recently. Over the past two weeks, Brooklyn is third in adjusted net rating (nRTG) and seven in ATS margin, per CTG. Milwaukee is 19th both in adjusted nRTG and ATS margin.
Also, this could be a look-ahead spot for the Bucks who visit Boston on Christmas. Whereas the Nets don’t play on Christmas and are being overlooked in the East because of the Bucks and Celtics.
Brooklyn has a cleaner injury report than Milwaukee as well. Both Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo are on the injury report. Middleton is “doubtful” to play while Giannis is “probable”.
But, I wouldn’t be surprised if both sat Friday and, if we get some good injury luck, Brooklyn could easily increase to a 5- to 6-point favorite.
NBA Best Bet #2: Nets -2.5 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook, up to -3
Portland Trail Blazers (17-15) at Denver Nuggets (19-11)
This is another possible Christmas weekend look-ahead spot. The Nuggets host the Phoenix Suns Sunday while the Trail Blazers get Christmas off. For whatever reason, since 2018, road underdogs are 22-8-1 ATS on Dec. 23.
Furthermore, this is a better spot for Portland. Denver is 2-3 ATS at home vs. teams with a winning record. The Trail Blazers are 14-6 ATS vs. winning teams and 9-5 ATS as road ‘dogs this season.
Both teams get buckets but play terrible defenses. However, Portland has a higher net effective field goal shooting, a better free-throw attempt rate and more players than can create their own shots.
The bottom line is if Nuggets reigning two-time MVP Nikola Jokic has an off-game, Denver is screwed. Whereas if Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard plays bad, he can be bailed out by SG Anfernee Simons or SF Jerami Grant.
NBA Best Bet #3: Trail Blazers +4.5 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook, down to +4
Charlotte Hornets (8-24) at Los Angeles Lakers (13-18)
Obviously, both of these teams are bad. You can see their records above. But, the Hornets are god-awful and the Lakers at least beat inferior opponents.
Per CTG, the Lakers are 7-1 straight up (SU) vs. teams in the bottom-10 of nRTG with a +6.8 adjusted nRTG (10th) and a +5.6 ATS margin (second). LAL is 8-3 ATS vs. teams with a losing record.
The Hornets on the other hand are 4-6 SU vs. bottom-10 teams with a -2.0 adjusted nRTG (25th) and a -1.2 ATS margin (20th). Charlotte is 3-4-1 ATS vs. teams with a losing record.
Also, LAL is much better at manipulating the officials. The Lakers rank fourth in offensive FT/FGA rate and first defensively. The Hornets rank 27th in offensive FT/FGA rate and 23th defensively.
Finally, LAL has won and covered seven consecutive meetings with Charlotte.
NBA Best Bet #4: Lakers -3 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook, up to -3.5
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