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We are going to the two biggest markets in the country for our NBA best bets Wednesday. Below, I’ll break down and give picks for Raptors-Knicks, Lakers-Kings, and Hornets-Clippers.
(Buyer beware: The NBA’s “load management” stuff is bogus and players are sitting out more and more games. It would behoove you to wait until the final injury reports are released before betting. This is especially true in a holiday week.)
Toronto Raptors (13-18) at New York Knicks (18-13)
This is the first Raptors-Knicks meeting of the season. Toronto was 1-3 straight up (SU) and against the spread (ATS) vs. NYK last season. But, the Raptors are 1-4 ATS in their last five visits to New York.
This is a better spot for the Knicks
These teams are trending in opposite directions entering Wednesday. NYK has won and covered eight straight and has the best net rating (nRTG) in the NBA over that span.
The Raptors are 1-6 SU over the past two weeks with a -5.4 non-garbage time nRTG (ranked 24th) and a -8.1 ATS margin (29th), according to CleaningTheGlass.com (CTG).
Toronto is 2-6 ATS as short underdogs (1-to-2.5-point) this season and 6-9 ATS on the road with a -3.3 ATS margin. NYK is 8-4 ATS as favorites with a +5.4 ATS margin.
The Knicks attack the basket and get to the charity stripe
NYK attempted 32 free throws Tuesday vs. the Warriors and average the third-most free-throw attempts per game. The Raptors on the other hand are 28th in defensive FT/FGA rate.
According to CTG, NYK has a better shot quality than Toronto on both ends of the floor. The Knicks are second in drives per game and attempt the 11th-highest volume of field goals at the rim, per CTG. The Raptors are 28th in defensive field goal percentage vs. attempts at the rim.
NYK runs the fourth-highest rate of half-court plays and Toronto runs the most half-court plays, per CTG. Yet NYK’s defense is sixth in points per 100 half-court plays run and Toronto’s ranks 22nd.
NYK is ‘easy money’ when playing on no rest
The market tends to fade the Knicks in the second of a back-to-back (B2B) because head coach Tom Thibodeau plays his starters a lot.
But, since Thibs was hired in 2020, NYK is an NBA-best 21-9-1 ATS on the second of a B2B with an NBA-best +7.6 ATS margin. The next closest team to the Knicks in spread differential in those spots since 2020 is the Pacers with a +4.0 ATS margin
NYK boat-raced Golden State Tuesday 132-94, and Knicks starters Julius Randle, Jalen Brunson, and R.J. Barrett all played fewer minutes than their season average.
NBA Best Bet #1: Knicks -120 ML at DraftKings Sportsbook, up to NYK -2.5
Los Angeles Lakers (13-17) at Sacramento Kings (16-13)
The Kings won and covered vs. the Lakers 120-114 on the road in their first meeting this season as 4.5-point favorites. I like Sactown to get this W also because it’s rare for the Lakers to be an underdog to the Kings and the sportsbooks are begging for Lakers money, which it usually gets.
But, LAL is definitely missing its leading scorer and rebounder, Anthony Davis. LeBron James and combo guard Austin Reaves are “questionable” to play as well. The Lakers were missing all three in their 130-104 ass-whooping delivered by the Suns Monday.
These three Lakers lead the team on/off non-garbage time nRTG, per CTG. In fact, LAL scores 10.4 fewer points per 100 possessions when AD is off the floor and is -10.7 when Reaves is out of the game.
The Kings are an NBA-best 13-3 ATS when playing on one rest day with a +5.7 ATS margin and 8-5 ATS at home with a +4.1 ATS margin. Also, this is a good buy-low spot for Sactown. The Kings lost 125-119 to the Hornets at home as 10-point favorites Monday.
But, it was Sacramento’s first home game after a six-game road stand. Generally, it’s profitable to fade an NBA team in those spots and the Kings are 7-5 ATS following a loss this season.
On the other hand, this is a terrible spot for the Lakers. They are 1-6 ATS as underdogs of 5-to-7 points, 1-9 ATS in away games vs. teams with a winning record, and 3-10 ATS as road ‘dogs’ with a -3.0 ATS margin.
Lastly, this is a Pros vs. Joe’s game in the betting market at the time of writing. Per VSIN, roughly 75% of the cash at DraftKings is on the Kings but two-thirds of the bets placed are on the Lakers.
Typically, it’s wise to follow the money when it’s counter to the public because professional bettors wager a lot more dough than your average Joe.
NBA Best Bet #2: Kings -6 (-105) at DraftKings Sportsbook, up to -6.5
Charlotte Hornets (8-23) at Los Angeles Clippers (18-14)
The Clippers eked past the Hornets 119-117 on Dec. 5 in Charlotte as 6.5-point favorites thanks to Kawhi Leonard’s game-winner with :01 seconds remaining.
Hornets-Clippers part I went Over the 217.5-point total by 18.5 points and Charlotte put up 117 without All-Star LaMelo Ball and SF Gordon Hayward.
Both are good to very good offensive players and both are in Charlotte’s projected starting 5. The total for Hornets-Clippers part II is set for 227 to reflect the additions for Charlotte.
But, zig-zagging on the returns of Ball and Hayward and a ton of Under-friendly trends forces me to take a harder look at the UNDER HORNETS 108.5 TEAM TOTAL (-120).
The Clippers are fourth in defensive rating and have held opponents to 107 or fewer points in five consecutive games including less than 100 for four straight.
Since 2019 (Kawhi and Paul George‘s first season with the Clippers), the Hornets are averaging just 99.5 points per game (PPG).
Charlotte’s 119-117 loss to LAC on Dec. 5 was the first time it scored more than 106 points in six games vs. the Clippers over that span.
Also, LAC is 1-9 Over/Under (O/U) as home favorites this season with a -16.3 O/U margin. Opponents are scoring just 100.9 PPG in those games.
Finally, the Clippers last played three nights (Saturday) and are well-rested. LAC is 11-21 O/U when playing on 2-3 days of rest since 2019. The Clippers are 0-3 O/U this season with a -13.0 O/U margin.
NBA Best Bet #3: UNDER Hornets -108.5 Team Total (-120) at DraftKings Sportsbook
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