NBA New Year’s Day Locks In Kings-Grizzlies, Celtics-Nuggets

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There’s only a three-game slate in the NBA New Year’s Day Sunday. We’ll focus on the two best matchups: Memphis Grizzlies hosting the Sacramento Kings and the Boston Celtics at the Denver Nuggets.

(Buyer beware: It’s the “load management” era in the NBA and players are sitting out more games. It would behoove you to wait until the final injury reports before betting. Especially after New Year’s Eve).

Sacramento Kings (19-15) at Memphis Grizzlies (22-13)

Memphis is playing the second of a back-to-back (B2B) after mauling the Pelicans 116-101 New Year’s Eve night. This is the Grizzlies’ third game in four nights.

The Kings on the other hand are playing their second game over that span. They have won B2B one-point games, first beating the Nuggets 127-126 Wednesday before eking past the Jazz 126-125 Friday.

Sacramento won the first meeting with Memphis earlier this season. The Kings beat the Grizzlies 113-109 as 2.5-point underdogs in Memphis Nov. 22.

Sacramento Kings PG De'Aaron Fox posts up Memphis Grizzlies PG Ja Morant at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California.
Sacramento Kings PG De’Aaron Fox posts up Memphis Grizzlies PG Ja Morant at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. (Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Also, the Grizzlies struggle with quality offenses and the Kings overperform vs. expectations against good defenses. Memphis is 8-9 straight up (SU) vs. top-10 offenses and Sactown is 7-8 SU vs. top-10 defenses.

However, the Grizzlies have a -2.6 spread differential in those spots (ranked 26th), according to CleaningTheGlass.com (CTG). While the Kings have a +5.1 spread differential vs. top defenses (third).

Furthermore …

Kings PG De’Aaron Fox outplays Grizzlies PG Ja Morant when they meet

In eight career head-to-head meetings, Fox outscores Morant 24.3-20.6 in points per game, outshoots him 52.6-46.9% and has nearly two fewer turnovers per game 4.4-2.5. Kings-Grizzlies are tied 4-4 SU in those games.

On top of that, there is …

Reverse line movement in the market

According to Pregame.com, nearly 75% of the action is on the Grizzlies at the time of writing. Nearly that same rate of bets have been placed on Memphis at DraftKings Sportsbook, per VSIN.

Memphis Grizzlies PG Ja Morant drives to the basket during the game against the Sacramento Kings at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee.
Memphis Grizzlies PG Ja Morant drives to the basket during the game against the Sacramento Kings at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. (Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Yet the Grizzlies opened as 5.5-point favorites and have been lowered to the current number (-4) despite one-way betting action toward Memphis.

Finally …

The Kings clean the glass on defense

The Grizzlies crash the glass and have the second-highest offensive rebounding rate in the NBA. The Kings are second in defensive rebounding rate and third in second-chance points allowed per game.

Aside from offensive rebounding, the Grizzlies struggle in the half-court. Per CTG, Memphis ranks 24th in points added per 100 half-court plays run.

NBA Best Bet #1: Kings +4 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook

The Sacramento Kings' odds at the Memphis Grizzlies from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Sunday, Jan. 1 at 2:30 p.m. ET.
The Sacramento Kings’ odds at the Memphis Grizzlies from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Sunday, Jan. 1 at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Boston Celtics (26-10) at Denver Nuggets (23-12)

Boston opens a four-game West Coast road trip with a visit to the Mile High City. The Celtics have have won six straight vs. the Nuggets (5-1 ATS) including B2B visits to Denver.

The bottom line here is the Celtics matchup well with the Nuggets. Boston has the second-highest 3-point-attempt rate in the NBA and Denver ranks 22nd in defensive 3-point shooting.

The Celtics clubbed the Nuggets 131-112 in Boston earlier this season. Boston sank 16-of-37 from behind the arc in that game.

Boston Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum goes to the basket against the Denver Nuggets at TD Garden in Boston.
Boston Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum goes to the basket against the Denver Nuggets at TD Garden in Boston. (Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Also, Boston performs much better vs. top-tier opponents. Per CTG, the Celtics have the best adjusted net rating (+9.3) and the best ATS margin (+4.8) in the NBA vs. teams in the top-10 in adjusted net rating.

Denver’s defense is the major reason it struggles against tough opponents. The Nuggets are 25th in defensive rating and Boston is 8-0 SU vs. bottom-10 defenses. The Celtics have NBA highs in both adjusted net rating (+23.9) and ATS margin (+11.3) in those spots, per CTG.

Lastly, Boston is 14-4 SU (+8.5 SU margin) and 12-5-1 ATS (+5.9 spread differential) since the beginning of last season as road favorites of -4 or less.

NBA Best Bet #2: Celtics (-130) moneyline at DraftKings

The Boston Celtics' odds at the Denver Nuggets from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Sunday, Jan. 1 at 2:45 p.m. ET.
The Boston Celtics’ odds at the Denver Nuggets from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Sunday, Jan. 1 at 2:45 p.m. ET.

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Written by Geoff Clark

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