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St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday for kegs and eggs, corned beef and cabbage and basketball. Albeit usually NCAA Tournament basketball but the NBA has more opportunity Friday. The March Madness slate is much tougher.
Below I handicap the Chicago Bulls hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans visiting the Houston Rockets, and the Boston Celtics at the Portland Trailblazers.
(BUYER BEWARE: We are in the NBA’s “load management” and “tanking” eras. It’s best to wait until the final injury reports come out before placing a bet).
Minnesota Timberwolves (35-35) at Chicago Bulls (31-37), 8 p.m. ET
The T-Wolves pounded the Bulls 150-126 at home as 1.5-point underdogs in their 1st meeting this season on Dec. 18. That was before Minnesota traded PG D’Angelo Russell for current PG Mike Conley.
Even though Conley is a better fit it has to be mentioned because Russell scored 28 points on 10-of-14 shooting vs. Chicago in that game. But, T-Wolves All-Star Anthony Edwards was the best player on the floor.
Edwards scored a game-high 37 points on 54.2% shooting (4-of-10 from behind the arc) with 11 assists and 7 rebounds. This month, Edwards is averaging 28.3 points per game (PPG) on 48.1% shooting (41.5% from 3).
Also, Minnesota has a better shot profile and does a good job defending the areas Chicago frequently shoots from. Per CleaningTheGlass.com (CTG), the T-Wolves are 3rd in shot quality and the Bulls are 22nd.
Minnesota attacks the basket, attempts the 5th-highest rate of shots at the rim and is 7th in paint PPG. Chicago is 4th in mid-range field goals rate and the T-Wolves are 4th in defensive field goal percentage vs. mid-range shots, per CTG.
Between Edwards, Timberwolves big Rudy Gobert, and wing Jaden McDaniels, Minnesota has a lot of size and length that can frustrate Bulls wings DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine.
Finally, the T-Wolves have been hit by sharp line movement. Minnesota opened at +3 and are down to +2.5 despite most of the action at DraftKings Sportsbooks being on Chicago, according to VSIN.
NBA Best Bet #1: Timberwolves +2.5 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook, down to +1.5
- Betting strategy: Wait until Gobert’s official game status is announced before betting. Either way I like Minnesota but we’d get more points for the T-Wolves if Gobert is out.
New Orleans Pelicans (33-36) at Houston Rockets (17-52), 8 p.m. ET
There is some recency bias with this line movement and spread. The Pelicans opened at -6.5 and are down to -5.5 with most of the money at DraftKings as of the time of writing being on the Rockets.
NOLA is spiraling out of playoff contention after looking like a possible Western Conference Finals contender to start the season. Houston has back-to-back wins vs. the most popular teams in the NBA: Celtics and Lakers.
However, the Pelicans have won and covered five straight meetings with the Rockets. New Orleans is winning those games by an average of 15.0 PPG and covering by an average of 7.2 PPG.
More importantly, the Pelicans have something to play for the and the Rockets don’t. NOLA is a half-game behind the 10-seed Lakers for the final spot in the play-in tourney and Houston is in tank-mode.
The Pelicans got smacked 123-108 by the Lakers Tuesday and the Rockets last played Wednesday. Houston is just 2-8-1 against the spread (ATS) at a rest disadvantage with a -14.6 PPG margin and -5.8 ATS margin.
This feels like a buy-low spot for Pelicans, a sell-high spot for the Rockets and a game that will fly under the public’s radar since they’ll be preoccupied with St. Patrick’s Day and March Madness festivities.
NBA Best Bet #2: Pelicans -5.5 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook, up to -6
Boston Celtics (48-22) at Portland Trail Blazers (31-38), 10 p.m. ET
Portland got waxed 123-107 by the New York Knicks Tuesday in its 1st home game back from a 6-game road swing. The Trail Blazers are currently on a 4-game losing skid (1-3 ATS).
This is the 4th of Boston’s current 6-game road swing. The Celtics are 3-1 straight up and 2-2 ATS in their 1st four games with the most recent being a 104-102 win at the T-Wolves Wednesday.
The Celtics boat-raced the Blazers 115-93 in Boston earlier this month in their 1st meeting this season. Jayson Tatum scored a game-high 30 points on 11-for-17 shooting and Portland was missing SF Anfernee Simons.
Tatum is “questionable” to play Friday and I’m betting Boston gives him the night off. This is the 1st of a back-to-back for the Celtics who would much rather keep their guys healthy than beat the Blazers in a meaningless game.
Also, Boston’s 3-point defense is due for regression. The Celtics are 4th in defensive 3-point rate post-All-Star break (34.3%) but are 28th in wide-open 3-point attempt rate (3PAr) allowed on defense.
The only teams behind Boston in wide-open 3PAr are the Rockets and Pelicans. Celtics’ opponents are hitting just 33.5% of their wide-open 3-point attempts.
Portland is a “live ‘dog” if Boston continues to allow wide-open 3s. The Trail Blazers are 6th in 3-point percentage at home this season.
NBA Best Bet #3: Trail Blazers +4.5 (-110) at DraftKings, down to +4
- Betting strategy: Take the points with Portland ASAP. If Tatum is officially ruled out then the Trail Blazers will move closer to a pick ’em and we can get the “best of it” now.
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