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The NBA returns from an uninteresting and poorly viewed All-Star Weekend to start the final stretch of the regular season. Thursday’s 9-game NBA card features an NBA on TNT doubleheader, both of which I’m betting.
My gambling looks in Thursday’s slate include the Memphis Grizzlies visiting Philadelphia 76ers, Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz, and Los Angeles Lakers hosting the Golden State Warriors.
You can listen to the audio versions of these handicaps on my NBA Hoops At Lunch show on the OutKick Bets Podcast feed Monday-Friday.
(Word to the wise: It’s the “load management” era in the NBA and random injury news. NBA players are sitting out more games. It would behoove you to wait until the final injury reports before betting.)
Memphis Grizzlies (35-22) at Philadelphia 76ers (38-19), 7 p.m. ET
My only fear about betting the Sixers Thursday is their suspiciously low spread. But, since I cannot reverse engineer the line I’ll bet it.
Memphis beat Philadelphia in their 1st meeting this season 117-109 on Dec. 2. However, the 76ers were missing James Harden and SG Tyrese Maxey and the Grizzlies were missing SG Desmond Bane.
For this meeting, Philadelphia will be at full-strength while Memphis is still missing starting C Steven Adams. Harden and Maxey offset if not supersede Bane and Ja Morant but Adams’ absence is a huge factor.
Memphis’s offense has been terrible this season when Adams is off the floor. Also, Adams usually plays well against Joel Embiid. In their eight career meetings, Adams’ teams are 7-1 overall vs. Embiid.
Furthermore, Philly leads the NBA in offensive free-throw-attempt rate (FTr) and Memphis’s defensive FTr falls by 2.7% when Adams is off the floor, per CleaningTheGlass.com (CTG).
Grizzlies big Jaren Jackson Jr. is always in foul trouble and Memphis’s defensive FTr climbs by 2.9% when Jackson is in the game. Jackson has to deal with Embiid who’s one of the best in the NBA at getting to the foul line.
Also, Philadelphia is much better from behind the arc. The Sixers are 4th in 3-point percentage and 2nd in defensive 3-point percentage. The Grizzlies is 24th in 3-point percentage and 12th defensively.
However, Memphis is 28th in wide-open 3-point-attempt rate allowed so it should rank lower than 12th in defensive 3-point percentage. Philly hits 40.9% of its wide-open 3-point shots.
Finally, the Grizzlies are 1-7 against the spread (ATS) this season as road underdogs with an NBA-worst -12.8 ATS margin. The 76ers are 11-2 ATS at home vs. teams with a winning record with a +4.9 ATS margin.
NBA Best Bet #1: 76ers -4 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Oklahoma City Thunder (28-29) at Utah Jazz (29-31), 9 p.m. ET
I hope the break didn’t disrupt the Thunder’s rhythm because they were ballin’. OKC has the best offensive rating this month and has scored at least 133 points in four of the last six games pre-All-Star break.
The Jazz on the other hand were struggling before the All-Star game. They are 5-7 overall in the last 12 games and Utah’s wins aren’t that impressive.
Utah beat the sub-.500 Raptors twice, a slumping Pacers team, a Luka Doncic-less Mavericks, the terrible Hornets and a Kawhi Leonard- and Paul George-less Clippers.
The Thunder have a massive strength-on-weakness edge over the Jazz in ball-security. OKC is 5th in offensive turnover rate (TOV%) and 3rd in defensive TOV%. Utah is 23rd in offensive TOV% and 25th defensively.
Ball-security determines who wins the battle of possessions. The Thunder is 2nd in points off of turnovers per game and the Jazz is 25th in points allowed off of turnovers per game.
According to CTG, OKC gets out in transition at the sixth-highest rate in the NBA off of turnovers. Utah is 29th in fastbreak points per game allowed.
Each team is in the playoff race but I think the Thunder try to make the playoffs whereas the Jazz will likely go into “tank mode”.
OKC has a bonafide superstar in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the No. 2 in the 2022 NBA Draft — big Chet Holmgren — will be back next year. Utah is still an offseason away from starting its rebuild.
NBA Best Bet #2: Thunder +2 (-115) at DraftKings Sportsbook, down to pick ’em
Golden State Warriors (29-29) at Los Angeles Lakers (27-32), 10 p.m. ET
The Lakers evened the season series with the Warriors when they won 109-103 on Feb. 11th as 5.5-point underdogs at Golden State. LAL won three of the “four factors” despite Anthony Davis scoring just 13 points
This was after the Russell Westbrook trade. So new Lakers guards D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley and F Jarred Vanderbilt all played. Both LeBron James and Steph Curry were out with injuries too.
The difference between this Lakers-Warriors meeting and the previous is LeBron is “probable” to play and Warriors wing Andrew Wiggins joins Curry on the sidelines for personal reasons.
Between LAL’s trade deadline additions and Golden State’s injury situation, it’s Lakers or pass. I’m high on Vanderbilt and Russell, in theory, fits better with LeBron and AD than Westbrook did.
Curry has a +10.9 non-garbage time on/off net rating (nRTG), and Wiggins is +9.3, per CTG. Wiggins grades in the 92% of wings in the NBA in adjusted on/off nRTG and Curry is in the 95% of point guards.
Both teams need this game like blood for playoff seeding and the Lakers are much healthier. Plus this is a good number for the Lakers. They are 7-1 ATS this season as 4.5-point favorites or higher with a +5.8 ATS margin.
More money at DraftKings Sportsbook is on the Lakers but more bets are on the Warriors at the time of writing, per VSIN. Since sharps place bigger bets than squares, it’s wise to follow the cash when it’s counter to the public.
NBA Best Bet #3: Lakers -5.5 (-115) at DraftKings Sportsbook, up to -6
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