For those of you willing to bet on other sports in the NFL Divisional Round weekend, I have something for you in the NBA Saturday. Below, I’ve handicapped and made bets in the Magic-Wizards, Bucks-Cavaliers, and 76ers-Kings.
You can listen to the audio versions of these handicaps on my recently launched NBA Hoops At Lunch show on the OutKick Bets Podcast feed Monday-Friday.
(Buyer beware: 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.)
Orlando Magic (17-28) at Washington Wizards (19-26)
Let’s fade the public and all the Over-friendly trends in Magic-Wizards. Per VSIN, nearly 70% of the action is on the Over at the time of writing. Granted, squares aren’t betting an Over in a Magic-Wizards game on the NFL divisional round weekend.
That said, both teams play at a slightly below-average pace, have a slightly below-average true shooting rate and a below-average 3-point-attempt rate (3PAr).
Neither force a lot of turnovers nor score points off of turnovers. The Wizards are 22nd in offensive rating and the Magic are 27th and both do a good job grabbing defensive rebounds.
Orlando has the best defensive 3-point percentage in the NBA, which is misleading. The Magic are fortunate because they have the second-highest wide-open 3PAr allowed in the NBA.
But, the Wizards are 24th in wide-open 3-point percentage and 23rd on all 3-point attempts. Also, Washington has the second-best 3PAr allowed in the Association.
Per CleaningTheGlass.com (CTG), both offenses have a below-average shot quality and D.C. is fourth in defensive shot quality allowed. The Wizards attempt a ton of mid-range jumpers and the Magic have length in their frontcourt.
NBA Best Bet #1: UNDER 230 in Magic-Wizards (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook, down to 229
Milwaukee Bucks (29-16) at Cleveland Cavaliers (28-19)
Bucks-Cavaliers is a lot less interesting after both Milwaukee two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Cleveland leading scorer Donovan Mitchell were both ruled out.
The Cavs waxed the Bucks 114-106 in their first meeting this season despite Giannis going off for 45 points on 17-of-27 shooting with 14 rebounds. Mitchell balled as well but Giannis’s absence is more meaningful than Mitchell’s
According CTG, Milwaukee scores 4.7 fewer points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time when Giannis is off the floor. Mitchell on the other hand has a +0.8 non-garbage time on/off net rating (nRTG).
The Bucks will have fewer wide-open 3-point looks without Giannis’ gravitational pull. Cleveland’s defense allows the fourth-lowest wide-open 3PAr.
Furthermore, the Cavs have a lot more depth than the banged-up Bucks and role players generally perform better at home. Cleveland’s bench has a +2.3 (+/-) and Milwaukee has a -0.4 bench +/-.
The Cavaliers have a legit second-unit with PF Kevin Love, backup PG Ricky Rubio and microwave scorer Caris LeVert. Cleveland floor-spacing F Dean Wade is “probable” to make his return from a seven-week injury hiatus.
Finally, the Bucks are 4-6-1 against the spread (ATS) as road underdogs with a -6.7 ATS margin. While the Cavaliers are 14-8-1 ATS as home favorites with a +2.1 ATS margin.
NBA Best Bet #2: Cavaliers -3 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook, up to -3.5
Philadelphia 76ers (29-16) at Sacramento Kings (26-18)
I’m on the Sixers ATS here but buyer beware because this is the final of Philadelphia’s four-game road trip and NBA teams tend to check-out at the end of road trips.
Also, the market is backing Sactown here and Philly has fallen from -3 on the opener to the current number (-1.5) because James Harden is “questionable” to play.
However, the 76ers’ road weariness could be offset by the Kings playing a hard-fought contest last night (Friday) vs. a feisty OKC Thunder squad.
And Harden’s production can be replaced by backup combo guard Tyrese Maxey and increasing All-NBA big Joel Embiid‘s usage. Then there’s the random Sixers SF Tobias Harris breakout game.
Either way, Philly is running hot and I’ve successfully backed the Sixers a lot recently. They are a far more complete team than the Kings. Philadelphia is third in defensive rating and Sacramento is 24th.
According to CTG, the Kings are just 5-7 straight up (SU) with a -5.1 adjusted nRTG vs. top-10 teams and a -0.5 ATS margin. The 76ers are 12-3 SU vs. bottom-10 defenses with a +8.9 adjusted nRTG and +2.0 ATS margin.
Perhaps wait until Philadelphia announces Harden’s official game status. If Harden misses Saturday’s game, we could get the Sixers as a slight ‘dog but, if Harden plays, I’d bet Philly up to -4.
NBA Best Bet #3: 76ers -1.5 (-115) at DraftKings Sportsbook, up to -2
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