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Let’s hope my 3-0 Thursday in the NBA is the start of a post-All-Star break heater. My three looks in the NBA Friday are in the Heat-Bucks, Thunder-Suns, and Hornets-Timberwolves.
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.
I always say this but, BUYER BEWARE, since we are in the NBA’s “load management” era. It might be best to wait until the final injury reports are released before placing a bet.
Miami Heat (32-27) at Milwaukee Bucks (41-17), 7:30 p.m. ET
This the regular-season finale between the Heat-Bucks and Miami is 2-1 straight up (SU) and against the spread (ATS) in the series. The home team has won and covered all three Heat-Bucks meetings this season.
My reason for backing Miami Friday is super obvious: Giannis Antetokounmpo is “doubtful” to play. Giannis started the NBA All-Star game this past weekend and exited after a dunk inside the 1st minute.
In Milwaukee’s 123-115 win over Miami Feb. 4, Giannis had a 35-15-11 triple-double on 13-of-19 shooting with a team-best defensive rating. He missed both of the Heat’s two victories over the Bucks earlier this season.
With Giannis out, Heat former All-Star Jimmy Butler becomes the best player on the floor. Butler is well-rested after not being named an All-Star and I’m buying stock in Miami post-All-Star break.
Also, the Heat’s defense is almost underrated. Miami is 4th in defensive rating, allows the fewest paint PPG and the 2nd-fewest wide-open 3-point attempts. No Giannis makes Milwaukee way easier to defend.
Heat-Bucks is another game where we are seeing reverse line movement in the betting market. Most of the action is on Milwaukee but Miami has gone from +2.5 down to +1.5 at the time of writing.
NBA Best Bet #1: Heat +1.5 (-115) at DraftKings Sportsbook, down to pick ’em
Charlotte Hornets (17-43) at Minnesota Timberwolves (31-30), 8 p.m. ET
I don’t have a lot of analysis or betting trends to support this pick, I just think the T-Wolves drop-kick the Hornets Friday. Charlotte is essentially eliminated from the playoffs and Minnesota is a game behind the Mavs for the 6-seed out West.
Plus I love the Timberwolves getting rid of PG D’Angelo Russell and picking up veteran PG Mike Conley at the trade deadline. Conley is more of a floor-general and will get better looks for T-Wolves big Rudy Gobert.
More importantly, Russell’s departure allows Minnesota’s offense to play through All-Star Anthony Edwards who should light up the Hornets. Charlotte has the worst defensive backcourt — PG LaMelo Ball and SG Terry Rozier — in the NBA.
Both teams attack the paint at a high frequency but the Timberwolves have a legit rim-protector and the Hornets don’t. Also, Minnesota is 9th in true shooting and Charlotte is dead-last.
The Hornets beat the T-Wolves 110-108 in their 1st meeting this season on Nov. 25. Charlotte was missing LaMelo and Minnesota had Karl-Anthony Towns.
But, I’m ignoring that and the sketchy line movement headed towards Charlotte and laying the points with Minnesota like a sucker.
NBA Best Bet #2: Timberwolves -6.5 (-115) at DraftKings Sportsbook, up to -7.5
Oklahoma City Thunder (28-30) at Phoenix Suns (32-28), 10 p.m. ET
This is just too many points for the Thunder (+7) who are coming off a tough loss Thursday at the Utah Jazz. They led by eight points entering the 4th quarter and ended up losing 120-119 in overtime.
OKC is an NBA-best 19-10 ATS after a loss this season with a +6.3 spread differential. Also, the Thunder are at peak motivation since they are in the thick of the playoff race.
I’m slightly concerned Thunder All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (SGA) could sit because this is a 2nd of a back-to-back (B2B) for OKC. That’s the best explanation for the Suns being greater than -5 in this spot.
According to Basketball Reference, OKC has a better SRS than Phoenix, which blends point-per-game (PPG) margin and strength of schedule.
Per CleaningTheGlass.com (CTG), the Thunder have a higher adjusted net rating (nRTG) than the Suns and CTG removes garbage-time from its stat tracking.
If SGA plays though he should ball. In the 2nd of B2B’s, SGA is averaging 30.0 PPG on 63.9% true shooting (.525/.444/.944).
Furthermore, SGA’s aggressive style and ability to get to the foul line should work Friday. Phoenix has the worst non-garbage time defensive free-throw-attempt rate allowed, per CTG.
Finally, there’s been sharp line movement in the betting market toward OKC. Per VSIN, most of the action is on Phoenix at DraftKings Sportsbook but the Suns have been lowered from -8 on the opener.
NBA Best Bet #2: Thunder +7 (-115) at DraftKings Sportsbook, down to +5.5
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