After an atrocious end to last week, the NBA returns Monday with at least a few decent games. I mean the league is still being plagued with “load management” and injuries but the games aren’t as bad as this past weekend.
My two gambling looks in the Association Monday are with the Celtics-Bulls and Jazz-Clippers matchups. Below, I’ll provide some rationale for why the Bulls and Clippers will cover at home.
Boston Celtics (13-3) at Chicago Bulls (6-10)
These teams are 1-1 through their first two meetings of the season but Chicago has covered both. The Bulls have covered in six of their last seven meetings with the Celtics dating back to last year.
Coming into this week, Boston is 1.5 games atop the Eastern Conference thanks to a nine-game winning streak — 6-3 against the spread (ATS). Chicago is 1-5 in the last six and 2-4 ATS.
The Celtics have been one of the best road favorites ATS since the beginning of last season and the Bulls are one of the worst home ‘dogs. But, Chicago has performed well in these situations recently.
Better spot for the Bulls
Not only has Boston lost five of the last six ATS vs. Chicago but the Celtics are 3-5 ATS as favorites of -5 or greater with a -5.2 ATS margin as well. The Bulls are 3-0 ATS as ‘dogs of +5 or more with a +13.5 ATS margin, which includes both meetings with the Celtics.
Bulls match up well with the Celtics
I guess this is kinda obvious when looking at their recent head-to-head records. But, few teams have two dynamic wings to matchup up against Boston All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Chicago is one of those teams though.
Bulls All-Stars Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan can at least somewhat offset Tatum and Brown’s brilliance. LaVine and DeMar operate in the mid-range and that’s where Boston’s defense is the weakest.
Per CleaningTheGlass.com (CTG), the Celtics are 25th in defensive field goal shooting percentage vs. mid-range attempts, and the Bulls attempt the fifth-highest volume of mid-range jumpers.
Chicago is the ‘sharp’ side
Nearly three-fourths of the money at DraftKings Sportsbook is Boston’s spread at the time of writing but this line ain’t budging. It seems as though the oddsmakers want more pro-Celtics action.
At Pinnacle Sportsbook (Pinny), the Bulls’ spread is more expensive than the Celtics’. Pinny is considered perhaps the sharpest oddsmaker in the world because it books the largest sports bets. Well, Pinny is trying to bait its whale bettors into staking more on Boston as a road favorite.
NBA Best Bet #1: Bulls +6 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook, down to +5
Utah Jazz (12-6) at Los Angeles Clippers (10-7)
My analysis for Jazz-Clippers essentially boils down to me being bullish on LA. I refuse to believe the Jazz are only 3 points worse than the Clippers in LA.
I understand Utah has the best record in the Western Conference and LA has gotten off to a slow start and Clippers wing Paul George is “questionable” to play.
But, coming into this season, every casual NBA bettor would hammer the Clippers as a home favorite over the Jazz at anything less than -7. So I’m defaulting back to my preseason priors here.
And while we are all waiting around for LA’s offense to show up, the Clippers’ defense is one of the best in the NBA. LA is second in non-garbage time defensive rating, according to CTG, and Utah is 24th.
Also, the Clippers have beaten up bad defenses so far this season. LA is 7-1 overall vs. bottom-10 defenses with a +7.9 non-garbage time net rating (nRTG), per CTG. The Clippers’ only loss to a bad defense was to the Jazz, 110-102, on November 6.
Utah PG Mike Conley led both teams in +/- for that game and he’ll be sidelined Monday with a lower leg injury. Conley is the Jazz’s only true point guard.
This could be a slump-buster for Clippers All-Star Kawhi Leonard. He sat out all of last season with an injury and Kawhi is averaging just 10.5 points per game thus far.
But, the Clippers are scoring +21.2 points per 100 possessions when Leonard is on the floor per CTG and, again, the Jazz have one of the worst defenses in the league.
Pro Tip: Wait until closer to the tip-off or until the starting 5s for each team is finalized since the Clippers randomly sit players often for “load management”.
NBA Best Bet #2: Clippers -3 (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook, up to -5
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