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This is the final night of NBA action before the All-Star break. ‘NBA On TNT’ has a doubleheader featuring the Bucks-Bulls and Clippers-Suns and the other game is Wizards-Timberwolves. I have bets on all three plus a player prop.
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.)
Milwaukee Bucks (40-17) at Chicago Bulls (26-32), 7:30 p.m. ET
The first two Bucks-Bulls meetings this season have gone Over the total but all five of their playoff games last season went Under.
In fact, Bucks-Bulls are 3-7-1 Over/Under (O/U) since the beginning of last season with a -12.6 O/U margin. Their previous meeting had a 231-point total but needed overtime to go Over.
Chicago hasn’t released an injury report as of 12:30 p.m. ET. But, DeMar DeRozan sat out last night with hip injury and it makes sense for the Bulls to let DeMar start his All-Star break early and give him the night off.
The Bulls score 4.9 more points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time when DeMar is on the floor, per CleaningTheGlass.com (CTG).
DeRozan leads Chicago in offensive on/off rating and three of the four Bulls behind DeMar were on Chicago’s injury report last night.
The Bulls lost at the Pacers 117-113 Thursday, snapping a 5-game streak of Unders. Over the past two weeks, Chicago is 29th in non-garbage time offensive rating and Milwaukee is 1st in defensive rating, per CTG.
Lastly, the Bulls struggle offensively in these situations similar to Thursday. Chicago is 15-18 O/U as an underdog this season, 11-17 O/U at home, and 4-8 O/U when playing with a rest disadvantage with a -9.5 O/U margin.
NBA Best Bet #1: UNDER 229 in Bucks-Bulls, down to 227.5
Washington Wizards (27-30) at Minnesota Timberwolves (31-29), 8 p.m. ET
The T-Wolves have alternated between winning and losing over their past nine games with the latest being a 124-121 win at the Mavericks as 6-point road underdogs.
The Wizards beat the Timberwolves 142-127 in their 1st meeting this season on Nov. 27. But that was a different Minnesota squad.
It traded PG D’Angelo Russell to the Lakers and big Karl-Anthony Towns has been sidelined with an injury since that game.
Russell and KAT not playing for the T-Wolves is “addition by subtraction”. They occupy the same space as All-Star Anthony Edwards and there were too many mouths to feed in Minnesota.
We’ll see how the Timberwolves perform when KAT returns to action but, at the moment, I’m higher on this team when they run their offense through Edwards.
Also, per CTG, the T-Wolves are 2nd in shot quality and the Wizards are 27th. Minnesota attempts the 7th-highest volume of shots at the rim and D.C. is 21st in defensive field goal percentage at the rim.
The Wizards attempt the 3rd-highest volume of mid-range jumpers and the T-Wolves are 3rd in defensive field goal percentage vs. mid-range shots.
Finally, Washington’s past six wins aren’t that impressive after looking under the hood. The Wizards beat the Trail Blazers, Pacers, and Hornets in their last three wins, all of which have sub-.500 records.
D.C.’s other three wins came against tanking Spurs and Rockets teams, and the Pelicans, which is a solid victory. The Timberwolves’ recent wins include the Mavs with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, a Warriors team at full strength, the Kings and Grizzlies.
NBA Best Bet #2: Timberwolves -3 (-110), up to -4
PS Player Prop: Wizards big Kristaps Porzingis OVER 23.5 points (-120)
KP has scored at least 28 points in five of his last seven games. He is averaging 29.0 points per game (PPG) over that span on 60.6% shooting and 50.0% from 3.
Earlier this season, Porzingis scored 41 points vs. the T-Wolves on 66.7% shooting, 6-for-10 from behind the arc and 11-for-11 from the foul line.
At the time of writing Minnesota big Rudy Gobert is “questionable” to play. Gobert is a 3-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and suited up in the 1st Wizards-Timberwolves meeting this season.
If Gobert cannot play it makes it easier for Porzingis to score in the paint. Either way, KP is skilled enough to get buckets on Gobert.
Los Angeles Clippers (32-28) at Phoenix Suns (32-27), 10 p.m. ET
The Suns are 2-0 overall and against the spread (ATS) vs. the Clippers this season. But, LAC was in the 2nd of a back-to-back in both meetings, one of which was sans All-Star Kawhi Leonard and the other Kawhi was on a minutes restriction.
LAC is only missing wing Norman Powell who isn’t an insignificant absence because Powell is one of the best bench players in the NBA.
However, the Suns recently traded two starters — Cameron Johnson and Mikal Bridges — for Kevin Durant who is still out with an injury.
Both Johnson and Bridges would be instrumental in defending Paul George and Kawhi. With KD available, the Suns have a higher power rating in the betting market than the Clippers. Without KD this is a case of wrong team favored.
Furthermore, the Clippers got bigger at the trade deadline, which helps them defend Suns big Deandre Ayton who was a matchup nightmare. LAC traded for big Mason Plumlee who is quietly having a career-year.
Plumlee is averaging career bests in PPG (12.2), shooting (67.1%) and rebounds (9.6). Ayton vs. Clippers big Ivica Zubac was an obvious mismatch but Zubac and Plumlee negates Phoenix’s edge in the frontcourt.
The Kawhi the Clippers were hoping to see is starting to show up. Over his last seven games, Leonard is scoring 27.4 PPG on 48.9% shooting, 53.8% from 3 and 92.1% from the foul line. With all due respect to Devin Booker, who is ballin’, Kawhi is the best player on the floor.
It’s tough to predict when LAC will be motivated but with only one game before the All-Star break and it being the Suns, I think we get a full Clippers effort Thursday.
NBA Best Bet #3: Clippers (-110) moneyline, up to -125 before laying up to -2.5 with LAC
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