NBA betting: Best value bets for Thursday night
Chris Sheridan previews Thursday night's NBA action, with five games on the slate, including an exciting TNT doubleheader.
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LeBron James is out tonight. He is not even with the team. And Anthony Davis is doubtful, more likely to return Friday against New Orleans or Sunday against Denver.
Still, the Lakers are back in 10th place because the San Antonio Spurs lost last night against Memphis, so they are back in the playoff picture unless they lose tonight against Utah on the road. As we learned two nights ago when the Jazz played the Clippers, no lead is too big for Utah to lose. They were up 16 early in the fourth quarter but ended up losing by 6.
So it will be up to Russell Westbrook and a cast of supporting characters to try to pull off the unlikely tonight as ESPN this morning was already planning the team’s offseason moves. But as we told you two days ago, this ain’t over until it is over. And when Davis and James are back, we shall see what happens.
Meanwhile, the top of the Eastern Conference remains in flux, and vaccination mandates in Ontario could impact who plays on Toronto’s home court in the postseason, especially if the Celtics or 76ers are matched against the Raptors.
Information is hard to come by sometimes as NBA teams protect their players’ medical rights and refuse to disclose exactly who is vaccinated, although the league says the player population is in 97 percent compliance.
We do know that Toronto has a fully vaccinated team, and the Raptors made it 10 wins in 12 games by defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves by 23 last night. Entering the postseason with a head of steam is always important, and Toronto is +5000 to win the East and +13000 to win the title. We are not touting that at this juncture, but it bears watching. They will be back in action Friday at Orlando.
Meanwhile, the longest winning streak in the league belongs to Phoenix (nine games), followed by Memphis (six games). Those teams play each other Friday night. It’ll be a litmus test for the Grizzlies more than the Suns.
The only individual futures market race on the board this morning is Defensive Player of the Year, where Marcus Smart of the Celtics has become the +120 favorite. That is partly a product of what he does as a defender, partly a reading that when voters cast their ballots, they will feel compelled to show some love to the Celtics, winners of 23 of 28. But Smart ranks sixth in steals per game and 12th in defensive win shares, a category being led by his teammate, Jayson Tatum
So the statistical justification for that No. 1 placement for Smart is just not there, and it bears watching what Jaren Jackson can do Friday night defending DeAndre Ayton. It says here he remains a worthy wager at +1800.
The NBA silly season is nearly behind us, but not quite yet. Coaches are still most concerned with having their teams at full strength for the playoffs, and there will most certainly be some tanking in the final week of the season as East teams seek to avoid a first-round matchup with Brooklyn, and West teams will make opponent-vs-opponent determinations as they look at potential first-round opponents. Meanwhile, the dregs of the league are getting studly performances from youngsters, as evidenced by Kevin Porter Jr.’s triple-double for Houston last night against Sacramento.
Also, seven of 11 games went over last night, including every single game matching two non-playoff teams. Keep that in mind Friday night when the slate includes Sacramento-Houston, Detroit-Oklahoma City and Portland-San Antonio. Those teams are playing young guys who want to make a great impression on their coaches, and those kids almost always try to do that with offense rather than defense.
Tonight’s TNT doubleheader is a good one with Milwaukee at Brooklyn and the Lake Show at Utah, and the other three games are no slouches with some interesting long-odds player prop opportunities.
So let’s have a look:
Philadelphia (-9.5) at Detroit: The Pistons covered as 14-point dogs at Brooklyn on Tuesday as we told you they would. In this one, keep an eye on whether back and ankle issues prompt coach Doc Rivers to rest Joel Embiid. These teams have met two times this season, and the Pistons have lost by 8 and 11 (they will play again on the final night of the season).
Because of the injury issues for Embiid and James Harden (hamstring) and the fact that Rivers plays the seedings game less than other coaches, we are not in love with Sixers superstar possibilities tonight. What has been working is Cade Cunningham under on rebounds (one total in his last two games), so we like him to again go under, this time with his line at 5.5 (-125). Also, take the points (-105) because the Pistons are 19-12-1 against the spread as a home ‘dog.
Milwaukee (+2) at Brooklyn: The over/under on this one is huge: 243.5. It is the largest Nets over/under of the season by 4 points, a product of their game against the Pistons two nights ago totaling 253. For the Bucks, it is their largest line of the season by two points. With top defenders Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday of Milwaukee both expected to play, it appears to be too damn high, if we may quote Jimmy McMillan. Take the under (-105), and also go with Andre Drummond going over 10.5 points (-110) and 10.5 rebounds (-110). He has accomplished that in three straight games.
Cleveland (+6) at Atlanta: Both teams are on the second night of back-to-backs, and both traveled after games last night. The guy they were showing on SportsCenter this morning was Trae Young after he went for 41-point against the Thunder, and his point total over/under is set at 28.5. We like going over on that (-115) along with the over on Trae’s 3-pointers, which is just 2.5 (-160). He has surpassed that in five or six games. Caris LeVert scored 32 last night and played 38 minutes, so he should go over 18.5 points (-110).
L.A. Clippers (+3) at Chicago: The game means more to the Bulls (fifth in the East) than it does to the Clippers (locked into the No. 8 seed), and Chicago won by 10 in a low-scoring game (190 total points) when the teams played in Los Angeles. The Clippers now have Paul George back, and he should log significant minutes as he plays his way back into shape. He scored 34 in the comeback win over the Jazz, and his point total is just 23.5. He should go over (-115), and the game should finish under 221 (-105).
L.A. Lakers (+13) at Utah: This line moved from 12 early this morning, and the Lakers are simply a horrible defensive team, allowing more points (114.5) than any top 10 team in either conference. Still, messing with the over/under line of 225.5 seems ill-advised given the offensive slog this could become with El Lay missing its top two players. Stay away from that line, and go with Utah’s hot hands: Mike Conley over 13.5 (-115) and Donovan Mitchell over 25.5 (-110).
That is a 12-leg parlay, with a majority of bets having minus odds. Put ‘em all together, and then let’s all have a terrific Friday. Good luck!