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NBA Best Bets of the Day (2/22)

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Welcome to Hoops with Noops! The NBA is finally back — after a few days of wandering around my house completing chores and struggling to fill the hours, professional basketball is back and with a vengeance.

 

There are 12 games Thursday night and 10 Friday. That means we’ll have plenty of great games to watch and should be able to find value in the betting markets. Each team has about 28 games left to play, and they have spent the last week or so figuring out how to push toward their goal as we finish the season. Good teams will be playing their stars for more minutes against other good teams in preparation for possible playoff meetings. They will also play harder against teams close to them in the standings to make sure they get the best seed possible. Bad teams will be finding ways to lose games late to ensure the best odds possible in the NBA draft lottery, but some bad teams will allow their younger players to get reps.

There’s a lot to sort through, so let’s get to it.

NBA Best Bets for Thursday

San Antonio Spurs at Sacramento Kings 

Current Line – Kings -10.5, 242
My Projection – Kings 124, Spurs 113 
Key InjuriesDomantas Sabonis is questionable.

The Spurs have played at the fourth-fastest pace of any NBA so far this season at just over 102 possessions per 48 minutes. For the last month, they are 13th and are down to a pace of 100.5. That’s a meaningful drop, and it looks like the Spurs have been trying to slow games down over the past weeks. Whether this an effort to keep Victor Wembanayama fresh without having to rest him for full games or a ploy to ensure games are lost late as the Spurs stop pressing for points. Thursday is the first night of a road back-to-back for them which is a spot that tends to have a slower pace as well. The total in 10 of the their last 11 games has gone under, and I expect that trend to continue until the market adjusts to way San Antonio is now playing basketball.

The Kings have a great offense, and a big piece of that success is due to Domantas Sabonis. He’s listed at center but plays more like a point guard the way he leads the attack on the fastbreak and in the halfcourt. He is one of the best passers in the league, a great offensive rebounder who generates extra possessions and points, and an efficient shooter. Sabonis is listed as questionable. I’m assuming he’s playing and have this total five points lower than what the books have up now. If Sabonis plays, the Kings could score 140-plus points and go over themselves, but I’m willing to bet that’s not going to happen in a game that neither team might want to play by the fourth quarter. If Sabonis is out, I have this total three, almost four points lower and I think that’s too conservative. This looks a great spot to bet an under and I’m doing just that.

Bet

San Antonio Spurs/Sacramento Kings Under 242 (-110, FanDuel Sportsbook)

Washington Wizards at Denver Nuggets

Current Line – Nuggets -15, 232
My Projection – Nuggets 121, Wizards 110 
Key Injuries – None

The Nuggets are my pick to win the NBA championship this year, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to betting on them to win over their last 27 games. Apart from wins against a few of the league’s best teams, they have sleepwalked through most of the season so far and I expect that to continue. Denver could and should be trying to get the top seed in the Western Conference, but it’s most important that they have a healthy roster. The Nuggets have one of the best homecourt advantages, but that’s a moot point if Nikola Jokic, Jamaal Murray, Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter are not healthy and fit to be on the court. I expect them to manage rest over the last weeks of the season and especially in spots like this where they play at home Thursday and then fly to Portland to play Friday. This means we could see star players on the floor less than usual and a game played a slower pace.

Thursday, they face the Wizards, a team the Nuggets can beat without their best players or best effort. The Wizards are also a nonconference opponent, which makes the game even less important. This makes for a great chance to back Washington again. As I’ve mentioned here before, the sportsbooks downgraded the Wizards a few points after trading away Daniel Gafford, their best and only center. I don’t think that made the team worse, but instead made it different and possibly better suited to cover these types of spreads late in games. Washington is now a smaller team that can put more shooting on the floor and their young roster continues to play with effort late in games. The Nuggets should be big favorites, but by close to 10/11 points and not as big as 15. Give me the points with the Wizards. 

Bet

Washington Wizards +15 (-108, FanDuel Sportsbook)

Not For Noops

Games I’m not betting and why I’m not betting them.

Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers -8.5, 217

This is a tough game to handicap given the injury report. The Cavaliers play in Cleveland and head to Philadelphia Friday. Donovan Mitchell is questionable, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he sat out here and played Friday. As for the Magic, they have Paolo Banchero in the injury report as questionable and added him this morning. That usually means the player is more likely to miss the game. If Banchero can play, I think there’s value on Orlando if the spread stays at +7.5 or better. He’s the best player on the Magic and without him, they will struggle too much offensively to keep this game close. Once we know who is actually playing, there might be a bet to make, but there isn’t one for now. I’ll add anything for this game in the #nba-plays chat of the Discord later.

New York Knicks at Philadelphia 76ers -1, 228.5

This is the first night of a home back-to-back for the 76ers. The Knicks know that OG Anunoby and Julius Randle are not playing. Donte DiVincenzo and Bojan Bogdanvoic are listed as questionable. If both are out, then the Knicks have a very thin roster. At the same time, the 76ers are without Joel Embiid, Nicolas Batum and De’Anthony Melton (60% of their starting lineup). Another 20% of that group, Tobias Harris, is listed as questionable. How can we possibly bet this game with so much uncertainty? If everyone is out, this is a close matchup, but one that likely favors the 76ers at a small margin. If everyone who is listed questionable can play, then the Knicks should be favorites by a few points. Check the Discord later to see if I make any bets once we know who is available to play, but I can’t bet anything now.

Brooklyn Nets at Toronto Raptors -1, 231.5

It’s always interesting when a coach gets fired in the middle of the season. Some teams play with renewed energy and vigor over the next few games in response to being free of a leader they didn’t want to follow. Some teams play even worse because they know the coach is a babysitter to watch over things before the real coach is hired in the offseason. I have no idea which kind of team the Nets are going be. It’s clear that the players had lost confidence in Jacque Vaughn who was fired over the break, but they are 2.5 games out of the Play-In Tournament and unlikely to make the postseason. That’s not much incentive to play their best head into an offseason where most players are locked in contracts and a new head coach, among other changes, are coming. I’m not sure what to do with that piece of the equation and my model came out close to the current odds. I’ll pass on this game.

Detroit Pistons at Indiana Pacers -11.5, 246

I make this game Pacers -10.5 with a total of 245.5, which is too close to the current prices to say there is an edge on either side. Indiana has the better roster, but they’re not good enough for me to trust them to cover such a big number. Detroit showed signs of life before the All-Star break, but I’m not sure what to expect the rest of the way. The Pistons have the worst record in the league and should be tanking, but they’re so bad they could try to win for the culture and still have the best odd possible at winning the top pick in next year’s draft. My projections are 2 points less than the total, which is close to a bet, but I’m not interested in the under in this matchup. The Pacers love to run and the Pistons tend to play at whatever speed their opponent prefers, which is the recipe for an under in this game. No bets for me here.

Phoenix Suns at Dallas Mavericks -1.5, 245

This is the first night of a road back-to-back for Phoenix, and Bradley Beal is questionable. The Mavericks will have Dereck Lively on the court for the first time weeks, and I expect that to help Dallas in a big way. Lively is their best rim protector, rebounder and pick-and-roll big man. My gut says Dallas, but my projections make Phoenix a 1-point favorite. This game could have a “playoff” feel to it. Both teams know there’s a chance they face one another in the playoffs, and that usually means more intensity, which usually means under. The first two games were played at a slower pace than the Mavericks usually play and went just barely under the total. I make the total 246, which is just above where it sits now, and the total has been bet up throughout the day. I can’t see any value in this game other than the joy of watching it. 

Houston Rockets at New Orleans Pelicans -7.5, 229

Brandon Ingram is questionable, and I’m going to wait to see what his status is. This looks like a good spot for the Pelicans, but I only make New Orleans favorites by nine points with Ingram. They have a deep roster, but Igram is one of the harder players to replace. The Rockets have struggled on the road all year and have to play again tomorrow night at home against the Phoenix Suns. Keep an eye on the Discord channel. If Ingram is in, I’ll likely bet the Pelicans. They’ve been a great first-half team, especially at home, and the Rockets are a bad first-half team, especially on the road, but we need to wait to see who’s actually playing basketball first. No bets for now.

Los Angeles Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder -1, 235

This is the first night of a back-to-back for both teams, but Friday night’s opponents are bad teams and this is an important matchup in the battle for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The Clippers and Thunder are half a game apart in the standings and the winner of tonight’s game gets the tiebreaker if they finish the season with the same record. This is a game will have a “playoff” feel to it, and I believe this is why the total has been bet down from the opener of 239.5 to the 235 we see now, and it could go even lower. In these types of games, teams use more of the shot clock on offense to try to get the best shot possible. That raises offensive efficiency, but the total shots taken drops which is great for under bettors. I make the total 233 which is an edge to the under, but it’s just out of range. I might look for a live spot of a second-half under, but I’m not betting anything now. Make sure you’re in the Discord channel to see if/when I make those bets.

Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls +8.5, 223.5

This feels like a smash spot for the Boston Celtics, but it’s hard to trust them to cover this spread. After Thursday’s game, Boston plays seven consecutive games on national TV against marquee opponents. This could be a game for them to rest some good players, possibly limit their minutes, or even overlook their opponent to the games afterwards. They have no one important listed on their injury report and if everyone does play, I make the Celtics -10 in this game. The Bulls have been better, especially at home, but they are worse than Boston at every single position tonight. Chicago has also been a good team late in games while the Celtics have let teams catch up and cover late. I still think Boston wins by margin, but that’s just a thought and not a wager.

Charlotte Hornets at Utah Jazz -9.5, 228.5

My projections are very close to these prices. It’s a bad spot for Charlotte, who is playing in Utah here and in Golden State Friday. LaMelo Ball is still unavailable, which means the Hornets have one of the worst rosters in the league. The Jazz can beat this team by double digits, but they have struggled to adjust after trading away a few players at the deadline. Maybe the All-Star break was long enough to for the team to figure out how to play with a shorter bench, but the end of this season could mirror the end of last season for Utah. The Jazz played well into the trade deadline last year but moved a few players and tanked to finish. Could they be doing that again? It’s hard to trust either team, and it looks to me like these prices are right. I’ll pass.

Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors -6, 243

This is fascinating matchup with important implications for each team’s chances in the Play-In tournament. It’s the front end of a back-to-back for both teams, but this is the most important game. The Lakers are the No. 9 seed and 1.5 games over the Warriors, who are the 10. This game could determine homecourt in the 9 vs. 10 game and gives the Golden State a real chance at getting up to seventh or eighth in the Western Conference. LeBron James is out, and Anthony Davis is questionable, while the Warriors injury report is pretty clean. If AD can play for the Lakers, I think this is close to the right spread. Unfortunately, we just don’t know and there are too many scenarios to consider to make a wager now. If I do bet this game, I’ll add that pick to the Discord later.

 
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