After a jam-packed Wednesday night of NBA action – one that included a ridiculous Emmanuel Mudiay buzzer-beater – pro basketball calms down a bit on Thursday with a light five-game schedule.
While small in stature, tonight’s slate could actually be troubling. The Knicks and Bulls face off for the second night in a row, the Cavs could potentially rest some of their players on the second game of a back to back set and the Thunder try to keep the league’s longest winning streak (five games) going at home against a tough Utah defense.
Yeah, we thought you’d need our insight. Alright, let’s get down to it:
Bulls @ Knicks
Line: Bulls -4.5 Total: 204
This game is highly problematic for two key reasons: both teams played just last night and they faced each other. Teams facing each other twice in a short time span tends to throw things for a loop (just look at a recent Wizards/Hawks matchup), while we could also see some guys sit. Generally fatigue plays into this one for sure, but more specifically, the likes of Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol and even Carmelo Anthony are all on full alert.
All of that plays into the weak spread here, which oddly favors the visiting Bulls despite New York winning in a weirdly high-scoring affair last night and holding a 2-1 season series edge. Chicago obviously will want to turn right around and even the season series, partly because they hate the Knicks, and also because their playoff hopes demand it. Relying on the Over is shaky tonight with some guys potentially resting and everyone likely tired, but the Bulls will want/need this one.
Pick: Bulls 102, Knicks 96
Pelicans @ Pacers
Line: Pacers -13 Total: 208
It’s tough to say how much analysis is needed here, as the Pelicans remain completely ravaged with Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon all out. Norris Cole is even doubtful for this one, so Jrue Holiday and (yikes!) Luke Babbitt will be leaned on heavily to keep New Orleans in this one. Then factor that this one is on the road for a Pellies team that is awful away from home (8-27) and picking a New Orleans upset looks frightfully bleak. The Pacers are also 21-13 on their home floor and have been pretty solid lately (winners of 6 of their last 10).
Indy is the obvious straight up call here, and considering how beaten up the Pelicans are, there’s little reason to lose faith in Indiana’s ability to win by about 15 or more here. New Orleans might hang around initially if the Pacers sink down to their level, but that really shouldn’t last.
Pick: Pacers 109, Pelicans 92
Cavs @ Nets
Line: Cavs -6.5 Total: 203
Cleveland enters tonight in danger of sitting some stars, so we’ll certainly have to keep an eye out for who ends up sitting. The leading candidates may be LeBron James and/or Kyrie Irving, as Kevin Love just got into a groove last night and missed the game prior due to an illness. The Cavs remain the favorite, regardless, as the Nets aren’t very good (just 19 wins on the year) and aren’t especially better at home (12 wins). It might surprise you to learn that the Nets are a little more feisty than meets the eye, however, and they have mostly kept it together in two previous losses to Cleveland this year.
While some guys resting could shake this one up (hence the light spread), the Cavs should still win straight up. The real trick is mastering the spread here, as the Cavs shouldn’t win by a large amount if they’re at less than 100%, but they could still potentially cover here, depending on who sits. That’s true, but the Nets are a decent 32-31-1 ATS as an underdog and Cleveland has under-performed all year against the spread, really across the board. With a Cleveland stud or two out, we’ll give the Nets a shot at beating the spread.
Pick: Cavs 101, Nets 97
Jazz @ Thunder
Line: Thunder -9 Total: 198
Two hot teams run into each other at Chesapeaker Energy Arena tonight, as OKC tries to keep a five-game winning streak against the surging Jazz, who are also on a roll with three straight wins. Both teams have won 7 of their last 10 games and create quite an interest matchup issue, by sporting very different philosophies. The difference in styles has worked in Utah’s favor one time, but never to the point of actually taking the Thunder down.
OKC is especially a problem at home this season (28-9), which is a sharp contrast to Utah’s terrible road record (13-23). That doesn’t tell the whole story ever, but OKC usually enforces their will offensively and in three prior tries this year, Utah wasn’t able to stop it. We do like Utah’s style to keep them in the game and beat the spread (two of the three meetings were decided by six points or less – one of which went to OT), however.
Pick: Thunder 104, Jazz 99
Blazers @ Clippers
Line: Clippers -5 Total: 213
The Clippers have been struggling as of late, falling to Golden State last night and losing each of their last three contests. A home date with the Blazers isn’t an automatic fix for their troubles, but they’ve at least shown well in the series thus far (lead 2-1 on the year) and should look to close strong at home. Portland hasn’t been in the best shape, either, as they’ve won just 4 of their last 6 games and are a woeful 15-23 on the road. Los Angeles also defends the perimeter pretty well at Staples Center, and that’s where most of Portland’s production comes from.
Los Angeles feels like the obvious call straight up at home, as this losing skid can’t last forever and they’re the better team. Portland has actually been decent against the spread on the road, however (21-17), while the Clippers for whatever reason struggle when heavily favored (22-25-2) on their home floor. This game has blowup offensive potential, anyways, so we’ll take the Clips to win in a tight shootout. That does put the Total in play to a certain degree, but keep in mind none of the prior three games had both teams topping 100 points. We’d go with the Under tonight.
Pick: Clippers 102, Blazers 99