Saturday’s NBA main slate features seven games. The action gets underway at 7 pm ET and the final game tips off at 10 pm ET. Let’s survey the slate and pick the best bets for Saturday night.
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The Thunder are one of the best teams against the spread (44-25-4). The DraftKings Sportsbook cannot figure them out. Their opponents beat them but not into the ground. The Thunder are like a dog rolling over on its back and exposing its belly. They say, “We give. You win. Take it easy. “Their opponents acquiesce and the Thunder cover. Oklahoma City has lost 17 of 21, but are 12-7-2 ATS in those games and have covered in the last five. They have the third-worst offense and second-worst defense over the last 15 games, but they still cover at an elite rate. The only explanation is that other teams feel sorry for them. No one wants to beat a dead horse.
Denver will smoke Oklahoma City, but 14 is a lot. The Nuggets have not played a back-to-back in awhile and won’t for awhile, but their matchups have not been as forgiving. Nikola Jokic has been forced to log minutes in the mid thirties each night. He could use some rest. The last time the Nuggets comfortably beat an opponent, Jokic only played 26 minutes. That should be on the docket tonight. It’s hard to cover 14 points without a full game from the walking triple-double. Denver’s need for a light night combined with the Thunder’s inexplicable ability to cover (25-11 ATS as road dogs) make the 14 points seem like too many points to ignore. Not to mention, the Nuggets were 15.5-point favorites at home against the Thunder on Mar. 2 and the Thunder won outright. The Thunder are +750 if you want to get weird.
Bull -1.5 (-110)
Two months ago, Cleveland and Chicago looked like contenders. Both had a legitimate shot at reaching the finals. Now, both will be lucky to make it out of the first round of the playoffs. However, if any of the two has a chance at putting it back together, then it’s the Bulls. Alex Caruso just returned from injury and DeMar DeRozan is expected back on Saturday night (both are probable). Chicago should also get Lonzo Ball back at the beginning of the playoffs. It would be nice to have him tonight, but Caruso and DeRozan should be enough to win this game straight up.
This game opened as a pick ’em and has already shifted to the Bulls -1.5. The absence of Jarrett Allen has been too much for Cleveland. He was their identity. Cleveland’s 108.1 defensive efficiency rating ranks fourth this season, but without him over the last nine games, they rank 25th (119.0). Fortunately for the Cavs, the Bulls have struggled offensively without Lonzo Ball (26th offense over the last 15 games). However, many of the poor performances were the result of multiple absences in the starting lineup. The Bulls are very near full strength. This is also a pivotal spot in a stretch of 12 road games in 14 games. The Bulls have struggled on the road, but they can still salvage this run with four very winnable matchups to close out the trip.
Rockets -4.5 (-110)
In possibly the worst scheduling of the season, the Rockets are playing the Trail Blazers on back-to-back nights in Portland. On Friday night, the Rockets were 4.5-point favorites and won by 19. What could possibly change in 24 hours? Are the Blazers magically healthy? Do they suddenly care? Why won’t the Blazers get beat worse on the second night? A more interesting bet is whether any Portlanders show up, but if Portlandia has taught us anything, it’s that they live for these weird, ironic matchups. Of course they will watch the second round of the Rockets that do not blast off and the Trail Blazers that do not blaze trails, unless that trail leads to the worst record in the NBA.
Portland’s starting five is something to behold – Williams, Johnson, Elleby, Watford and Eubanks. The addition of their first names to that list would not make them sound more familiar. There are lineups full of nobodies, then there is Portland. Even G league teams have names that are familiar. Compare the Blazers ‘lineup to the Rockets’ starting five – Porter Jr., Green, Gordon, Tate and Wood. Most of those guys are lottery picks with potential every night. If there is this much of a difference among the two starting lineups, then how bad is the bench differential? The Rockets -4.5 is too low, and it’s insulting (this line actually opened at -3.5). Since Portland completely disintegrated when they lost Jusuf Nurkic 14 games ago, they have lost 12 games by an average of 27 points. The closest loss was by five and the biggest was by 43 with 11 losses being by nine points or more. Betting against Portland has been a free square. It was an easy target on Friday night and this is the same exact matchup with the same exact spread.
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