With a few high-quality games on the slate tonight, I’ve picked out three I think have the highest value. The Jazz, in particular, look set to cover at home, while I’m picking Russell Westbrook to ignore everybody around him and produce some 2016-17 numbers to avoid a fifth-straight loss.
Hornets (5-6) @ Celtics (10-2)
The Celtics are flying. Since losing their opening two games of the season, the East’s No. 1 seed has rattled off 10 wins in a row. Throughout the winning streak, they’ve gone 9-1 against the spread, twice beating the spread as an underdog.
They’re winning and winning big, even with Al Horford missing time. He’s questionable for tonight’s game under the NBA’s concussion protocol.
Kyrie Irving & Celtics are currently +111 through 12 games. That point differential tops every team in Cavaliers franchise history through 12 games. Best: 1989 Cavs (+110) pic.twitter.com/Zab0k7imdO
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) November 9, 2017
Aside from a few moments where he gets a little bit isolation-heavy, Kyrie Irving has been exceptional. I expect to see his battle with Kemba Walker decide whether or not the Celtics cover.
Tucked away in Charlotte, Walker isn’t the biggest name in the league. He’s great scorer from anywhere on the court and is currently averaging a career-high 6.2 assists per game. He plays a similar game to Kyrie, but the Celtic simply plays it better.
The Hornets are a poor road team and are 1-5 both straight up and against the spread away from the Spectrum Center. With the NBA’s best points differential in 2017-18, I have the Celtics covering at home.
Pick: Celtics -3.5
Clippers @ Thunder
The Clippers have been struggling and are staring a fourth consecutive loss down the barrel tonight. Two things jump out as the main problems throughout the losing streak.
At 27.6 percent, the Clippers are way below their 3-point shooting average of 35.7 percent. The other is their defense. Besides the 141 points the Warriors dropped on them, only the Trail Blazers had cracked 100 before this current losing streak. Over the last three games, opponents are scoring 112.3 points per game which, coupled with their inept 3-point shooting, is too much for Blake Griffin to carry on his own.
The Thunder come into this one after playing last night, losing to the Nuggets 102-94.
Consistency remains an issue, but strangely enough, their best numbers have come on the second nights of a back-to-back so far this season.
Danilo Gallinari, Patrick Beverley and Austin Rivers are all in doubt for the Clippers. Unless two of the three make a surprise return, I’m leaning toward the Thunder covering this one.
Lean: Thunder -5.5
Heat (5-6) @ Jazz (5-6)
Despite not playing well over their last three games, I’m high on the Jazz (again) in this one. The matchups work in their favor with Rudy Gobert likely to outplay Hassan Whiteside, while you’re splitting hairs to choose one of either Ricky Rubio or Goran Dragic over the other.
The battle between the big men could get heated given their recent history on Twitter.
On the wings, the Jazz have a clear advantage. Donovan Mitchell is already becoming a somewhat reliable scorer. Rodney Hood – while he is out of touch at the moment – can’t be left alone on the perimeter. Joe Ingles is a 45 percent 3-point shooter. Thabo Sefolosha is an elite defender.
The balance is perfect on paper.
The Jazz have a menu of options on both sides of the floor at the wing spot, but the Heat don’t have the same luxury.
Dion Waiters is a high-volume shooter (14.4 FGA) with an average output (15.9 ppg). Tyler Johnson was absent for Miami’s last game, but in the 10 he’s played, he’s failed to score in double figures six times. Like Johnson, Justice Winslow isn’t one to set the world on fire with a barrage of points.
The Jazz are desperate and the word out of Utah is they put in a lengthy video session throughout the week and are getting back to their defense-first mentality.
Another loss. We will figure out how to defend and play together 👍🏽👍🏽#ontothenextone
— Rudy Gobert (@rudygobert27) November 8, 2017
It will start with turning the ball over. Utah’s opponent turnover percentage (16.8 percent) is second in the league, while only three teams turn the ball over more than Miami’s 16.9 per game.
With a fired up Jazz concentrating on defense at home, I struggle to see the Heat keeping this one close.
Pick: Jazz -3.5
Other Friday Games:
Hawks (2-9) @ Pistons (8-3)
Pacers (5-7) @ Bulls (2-7)
Bucks (4-6) @ Spurs (7-4)
Magic (7-4) @ Suns (4-8)
Nets (4-7) @ Trail Blazers (6-5)