NBA: Heavy favorites dominate Tuesday’s slate

NBA: Heavy favorites dominate Tuesday’s slate article feature image

After the plethora of games and storylines yesterday, we’ve only got three games today, and all have clear -6.5 favorites.

Celtics (12-2) @ Nets (5-8)

No matter how you look at it, the Celtics are brilliant.

Their 12-2 record is the best in the NBA straight up, and nobody is performing better against the spread at 11-2-1. Injuries have put fear into Vegas as they consistently undervalue the Celtics, and, in particular, Brad Stevens.

He’s the best coach in the NBA right now, and as much as we look into how players shuffling in and out of lineups impacts the line, coaching often goes unconsidered.

Stevens has Marcus Smart – who at this rate is putting up the worst shooting numbers in NBA history – willing teams to victory, a rookie producing game-winning performances and a sophomore making the leap after a sub-par first season in the league. He’s a wizard, and his team has the rest of the NBA under its spell.

With Kyrie Irving returning tonight and the Nets being without D’Angelo Russell, the Celtics should extend their unbeaten run to 13 games.

Throughout the 12-game winning streak, the Celtics have kept 11 of their opponents to under 100 points. Defensively, they’ve been outstanding. They have the best defensive rating in the league (97.5) and are keeping teams to just 94 points per game.

While the Nets are averaging 110.6 points per game and leading the league in pace, without Russell they’ll struggle to reach their peak offensively. He leads the team in points per game, assists per game and usage rate. And with no Jeremy Lin available, there’s nobody on the roster that comes close to replicating what Russell offers.

With the likelihood of a blowout minimal, I’ve got this one as a close, low-scoring Celtics win.

Pick: Under 208 points
Lean: Nets +6.5

Raptors (7-5) @ Rockets (11-3)

It’s the third game in four nights for the Rockets, but they’ve not provided any evidence they’ll slow down anytime soon. Expected to be playing on tired legs over the weekend, Houston put 118 points on the Pacers a night after their 111-96 win over the Grizzlies.

The Rockets, who are hitting 34.2 percent from beyond the arc (they average 44.9 3-pointers per game) are beating teams comfortably. They are second – behind the Warriors – in margin of victory at 8.21 points.

Tonight might be a little more difficult given Toronto’s ability to limit the number of 3-point shots opposing teams throw up. They allow the fifth-fewest 3-point attempts, although teams are connecting on 36.5 percent of them – a touch above the league average of 36 percent.

Despite Toronto being able to reduce the number of 3-point shots better than most, they aren’t great against the NBA’s elite teams. Typically, the Raptors will beat the bad teams, win a little over .500 against the average teams but really struggle to make the step up and beat the best teams in the league.

In their last nine games against teams with a straight up winning record, the Raptors are 2-6-1. In their last eight games against teams above .600, they are 2-5-1 against the spread.

The Rockets, on the other hand, have won six games in a row, going 5-1 against the spread. Houston is playing the sort of basketball worthy of their current No. 1 seed in the West, and I like them to win big tonight.

Pick: Rockets -6.5

Spurs (8-5) @ Mavericks (2-12)

Greg Popovich keeps finding ways to have this team winning despite being without their best player and MVP hopeful, Kawhi Leonard. They’ve won four of their last five and are coming into this one on the back of a massive 133-94 win over the now 2-9 Bulls.

At 2-12, the Mavericks don’t offer much more of a challenge tonight.

With Devin Harris, Seth Curry and Josh McRoberts all out injured, Dallas doesn’t have the depth to compete for the full 48 minutes. In the third quarter, when the good teams tend to make their run, the Mavericks are 27th at 22.9 points per game while the Spurs are seventh at 28 points.

Harris is the only one of the trio potentially suiting up tonight – he’s listed as questionable – but his 9.3 points, two rebounds and 1.7 assists per game aren’t moving the line.

With two days rest, an expert coach and a team full of veterans that have had two days to rest, the Spurs should handle the Mavericks with relative ease tonight.

Pick: Spurs -6.5

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