NBA Betting Odds & Picks: Our Staff’s Best Bets for Grizzlies vs. Kings, Pacers vs. Bulls, More (December 26)
Alex Goodlett/Getty Images. Pictured: Luke Kennard
The NBA’s loaded Christmas Day slate is behind us, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty more action to be had.
The day after brings us eight games, including seven in the evening, and our analysts have found angles on four of them, including a big Western Conference matchup between the Nuggets and Clippers.
Here are our four best bets from Sunday’s NBA slate.
NBA Odds & Picks
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Sacramento Kings
Matt Moore: Memphis is 17th in spread differential this season, per Cleaning The Glass. They’re also on a downswing, having lost three in a row. The Kings are 4-6 in their last 10 which, for them, is a bit better. The bigger problem is that Memphis still profiles as a worse team than its record, and so it’s going to be overvalued in the market.
De’Aaron Fox is questionable for this game as he attempts to exit protocols. Even if he doesn’t play, I think there’s value on the Kings to hang in at home. I have this as Kings +2 at home. Memphis is 7-8 as a favorite this season ATS, per TeamRankings.com.
I’ll hold my nose and grab the points with the Kings.
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Matt Moore: The Thunder have the eighth-shortest average offensive possession length, via DunksAndThrees.com, the Pelicans have the ninth-shortest opponent rate. The Pelicans’ offense is much better, but they’ll allow the Thunder to play faster, which OKC needs to.
The over is 3-2-1 in the last six for the Pelicans despite their improved defensive performance. With the possibility that the Pelicans put up a big number on their own, and the expected pace for the Thunder, I like the over.
Indiana Pacers vs. Chicago Bulls
Brandon Anderson: I swear to you, the Pacers are not terrible.
Indiana is 14-19 and currently the 13-seed in the East, so it’s fine if you don’t believe me. And it’s not that I think the Pacers are good. They’re not. But they’re mediocre, I promise! Indiana has ranked right around league average on both Offensive and Defensive Rating all season — the problem is that the Pacers are horrendous in close games late.
Somehow Indiana is an inexplicable 3-14 in games decided by single digits. That’s not against the spread. That’s straight up. The Pacers can’t win a close game to save their lives. That’s why we’re playing for the cover but not the win.
It’s not clear which Pacers will suit up. Both Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon are questionable. But Chicago is missing both of its starting guards with Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso out, and the Bulls have played only two games in the last two weeks, so I’m expecting a rusty, sleepy performance from Chicago.
Between that and the Pacers being at least kind of decent, that should be enough of a margin for the Pacers to keep it close and lose another one late.
All I want for Christmas is for the Indiana Pacers to learn how to close a game out. But until they do, I’ll play for another cover and close loss because Indiana ranks 12th in Net Rating, only a few spots behind Chicago, with a positive point differential on the season. These teams just aren’t this far apart, no matter what the records say.
Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Joe Dellera: The Clippers received the devastating news that Paul George will miss the next 3-4 weeks after being diagnosed with a tear to his UCL (for reference, this is the injury that many pitchers suffer that requires Tommy John surgery). One good thing is that we are already a bit prepared regarding who picks up the slack when George misses time since he missed six games just this month.
One player who I’m targeting in particular is Luke Kennard. He’s a microwave scorer who does not need a high usage rate to be effective due to his excellent 120.8 points per 100 shot attempts. Kennard’s points prop is set at 16.5, but it has already been bet up from an open of 15.5. In the six games without George, Kennard has cleared 16.5 points in 50% of them, but he’s also transcended 20 points in two of four and for him to score 20+ is (+186).
Considering Reggie Jackson is also out, and Jackson commands the second-highest Usage Rate on the team besides George, there should be plenty of opportunity for Kennard here.
Moreover, Kennard should play more minutes, and with minutes comes the ability and opportunity to secure rebounds. Kennard’s Points and Rebounds line is set at 20.5, a number he has cleared in four of six without George and this is a number he could exceed on points alone.
Because his points line moved up to 16.5, I will take his Points and Rebounds line instead which will give me a little flexibility while also getting the opportunity to cash it on just points alone.
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