NBA Odds, Expert Picks, Predictions: Our Staff’s Best Bets For Wednesday, Including Hawks vs. Magic, Trail Blazers vs. Spurs (December 14)
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Anfernee Simons #1 of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Tuesday night featured one of the best games of the year in the NBA season so far. With 10 games on the schedule for Wednesday, could we see another game that reaches that level?
Tonight’s slate features a doubleheader on ESPN: Knicks vs. Bulls (7:30 p.m. ET) and Timberwolves vs. Clippers (10 p.m. ET). There’s also a must-see matchup in Dallas — Cavaliers vs. Mavericks (9 p.m. ET) — between two potential MVP candidates Donovan Mitchell and Luka Doncic.
Our three best bets for Wednesday feature predictions from two other games on the evening’s slate. Check out our staff’s expert picks and predictions below.
NBA Odds & Picks
Atlanta Hawks vs. Orlando Magic
Andrew O’Connor-Watts: Hawks games have been my favorite to bet on recently. In fact, I didn’t realize until I started this handicap, but I’ve bet on them in every one of their last five games and they’ve been nice enough to help me go 5-0 against the spread in those games (they’re 1-4 ATS in their last five games, so I’ve mostly been fading them). If only every team were that helpful.
For whatever reason the market hasn’t adjusted properly to their recent injuries and I think it’s more of an instance of the sum being greater than the parts with John Collins and Dejounte Murray missing games.
Without those two in, Atlanta is significantly worse on both sides of the ball. Murray plugs a lot of the defensive holes that Trae Young creates in the backcourt and Collins is an athletic pick-and-roll partner, and a pick-and-pop threat in a way that Clint Capela is not.
In the last five games, the Hawks are a bottom-five defense while the Magic are a top-10 defense. Orlando matches up well against Atlanta. The Hawks take the most shots from midrange (38.3%), while Orlando gives up the fewest (26.2%), according to Cleaning the Glass.
The Magic have a three-game win streak and a four-game ATS win streak and have done so against legitimate opponents. They beat the Toronto Raptors twice, the Los Angeles Clippers once and covered against the Milwaukee Bucks. Orlando also has a motivation edge. Atlanta has won both games so far this season, including their most recent matchup by a score of 125-108.
Young is also questionable, so look to the injury report before making your bet, but I like the Magic to cover at this number whether or not Young plays. My numbers have the Magic as favored in this spot, and when I adjusted for more recency that number is even bigger in the Magic’s favor. I like them to keep their cover/win streak alive.
If Young plays, I like the Magic anywhere as a dog. If he sits, take the Magic down to -2.5, but either way, take the Magic. I have a half unit on the moneyline as well.
New York Knicks vs. Chicago Bulls
Chris Baker: This number has been bet up form 224.5 and I disagree with the line movement for a multitude of reasons.
Jalen Brunson should be out for this one after spraining his ankle/foot on Sunday against the Sacramento Kings. He is the Knicks‘ offensive engine and the only player on the team who you can truly trust to make consistently good decisions on the offensive end of the ball.
We saw a glimpse of the Knicks’ offensive woes without Brunson in the fourth quarter of the Kings game on Sunday. The Knicks scored just 13 points in nine minutes following Brunson’s departure. Everyone knows how elite Brunson is offensively, but less discussed are his woes on the defensive end where he ranks in the fifth percentile as the defense is 10.0 points worse with him on the court.
The Knicks will likely insert Immanuel Quickley into the starting lineup (you really never know with head coach Tom Thibodeau) and he has been the exact opposite of Brunson as the defense is -16.6 points better with him on the floor and the offense is -6.7 points worse with him in. We should see a lot more of Quickley and Miles McBride minutes and those guys both excel defensively but have struggled on the offensive end.
I love the way the Bulls matchup with the Knicks on the defensive end of the floor in this game. The Knicks generate a lot of second chance opportunities, ranking third in the NBA in Offensive Rebound Percentage on the year. The Bulls can neutralize this as they rank first in Defensive Rebound Percentage in the league.
Between Patrick Williams and Javonte Green, I think the Bulls have solid on-ball defenders who can contain Julius Randle. They also should get Alex Caruso back for this one and he has been the Bulls best defender by far.
This Bulls defense continues to be slightly underrated as they have played the single most difficult schedule of opposing offenses this season. They rank seventh in overall Defensive Rating, but their Schedule Adjusted Defensive Rating is fourth, per Dunks And Threes.
Finally, these two teams just don’t get up enough 3-pointers to justify such a high total. The Bulls rank dead-last in the NBA in 3-Point Rate and the Knicks rank just 19th. This total is just too high and while I bet it at 227, I like the under down to 225.5.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. San Antonio Spurs
Jim Turvey: DraftKings will post these player head-to-head props, and the great part about them is that when they align on a player you really like the spot for, with a player you don’t like the spot for, it’s like getting two edges for the risk of just one bet. That’s the case on Wednesday when the Blazers head to San Antonio to take on the Spurs.
If we isolate just the point total prop for each player, we see that Simons is listed at 21.5, while Johnson is listed at 22.5. Hence, why Johnson is -165 in their head-to-head matchup. However, Johnson’s 22.5 is juiced to the under, while Simons 21.5 is juiced to the over, meaning the difference in projected outcome is very tight, too tight to give +120 to Simons and that’s even before we dive deeper.
Johnson’s under 22.5 points prop could be a best bet of its own, a prop I’ve gone to with (winning) regularity this season. Johnson has gone under this number in 15 of his 25 games this season, and four of the 10 times he went over were among the five games he has played without Devin Vassell this season. When Vassell and he are both in the lineup, Johnson has gone under 22.5 in 14 of 20 games.
On the other side of the ledger, Simons’ numbers have vacillated a bit since Damian Lillard has returned to the court, but Simons often has bigger games against worse opponents. In the Blazers’ six double-digit wins, he has cleared 21.5 in four of them, and often with ease.
There’s a bit of risk that in a blowout Johnson could get more playing time than Simons, but there is inherent risk in every bet, and getting plus money on this matchup helps ease that risk a bit. I would play this line to even money.