NBA Picks and Odds: Our Staff’s Best Bets for Lakers vs. Hornets, Magic vs. Knicks, More (Thursday, March 18)
Carlos Goldman/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks.
- With six games slated for Thursday night, the NBA isn't conceding to March Madness just yet.
- Our NBA crew is betting all but one of those games tonight, including one three-game parlay.
- Check out where they are finding some value below.
March Madness officially starts tonight, but the NBA isn’t moving aside quite yet. Thursday’s slate features six games, including a LaMelo Ball and LeBron James going head-to-head in the nightcap on NBA TV.
On tonight’s slate, our NBA analysts are getting a bit creative and betting one three-game moneyline parlay one spread and one total.
You can check out their analysis and picks in those matchups below.
NBA Odds & Picks
Jazz vs. Wizards | Timberwolves vs. Suns | Hornets vs. Lakers
Brandon Anderson: On nights with big favorites in lopsided games, prefer to parlay a few favorites together rather than sweating out another 10-point cover while I wait to see if my favorite cares enough to keep the back door closed. That’s where I’m going Thursday night.
The Utah Jazz are going to score at will against the Washington Wizards. Even with the shooting fading a bit for Utah recently, the Wizards give up so many good looks that the Jazz should be able to win even if they only show up for half the game.
The Phoenix Suns are getting an improving Timberwolves team that had a little time to practice with new head coach Chris Finch. But Minnesota is still missing D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley and I trust Chris Paul and the Suns to keep winning.
The Lakers are the team I feel worst about here. The Hornets always show up and this is a rare national television spot for them. I think that one could be close. But I trust LA’s defense to make things difficult on Charlotte, and the Lakers’ advantage on the boards should be huge. If it’s close late, LeBron James should take us home.
At the time of writing, a three-way moneyline parlay comes out at -141 on DraftKings, giving us pretty good odds on three big favorites. Usually on a parlay like this, we get two pretty easy ones and then sweat one out.
But I’d rather be sweating out a good team needing to find a way to win than one having to cover a high spread that doesn’t matter to them.
Orlando Magic vs. New York Knicks
Kenny Ducey: A losing streak isn’t always a bad thing in the betting world — sometimes you get an abundance of close losses — but in Orlando’s case it is.
The Magic haven’t won since Feb. 23, going back eight games, and have covered in just three of those eight. On the road, the Magic have been particularly bad, going 8-10 against the spread and failing to cover by an average of 5.4 points.
The Knicks, on the other hand, have covered in four of their last five and are a scorching 6-1 when favored at Madison Square Garden.
The biggest thing I’m looking at here is defense and rebounding. The Magic defense has allowed 115.6 points per 100 possessions during the eight-game skid, the seventh-worst mark in the NBA. Over that same span, the Magic have allowed opponents to shoot 36.5% behind the arc. Orlando also ranks 24th in rebounding, while the Knicks sit 10th with a Rebounding Rate of 52.5%.
Orlando’s could potentially be without Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross once again, which should not only hurt its ability to rebound but also its ability to score from three. New York’s only real vulnerability of late has been its 3-point defense, which has slipped a bit from its league-leading form, but I don’t see that as much of a concern against a depleted Magic side.
I’m backing the Knicks to make it 7-1 as home favorites. They play some of their best basketball at home, and already
have a cover under their belt against the Magic.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Atlanta Hawks
Raheem Palmer: If you follow my bets in the Action App you’ll know we played unders on Hawks/Rockets (226.5) and Thunder/Bulls (225.5) and while we were fortunate to get wins on both thanks to the hook, I still think both of these teams totals are being priced too high within the market.
The Thunder rank 28th in Offensive Rating, scoring just 106 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes according to Cleaning The Glass. They don’t do anything particularly well outside of scoring in the mid-range area and they rank 23rd in field goal percentage at the rim (61%) and 24th in 3-point shooting percentage (35.4%).
These happen to be areas of the floor where teams can generate the most efficient offense and they’ll be facing a Hawks team that ranks 12th in defending the rim (63.0%) and third in opponent three point percentage (34.8%).
Offensively, the Hawks are trending upwards — fourth in Offensive Rating, scoring a whopping 121.7 points per 100 possessions over the past two weeks. However, they’re also sixth in Defensive Rating (109.2) over this span as well, showing that they’ve improved defensively.
Although the Thunder aren’t very good offensively, they are 12th in Defensive Rating holding teams to just 112.2 points per 100 possessions. While they’ve slipped recently giving up 128 and 123 in losses against the Grizzlies and Bulls, that was in the absence of both Al Horford and Lu Dort. Horford is slated to play in tonight’s game and Dort is questionable, but him playing would go a long way towards helping this Thunder defense.
Either way, I’m not projecting a track meet here. The Hawks rank 21st in Pace this season, playing 98.87 possessions a game. While the Thunder play a bit faster, they aren’t top 10 in Pace and are in the midst of a four-game road trip while dealing with injuries to key rotational pieces in Theo Maledon and Darius Bazley.
It’s that strange time of the NBA season where you have some teams looking to push for the playoffs and others playing out the string. The Hawks have won six games in a row and are currently sixth in the East standings while the Thunder are 17-23 and looking towards the future.
Although the market has this game sitting at 226, I make this game 220.5 and see the Hawks winning their seventh straight in a game that’s not nearly as high scoring as the market projects.