Thursday’s NBA Best Bets: Our Staff’s Picks for Timberwolves vs. Pelicans, Suns vs. Trail Blazers (March 11)
David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns.
- The NBA is back in full force for the second half with 11 games on Thursday night's slate.
- Our NBA crew is finding value in two matchups: Timberwolves-Pelicans and Suns-Trail Blazers.
- Read below to see the spread and prop bets they like in tonight's games.
And just like that, the NBA is back!
After a soft opening to the second half of the season with a short two-game slate on Wednesday, we've got 11 games on the schedule tonight, including two must-see games on national TV: Boston Celtics vs. Brooklyn Nets (7:30 p.m. ET) and Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers (10 p.m. ET).
Despite wide swath of choices, our four NBA analysts landed on four bets from two games and are looking at three spread bets and one prop on tonight's slate.
You can check out their analysis and picks for those game below.
NBA Odds & Picks
Minnesota Timberwolves vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Today, it is listed at 4.5 on most books with juice on the under, a number he’s only gone over in 40.7% of his games. As a standalone prop bet, I would stay away because I think this may be a little too high, but I have concerns betting an assist total under in a game with the highest total on the slate.
I’m turning to a combination prop. Our Action Labs prop tool projects Zion to score 28.5 points tonight and against the Timberwolves, I expect his usage to be even higher. The Timberwolves give up the second-most points in the paint per game in the league and allow opponents to shoot 63.5% at the rim. This is an area where Zion feasts.
He’s an excellent finisher at the rim, and even if the defense collapses around him, he can facilitate and find the open man. I’m using the combo prop for Williamson to go over his Points + Assists against this porous Minnesota interior.
Minnesota Timberwolves vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Brandon Anderson: What a miserable first half of the season it was for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves are last in the entire NBA at 7-29. They were without Karl-Anthony Towns for a huge stretch of the first half, and Towns and D'Angelo Russell have still played precious few games together even with that DLo trade already over a year in the rear-view mirror.
Now Malik Beasley is serving a suspension too, while Russell remains out. The Wolves fired their coach and continued to lose games heading into the break, and the team doesn't even get to keep its first-round pick this season unless it falls in the top three.
What's crazy is that the season has been almost as disastrous for the Pelicans in some ways. New Orleans has actually been relatively healthy and whole, and yet the Pels still aren't winning games. New Orleans went out and got Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams this offseason to bolster the defense, but the defense has been miserable and the duo has killed New Orleans' spacing. At 15-21, the Pelicans are one loss away from being the 13-seed in the West. For a team with real playoff aspirations this season, that's a disastrous first half too.
There are certainly silver linings for both teams. Zion Williamson looks like a superstar in the making and gets a little better each month, but I wonder if he'll be a bit tired out after his first All-Star Weekend, while Karl-Anthony Towns finally got a physical and mental break he badly needed. With both defenses so bad, both Zion and KAT should eat tonight.
In the end, I just can't quite favor the Pelicans by eight points against anyone because they haven't proven they should be. I think this week away will be huge for Minnesota because it finally gave the Wolves time to get in a few practices under new head coach Chris Finch, something they never had a couple weeks ago when they made the switch literally overnight.
We saw yesterday how good Dallas looked when it had a few practices with a healthy roster, and I think Minnesota will look much more organized now that Finch had some time with his roster too.
The Pelicans have won a game by nine or more points eight times all season, and they're not good enough yet to just blindly assume an easy win against any opponent, not even the Wolves. I think Minnesota benefits from the time away with Finch and keep this one close.
Phoenix Suns vs. Portland Trailblazers
Raheem Palmer: The Phoenix Suns are currently the No. 2 team in the West with a 24-11 record while ranking third in Net Rating (6.4), eighth in Offensive Rating (114.6) and third in Defensive Rating (108.2).
You’d think a team this good would be worthy of respect among oddsmakers and bettors alike, but it seems they still aren’t getting their just due — especially against a Portland Trailblazers team they defeated by 32 points almost three weeks ago.
This is a mismatch as the Suns have an answer for what the Blazers do best, generating points from behind the arc. The Suns allow the third-lowest 3-point shooting percentage on defense (34.9%), which is huge against the Blazers who are taking a whopping 43.4% of their field goals from downtown and making the eighth most at 38.7%.
The Blazers rank 28th in Defensive Rating this season and have stayed afloat by outscoring opponents on a nightly basis. They won’t be able to easily outscore the Suns who can match them point for point from behind the arc as they rank ninth in 3-point shooting percentage. (38.4%). In addition, the Suns are well balanced offensively and are great at scoring in the mid-range, areas of the floor the Blazers struggle to defense.
From my view, this number is short as my projections make this line Suns -5. I think the market is underrating the Suns here as they were laying 6.5 in their Feb. 22 matchup at home. The Blazers historically have one of the best home court advantages in the NBA, but this season, without fans, the full advantage of playing at home isn't there.
I’m not sure going from Phoenix to Portland is worth four points, so I’ll lay the points with the Suns. I bet this at -2.5, but still like the Suns up to -5.
Phoenix Suns vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Kenny Ducey: Both the Suns and Trail Blazers enter this game trying to add on to a winning streak they started prior to the break, but only one will continue on with their winning ways. That team will be the Phoenix Suns.
We’ve spent all season fawning over the Suns’ third-ranked defense, and with good reason. What’s been most impressive about the Suns, who have won 13-of-15 games, is their offense.
Over that span, Phoenix has led the league in 3-point shooting at 42%, and in assist-to-turnover ratio, with a mark of 2.39. The offense has ranked second in efficiency, and that’s been a large reason for their league-best +13.3 Net Rating.
Portland’s defense has been suspect all season long, but offensive explosions by the team’s infinite supply of shooters has helped mask the issues on that side of the floor. Against a staunch perimeter defense, the rate of shots made from outside should slow to a crawl.
The biggest trend I’m looking at here, though, are the against the spread splits for both sides. The Suns’ 12-5 ATS record on the road makes them hard to fade here, as does their run of a cover in all 16 games they’ve won over the last 19. Portland, meanwhile, is just 7-10 ATS at home.
I expect both teams to continue to trend in opposite directions here, and think the Suns’ defense should win out here decisively against a bunch of shooters coming in off a long layoff. I'd bet it to -6.