NBA Opening Night Betting Picks & Predictions: Our Best Bets for Warriors vs. Nets, Lakers vs. Clippers (Tuesday, Dec. 22)
Harry How/Getty Images. Pictured: Opening tipoff, with no fans in attendance, between the LA Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.
- Looking for a few quick picks for Tuesday's NBA season openers? Our staff breaks down their favorite bets of the night.
- Two of our experts are finding value on the Lakers vs. Clippers matchup and one has zeroed in on the Nets spread.
- Check out our staff's full breakdown of today's best bets.
It has been 72 days since Los Angeles Lakers last played a basketball game that counted, but they will be back in action as the reigning NBA champions when they take on the LA Clippers to open the season.
In the early game, the Golden State Warriors face their old teammate, Kevin Durant, in his first regular season game since injuring his Achilles tendon in the 2019 NBA Finals.
With so many new variables at play in tonight’s games (no fans, long layoffs, short turnarounds) our NBA experts have found three bets they like for Tuesday’s two matchups. Check out their analysis and bets on those games below.
NBA Odds & Picks
Warriors vs. Nets
Brandon Anderson: Early in the season, I’m looking to exploit games based not so much on specific matchups as much as my preseason reads, especially on teams where I differ a lot from the public. And boy do I differ from the public on both of these teams.
I don’t understand why people think the Warriors are same team that won three titles in five season. It has been over 500 days since we’ve seen anything remotely close to those Warriors — this team resembles that dynasty in one name only.
I certainly hope Stephen Curry can be great again, but he’ll be missing Draymond Green in this one and is already missing Klay Thompson. Maybe someday Andrew Wiggins and James Wiseman and Kelly Oubre will be real Warriors, but they sure as heck aren’t right now. This is a mishmash roster plus Curry; a fringe playoff team.
As for Kevin Durant? He’s on the other team now, and he has looked every bit himself during the preseason. Kyrie Irving is there, too, and he was the third or fourth best guard in the NBA in the games he played last year.
Together they are the second-best duo in the NBA and boost a roster that was a playoff team for the past two seasons — the Nets are a clear title contender if they stay healthy.
Normally you would have to factor in a learning curve for a new head coach and guys returning from injury who have not played together. But there’s no reason to believe these Warriors have any idea how to play together either, and they could be a train wreck defensively without Green there as the linchpin to organize the low IQ defenders around him.
I’d love to be wrong about the Warriors, both tonight and for the season. I hope Curry still has that MVP form in him (he’s going to need it tonight). I would love to see him scorch the Nets with 40 on opening night.
But anything short of that and I think the far better team runs away with a relatively uninteresting opening game. I’d play the Nets up to -9.5.
Clippers vs. Lakers
Matt Moore: All four games between these two heavyweights went under last season. The model for the books apparently hasn’t changed, as the total, 222.5, is about the average total for all four games last year. Meanwhile, the average combined score was 112.6, a full 10 points beneath the total here.
The matchups in the bubble were a different environment when Anthony Davis was raining 3-pointers and the Lakers had suddenly evolved into a volume 3-point shooting team. In the regular season, they ranked 18th in 3-point rate after being bottom-10 for most of the year. In preseason they were dead last in 3-point attempts per 100 possessions.
The Clippers are without Marcus Morris, losing another 3-point threat. They added Luke Kennard in the offseason, who should replace some of that volume, but in the first game, it’s not enough to sway me.
The Clippers looked ragged in preseason, trying to incorporate a new system. The Lakers’ identity, like all Frank Vogel teams from the past, is defense, defense, defense. Throw in the weirdness of the first game in Staples Center without fans (as opposed the snug, TV-set style of the bubble), plus the additions of defensive veterans Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka to the respective clubs, and I think this will be more of a slugfest.
One more trend for you: Since 2014-15 (the start of the high-volume 3-point era of the Warriors and Rockets), in games between teams with 60% win percentages or better (as both teams are expected to be this season) where the line is within two points, the under is 148-94-10 (61.2%).
Clippers vs. Lakers
Joe Dellera: The Lakers will open the season as reigning champions against the other LA team. The Lakers managed to improve on their already strong roster, while the Clippers endured an offseason of losses, including reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Montrezl Harrell (Lakers), Landry Shamet (Nets), and coach Doc Rivers.
While they’ve added Luke Kennard, Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum, and re-signed Reggie Jackson, I don’t think they’ve done enough to combat this Lakers team.
Marcus Morris has already been ruled out (Knee) and this impairs the Clippers’ offense as he was a mind boggling +12.9 points per 100 possessions last season with the Clips (Cleaning the Glass). Frank Vogel preaches defense to the Lakers, as Matt Moore noted and the offensive losses of Morris and Harrell will be felt against this Lakers’ defense.
I’m not interested in losing this game on a close spread and home favorites off a postseason berth the season prior are 78-23 straight up on opening night (Bet Labs). I’ll roll with the champs.