NBA Predictions, Picks & Betting Odds (Thursday, Jan. 9): Back Celtics as Road Dogs?
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Jayson Tatum
This NBA season, I’m trying something new. I’m going to write a daily piece that highlights everything bettors and DFS players need to know for that night’s slate. For more on what to expect, read the inaugural piece.
Yesterday I finished 2-5 for -1.4 units. While I don’t want to get sucked into the past, I think it’s worth reviewing things each day.
The best way to do that is to look at closing line value (CLV), which is just measuring whether the line you bet moved for or against you by closing.
- I bet Magic -9.5 and it closed at Magic -9.5 (won)
- I bet Wizards-Magic under 219 and it closed at 218.5 (won)
- I bet Pacers +1 and it closed at Pacers -1.5 (lost)
- I bet Rockets-Hawks over 238 and it closed at 237 (lost)
- I bet Mavericks -3 and it closed at Mavericks -4 (lost)
- I bet Nuggets-Mavericks over 221 and it closed at 221.5 (lost)
- I bet Knicks-Jazz under 215 and it closed at 213.5 (lost)
It was a rough night overall, although it was interesting that I did worst on the bets that I got the best CLV on. The Pacers, for example, moved from +1 to -1.5 and then got blown out. That Knicks-Jazz under moved a decent amount and missed as well.
One mistake I made was buying too high on the Rockets-Hawks over. I thought it would continue to move up, but it actually came back down to 237 and the game landed on exactly that number. Betting is not just handicapping — but getting a sense for where the market is going to move so you can get the best numbers. I definitely missed on that one.
Anyway, let’s dive into today’s slate and find some angles.
Note: For updates, see the chat at the bottom of this post.
- Overall: 162-130-2
- Spreads: 62-54-2
- Totals: 51-48
- Moneylines: 14-6
- Props: 29-22
Odds as of Thursday afternoon and via FanDuel, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.
Betting Odds and Analysis
- 7 p.m. ET: Cleveland Cavaliers at Detroit Pistons (-7), 220.5
- 7 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers (-2.5), 215.5
- 8 p.m. ET: Portland Trail Blazers (-2) at Minnesota Timberwolves, 224
- 9:30 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets (-4) at OKC Thunder, 226.5
Let’s run through a couple angles I’m eyeing.
[In New Jersey? Bet now at PointsBet, which is running its “Make It Rain” promotion for Celtics-76ers. If you place a $100 or more spread bet on either of these two teams tonight, you get $3 in bonus for every 3-pointer your team makes.]
Celtics at 76ers
I think your thoughts on this game comes down to your thoughts on the 76ers right now.
They rebounded with a win last game against the Thunder at home after dropping four straight on the road. That highlights their significant home/road splits this season:
- 76ers overall: +4.1 Net Rating (8th), 110.6 Off Rating (13th), 106.5 Def Rating (6th)
- 76ers at home: +11.4 Net Rating (3rd), 113.9 Off Rating (7th), 102.5 Def Rating (1st)
- 76ers on road: -3.0 Net Rating (15th), 107.4 Off Rating (17th), 110.4 Def Rating (14th)
They’re at home tonight, which is a big positive for them apparently. But they’re also without Joel Embiid, who has been their most important player this season. Without him on the floor, the 76ers have been 8.1 points per 100 possessions worse than with him playing.
A majority of that value has been on defense, which has dropped by 9.5/100 without him. Opponents shoot way better without him, they get to the foul line more and they gobble up offensive rebounds with much more frequency. And importantly, they get to the rim 8.2% more without Embiid on the floor, which is the starkest split of all players in the league this season.
These teams have played twice already this season, and Philly took both. Embiid was a deterrent at the rim in both, and Boston settled for a majority of its shots in the mid-range. In one game, the Celtics hit those shots; in the other, they didn’t. The question is whether that shot profile will change to something more positive without Embiid; they’re league-average on the season in both shots at the rim and from behind the arc, so maybe not.
It seems like Celtics and the over are the obvious positions, but the betting market has been quite weird so far today.
We tracked a steam move on the Celtics overnight when the odds were first posted at books, as well as a steam move on the over. But since then, all of the action have been on the Sixers and under.
The Celtics are 6-2 ATS as a dog this season, and Brad Stevens is 113-87-3 in that spot overall in his career. As a road dog he’s 86-56-1 historically, good for a massive 18.5% ROI. For whatever reason, his Celtics thrive in that spot.
Given the absence of Embiid and how these teams are playing right now — the 76ers have been quite flawed lately, and Joel being out doesn’t help that — I would lean toward the Celtics. However, I don’t like being on the opposite side of sharp money, so I’ll keep this as a lean for now.
Rockets at Thunder
The Thunder have played excellent basketball of late, winning 10 of their last 12. It’s been a run against some bad teams, although they do have some impressive wins against the Mavs and Clippers.
The big angle tonight in this game — other than the Russell Westbrook revenge game — is the “math problem.” Look at the Thunder’s shot profile over their recent run (percentages is frequency of shots at that spot):
The Rockets, meanwhile, continue to play a drastic offensive style, taking 44.6% of their shots from behind the arc. They’ve struggled to hit those shots more than in past years, but the offensive is still pretty similar: Pace (first in the league) and space, let James Harden create and jack up 3s.
The Rockets won the first meeting at home, and that was with the Rockets shooting 23.3% from 3. They took a bunch more than the Thunder, actually made fewer overall and still won. If that reverts, the math problem will absolutely be an issue here for OKC.
Another important angle is that the Thunder will be missing Nerlens Noel and Danilo Gallinari again due to injuries. It’s a bit difficult to tease out Gallo’s value in particular: The team has been 2.6 points/100 better with him on the floor vs. off, but the splits are stark. The offense has been 13.6 points/100 better (99th percentile), whereas the defense has been 11.0/100 worse (3rd percentile).
But it’s hard to disentangle his value from the rest of the starting lineup — all of those guys, including Chris Paul, Steven Adams and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, have similar offensive splits for the team. It’s noticeable that in 524 possessions this year with Gallo on the bench but Paul and Adams playing, the Thunder have posted a +9.6 point differential. The offense has been admittedly middling, but the defense has been incredible.
I’m skeptical Gallo is that much a negative defensively, although he does rank 75th among PFs this season with a -1.25 Defensive Real Plus-Minus currently. My opinion is that the offense will be hurt without Gallo, a good shooter and overall a very underrated player on that end, and the defense won’t be quite as good as the data so far suggests.
Given that information, I think the Rockets are rightfully favored, even on the road, although I’m not seeing much value on the spread at the current number of -4. If it dips back down to -3 or lower, they’d be worth a look.
Projected Starting Lineups and Injury News
Note: Info as of noon ET. For up-to-the-minute lineups and news, see FantasyLabs’ matchups page.
- Boston Celtics: Kemba Walker – Jaylen Brown – Jayson Tatum – Gordon Hayward – Daniel Theis
- Cleveland Cavaliers: Darius Garland – Collin Sexton – Cedi Osman – Kevin Love – Tristan Thompson
- Detroit Pistons: Bruce Brown – Svi Mykhailiuk – Tony Snell – Sekou Doumbouya – Andre Drummond
- Houston Rockets: Russell Westbrook – James Harden – Danuel House – PJ Tucker – Clint Capela
- Minnesota Timberwolves: Shabazz Napier – Jarrett Culver – Andrew Wiggins – Robert Covington – Karl-Anthony Towns
- OKC Thunder: Chris Paul – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Terrance Ferguson – Darius Bazley – Steven Adams
- Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons – Josh Richardson – Tobias Harris – Mike Scott – Al Horford
- Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard – CJ McCollum – Kent Bazemore – Carmelo Anthony – Hassan Whiteside
- Boston Celtics: Nothing new.
- Cleveland Cavaliers: Dante Exum (illness) is out.
- Detroit Pistons: Blake Griffin underwent knee surgery. Markieff Morris (foot) is out.
- Houston Rockets: Eric Gordon (knee) is questionable.
- Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns (knee) is questionable.
- OKC Thunder: Nerlens Noel (ankle) and Danilo Gallinari (calf) are out.
- Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid (finger) is out. Matisse Thybulle (knee) is available to play.
- Portland Trail Blazers: Skal Labissiere (knee) is out at least 4 more weeks. Hassan Whiteside (illness) is questionable.
To bet props, I use our FantasyLabs player props tool. Follow me in the Action Network app to see my bets (or go to the bottom of the article), but the more important thing is the tool, which measures our projections for every player vs. current odds in the market and highlights the biggest edges for you.
Player props are an inefficient market, which allows casual bettors (limits are low, so pro bettors aren’t incentivized to prioritize them) to grab very +EV bets. That said, the lines move quickly. Our props tool is set up so you can always see whether there’s an edge even at the updated numbers throughout the day.
It’s one of my favorite tools we offer and should be one of your bookmarked pages if you like making a few extra bucks. Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like:
My usual recommendation: Bet unders.
Last season, 10-rated props in our tool hit at a 60.31% rate. But overs hit at a 57.08% rate vs. 66.47% for unders. For 9-rated props, 55.96% of overs were successful bets vs. 62.60% for unders.
As I have noted in the past, unders have more outs: A blowout, an injury, a poor shooting night — all will likely make the under hit. But also, props are less efficient as a market given the low limits, so they’re less likely to adjust for things like opponent and pace.
One under I think is intriguing is Tony Snell’s 8.5-point total.
Snell is a tricky guy today. He’s coming off 18 points against the Cavaliers on really hot shooting. He posted a super low 14.8% usage rate — that’s normal for him — but was able to hit everything in his 30 minutes of action.
We’re projecting him to play under 20 minutes today, which is more in line with where he’s been lately in the rotation. The Pistons have continued to give Sekou Doumbouya more minutes, which has pushed Snell down. Despite the hot game Tuesday, I like Snell to revert back tonight.
DFS Values and Strategy
James Harden is easily the most expensive guy on both slates tonight, and he’s of course always a wise investment in tournaments given his ceiling. But the best values in the higher-priced tier are down a bit with guys like Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard and Ben Simmons.
Westbrook will be incredibly popular: If you haven’t heard, he’s making his return to Oklahoma City tonight. Given everything we know about Westbrook, he should be pretty fired up for this one. Lillard is just underpriced, and Simmons is an obvious buy given that Joel Embiid is sitting out tonight vs. the Boston Celtics.
Simmons interestingly enough has performed very poorly without Embiid this season, dropping his per-minute averages in nearly every statistical category. He’s never going to be a super high-usage guy, and his assist rate is definitely a little more volatile without Embiid to finish plays. Simmons is a worthwhile buy — the ceiling is there — but there’s some risk there, too.
The values to pair with those guys will definitely depend on some injury news. Karl-Anthony Towns is questionable to suit up, and if he’s out Gorgui Dieng will be an easy play on FanDuel. Hassan Whiteside is questionable as well for the Blazers and could open up some value. Danilo Gallinari is already out, which is creating value for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chris Paul and other Thunder guys. Eric Gordon is questionable to play.
You get the drill: Follow the news and make sure to subscribe to our models to see up-to-the-minute projection updates.
My Bets Currently
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