NBA Predictions, Picks & Betting Odds (Tuesday, Feb. 4): Will Spurs Protect Rim Enough Against Lakers?
Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images. Pictured: LeBron James (23) of the Los Angeles Lakers.
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.
Monday I finished 3-3 for -0.65 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 Pistons-Grizzlies under 224.5 and it closed at at 223.5 (won)
- I bet Pistons under 107.5 and it closed at 107 (won)
- I bet Sixers-Heat under 212 and it closed at 211 (lost)
- I bet Heat -2.5 and it closed at Heat -2.5 (won)
- I bet Wizards -6.5 and it closed at Wizards -6.5 (lost)
- I bet Pacers -5 and it closed at Pacers -5.5 (lost)
I got pretty good CLV yesterday but unfortunately wasn’t able to go better than .500. I was rightfully down on the Pistons and bullish on the Heat, although I missed on the total in that latter game. I also whiffed on the Wizards with D’Angelo Russell out and the Pacers didn’t come through.
Anyway, let’s dive into today’s slate and find some angles.
- Overall: 203-179-2
- Spreads: 79-74-2
- Totals: 76-74
- Moneylines: 19-9
- Props: 29-22
Odds as of Tuesday afternoon and via FanDuel, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.
Betting Odds and Analysis
- 7:30 p.m. ET: Milwaukee Bucks (-6.5) at New Orleans Pelicans, 245
- 8 p.m. ET: Charlotte Hornets at Houston Rockets (-14), 227
- 9 p.m. ET: Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets (-4.5), 224.5
- 10 p.m. ET: San Antonio Spurs at LA Lakers (-12), 229
Bucks at Pelicans
Giannis vs. Zion. It doesn’t get much better than this.
It’s also a fascinating matchup given Zion’s strengths and how the Bucks design their defensive scheme.
The Bucks really pack the paint and allow a ton of 3-pointers. It’s by design, too: They drop their bigs way down in pick-and-roll coverage and rely on their athletic guards and wings to cover ground and close out on shooters. As a result, they allow the fewest shots in the league by a lot at the rim but the third-most 3s.
The Pelicans this season actually like to shoot from outside, ranking 17th in shots at the rim and fifth in 3-point rate. That’s shifted a bit over the last month or so, however: Since Jan. 1, they rank sixth in shots at the rim vs. 11th in 3-point rate.
And Zion is a big part of that. Look at these recent game logs for the Pels since he debuted:
Zion showed that outside stroke in the first game, hitting all four of his 3-pointers in that second-half explosion. But since then he has attempted just two total in five games and hasn’t hit one. In his last three games, he hasn’t even gotten a single attempt up.
With that Bucks scheme, big men are the biggest threat with how the Milwaukee centers drop in coverage. That leaves a lot of open space for the roll man — Zion and Derrick Favors to start — to shoot or operate in the mid-range. Will they be comfortable in that role? Or will they try to force the issue inside? And if so, will that work?
I don’t know the answer to that, but I would lean toward the Pelicans potentially struggling to adjust to that defensive scheme. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a ton of value in the betting market with that assumption.
The value if anything is on New Orleans here as a 6.5-point home dog; I think that’s about right. I would lean toward the under at 245 or higher, but again I think that’s probably about right, too.
Spurs at Lakers
This line seems a bit surprising. The Lakers are 12-point favorites at home against the Spurs, who have been pretty solid lately. In their last three games, they beat a good Jazz team, blew out the Hornets and then barely lost to the Clippers at full strength on the road.
Over the last two weeks, they have a +2.6 Net Rating despite dealing with some injury concerns. Meanwhile, the Lakers are at just a +4.6 mark and have lost two of their last three.
That said … the Lakers are just a really tough matchup for the Spurs. They blitz the rim with their size — playing all three of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee/Dwight Howard at the same time is a tall task for any defense. And the Spurs have been bad protecting the rim this season, ranking in the bottom-10 in that regard.
The Lakers won the first two meetings — both in San Antonio — and definitely dominated inside. In that first meeting, the Lakers shot 72.4% at the rim and 55.6% on short mid-rangers — the paint area.
There has interestingly been little action on the spread so far in this one; we haven’t tracked any steam moves on either side. The Spurs are actually getting the majority of bets (55%) and money (57%), which is a bit surprising considering the Lakers are usually a public team. The spread has moved a bit, but it’s now back at the opening number.
I think the better value is probably on the over/under. We have tracked a steam move on the under, causing it to move a couple points from opening. That side is getting 54% of the bets but 65% of the money.
Looking at the first two meetings between these teams, it makes sense: The first one was especially slow, with both teams operating mostly in the halfcourt. In the second one, the Lakers played slow, and both teams really struggled offensively, ranking in the bottom-15 percentile on offense.
But thus is the difficulty of handicapping Spurs games. We know what they are: A frisky team that has a terrible offensive shot profile, relying almost solely on mid-rangers. Sometimes they hit everything, like they did against the Jazz the other day, posting a 125.7 Offensive Rating — but sometimes they don’t given those shots are inefficient.
I would lean toward the under given the potential pace, tough shots and quality of the Lakers defense. I especially lean toward the first-half under.
Projected Starting Lineups and Injury News
Note: Info as of 3 p.m. ET. For up-to-the-minute lineups and news, see FantasyLabs’ matchups page.
- Charlotte Hornets: Devonte’ Graham – Terry Rozier – Miles Bridges – PJ Washington – Cody Zeller
- Denver Nuggets: Jamal Murray – Gary Harris – Will Barton – Jerami Grant – Nikola Jokic
- Houston Rockets: Austin Rivers – James Harden – Eric Gordon – Danuel House – PJ Tucker
- LA Lakers: LeBron James – Avery Bradley – Danny Green – Anthony Davis – JaVale McGee
- Milwaukee Bucks: Eric Bledsoe – Wes Matthews – Khris Middleton – Giannis Antetokounmpo – Brook Lopez
- New Orleans Pelicans: Lonzo Ball – Jrue Holiday – Brandon Ingram – Zion Williamson – Derrick Favors
- Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard – CJ McCollum – Trevor Ariza – Carmelo Anthony – Hassan Whiteside
- San Antonio Spurs: Dejounte Murray – Bryn Forbes – DeMar DeRozan – Trey Lyles – LaMarcus Aldridge
- Charlotte Hornets: PJ Washington (ankle) is questionable.
- Denver Nuggets: Michael Porter Jr. (ankle), Paul Millsap (knee) and Mason Plumlee (foot) remain out. Jamal Murray (ankle) is questionable.
- Houston Rockets: Clint Capela (heel) is out. Russell Westbrook (thumb) is doubtful. Austin Rivers (illness) is not on the injury report.
- LA Lakers: Anthony Davis (shoulder) and Alex Caruso (neck) are probable.
- Milwaukee Bucks: George Hill (hamstring) remains out. Pat Connaughton (ankle) is available to play.
- New Orleans Pelicans: Nickeil Alexander-Walker (illness) is doubtful.
- Portland Trail Blazers: Nothing new.
- San Antonio Spurs: Nothing new.
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 Trey Lyles’ 5.5-rebound total.
No surprise, the Lakers are one of the best rebounding teams in the league. That’s what happens when you start LeBron James, Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee — essentially three centers — together and play them a lot. On the year the Lakers rank third in team rebound rate.
Lyles typically goes under this mark: He has in seven of his last nine games, and the two he hit were against not great rebounding teams in Phoenix and Chicago (and he had some games recently without LaMarcus Aldridge). With the Spurs at full health and the matchup against the Lakers, I think the under is the sharp side here.
DFS Values and Strategy
There are a bunch of studs on the slate, led by James Harden, who is the most-expensive player on both DraftKings and FanDuel. But he’s definitely a worthy investment it seems, as our FantasyLabs models give him a stunning +12.7 Plus/Minus on the former site and a stupid +17.2 mark on the latter.
Harden had really struggled for a few weeks, potentially because of an injury, but over his last two games he has exploded, putting up 67.5 and 72.2 FanDuel points. He’s projected to approach 40 minutes tonight and gets the lowly Charlotte Hornets, who are dreadful defensively.
Harden will likely be popular, although ownership likely won’t get too extreme given the other stud options available. Damian Lillard might be the hottest player in basketball right now, and he gets a Nuggets team that has hemorrhaged points since Paul Millsap went down. Giannis Antetokounmpo gets the fast-paced Pels in a high-total game. Nikola Jokic continues to play well with all the Denver injuries, and LeBron James and Anthony Davis get a Spurs defense that has struggled with rim protection.
The question is whether you can find enough cheap value to get up to all these guys, and thankfully the Houston Rockets are happy to provide that today. Russell Westbrook is doubtful and Clint Capela remains out, opening up a ton of minutes and usage for the rest of the roster. Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers, Danuel House and PJ Tucker are all popping as cheap values.
That definitely seems the way to go tonight — stacking the Rockets and pairing them with your favorite stud options — but make sure to monitor injuries, too. The slate is small, so there aren’t too many, but Westbrook isn’t fully out yet, and Jamal Murray could make his return.
You know 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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