NBA Friday Betting Picks & Angles (Dec. 13): How I’m Betting Rockets vs. Magic, Hornets vs. Bulls
Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8).
Two angles based on matchups and trends …
Odds as of Friday afternoon and via DraftKings, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.
THE ANGLE: Market Exaggeration of Houston
The Rockets are obviously an offensive dynamo. That’s not hard to figure out. But there has been a trend of the market exaggerating their games in terms of the total this season, especially on the road vs. Eastern Conference teams lacking firepower.
And it’s not just this season, either, it’s a consistent trend for the Mike D’Antoni Rockets:
The trend is showing this season as well; the under is 5-1 in Rockets road games vs. the East.
If we want to get into the weeds, the Rockets’ biggest vulnerability is at the rim. Houston ranks 23rd in points per possession on attempts around the rim that aren’t post-ups, via Synergy Sports. And while they are middle of the pack in terms of frequency of shots allowed at the rim, they rank sixth-worst in field goal percentage allowed there, via Cleaning The Glass.
What’s the one thing the Rockets do more than any other team, besides shoot 3s? Isolate. The Rockets spend 23.8% of their possessions running isolation including passes, according to Synergy. That’s 11.7 percentage points higher than the No. 2 team on the list (Trail Blazers), and that gap is greater than the gap between Portland and the bottom of the list.
Hey, what do you know, the Magic are the No. 2 team in defending isolations including passes, thanks to also being 12th guarding spot-ups. Now, guarding Harden is not like guarding any other iso player, but it’s still notable.
So the Magic can’t make shots at the Rockets’ weak point, but have the ability to stymie what the Rockets do well. Houston can put up a big number with their offense and the Magic can still score in the low 100’s to get the under. With a number up above 220, the value is on the under.
The Play: Under 222.5
THE ANGLE: Back to the Well with the Bulls
God help me, I’m betting Jim Boylen’s Bulls again.
I think the Bulls are a good team with bad coaching. There are a lot of various evidence points I can point to, from quotes to data to X’s and O’s. However, as much as it may seem like the Bulls are always careening downhill like a wreck spilling off debris, there’s also a trend of them improving.
The Bulls have the fourth-best expected effective field goal percentage and the fifth-worst actual eFG% in the league at 50%. However, in their last seven games, that’s up to 53%, and above 54% in their last five games.
They’re finally starting to hit the good shots they should have been making all season.
Meanwhile, Charlotte hits a developing trend this season for me: they are three wins better than their Pythagorean expected win rate. With all the player movement over the summer, I’m theorizing that some teams will look much better early on based on inconsistencies as teams try and learn one another.
The Hornets are 13-13 against the spread this season, and while Devonte’ Graham is awesome, they should come back to earth at some point, while the Bulls should improve at some point.
One or the other, sure, I’ll wait for the trend to turn. But both at play? The Hornets rank 19th in offense, 27th in defense, and the Bulls are somehow 12th in defense and even more inexplicably 26th in offense. But that seems to be trending up.
Laying just over two possessions (inside end-game free throws range) at home, I’ll put the fork in the socket again. Give me the Bulls.
The Play (God help me): Bulls -6
Matt Moore is 641-638-16 (50.1%) overall betting on the NBA. You can follow him in our free app.