Christmas Day NBA Expert Picks: Our Staff’s Favorite Bets, Including Clippers vs. Lakers
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: A fan holds a sign during a game at TD Garden.
- The experts at The Action Network have (obviously) been making some bets on Wednesday's Christmas Day NBA slate.
- See the plays they're making, including one on Clippers vs. Lakers (8 p.m. ET, ABC).
Merry Christmas from the Action Network!
There are five games on the NBA schedule for Wednesday and our experts are betting on four specific matchups:
- 12 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics at Toronto Raptors
- 2:30 p.m. ET: Milwaukee Bucks at Philadelphia 76ers
- 5 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors
- 8 p.m. ET: Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers
See what bets they’re making below.
Odds as of Wednesday afternoon and via DraftKings, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.
Bryan Mears: Celtics at Raptors
- Spread: Celtics -3
- Over/Under: 213
- Time: 12 p.m. ET
This was the game I was most surprised about when I saw opening spreads at FanDuel (it opened at Celtics -1). The Raptors are dealing with some key injuries, including to Pascal Siakam, Norman Powell and Marc Gasol, all of whom are out indefinitely.
They were able to skate by in the first two games without those guys, although it required the biggest comeback in franchise history at home against a Luka Doncic-less Dallas team and a narrow win against the Wizards at home. On Monday they lost on the road in Indiana, giving up 120 points.
The Raptors are not without talent certainly, but especially Siakam and Gasol have just been so critical to this team. Take a look at the on/off differential numbers for the main guys in the rotation:
- Marc Gasol: +13.3 overall | +3.7 offense | +9.6 defense
- Pascal Siakam: +11.7 overall | +10.3 offense | +1.4 defense
- OG Anunoby: +3.6 overall | +0.7 offense | +2.9 defense
- Fred VanVleet: -2.9 overall | -0.6 offense | -2.2 defense
- Kyle Lowry: -6.1 overall | -2.4 offense | -3.7 defense
- Norman Powell: -6.0 overall | -4.5 offense | -1.5 defense
- Serge Ibaka: -16.0 overall | -7.0 offense | -9.0 defense
Gasol and Siakam both rank in the 99th percentile in on/off eFG% differential. The team takes a ton more threes when they play, they’re miles better as a team shooting both at the rim and from behind the arc and they are way better in the half court.
That last point will be important against a Celtics team that has limited opponents to the third-fewest transition opportunities this season. The Raptors rarely get out without Siakam, so expect a tough half-court game.
On Monday against the Pacers, they were able to get out in transition more, especially off live rebounds, but they were atrocious in the half court, scoring just 0.88 points per play. More concerning is the shot profile of the offense: The Raps got few shots at the rim in the half court, mostly relying on hot mid-range shooting and transition play to stay in the game.
I’m skeptical that will work against a Celtics team that ranks fourth in defense. Boston’s big weakness on that end of the floor has been rebounding, but that hasn’t been a strength of Toronto’s, even with Gasol and Siakam.
Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet are awesome players. OG Anunoby has looked enticing at times this year. This team is well-coached. They could absolutely hang around in this game and even win it if they shoot very well. But should a median outcome be 1-2 points? I don’t think so.
Lean: Celtics -3
Bryan Mears is 425-323-11 (56.8%) overall betting on the NBA. You can follow him in our free app.
Brandon Anderson: Bucks at 76ers
- Spread: Bucks -2.5
- Over/Under: 220
- Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
This is the game I’m most looking forward to on Christmas: the reigning MVP up against a long, nasty, filthy defense ready to take everything away at the rim and force opponents who can’t shoot to beat them from deep.
Oh wait, both of those are the Bucks. The 76ers defense hasn’t lived up to its historic billing yet. The Sixers rank sixth in defensive rating entering Christmas. That’s certainly good, but it’s not great, and it’s far from historically great. Philly dominates on the boards and is pretty good at most things on defense.
But it’s Milwaukee that has the No. 1 defense, not Philadelphia. And as SB Nation’s Mike Prada so brilliantly wrote, the Bucks succeed not by doing a little bit of everything, but rather by being absolutely elite at one thing. Everything Milwaukee does on defense is built around protecting the rim, old school.
The Lopez twins do most of the heavy lifting, and Giannis Antetokounmpo is the free safety cleaning everything else up. The Bucks allow the lowest percentage of opponent shots at the rim and the lowest conversion rate on those attempts. Milwaukee actually gives up a ton of 3s, by design. Go ahead and shoot. Just don’t try to beat us at the rim.
Sound like a problem for Philly? How are the Sixers going to score efficiently if they can’t score at the rim? Who’s going to hit 3s, Ben Simmons? O Christmas three, O Christmas three!? Don’t count on it.
These were supposed to be the East’s two elite teams, but only delusional Philly fans think that’s true right now. The East is led by a one-horse sleigh, and Giannis is Santa, bringing gifts to every night. The Sixers are just one of the many reindeer chasing them. Or something like that.
The Bet: Bucks -2.5
Wob: Rockets at Warriors
- Spread: Rockets -9.5
- Over/Under: 226.5
- Time: 5 p.m. ET
The empire has fallen, but the emperor would rather die than bow before a new king. I don’t know what that means or where this is headed, but it felt great coming off the fingertips, kind of like a Draymond Green three-point attempt.
Speaking of Green, this man has too much pride to let his team lose by double-digits at home … on Christmas Day … on national television … with the world watching. He will burn the arena down before he lets Harden go for 50 points on his watch.
Let’s not get crazy here and put our money down on the Warriors to win this straight up, but I trust D’Angelo Russell and Dray enough to keep this competitive out of fear alone, and certainly do not trust the Rockets to hold a lead ever.
They don’t just go up by 20 and then down by 20 they do it in one half. Asking them to win by double digits is an unhealthy roller coaster ride for any human. Rockets win, Warriors defend the Monarchy’s honor on the field of battle one last time.
The Bet: Warriors +9.5
Matt Moore: Clippers at Lakers
- Spread: Lakers -2
- Over/Under: 222.5
- Time: 8 p.m. ET
LeBron James sat out the Lakers’ last game at home against the Nuggets and is questionable heading into Christmas — though it would be surprising to see him sit out on Wednesday.
If he plays, the Clippers have the perimeter personnel to limit what the Lakers want to do. The Lakers might be able to feast on cuts to the rim, but the Clippers will keep their 3-point shooters down, and Patrick Beverley’s biggest weakness (off-ball defense and awareness) isn’t as much of a risk vs. the Lakers who don’t have secondary playmakers.
If LeBron doesn’t play, the Lakers offense dredges into an Anthony Davis post-up fest, which sounds like a great idea until you realize he’s shooting below 50% on post-ups this season.
The Lakers have the perimeter defense to contest the Clippers’ shooters, and better rim protectors, too. Both teams will contain the roll man, and neither have effective pick-and-pop options.
This seems likely to be a drudge of a game, a defensive battle, and LeBron’s availability further increases the number of outcomes for the under.
The Bet: Under 222.5
Matt Moore is 665-662-17 (50.1%) overall betting on the NBA. You can follow him in our free app.