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NBA Expert Betting Picks (Sunday, Jan. 26): Best Bets for Clippers-Magic, Celtics-Pelicans, More

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Photo credit: Harry How/Getty Images. Pictured: Kawhi Leonard vs. Orlando Magic

There are eight games on Sunday’s NBA schedule and our experts are betting the spread and over/under on three specific matchups:

  • 6 p.m. ET on ESPN: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans
  • 6 p.m. ET: Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks
  • 6 p.m. ET: LA Clippers at Orlando Magic

See the four bets they’re making below.


Odds as of Sunday afternoon and via FanDuel, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.


Matt Moore: Clippers at Magic

  • Spread: Clippers -3.5
  • Over/Under: 219
  • Time: 6 p.m. ET

The under is 6-2 in Clippers away games this season vs. teams with a defensive efficiency below 105. The Magic have a top-15 defense guarding both the pick-and-roll and spot-up weapons. They have the ability to vary their coverage depending on who they’re up against, and enough length to make it tough on the Clippers’ ball-handlers.

And you’re covered if Orlando can’t handle the Clippers. The Magic have the third-worst Offensive Rating after opponents make a field goal, scoring just 100 points per 100 possessions.

So either the Magic slow down the Clippers and the under hits, or the Clippers put up a decent-but-not-huge number and the Magic score under 100.

PICK: Under 219

Bryan Mears: Celtics at Pelicans

  • Spread: Celtics -1
  • Over/Under: 231.5
  • Time: 6 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: ESPN

Zion Williamson has been awesome so far for the Pelicans, and yet they’ve lost both of the games he’s played in.

I’m hesitant to even cite Zion stats just because the sample size is just 39 minutes so far. But if you were wondering, the Pels with him on the floor have been 21.3 points per 100 possessions better than without him. They’ve increased their offensive efficiency by 9.6 points/100 and have decreased their Defensive Rating by 11.7 points/100.

They’re taking more shots at the rim with him, which makes sense, and they’re way more efficient on those shots and from behind the arc given his gravity.

Still … it’s way too small of a sample size to take hard data from. All we can say at this point is that he’s pretty darn good and will absolutely help the Pels. The problem is he’s currently capped around 20 minutes.

But that’s a nice chunk of minutes to be dominating teams; they’ve posted an incredible +19.0 Net Rating in that chunk of time.

I would expect him to continue to help today, so let’s move on. I think the biggest question mark is whether Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who are both questionable, will suit up. Neither did last game, although the Celtics were still able to get a nice win on the road in Orlando.

But those guys are clearly valuable: Boston has been 10.2 points per 100 possessions better with Tatum playing than without him. Both of those guys are important to the offense of course, but they’re also two awesome defenders — especially Tatum — and can give Brandon Ingram and Co. a tough time on the perimeter.

These teams just played a couple weeks ago, and the Celtics won by 35 at home as 11.5-point favorites. But the Pels were also without Zion (of course), JJ Redick, Jrue Holiday and Derrick Favors. All of those guys are projected to be back in the lineup today.

Even with them back, however, I think Boston is just the far superior team if Tatum and Brown are available. That starting lineup has blitzed opponents this year, outpacing them by 17.6 points/100. That’s essentially the numbers with Zion — except it’s over a much larger sample size of 308 possessions.

Further, this is the exact spot to target them in the market. Boston has the third-best Net Rating in the league on the road this year, thanks mostly to its second-ranked defense, which has been legitimately awesome.

In Brad Stevens’ NBA tenure, the Celtics are 149-112-4 ATS (11.4% ROI) on the road vs. 134-129-6 (-0.8% ROI) at home. This line will likely fluctuate throughout the day, but as either road dogs or a road team getting two points or fewer, the Celtics are 111-67-2 (21.8% ROI) under Stevens.

The Celtics are the public team so far today, getting 78% of the bets and 87% of the money, so maybe this line balloons to where they’re no longer a value. But at a pick’em or -1, if they’re at full strength, I think they get the win.

PICK: Celtics -1 (if one of Tatum/Brown plays)

Brandon AndersonWizards at Hawks

  • Spread: Hawks -1
  • Over/Under: 242
  • Time: 6 p.m. ET

Trae Young is living a charmed life. Two years ago as a freshman at Oklahoma, Young averaged 27 points and nine assists a game and had the entire college basketball world buzzing despite the fact that his Sooners lost a million games and barely even made the tournament.

This year, Young is at 29-9 in the pros, his Atlanta Hawks are as awful as any team in basketball and still no one cares. Trae was just selected to start in his first NBA All-Star Game. It’s arguably the first meaningful thing he’s won since leaving high school.

Hey, you know who’s not so charmed by Trae Young? Bradley Beal.

Beal is out here doing yeoman’s work every night for the Washington Wizards, dragging a bunch of scrubs to one of the league’s most potent and watchable offenses. His numbers are just as good as Young’s and his team is better, but apparently that’s not good enough for the fans. And Beal is big mad.

Tonight Beal shows Young just who deserves to be starting in that All-Star spot. And just how silly it is that the Hawks are favored in a real NBA game when they’ve won only one such game (as favorites) all season. But hey … get your numbers, Trae.

The PICK: Wizards +1

John Ewing: Wizards at Hawks

  • Spread: Hawks -1
  • Over/Under: 242
  • Time: 6 p.m. ET

The Wizards-Hawks total opened at 240.5. This is the 10th game this season with an over/under of 240 or more points.

It is easy to understand why oddsmakers set a high total. Washington is fourth in pace (103.3); Atlanta is seventh (103.2). The Wizards average 114.9 points per game (fifth); the Hawks have scored 107.8 PPG (23rd).

Neither team is big on defense, either. The Hawks have allowed opponents to score an average of 117.5 PPG (28th), and the Wizards are dead last in the NBA, allowing 119.9 PPG.

Fast pace, all offense and no defense: This is a perfect recipe for a high-scoring game. But here’s the thing … the under has been a smart bet in these high-total matchups.

Since 2005, in games with totals of 240 or more points, the under is 22-12, including 7-2 in 2019-20.

Oddsmakers know casual bettors will want to bet the over when two offensive-minded teams take the court. As a result, the bookmakers inflate the total, forcing the pubic to take a bad number.

History suggests the under is the right bet. Trae Young and Bradley Beal could make me look foolish, but this line is just too high.

PICK: Under 242

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