NBA In-Season Tournament Best Bets Today: How to Bet Every Game Friday, Plus MVP Futures Bets (Nov. 17)
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images. Pictured: Naji Marshall #8 of the New Orleans Pelicans
Somehow, the NBA In-Season Tournament is succeeding. Ratings are up, interest is up, the games are compelling, the slates are good and scoring is up. We have opportunities to bet on teams that are both on rest, playing with added motivation for the financial rewards of the cup, on extremely loud courts.
It's fun, and there are ways to be profitable.
Some trends for the In-Season Tournament so far:
- The underdogs are 17-8-1 ATS but just 9-17 straight up
- Home dogs are 9-1 ATS so far
- Division underdogs are 6-2-1 ATS
- Overs are 15-11 with an average margin of +3.4 points vs. the average total
- Teams off a loss are 18-10-1 ATS
With those trends in mind, here's a look at the NBA In-Season Tournament today, with betting analysis based on my projections for each game. Hat tip to Robby Kalland at Uproxx for breaking down the tournament stakes for each game. Here are my best NBA In-Season Tournament bets and predictions today.
Line: Bucks -7.5 / Hornets +7.5
Moore's Projection: Bucks -10
Moore's Projection: 250.5
If you have Bucks tournament futures, every game matters — especially this one. A loss puts Milwaukee at 1-1 and likely a negative point differential with Miami still on deck at the end of the month. Charlotte wasn't very good to begin with, but now is very banged up with Gordon Hayward and Brandon Miller still questionable. This will be Miles Bridges' first game back from suspension for his extremely disturbing domestic violence incident. The Bucks are still listing Giannis Antetokounmpo as questionable, but given the lookahead line on this game was 4.5, the number indicates a strong chance Giannis plays.
This is a lot of points for a Bucks team that has underperformed to start the season. Milwaukee is 2-8 ATS thus far against teams under .500 at the time of the game and 1-4 as a road favorite this season. Their first cover as a road favorite did come against the Raptors on Wednesday and they have won five-of-seven, so maybe they've turned a corner.
My projections give Milwaukee an edge, but road favorites in tournament games are 1-9 ATS. I'll stay away for now, but if the injury report comes up positive for Charlotte and the line moves back toward the 4.5 opener, I'll be compelled to bet Bucks if it gets under two possessions.
Given my projection edge, I will have a small bet on the over. The over is 7-3 in Hornets games, 7-4 in Bucks games.
Line: Knicks -6
Moore's Projection: Knicks-4 / Wizards +4
Moore's Projection: 226.5
If the Knicks want a shot at that $500,000 prize money, they have to win this game and win it by a margin. New York is 0-1 with a -5 differential after losing to the Bucks last Friday. A substantial win gets them back in range for a wild-card or group winner spot.
My projections say this is a spot to back a home 'dog (9-1 ATS in the tournament), but even after a manual upgrade, I think I have the Knicks' power rating too low. They struggled early offensively but have picked it up recently.
I'll have a small play on the over. I want to bet Wizards, but don't trust my numbers at this price.
Moore's Projection: Sixers -5
Moore's Projection: 253.6
The Sixers are 1-1 in group play, making this a pretty important game for their chances of making the knockout stage. They already trail the Pacers head-to-head; losing to Atlanta and likely holding a negative point differential after this game with only one to play would effectively end their Cup bid.
I obviously love the over in this spot; overs are 6-4-1 in Hawks games and 7-4 in Sixers games. Trae Young is off the injury report after missing time due to personal reasons. The Hawks allow the sixth-most points in the paint per 100 possessions and the third-highest percentage of shots at the rim. The Sixers are generating the second-highest percentage of shots at the rim. The Hawks, meanwhile, are a tremendous mid-range team that shoots a good (10th-highest) amount of threes, areas of relative weakness for the Sixers.
My projection is a little too optimistic due to early-season small sample, but I still have a play on the over.
Moore's Projection: Cavs -7.5
Moore's Projection: 220.5
A must-win game for the Cavs' tournament hopes at 0-1. They need to not only win this game but dominate and blow out the Pistons to establish a high-point differential for tiebreaker. Detroit is eliminated with a loss here at 0-2, so this is a must-win spot for the Pistons' tournament hopes.
My numbers don't know what to make of Cleveland so far, mainly due to the early-season absence of Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen. I've given the Cavs a one-point manual adjustment in their power rating and still find value on Detroit here.
Home favorites are just 7-8-1 ATS in tournament play, and both Garland and Donovan Mitchell are questionable. My projection says I can't bet Cavaliers. I'll wait to see if Mitchell and Garland play, and if this number bumps to double digits, I will hold my nose and bet Pistons closer to tip.
This total opened at 224.5 and moved down overnight. No interest in chasing the steam on this one.
Line: Celtics -7.5
Moore's Projection: Celtics -8.9
Moore's Projection: 226.7
Nope. Nope, nope, nope. Not today, Satan!
Projections love the Celtics and the over in this spot. It makes sense; the Raptors are painfully inconsistent and mediocre, the Celtics are testing the limits of my power ratings with how good they are. I'm basically holding their power rating back like they're Rudy Gobert and I'm Draymond Green at this point.
But we have a bunch of badness here to mess with the projections:
- A home 'dog when home 'dogs are 9-1 in tournament play
- A home division 'dog when home division 'dogs are 3-0 in tournament play
- Jaylen Brown and Kristaps Porzingis are still questionable for this one
- The under is 6-5 in Raptors games this season
The Raptors have yet to play a tournament game, which means that, yes, they could actually win this group still — especially if they win this game. Boston, meanwhile, has a +14 point differential at 1-0 to play with. A blowout win puts them in very good shape for at least the wild-card spot in-conference.
If you like the Celtics in this game, you should be betting on Jayson Tatum tournament MVP +550. That's the best way to play this. I will be staying as far away from this game as possible.
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Line: Kings -8.5 / Spurs +8.5
Moore's Projection: Spurs +6
Moore's Projection: 233.5
The Spurs are eliminated with a loss, while the Kings need to win this one to keep up with the Wolves' torrid pace. This group could get really nasty headed into next Friday's Kings-Wolves game, with the Thunder still lurking at 1-2 with a +27 point differential.
San Antonio is still without Devin Vassell, and Tre Jones remains questionable. This is one where, if I were braver, I would be on San Antonio. I have a projection edge, and the (small-sample) home 'dogs trend in tournament games applies, too. However, Jones' value to the Spurs as their only functional point guard is more significant than his spread value, and Sacramento may have turned a corner on offense.
The total shot up overnight by a full five points. The Kings have underperformed offensively on the road this season, but this Spurs defense is too bad to bet on. It's over or nothing, and as I have this projected under after the overnight steam, I'll avoid it.
If you like the Kings to win and cover here, De'Aaron Fox is 70-1 to win Tournament MVP.
Line: Bulls -2
Moore's Projection: Magic -2
Moore's Projection: 208.5
This is a knockout game, effectively. Both teams are 0-1. The Magic have a -20 point differential they're trying to dig their way out of. A loss effectively ends either team's hopes.
This is a "Duplex" spot where the two teams played just two days ago in the same city. Teams that were favored at home in the last game and lost and are favored at home again inside three days are 20-9 straight up, 16-12-1 ATS since 2020. This is the inverse of Tuesday's tournament game, where the Pacers beat the Sixers in Philly after losing to them a few days prior in Philly.
It's tough to beat a team twice in a week. Orlando is also on a third-game-in-four-nights spot. But the Magic are the better team, the Bulls have chemistry issues with the Zach LaVine trade discussion swirling, and short 'dogs (less than five-point dogs) in tournament play are 9-3-1 ATS, 4-2 ATS on the road.
I have bet small-unit plays on the Magic +2 and the under.
Line: Nuggets -5.5 / Pelicans +5.5
Moore's Projection: Pelicans +4.5
Moore's Projection: 225.5
The Nuggets would move to 3-0 in group play with a point differential greater than +14 with a win. New Orleans' tournament chances land in real danger with a loss, but if the Pelicans win — given their +18 point differential thanks to annihilating Dallas on Tuesday — they could steal the group. They would have a head-to-head tiebreaker over Denver and point differential advantage for three-way ties if they can beat the Clippers.
I have a projection edge on a home 'dog in tournament play against a team coming off a big win against the Clippers who are without their starting point guard. The Nuggets, without Jamal Murray since the Bubble, are 14-18 ATS as a road favorite and 4-9 ATS as a road favorite in the first game on a road trip.
The Pelicans are without CJ McCollum, Trey Murphy III, Larry Nance and Jose Alvarado. They are a little all over the place. But this is a perfect spot for them to catch the Nuggets. The Nuggets are 2-3 since the Bubble against the Pelicans when Zion Williamson (who has not played well recently) plays.
I'll have a stiff drink, bet against the defending champs, and hope Nikola Jokic doesn't drop 40-25-25.
I'm dead on target on the total; no play there.
Moore's Projection: Suns -6.5
Moore's Projection: 236.5
Assuming the Lakers beat the Blazers, which seems likely (I project the Lakers at 71.4% expected win percentage in that game), this game could make it a two-team race for group winner between Utah and the Lakers. Somehow (?!), the Jazz are 2-0 in group play after beating Portland and the woeful Grizzlies.
A Jazz loss opens the door for Phoenix, but the Lakers' head-to-head advantage and Utah's point differential advantage make it tough for them to climb.
This is another case of the home 'dog tournament trend against a projected edge on a road favorite. The Suns have Devin Booker back, but probably no Bradley Beal again in this one with his back injury.
Utah should come back down to earth after going 2-0 in tournament play and playing a real team. The Jazz have taken sharp action, according to the Action Network App. This is Suns or nothing but the line isn't short enough for me to be interested, and the total is sharp as well.
If you like Phoenix, you should look towards LeBron James (+850) or Anthony Davis (+2800) to win tournament MVP.
Line: Lakers -8.5 / Blazers +8.5
Moore's Projection: Lakers -8.5
Moore's Projection: 215.5
Speaking of, the Lakers stand to benefit the most from playing Friday if things go chalk. If the Jazz go back to earth (in tournament play) and the Lakers take care of business against a banged-up and bad-to-begin-with Blazers team, they will find themselves in a position to win the group. If the Blazers upset the Lakers to go to 2-1, they're still behind the eight ball due to point differential. But this is a must-win for their tournament hopes.
Yet another "projected road favorite edge vs. a home 'dog in tournament play" spot. The Lakers seem to swing wildly from game to game, and are 0-2 as road favorites this season. But Portland is too bad to want to bet. No play on side.
These two teams are 13-10 to the under this season, but given that overs are 15-11 in tournament play, I'm concerned about the Lakers offense getting right. They've scored 110 or more in the last four games. No play on the total, either.
Line: Clippers -7.5 / Rockets +7.5
Moore's Projection: Rockets -3.5
Moore's Projection: 224.5
I want to bet the Clippers so badly here.
I wrote this week that LAC likely turned a corner against the Nuggets. They're at home. They're facing an overrated team at 6-3 with a negative point differential and bad underlying stats. They are 0-6 since the James Harden trade, desperate for a win. Home favorites on a six-game losing streak are 18-13 straight up, 16-14 ATS since 2014-15.
Russell Westbrook has offered to come off the bench, making it easier for the starters to parse out what they need to do.
It's a phenomenal spot.
But the number says: "it's a phenomenal spot." A 3-7 team is a 7.5-point favorite (and has taken money from the 5.5-point opener) against a 6-3 team.
I'm very mad that the books have told us to shove it in what is a golden spot for the Clippers. I'll be looking for moneyline parlay spots on L.A.
I have bet the total, though. Houston is 17th in defense with the 20th-ranked defensive strength of schedule. The Clippers offense is nothing to write home about so far, but there's enough firepower here to start compensating. Alperen Sengun is going to have success inside, especially when Ty Lue inexplicably goes to smallball lineups while the Rockets are allowing a high-volume of 3-point attempts and an unsustainably low conversion rate.