NBA Odds & Best Bets: 2 Picks for Saturday, Including 76ers vs. Thunder & Heat vs. Jazz (Dec. 31)
David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat.
That slate includes 76ers vs. Thunder and Heat vs. Jazz, which is where our NBA analysts see betting value. One matchup features an overreaction in the market due to a key returner from injury, while the other serves as a tough situational spot.
Check out both of our best bets for Saturday’s New Year’s Eve slate below.
NBA Odds & Picks
76ers vs. Thunder
Andrew O’Connor-Watts: The Sixers have been playing well lately. They extended their winning streak to eight games on Christmas Day after a come-from-behind win over the Knicks.
During the streak, Philadelphia ranked third in both Offensive Rating (118.1) and Defensive Rating (106.3). However, in the two games that followed their holiday win, the Sixers have lost to the Wizards and Pelicans by a combined margin of 15 points.
The Sixers have an excellent cover rate at 20-14 on the season, but they’re just 6-9 against the spread on the road.
The Thunder have the sixth-best cover percentage at home this season at 11-7 against the spread, a result of their 10th-ranked Adjusted Defensive Rating, according to Dunks and Threes, which accounts for strength of schedule.
Tyrese Maxey made his return for the Sixers last night against the Pelicans, but was quiet in his 19 minutes, scoring just nine points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field. Maxey will continue to be on restriction if he plays tonight, but the game is priced closer to if he was back in full strength.
The books often overvalue a star player’s return in the first few games back from injury, and I think that’s the case here with a Sixers team that is sub-.500 on the road and a Thunder team that covers at a 60% rate regardless of where they play.
Take the Thunder at +3 or better.
Heat vs. Jazz
Malik Smith: Today is the last day of the year, and this is the last game of the night. Both teams are playing on the second night of a back-to-back here as well.
Over the past 10 seasons, it has been profitable to fade the Jazz against the first-half spread in the exact spot — at home facing a team that played the Nuggets in Denver the previous night. In that scenario, the opposing team is 13-6 against the spread (68%, +$619, 32.6% ROI) and 10-8-1 straight up in the first half, per Bet Labs.
This is also also a spot where Erik Spoelstra’s teams have thrived. Spo’s teams in the post-LeBron James era are the second-most profitable in the NBA as a first-half dog, and the cover rate is nearly as good on the road (54.5%) as it is at home (56.6%).
Even if you ignored all the trends, this just feels like a bad spot for the Jazz.
The Heat lost a close one down the stretch to the Nuggets, and the Jazz lost an even closer game on a Kevin Huerter 3-pointer. Now, the Jazz return home after having traveled more miles than any team over the past two weeks.
There’s a decent chance Jimmy Butler doesn’t play here, but that doesn’t deter me from betting the Heat here since they’ve have covered the first half in the past three games that Butler rested.
I think we’ll see the Heat come out with more energy early in this game regardless of whether they have their best player on the floor or not.
I’ll bet the spread and the ML here.