NBA Odds & Betting Picks: Our Best Bet for Pacers vs. Clippers (Sunday, Jan. 17)
Jason Miller/Getty Images. Pictured: Domantas Sabonis.
Sunday might be dominated by the NFL Divisional Round once again, but there’s a six-game NBA slate tipping off at 1 p.m. ET featuring plenty of intriguing matchups.
Our staff found value in a pair of player props and moneyline pick for two of Sunday’s games.
NBA Odds & Picks
Knicks vs. Celtics
Brandon Anderson: Kemba Walker is back! And not a minute too soon for the Boston Celtics, who have missed Kemba in any number of ways. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have filled in heroically with Walker out, carrying the Celtics to the top of the Eastern standings, but both of them are being asked to do too much by way of creation, both for themselves and others.
The rest of Boston’s roster is made up of mostly role players, guys that defend and set hard screens and hit open shots. Rookie Payton Pritchard has also performed well in an outsize role, but there’s no question that there’s plenty of usage, shots, and assists waiting for Walker in his return to the lineup.
The only real question is how healthy Walker is and how many minutes he’ll play in his return. Boston isn’t going to rush Walker back into things or throw him into the deep end. It would be reasonable to expect something in the range of 20 to 25 minutes in Kemba’s season debut, typically the norm for a veteran player making his return. No one is going to have to remind Kemba how to get buckets once he’s out there. He’s been scoring in his sleep for decades.
Walker averages 23.7 points and 5.5 assists per 36 minutes in his career in Boston. If he plays half that many minutes at the same rate, that drops him to 11.9 points and 2.8 assists, still just barely going over these numbers. But that’s in only 18 minutes, and it’s also not accounting for the bigger role he could play with this team versus a team that had players like Gordon Hayward soaking up minutes and shots in the past. We’re projecting Walker at 24.5 minutes, 16 points, and 3.8 assists.
I’m happy to play both of these props since you’re really just taking the over on Kemba minutes and the under on his rust. I’ll play both of them to -140 and will grab them before the line goes up. Welcome back Kemba!
Pacers vs. Clippers
Brandon Anderson: What a fun Sunday night game we’ve got after wrapping up NFL playoffs for the weekend! Here we have a clear title contender, one of only three teams in the NBA featuring a top 10 offense and defense, and also the Los Angeles Clippers.
Yeah, that’s right, it’s the Indiana Pacers who have much more of a championship profile so far, not the Clippers. Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis have been playing at clear All-Star levels, and Myles Turner is probably the Defensive Player of the Year at this point, piling up an absolute mountain of blocks.
The Pacers won’t have Caris LeVert yet after trading away Victor Oladipo in their part of the blockbuster James Harden trade, and T.J. Warren is still out, too, but Brogdon, Sabonis and Turner have been carrying this team, with the Holiday brothers and others filling in just fine as role players around them.
The Pacers have quietly taken a real step forward this year under Nate Bjorkgren, who simply took some of the obvious low-hanging fruit and made appropriate changes for this team.
Turner is blossoming in the stretch big role he should’ve had for years now, and that is giving the team more space on offense, letting Sabonis dominate down low in the paint and fill up the box score with his passing as well. Brogdon is shooting more — always a good thing with one of the league’s elite shooters — and the Pacers are taking far more 3s and have a much more modern (read: better) shot profile.
The Clippers, of course, can be very good. LA has the best Offensive Rating in the NBA right now and the Clippers continue to shoot the lights out, leading the league in both 3-point and free-throw percentage. But LA’s defense is miserable, and the Clippers are always prone to an off shooting day since they take so many difficult shots.
Would I pick the Pacers over the Clippers in a seven-game playoff series? No, probably not. But in one game in January, Indiana will have a solid shot, and they should not be 6.5-point underdogs here.
I’m not content going for the cover. If LA lets the Pacers in this game, I’d like to bet on them to finish the job. At +235, the Pacers have under 30% implied odds of winning this game, and that’s just not right for a team this good against an opponent this unpredictable. I’m not going to go crazy here, but I’ll sprinkle a small Sunday night bet on the Pacers and see what they can do.