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NBA Odds, Expert Picks & Predictions: Matt Moore’s Christmas Bets for Lakers vs. Mavericks, Suns vs. Nuggets & More

NBA Odds, Expert Picks & Predictions: Matt Moore’s Christmas Bets for Lakers vs. Mavericks, Suns vs. Nuggets & More article feature image
Credit:

Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured (L-R): Josh Okogie, Devin Booker, Chris Paul (center), Deandre Ayton, and Mikal Bridges of the Phoenix Suns.

  • The NBA has five consecutive marquee matchups on Christmas Day, and Matt Moore has bets for every game.
  • He's backing one over, two favorites and two underdogs on the spread.
  • Check out his picks and analysis below.

‘TIS THE SEASON TO BET BBALL

FA LA LA, LA LA, LA LA, LA LA

THE KNICKS ARE NOT BAD AFTER ALL

FA LA LA, LA LA, LA LA, LA LA

LUKA CAN’T COVER THE SPREAD

FA LA LA, LA LA, LA LA, LA LA

DUBS MONEYLINE’S PROLLY DEAD

FA LA LA, LA LA, LA LA, LA LA

GIANNIS MIGHT JUST TRUCK THE CELTICS

FA LA LA, LA LA, LA LA, LA LA

JOKER HAS LOTS OF COOL PASS TRICKS

FA LA LA, LA LA, LA LA, LA LA

I HAVE BET ALL GAMES ON THE MAP

FA LA LA, LA LA, LA LA, LA LA

FOLLOW ME IN THE ACTION APP

FA LA LA, LA LA, LA LA, LA LA

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas if you celebrate, and let’s bet some NBA Christmas! Here’s my card for the Sunday slate.

Philadelphia 76ers vs. New York Knicks

12 p.m. ET
ABC
The Bet: Over 217.5

Hey, the Knicks are on Christmas Day and it’s not a complete embarrassment for once! That’s nice!

This is a low total; it’s just the third time this season the Knicks have had a total below 220.

The key here is going to be transition play. Both of these defenses are surprisingly stout; the Knicks are ninth in defense this season and fourth in the past two weeks, the 76ers are third this season and third in the last two weeks (per Cleaning the Glass).

But the Sixers have one key weakness: their transition defense. Not only do the Sixers give up the fourth-most fastbreak points per game, but they are 22nd in transition points per possession per Synergy Sports.

James Harden is the big key to this. When Harden’s on the floor, the Sixers give up an extra 3 points in transition per 100 possessions. It’s easy to discern the reason; Harden’s transition effort is notoriously poor.

In games where Harden plays with the Sixers this season and the total is below 220, the over is 4-2. In all Harden games the over is 9-7, but the Sixers’ total projection has to be impacted by the team’s performance during his absence, weighing this number down.

I have this projected under based on the halfcourt offense, but with the Knicks in an offensive hot streak and the way this matchup leans towards the Knicks getting out in transition vs. the Sixers, I like the over a lot here.

The Knicks at home have hit their team total over in nine of 16, and the Sixers have hit their team total over nine of 12.

Let’s start Christmas morning rooting for points.


Los Angeles Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks

2:30 p.m. ET
ABC
The Bet: Lakers +8

Santa help me, I’m taking the Lakers.

This is all about Dallas and their win profile. This season, Dallas is 12-9 vs. teams over .500. That’s a great figure, which should help their win total if they can get it together later this season.

But they are 4-7, straight up (!) vs. teams under .500. As a home favorite, the Mavericks are 5-10-1 (33%) this season. Only the Heat have been worse as a home favorite at least four times this season.

Dallas simply does not execute when facing an inferior opponent. As more than a 5-point favorite this season, the Mavs are 2-12-1 (14.3%).

LeBron James is 4-3 ATS on the road on Christmas since joining the Heat in 2010. That’s an unimpressive, small sample stat, but it at least shows the market doesn’t overrate him in this spot.

The Lakers’ defense has fallen off a cliff from the good early start; they rank 25th over the past two weeks. Dallas is 6-4 with a -1.8 spread differential vs. bottom-10 defensive teams this season, per Cleaning The Glass.

I’d love to tell you there’s an edge to be found with Austin Reeves or Kendrick Nunn. But sometimes you’re not playing the team, you’re playing the number. I’m playing the number because Dallas has not earned our trust in taking care of business, even in a Christmas showcase game.


Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics

5 p.m. ET
ABC
The Bet: Celtics -4

I have tried very hard this season to adopt a policy of never trying to catch a falling knife. What I mean by that is that if I show an edge in a game, but the side I’m fading is on a roll, I just stay away.

This is the opposite. I should just avoid this because the Celtics are in an absolute spiral after their historic start to the season.

Their offense is in a trash can since they faced the Warriors two weeks ago and it didn’t repair itself when they got home.

So let’s buy low on them!

The average homecourt advantage this season is 3.31 points, let’s round that down to 3 and apply it both ways. So this would be Bucks -2 in Milwaukee.

Put simply, the numbers say that shouldn’t be the case.

The records say the Bucks are a better team, but everything under the hood disagrees. The Celtics have an SRS (factoring strength of schedule and point differential) of 5.4 vs. the Bucks at 3.9.

I have this power rated closer to Celtics -7. We can’t ignore who the Celtics have been the majority of not just this season but going back a calendar year because of this two week stretch.

Even if we did, the Bucks have been mediocre offensively as well. Even in the last two weeks, Milwaukee is 26th in offensive rating, and 15th for the season.

The Bucks have almost no shot creation right now beyond Giannis Antetokounmpo. Jrue Holiday’s numbers are good but he struggles vs. quality defenses and the Celtics have gotten themselves straight on that end.

The market also knows when the Bucks should be dogs. Since 2019, the Mike Budenholzer era, the Bucks are 13-26-1 (33%) in the regular season as a dog. Since adding Jrue Holiday, they are 8-19 (30%) as dogs. On the road? 6-15 (29%).

Finally, the Tatum-led Celtics are 5-2 ATS against the Giannis-led Bucks in Boston. This is a buy-low spot on Boston, which is hard to find this season, vs. a team that’s a little overrated in the market. Giannis is the best player in this matchup.

The Celtics are the better team. Lay the points. (I got this at -4, but FanDuel currently has the best line at -5)


Memphis Grizzlies vs. Golden State Warriors

8 p.m. ET
ABC
Lean: Grizzlies -4

The homecourt aspect of this is difficult. The Warriors have been one of the best homecourt teams this season. In non-garbage time they have a +12.9 net rating at home, second-best in the league.

However, when we recorded the Buckets Christmas Day episode, I found this stat: even with how well the Warriors have played at home, they still lose the non-Stephen-Curry minutes big time. The Warriors still have a -8.2 Net Rating in non-Curry minutes at home.

So the homecourt advantage, at least to some degree, is mitigated by Curry’s absence even if the other starters play well. On neutral court with Curry playing, I make this Grizzlies -2. Curry is worth at least four points to the spread, which gets us to Grizzlies -6.

So then the question is what homecourt is worth to the Warriors without Curry. Do they still get a bump? Is it two points? If it’s two points without Curry you’re right at this number.

The biggest issue here is that the Grizzlies are awful on the road. Memphis is 6-9 straight up and 3-10-2 ATS on the road this season, including 3-6-2 (33%) ATS as a road favorite. They just don’t perform well on the road.

But the Grizzlies may also get Desmond Bane back.

I started the analysis expecting to make a “hold your nose” play on the Warriors, swung to the Grizzlies, and am back to staying away.

This might be as simple as “always fade the Warriors this season as less than 7-point dogs without Curry” but I’m just not able to accurately determine homecourt for the Warriors without Curry to bet this.

It’s Memphis or nothing, so it’s nothing.


Phoenix Suns vs. Denver Nuggets

10:30 p.m. ET
ABC
The Bet: Suns +4.5

You should wait to make sure who’s playing for both teams.

There’s a possibility that Devin Booker (questionable) is out for this matchup. But if Booker plays, I’ll fade Denver at home here.

The biggest key here is turnovers. The Suns average the second-most points per 100 possessions off turnovers in the league behind Toronto.

Denver has the worst transition defense in the league and allow the eighth-most points off turnovers per 100 possessions in the league.

It’s their Achilles heel.

When the Nuggets turn the ball over less than their opponent since 2019 (the first season they made the playoffs with this group), they are 118-55 (68%) straight up and 97-71-5 (57.7%) ATS. When they turn the ball over more than their opponent, they are 104-83 (55.6%) and 78-106-3 42%) ATS.

That’s a 15 percentage point drop in ATS performance.

At home, specifically, it’s an even bigger problem. When the Nuggets have a negative turnover differential at home since 2019, they are 33-52-1-, just 38.8% ATS.

With fewer turnovers? 61% ATS, a 23-percentage-point differential.

How about just this season? At home when the Nuggets have fewer turnovers? 7-2 straight up, 5-4 ATS. When they have more than their opponent? 12-7 straight up, but just 8-11 ATS (42%).

Phoenix has the fourth-lowest turnover percentage in the NBA this season. Denver is capable of playing at an elite level on both ends; they showcased their defense vs. Memphis on Tuesday.

But they are not consistent in that approach, and against a Suns team that plays with physicality and intent, even amid some internal strife, I’ll back the road dog in a game I make Nuggets -1 based on matchup ratings, with a small play on the moneyline as well.


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