Friday NBA Odds, Picks & Projections: Betting Analysis for Pelicans vs. 76ers, Magic vs. Hornets, More (May 7)
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Cole Anthony #50 of the Orlando Magic.
- It's a busy Friday night in the NBA and Raheem Palmer is using his betting model to project spread and totals for every game.
- With all the important games on tonight's NBA slate, he's eyeing ... Magic vs. Hornets?
- See where he's finding value in that matchup plus two more Friday games below.
For the 2020-2021 NBA season, I’ll be publishing my projections for every NBA game on the Wednesday and Friday slate. Here’s what you’ll find in my model: projected team totals, projected combined totals, projected spreads for the matchup and the implied odds for the moneyline.
Note: My projections won’t be updated in real-time throughout the day, but Action’s PRO Projections tool is dynamic and will reflect the latest injury and lineup news.
I’ll also be highlighting some of the slate’s most intriguing matchups with in-depth, game-level analysis that goes beyond the numbers.
NBA Projections Model
NBA Odds & Picks
Although projections give us a solid baseline for what a number should be, it’s also important to handicap each matchup for things that the numbers can’t tell us.
Check out my analysis for tonight’s 10-game slate.
New Orleans Pelicans at Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers have a 2.5-game cushion over the Brooklyn Nets for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern conference. A win here would would go a long way towards clinching the top seed and ensuring that they could avoid the Nets and Milwaukee Bucks until at least the Eastern Conference finals.
They’ll be facing the New Orleans Pelicans who are 2.5-games behind the San Antonio Spurs for 10th in the West. A win here gets them one step closer to the play-in game, however, the Pelicans have just six games remaining with five on the road.
To make matters worse, they’ll be without their Brandon Ingram, their second-leading scorer. That doesn’t bode well for their already struggling offense, which ranks 26th in Offensive Rating over the past two weeks, according to Cleaning the Glass.
When you are struggling offensively, the last team you want to play is the 76ers who allow the third-fewest points per 100 possessions (108.1) in their non-garbage time minutes. The last time these two teams played on April 9, we saw a rock fight: A 103 possession game that saw both teams scoring fewer than a point per possession with a 101-93 final score.
I think we could see a similar result here as the Pelicans score most efficiently in areas of the floor that the 76ers are stout at defending. The Pelicans rank first in frequency of field goals attempted at the rim (41.8%) while the 76ers are allowing the ninth-lowest field goal percentage (63.7%) at the rim.
The Pelicans are also fifth in long mid-range field goal percentage (44.7%) while the 76ers are first in opponent mid-range field goal percentage (38.1%). Although we could see the number long mid-range jump shots decrease without Ingram in the lineup, New Orleans isn’t a very good 3-point shooting team — 25th in frequency (31.4%) and 27th in percentage (35.3%).
Surprisingly, the Pelicans’ defense has showed up in ways their offense has not. They have the top Defensive Rating over the past two weeks, holding opposing teams to 103.7 points per 100 possessions in their non-garbage time minutes according to Cleaning the Glass.
The 76ers also live in the mid-range, taking a whopping 36.8% of their field goals from that area. Although Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris are two of the top mid-range shooters in the league in terms of frequency and the 76ers are third among NBA teams shooting 45.5%, the Pelicans are sixth in opponent mid-range shooting percentage (40.9%).
Overall, I think this total is too high. I took some under 229 with my model putting this game at 227, but with Ingram out I still think there’s some value at the current number given the struggles of the Pelicans recently.
Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls
After making the Eastern Conference finals in three out of the past four seasons, no one could have imagined the Celtics struggling this much with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker.
They were unlucky dealing with absences due to health and safety protocols and injuries that hurt their continuity. That continues here with Jaylen Brown being ruled out due to a sprained right ankle.
The Celtics are 5-3 without Brown in the lineup and are scoring 110 points per game in his absence, so I’m not too concerned. The Celtics should be able to take care of business against the Bulls who just played last night. Chicago is 5-10 straight up on zero days rest this season and Zach LaVine is still shaking off the rust after missing 11 games due to health and safety protocols.
The Bulls have never really put it together since trading for Nikola Vucevic at the deadline — they rank 22nd in Net Rating (-3.1), 22nd in Offensive Rating (109.5) and 18th in Defensive Rating (112.6) over that span.
Although LaVine has missed many of those games, it doesn’t change the fact that they are 116.8 points per 100 possessions with Vucevic on the floor vs. 112.1 with him off (+4.7).
The Bulls rank 21st in mid-range frequency while allowing the third-highest percentage from the mid-range, so I’m expecting Tatum and Walker to find their spots against Chicago’s 18th-ranked defense (113.4 Defensive Rating this season per Cleaning the Glass).
Even without Brown, the Celtics are still the better team and my model makes this game Celtics -4.16, so I think there’s some value on any number below that. I played the Celtics at -2.5, but since the number got steamed up, I’d recommend betting it live if it doesn’t drop back down pregame.
Orlando Magic at Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets are on the second leg of a back-to-back after a blowout loss to the Bulls and face the Magic who are without Terrence Ross, Otto Porter, James Ennis, Michael Carter-Williams and Wendell Carter. Where is the scoring going to come from?
Cole Anthony has stepped up recently. He hit a game winner against the Memphis Grizzlies and is averaging 15.1 points on 42.3% shooting in 29.1 minutes per game over the past 11 games. But he’s not going to give the Magic an efficient offense on his own.
The Magic rank 29th in Offensive Rating over the past two weeks, scoring just 103.2 points per 100 possessions in their non-garbage time minutes, according to Cleaning the Glass. They rank bottom 10 in field goal percentage from every area of the floor, including the at rim (61.2%), mid-range (39.9%) and from behind the arc (35.3%).
They’re also shooting the second-highest frequency of mid-range field goals (39.2%) while making the fifth-fewest. They’re playing a Hornets team that is allowing the seventh-lowest percentage of mid-range field goals, so it would shock me if the Magic put up a decent number here.
These also aren’t two fast paced teams as the Magic are 17th in Pace (99.01) while the Hornets are 19th (99.00). The Hornets have offensive issues of their own as they are still missing one of their best scorer and playmaker in Gordon Hayward and Miles Bridges is out with health and safety protocols.
With Devonte’ Graham and Cody Martin out, I don’t trust this offense, even with the return of LaMelo Ball. They rank 18th in Offensive Rating in their non-garbage time minutes the past two weeks and outside of 3-point variance being in their favor, they aren’t great offensively as they rank at the bottom in field goal percentage at the rim and in the mid-range.
My model thinks there’s some value on the under at 216.5 and with these two offenses I have to trust it.