Wednesday’s NBA Odds, Picks & Projections: Betting Analysis for Hornets vs. Cavaliers, Heat vs. Nuggets, More (April 14)
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Nikola Jokic.
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 12-game slate.
Charlotte Hornets vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
The market hasn’t been properly pricing these Cavaliers totals recently. Although the Cavs rank 29th in Offensive Rating (105.9) this season, they’ve improved greatly with the return of Kevin Love. Love is averaging just 11.0 points and 2.0 assists per game, but with him on the floor, the Cavs are scoring 109.3 points per 100 possessions compared to 104.0 with him off the floor.
It’s no surprise that the Cavaliers are scoring 113.4 points per 100 possessions over the past two weeks, which ranks 15th in the NBA over that stretch. They’ve essentially gone from a the worst offense in the league to a little better than league average with Love on the floor. It’s also no surprise the Cavaliers have seen their totals go over in five straight games.
I don’t see it stopping here against the Hornets who rank 19th in Defensive Rating this season (111.4). Charlotte enters this game on a back-to-back and is missing some of its top scorers (Gordon Hayward, Lamelo Ball and PJ Washington), however if Terry Rozier plays as expected, this total is too low. The Hornets played a 91 possession game, scoring just 1.02 points per possession against the Lakers, but the Cavs are much worse defensively so I’m expecting a higher offensive output here.
My model makes this game 212, but I think this line could be a bit higher. Both of these teams rank in the bottom 10 in opponent field goal percentage at the rim. In today’s NBA, 213 is a really low total that you can cough and sneeze and get over. I like my chances with the over.
Indiana Pacers at Houston Rockets
At what point can a team’s lines be adjusted too much? That’s the question I find myself asking here as this total is up to 234. The Pacers are much better team defensively with Myles Turner on the court as they’re allowing 98.6 points per 100 possessions with him on compared to 101.1 with him off.
Interestingly enough, the Pacers also have a better offense with him off the floor. But with him missing for the past four games the Pacers have seen their totals go 3-1 to the over. The Pacers have also played the second-fastest pace (104.13) in the league over that span as well.
I can’t help but think that this is a dead spot for this offense on a back-to-back, playing their third game in four nights in three different cities, flying from Memphis to Indianapolis to Houston in four nights.
Outside of this three game stretch where the Pacers have scored 141, 111 and 132 against the Timberwolves, Magic and Grizzlies, this offense hasn’t been great this season as they’re scoring just 111.7 points per 100 possessions, 17th among NBA teams.
Although they’re facing a Houston defense that ranks 26th in Defensive Rating (114.2), the Rockets are solid at defending the the mid-range area where the Pacers score most efficiently and shoot 42.9%.
If a team’s most efficient area of the floor is the mid-range, what does that say about their overall offense? The Pacers are shooting just 35.4% of their field goal attempts from behind the arc at a 36.1% clip, 19th among NBA teams.
As bad as the Rockets are defensively, they’re equally as bad offensively where they’re scoring just 112.3 points per 100 possessions over the past two weeks. While they’ve improved since adding Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley and DJ Augustin to the roster, this offense still isn’t scaring anyone.
Golden State Warriors vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Maybe you haven’t noticed, but the Oklahoma City Thunder are openly tanking. Without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Al Horford in the lineup, it’s no surprise they’re dead last in Offensive Rating, scoring just 104.8 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes this season.
Over the past two weeks they’re scoring just 98.8 points per 100 possessions. They’ll be facing a Warriors defense that ranks 10th in Defensive Rating holding opposing teams to 111.7 points per 100 possessions this season despite the fact that they’ve slipped a bit recently.
The Warriors just held the Denver Nuggets to just 1.06 points per possession on Monday, so I’m not expecting the Thunder to score efficiently here especially coming off a back-to-back game in Utah. With the Warriors sitting two games behind eighth in the Western Conference, this is a game they need, so the motivation will be there to play defense.
Stephen Curry’s greatness can’t be understated, especially after a 53-point performance in the same game that he passed Wilt Chamberlain as the Warriors’ all-time leading scorer. Despite that, the Warriors are still 23rd in Offensive Rating (109.1) this season.
Although the Warriors are scoring 113.7 points per 100 possessions with Curry on the floor, they’re scoring just 103.2 with him off the floor. The area of the floor the Thunder struggle to the defend is at the rim, however the Warriors are just 14th in field goal percentage at the rim (65.3%).
Although this game does have some blowout potential with the Thunder in a tough spot, I’m not seeing this as a very high scoring game. The market has this game at 223.5 and I grabbed at 225, but I think this total is a few points too high. I’ll play the under here.
Miami Heat vs. Denver Nuggets
Although the news of Jamal Murray’s torn ACL will be the first thing most people will think about in regards to this game, what stands out for me is that the Miami Heat are in a dreadful spot.
The Heat are coming off a back-to-back blowout loss against the Phoenix Suns and are playing their third game in four nights in elevation. I’m not sure that’s being accurately priced into this line where I have the Denver Nuggets as 5.9 point favorites without Murray.
Although the loss of Murray hurts, it’s necessary to recognize that the Nuggets played four games without him last week, going 4-1 with their only loss coming at the hands of the Boston Celtics in a game in which they gave up a 31-3 run, blowing a 14 point third quarter lead.
Although the Nuggets will miss Murray’s scoring and clutch play, they have an offensive rating of 116.4 in six games without him so I’m confident they’ll be able to overcome his loss in the regular season.
Although I can’t specifically quantify it, I like to play spots in which teams have a key injured player based on the motivation and there’s no greater spot than this one for the MVP front runner in Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets to prove themselves.
From a basketball standpoint, I’m not that impressed with this Miami Heat team. Although I thought they made a great situational play against the Phoenix Suns yesterday, this is a team which is struggling offensively, scoring just 109.3 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes according to Cleaning The Glass.
The Heat are only shooting above average at the rim where they’re shooting (68.3%), but everywhere else they are in the bottom 10, including the mid-range where they rank 24th in shooting percentage (40.3%) and from behind the arc where they’re 28th in 3-point shooting percentage (34.9%). The Nuggets should be able to defend this team and score enough to get the win and cover against a tired Miami Heat team on a four game road trip.