NBA Odds, Picks & Projections: Breaking Down Magic vs. Celtics, Bulls vs. Thunder (Friday, Jan. 15)

NBA Odds, Picks & Projections: Breaking Down Magic vs. Celtics, Bulls vs. Thunder (Friday, Jan. 15) article feature image
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Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

  • NBA betting analyst Raheem Palmer is breaking down some of Friday night's most intriguing matchups from around the league.
  • Check out his projections and picks for Knicks-Cavs, Magic-Celtics and Bulls-Thunder below.

For the 2020-2021 NBA season, I’ll be publishing my projections for every NBA game. 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

Click on a game to skip ahead
New York Knicks at Cleveland Cavaliers
7 p.m. ET
Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics
7:30 p.m. ET
Chicago Bulls at Oklahoma City Thunder
8 p.m. ET

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. For the first week or two of the season, my numbers heavily incorporate priors, so we’ll be relying much more on handicapping ability when looking for an edge.

Check out my analysis for tonight’s massive 10-game slate.

New York Knicks at Cleveland Cavaliers

Pick
Knicks -2 | Under 197.5
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Gametime
7:30 p.m. ET
TV
NBA League Pass

The Cleveland Cavaliers are missing their young duo famously known as Sexland, Collin Sexton (ankle) and Darius Garland (shoulder). To make matters worse, they’ll be without the services of Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince who landed in the four team deal that sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets.

The Cavaliers are +3.3 points per 100 possessions better with Sexton On vs. Off and a whopping +18.3 points per 100 possessions better with Garland On vs. off.

The biggest difference is the hit this offense takes as the Cavs offense goes from scoring 103.1 points per 100 possession with Sexton on vs 98.6 points per 100 possessions when he’s off the floor. The drop-off without Garland is even greater as the Cavs are scoring 108.8 points per 100 possessions with him on vs 96.2 points per 100 possessions with him off the floor.

It’s no coincidence that over the past two weeks, the Cavaliers are dead last in offense, scoring just 94.6 points per 100 possessions. They’ll be facing a Knicks team that ranks 11th in Defensive Efficiency in their non garbage time minutes, holding opposing teams to 109.8 points per 100 possessions.

Overall these are two bad offenses which happen to play among the least amount of possessions in the league. The Knicks are dead last in pace at about 96.71 possessions a game while the Cavaliers are 27th in pace playing at 97.52.

My projections for this season not using priors actually puts this total at 187 so it’s no surprise we’re seeing this total being steamed down.

I’m going to play the under and take the Knicks to bounce back from four straight losses give that they have a better offense than what we’re seeing from the Cavs without Sexland.

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Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics

Pick
Magic +3.5
Bet Now
Gametime
7:30 p.m. ET
TV
NBA League Pass

The Boston Celtics enter tonight’s game against the Orlando Magic with most of their roster on their injury report after a series of positive COVID-19 tests.

According to our NBA Insiders injury dashboard, Jayson Tatum and Robert Williams remain out for this game while Jaylen Brown, Daniel Theis, Javonte Green and Semi Ojeleye remain questionable. Right now Tristan Thompson, Jeff Teague, Marcus Smart, Grant Williams, Aaron Nesmith, Payton Pritchard, Tremont Waters and Tacko Fall are expected to go for Friday night’s game.

Nonetheless, if Boston’s questionable players can’t go, you have an advantage getting a better number than you would have previously.

That said, the Magic have been struggling since the loss of Markelle Fultz, getting blown out in games against the Rockets, Mavericks and Bucks. Without both Markelle Fultz and Evan Fournier, the Magic have been held to less than 100 points in the past three games.

Still, this sets up for a solid get back spot after not playing a game since Monday. Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon should cause major matchup problems for a depleted Celtics team.

The Celtics have made their living offensively this season scoring 114.2 point per 100 possession in their non garbage time minutes, according to Cleaning the Glass, but they’re just 19th in defense, allowing 110.8 points per 100 possessions.

Given a reduced offensive output without Jayson Tatum, I’m not sure they can overcome it on the defensive end of the floor. With the Magic covering four out of their last five games in Boston, I’ll take a shot on them to cover the +3.5.

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Chicago Bulls at Oklahoma City Thunder

Pick
Over 224
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Gametime
8:00 p.m. ET
TV
NBA League Pass

Over the past two weeks the Chicago Bulls have been rolling offensively, scoring 115.4 points per 100 possessions, which is ninth among NBA teams.

As a whole, this team has shot the ball really well, ranking seventh in effective field goal percentage (55.9%) and eighth in 3-point percentage (38.8%) according to Cleaning the Glass.

Zach LaVine leads the team with 27.7 points per game followed by Coby White at 17.3. They should get some more scoring with the return of Lauri Markkanen tonight.

However, they haven’t played much defense lately. Since the start of the year they’ve given up less than 100 points just once and less than 111 points just twice. It’s no coincidence, that they’re 7-4 to the over this season. Excluding their garbage time minutes, they’re 28th in Defensive Rating, giving up 117.8 points per 100 possessions while also giving up the third highest eFG% at 56.7%.

When you combine an abysmal defense with a team playing the the 2nd fastest pace in the league at 104.73 possessions a game, you have a recipe for a team that is going over more often than not. Teams are shooting a whopping 39.6% from three against the Bulls and they’re also giving up 39.3% of opponent field goal attempts from behind the arc, which is top 10 among NBA teams.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are actually shooting the seventh-highest percentage of 3-point field goal attempts this season so this lines up as a game in which we could see them shoot well from the perimeter.

While Oklahoma City’s offense isn’t anything to write home about, they should have no problems scoring against a Bulls team which ranks towards the bottom of the league in field goal percentage in every area of the floor.

My projections with priors make this game 223.5 and my projections using just this seasons numbers make this game 229, nonetheless, I think this game should go over with relative ease.

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