Dec 12 NBA Picks: Two Bets on Lines, One on Prop
With 11 NBA games scheduled for Friday afternoon, there is no shortage of action on tap. Our approach highlights the followng three plays:
Portland Blazers +3 (-125) at Chicago Bulls
Our computer-based work suggests the Blazers are a live dog at Chicago this evening. The models point to the Blazers securing the win straight up by a 2-5 point margin. We prefer to bet the spread however, so that we have an acceptable buffer against outcomes that are inconsistent with our views. Aggressive bettors should consider the moneyline.
Joakim Noah will not play tonight due to ailing ankles. While FiveThirtyEight indicates that Noah is good enough to be a top player on a Finals-caliber franchise, Chicago has performed well in his absence (the Bulls are 3-1 without their big man). However, the Blazers are among the best rebounding teams in the league, so even if Noah's comrades cover the almost 9 points/game he typically chips in, his average contribution of almost 10 boards will surely be missed.
Portland laid a huge egg last night at Minnesota, mustering only 82 points on 31-80 from the floor. The first and third quarters of last night's contest (in which the Blazers put up 16 and 15 points, respectively) represent the two lowest scoring periods of Portland's season.
Additionally, 8th year, all-star forward, LaMarcus Aldridge, managed only a meager 10 points on 3-14 shooting (Aldridge averages about 22 per game). Generally, Aldridge is among the best mid-range shooters in the game today, and his stroke has been incredibly consistent in recent years. The following graphic from FiveThirtyEight illustrates the extent to which Aldridge has been a standout shooter from 17 to 22 feet away from the basket.
We expect the Blazers to come out with a fire burning after last night's stinker at the Timberwolves. In particular, we are looking for a strong showing from LaMarcus Aldridge, who has, in the past, followed up poor performances with monster games.
Toronto Raptors -8 vs Indiana Pacers
Computer simulations suggest the Raptors will prove to be 11.5-12 points better than the Pacers when these teams do battle at Air Canada Centre tonight -- offering a comfortable cushion versus the 8 point spread. Simulations point to the Raptors securing the cover partially by winning the battle on the boards and by taking better care of the basketball than the Pacers.
The Raptors boast the second-most prolific offense in the NBA, posting 108.5 points per game on average. At the other end of the spectrum, the Pacers rank 28th in scoring, at 93.5 per game. However, the Pacers are adept at limiting their opponents scoring, which likely explains their winning record against the spread (12-9-1), in spite of their 7-15 record straight-up (Toronto is 16-6 outright, and 13-9 ATS).
Pace might also be key in this matchup. Toronto scores slightly more fast break points, and attempts a couple more field goals per game than the league averages. Running a bit more might aid the Raptors offense in getting good, easy shots off before the stout defense of the Pacers has time to set.
Oklahoma CIty Thunder u105.5 at Minnesota Timberwolves
Computer simulation programs, which are at the core of our NBA handicapping system forecast the Thunder to post between 100 and 103 points tonight.
Through the first quarter of the season, Oklahoma City has averaged 93.9 points per game – 11.6 points lower than this same figure for last year. However, due to a fractured foot, superstar Forward, Kevin Durant, missed the first 17 games of the season. Since Durant’s return, the Thunder are 4-1 (dropping only Durant’s first game back) and have averaged 104 points. So while we are confident in the output of our quantitative methodologies, we are attuned to the possibility that the models do not accurately reflect OKC’s full scoring potential because, until recently, we were not able to evaluate Durant’s contribution.
Nonetheless, the numbers seem to corroborate our thinking. In the five games since Kevin Durant’s 2014-2015 debut, Oklahoma City has scored a median of 103 points per game. Their high on the road since Durant’s return is 104. While the Thunder register meaningfully more points with their full roster at their disposal than without, in aggregate, scoring since Durnat's return still pales in comaprison to tonight's total (the singular exception occurred on December 9th, when the Thunder put up 114 on their way to a 13 point home win vs. the Bucks).
Since Durant’s re-insertion in the roster on December 2nd, his minutes have been limited to 30 per contest – a concession that his time away from the game impacted his conditioning. This evening’s matchup will be the first back-to-back Durant has seen this year. Friday's game might constitute a test his fitness. Number 35 scored the last eight points for the Thunder last night in putting the Cavaliers away, thus, though, coming into this season, Oklahoma City was the fifth youngest NBA team (when player ages are weighted by minutes played), given that Durant’s cardiovascular ability may not yet be where it needs to be, and that the perennial MVP-candidate expended a significant amount of effort in the fourth quarter of last night’s game, we are willing to bet that fatigue will pressure OKC’s scoring total lower.