Best basketball wagers to make on Friday
Win your Friday NBA bets
By Dan Favale
Brooklyn Nets (+6) vs. Orlando Magic (-6)
Given the timing of this game, it’s one of the weirdest matchups of the season.
The Brooklyn Nets are borderline pleasant surprises. They have won just seven games, and Jeremy Lin still isn’t healthy, but they go through these protracted stretches of hypercompetitive aggression. They have racked up victories against the Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Clippers and Minnesota Timberwolves, and Sean Kilpatrick is an offensive star.
Even the defense comes together at points. The Nets, make no mistake, are a collective turnstile. But head coach Kenny Atkinson is increasingly turning to a lineup of Trevor Booker, Joe Harris, Brook Lopez, Isaiah Whitehead and Kilpatrick that is, statistically, a monster on both ends of the floor.
The Magic, meanwhile, continue to battle through offensive anemia. At the same time, their defense is scary good–the kind that can shut down some of the best offenses in the league. And the Nets’ attack isn’t even average, let alone good. The Magic should end up winning this game.
And yet, we cannot discount Brooklyn’s pluckiness. Pulling off an upset isn’t totally out of the question. At minimum, it should be able to keep things close wire-to-wire.
The Pick: Brooklyn Nets (+6)
Washington Wizards (+1) vs. Detroit Pistons (-1)
Here’s some (additional) free advice: Do not trust the Washington Wizards.
John Wall is a stat-stuffing monster, and head coach Scott Brooks has unlocked some encouraging small-ball lineups over the last couple of weeks or so, but the Wizards are still bad. Their bench is bad. Their defense is bad. The offense is terrible whenever Wall sits.
Battling against the Detroit Pistons, one of the NBA’s deeper squads, is not what Washington needs. Detroit’s defense is not a force to be reckoned with, and the return of point guard Reggie Jackson has given this group new offensive life.
Let’s just say a one-point spread for the Wizards is generous…too generous.
The Pick: Detroit Pistons (-1)
Toronto Raptors (-7.5) vs. Atlanta Hawks (+7.5)
After a scorching-hot start to the season, the Atlanta Hawks cooled off in a big way. And they’ve yet to regain that onset swagger.
Atlanta’s defense is still good, but it’s tough to like any of the NBA’s fortresses when they’re going up against the Toronto Raptors, who own the best offensive rating in the league by a comfortable margin. Yes, that’s correct: Toronto’s offense is better than that of the Golden State Warriors—by nearly two full points per 100 possessions, mind you.
Though the Raptors’ defense can be shaky, they needn’t worry too much. The Hawks have struggled to find the bottom of the net all season after swapping out Al Horford for Dwight Howard and Dennis Schroder for Jeff Teague.
Even if Atlanta has a great night on offense by its own standards, it shouldn’t be enough to come close to taking down a Toronto team that’s accustomed to putting up points in bunches.
The Pick: Toronto Raptors (-7.5)
Philadelphia 76ers (-1.5) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (+1.5)
Losers of eight straight games, the Los Angeles Lakers need a win. And playing the Philadelphia 76ers is a good way to get that win.
Sure, the Sixers are at home. And yes, Joel Embiid remains a monster. But the Sixers are experimenting with a dual-big frontcourt. Two of Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel and Embiid will be on the floor most of the time.
That’s a recipe for disaster when it comes to Philly’s already-challenged spacing—which, in turn, is a boon for Los Angeles’ chances of escaping with a victory.
The Pick: Los Angeles Lakers (+1.5)
Utah Jazz (-12) vs. Dallas Mavericks (+12)
Don’t look now, but the Utah Jazz are coming into their own, even as they battle through scores of injuries.
Only three teams have a better net rating than the Jazz right now: the Raptors, Warriors and Clippers. That’s it. And Utah quietly ranks in the top six of both offensive and defensive efficiency—which, for the record, is a huge deal.
Twelve points is a huge spread, so it’s okay to hedge here. But the Dallas Mavericks are bad, so Utah should be fine.
The Pick: Utah Jazz (-12)
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