NBA Betting Lines Picks Tonight
*All betting lines come via TopBet and are accurate as of midnight Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday, Dec. 19. As always, re-check these odds before submitting wagers, as they are subject to changes before opening tip.
Toronto Raptors (-1.5) at Charlotte Hornets (+1.5)
The Raptors Should Comfortably Win
Serge Ibaka is a question mark for the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night, which stinks for a starting unit that had begun to find its groove in previous games. But, for the purposes of this game, it doesn’t really matter.
The Charlotte Hornets are missing Cody Zeller themselves, and they might as well be playing without Nicolas Batum, who has openly admitted he’s fighting a losing battle with elbow pains. Though the Hornets are working off a Monday night victory over the New York Knicks, they were merely taking advantage of a shorthanded team that didn’t have Tim Hardaway Jr. or Kristaps Porzingis.
Toronto won’t struggle as much without Ibaka. The starting five hasn’t fared well statistically when subbing him out for C.J. Miles, but they have the depth elsewhere to make up the gap. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are playing like All-Stars at the same time again, and most importantly, the Hornets have yet to figure out how to remain afloat when Kemba Walker steps off the floor.
To wit: In the 986 minutes he’s played this season, they’ve outscored opponents by 124 points. But in the 464 minutes he’s spent on the bench, they’ve been outscored by 168 points. He can’t play all 48 minutes, and the Hornets don’t have the tools to rival Toronto’s two way play even if he does.
The Pick: Toronto Raptors (-1.5)
Indiana Pacers (-4.5) at Atlanta Hawks (+4.5)
Indiana Should Have This In The Bag
Give it up for the Indiana Pacers. Seriously. This squad is damn good. They almost beat the Boston Celtics on Monday night and have just generally been a pest to every team that they face.
If the All-Star Game were tomorrow, Victor Oladipo would be starting. That’s how good he’s been. And while the Pacers continue to shoot far too many long mid-rangers, they continue to get scorching hot-strokes from basically half their roster.
And get this: The Pacers’ offense has been just as potent on the road as it is at home. And they’re facing an Atlanta Hawks outfit that isn’t actively chasing wins.
Indeed, the Hawks, not unlike the Brooklyn Nets, have the twitchy, hard-working players to catch teams off-guard. But the Pacers are outscoring opponents by 1.6 points per 100 possessions in hostile territory—the seventh-best mark in the league. We’d adjust our expectations if they were playing a good team, but they’re not. Expect them to come out looking for a decisive win following Monday’s last-second letdown versus the Celtics.
The Pick: Indiana Pacers (-4.5)
Minnesota Timberwolves (+2) at Denver Nuggets (-2)
Take A Risk With The Banged-Up Nuggets
We’re taking a risk here. We won’t try to hide that from you. The Denver Nuggets have been maddeningly inconsistent and still don’t have Paul Millsap back from wrist surgery. Their situation is complicated even more by Gary Harris dealing with elbow soreness.
But Harris expects to be in the lineup on Wednesday, which is huge. Emmanuel Mudiay’s potential absence is equally big. He’s been shooting better this season, but the Nuggets are appreciably better whenever he’s not on the floor. They’re a minus-11.6 points per 100 possessions when he’s in the lineup, compared to a plus-8.7 when he’s not.
Mostly, though, we believe in the Nuggets’ play at Denver’s Pepsi Center. Incoming opponents don’t know how cope with the altitude adjustment, even though Denver isn’t playing especially fast in front of its home crowd this year.
Through their first 13 home games, the Nuggets are 11-2, with a top-four offensive rating and top-five net rating. So while they’ll need to rely on some funky units—no one knows whether Nikola Jokic will come off the bench or start as he works his way back from a sprained ankle—something about playing at home resonates with Denver.
The Nuggets should have no problem taking advantage of a Minnesota Timberwolves squad that depends on its starting five more than any other team in the league—if only because that reliance could devolve into disaster as players struggle with their endurance in Denver’s high-altitude setting.
Miami Heat (+8) at Boston Celtics (-8)
Shorthanded Heat Should Bend, Then Break, In Boston
Rolling with the Celtics when the spread is larger than four points almost always ends up being an acid trip. They’ve logged more minutes in crunch time than any other NBA team, seemingly playing up or down to the lever of their opponents.
This eight-point spread doesn’t feel like much of a risk. The Miami Heat are that shorthanded.
Okaro White and Rodney McGruder aren’t coming back anytime soon, while James Johnson, Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside have all been ruled out. Goran Dragic is listed as a tip-time decision after missing a game with elbow soreness, but he didn’t sound optimistic when talking about the pain he’s experiencing on Wednesday. And for him to acknowledge it, he must be in discomfort, because he’s known for playing through all different kinds of injuries.
Even if he does take the floor, the Celtics should prove to be too overwhelming. They’ve hit a rough patch of late, going a so-so 4-3 over their past seven games. But they’re 13-3 when playing at home while outpacing opponents by 5.7 points per 100 possessions.
Unless head coach Brad Stevens elects to dole out rest nights for Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown, bank on them securing a double-digit victory.
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