Tuesday Hard Court Betting Action
Online NBA Betting Lines Analysis
By Dan Favale
Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has already said he expects this matchup to have a postseason-type feel. And for good reason.
The Raptors remain in a tight battle with the Washington Wizards for third place in the Eastern Conference, while the Indiana Pacers are just trying to get in the playoffs at all. The latter is currently sitting just outside the postseason bracket, behind the eighth-place Miami Heat.
Though the Pacers traditionally give the Raptors problems, Toronto has the third-ranked defense, in terms of points allowed per 100 possessions since the All-Star break. The offense could be better, but it’s good enough for a team playing without Kyle Lowry, and it’s still worlds better than anything Indiana is running.
Oh, on top of that, the Raptors have the league’s third-best road net rating since the start of March. Go with the Raptors, hard, in this one.
The Pick: Toronto Raptors (+2.5)
There is always the chance Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue decides to rest LeBron James down the stretch. It’s going to happen at some point. We’re betting that point isn’t tonight, though.
Just a half-game separates the Cavaliers from the first-place Boston Celtics at the top of the Eastern Conference. Win against the Orlando Magic, and they’ll have sole ownership of the No. 1 seed, since they currently own a 2-1 season-series advantage over Boston.
Intriguing still, the Cavaliers’ shoddy defense has been better over their last three games. They should have no trouble stymying an uninventive Magic squad that, at this stage, isn’t actively chasing victories.
The Pick: Cleveland Cavaliers (-10)
The Washington Wizards have lost three straight games and are a paltry 5-5 over their last 10 outings. The kicker: Their starting five, one of the most feared lineups in basketball overall, is getting outscored by more than 20 points per 100 possessions during this crappy stretch.
On the flip side, the Charlotte Hornets are surging. They’re one game outside the Eastern Conference’s playoff bubble and working on a three-game winning streak.
Still, most of the Wizards’ troubles more recently have come on the road. Their best lineups may be suffering from fatigue, but they continue to project as a tough faction to beat on their home court. And with third place in the East still up for grabs, we can reasonably bank on maximum effort.
The Pick: Washington Wizards (-3.5)
With the Orlando Magic firmly on the wrong end of the turbulence spectrum, the Oklahoma City Thunder might now be the NBA’s wildest roller coaster. Though they’re nigh unbeatable when Russell Westbrook tallies a triple-double—something he has done 40 times this year—they cough up games they have no business losing, like their most recent letdown against the Charlotte Hornets.
Playing the Milwaukee Bucks isn’t a good recipe for these struggles. The Bucks have been one of the NBA’s hottest teams since the start of March—particularly on the road.
Since March 1, the Bucks have a higher net rating on the road—plus-2.1, the fourth-best in basketball—than the Thunder have at home (plus-2.0). Westbrook will probably carve up their defense, especially with Malcolm Brogdon not suiting up, but Giannis Antetokounmpo and crew have the offensive firepower necessary to keep this one close.
The Pick: Milwaukee Bucks (+5.5)
Normally, we would roll with the Utah Jazz sans any deep thinking here. The Portland Trail Blazers don’t have Jusuf Nurkic and are working off a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.
But the Jazz don’t expect to have Derrick Favors, George Hill, Rodney Hood or Raul Neto tonight. That’s a big freaking deal. Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward are more than enough to get the job done, but a six-point spread implies decisive victory.
And the Jazz, with their battered supporting cast, shouldn’t have that type of win in them at the moment.
Plus, it helps that the Blazers have the best road net rating of any team in the league since March 1. Even without Nurkic, they should be able to keep things close against a shorthanded opponent.
The Pick: Portland Trail Blazers (+6)