Biggest Upsets For Friday's NBA Action

Elfrid Payton of the Magic

Friday, March 10, 2017 12:52 AM GMT

This week's column focuses on two Eastern Conference matchups and explains why the Magic and the Raptors offer potential betting value on the road. Read on to get the insider's NBA picks on all the action.

Magic vs. Hornets

The Orlando Magic may have nothing to play for in terms of playoff potential, but they've been displaying decent basketball level of late. The Magic are coming off a 98-91 home win against the Bulls on Wednesday, when Elfrid Payton scored 22 points, set a career high with 14 rebounds and tied his career high with 14 assists for his fifth career triple-double. They previously upset a red-hot Heat team 110-99 last Friday and had the Wizards beaten on Sunday before suffering a tough 115-114 setback.

The Hornets, on the other hand, are 4-6 in their last 10 games and 28-36, five games behind the Bulls for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Time is running out for them, and their lack of consistent defensive effort and offense is costing them key games -- like what happened Wednesday, when a back-and-forth game with the Heat ended in a 108-101 loss despite Charlotte leading 86-81 at the end of the third quarter. The Hornets scored only five points in the first 6:30 minutes of the fourth quarter, and their defense wasn't able to make key stops, either.

The Magic are getting 8.5 points here, and even though the Hornets might get the win at home Orlando will stay in the game behind the play of Evan Fournier, Payton and Terrence Ross. The Hornets are just 15-22-1 ATS against Eastern Conference opponents. I'm adding the Magic +8.5 to my NBA picks.

Free NBA Pick: Magic +8.5 (-110)

Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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Raptors vs. Hawks

The Raptors are still without injured All-Star guard Kyle Lowry, but they've managed to stay 2.5 games behind the Celtics for the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Toronto has won six of eight, including a 94-87 road victory in New Orleans on Wednesday behind 25 points and 13 rebounds from Jonas Valanciunas and 14 points from DeMar DeRozan. 

The Hawks might have snapped a three-game losing streak with Wednesday's 110-105 win against the Nets, but they played poorly in setbacks against the Cavaliers, the Pacers and the Warriors before that. The loss against Golden State showed some on court issues between Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, and that apparent lack of chemistry gives an edge to a Raptors team that is starting to be more successful getting new players Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker more involved. 

Atlanta barely beat Brooklyn at home, and I don't see how it can prevail against an improving Toronto squad. The Hawks are favored by 2 on the NBA odds board, but they're just 13-20 ATS in home games. I'm siding with the Raptors to cover on the road, and it wouldn't surprise me if they win outright.

Free NBA Pick: Raptors +2 (-105)

Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

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