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Daily Upset Alert: NBA Underdog Picks

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Daily Upset Alert: NBA Underdog Picks

We move ahead to Thursday in the never-ending challenge to uncover NBA upsets. Today brings special challenges for a variety of reasons, but we are up to it.

When we sat down to look for this Thursday’s upsets, we had five choices. We knew Miami and Philadelphia were problematic because both have been dealing with Covid issues, rather directly or tracing related.

Then came the news of the mega trade deal involving a chubby James Harden being reunited with Kevin Durant, along with two other teams besides Houston and Brooklyn. That changes the dynamics of the Rockets and to a lesser degree the Pacers tonight. Regardless, this is a big deal for making picks, which limits our options. We prefer, like the old FM radio days of 3-for-Thursday, but will have to settle for two against the betting websites.

Charlotte Hornets vs. Toronto Raptors

Thursday, January 14, 2021 – 7:35 PM ET at Scotiabank Arena

Toronto Troubles

Generally speaking, there are few surprises in the NBA. A few situations change year to year, but nobody saw Toronto starting 2-8 this season.

The pieces from the unexpected championship season have been chipped away. That has left it to others to fill the void, and besides Fred Van Vleet, and to a lesser degree Chris Boucher, that has not happened. Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell have not shown the same energy this season at this juncture. Is this correctable, probably. However, Kyle Lowry is showing signs of slowing down at 34.

After being a Top 10 scoring defense the last two years, coach Nick Nurse’s squad is 19th in permitting 112.5 points a night. Blend that with a team shooting percentage that ranks 26th, and it's obvious the Raptors have turned into championship dinosaurs.

Charlotte is Sticking with the Fundamentals

After a 2-6 start, Charlotte has rattled off four or five wins and covers. What changed? The Hornets are now moving the ball to improve their shooting percentage, which has increased the energy for playing defense. With the combination of Gordon Hayward, Devonte Graham, and LaMelo Ball, the Hornets resemble nothing as we saw in Houston last year with Harden and Russell Westbrook, where the ball was always in their hands.

This trio and their teammates are moving, cutting, and looking to find open players in the same jersey. After finishing 19th in assists last season, Charlotte is first in the middle of January. And this isn’t the standard dribble-drive and kick to the three-point shooter, as over 68 percent of assists come inside the arc, which is more than 10% better than the next best team, Miami.

In turn, the Hornets have played stinging defense and allowed teams to make less than 42% in four of the last five contests. With Charlotte catching eight points north of the border, this appears like an excellent value against the NBA odds.

NBA Pick: Hornets +8 (-110) at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

Hornets +8(-110)
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*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.

Portland Trail Blazers
CJ McCollum #3 and Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers. Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images/AFP

Indiana Pacers vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Thursday, January 14, 2021 - 10:05 PM ET at Moda Center

Portland Still in Search of Stops

The Trail Blazers have the offensive qualifications to compete with anyone in the NBA. Why this team is unlikely to move forward is a lack of commitment on defense. Portland permits approximately 115 PPG against opposing teams that average three fewer points a contest.

Make no mistake, trying to stop CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard is a nightmare. However, against the better teams with more defensive focus, who can force the ball out of their hands, where do consistent points come from in the frontcourt?

It’s great to score 117+ points a game, yet, the most that will get you is a 6th to 8th seed in the Western Conference and a rather quick dismissal in the postseason. Intertops and other online sportsbooks have the Blazers as 1.5-point favorites over Indiana, but will that hold up?

Pacers Head in Modestly Different Direction

With Victor Oladipo not showing much interest in signing a new deal and becoming a free agent after this season, Indiana traded him to Houston and picked up Caris LeVert from Brooklyn to take his place. LeVert is two years younger, but he is not the defender Oladipo is. However, he has a broader offensive game, which will allow Malcolm Brogdon to be a better facilitator with the ball.

The Pacers also have gotten too comfortable in looking to score and not playing defense, and to be a real factor in the Eastern Conference they need a greater commitment. That will be especially true in this contest because the thought of Indiana winning a shootout with Oladipo gone and LeVert iffy to make the long trip seems preposterous.

That makes it incumbent on new head coach Nate Bjorkgren to sell his team on defense this evening, and we think that’s possible. Also, like that the Pacers are 20-8 ATS in road games versus foes averaging 88 or more shots. With my NBA picks, give me the Pacers and the points.

NBA Pick: Pacers +1.5 (-110) at Intertops (visit our Intertops Review)

Pacers +1.5(-110)
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*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.