Here's our take on a couple games for Wednesday; as always, readers should make use of the information that follows at their own discretion. If you know what I mean.
Raptors -4 vs. Celtics (7:05 pm ET)
Boston is 1-4 this exhibition season, and just lost Tuesday night at Brooklyn 82-80.
Toronto, meanwhile, is 3-1 this preseason, after beating Minnesota Saturday 104-97.
The Celtics, of course, have embarked upon a serious rebuilding project. Gone are the guys who brought Boston that last NBA title – Garnett, Pierce, most of the rest. Gone also is Coach Rivers, replaced, surprisingly, by the kid who elevated a school called Butler to college prominence, Brad Stevens.
A good hire? Honestly, we're not sure. If he gets the Celtics the playoffs this year he'll have done a hell of a job.
Toronto played well late last season, and for the most part is settled with its rotation heading into this season. The Raptors have a nice young core, and shored up the bench over the off-season.
Toronto's goal this exhibition season might not necessarily be to win games, but to develop depth. In the win over the Timberwolves Saturday none of the Raptors starting five played more than 20 minutes.
We loved what Stevens did at Butler, and if he can get pros to do what his college kids did, Boston will be a moneymaker. For the moment, we actually have some faith he'll be able to pull that off.
The NBA odds for this game opened at most NBA betting outlets with Toronto lined at -5, the total set at 193.5. Many books then dropped the Raptors to -4 and even -3.5.
We don't usually like going with the flow, but in this case we'll make an exception. We'll take the Celtics at the +4 points offered at Pinnacle for one of our free NBA picks for Wednesday.
Rockets -6 vs. Magic (8 pm ET)
Houston has won its last two exhibition games, beating Indiana back-to-back out in Taiwan and the Philippines, covering the number both games.
The Houston Rockets may be playing their better players a little more than other teams might, perhaps in an effort to develop some chemistry between guys like PG Jeremy Lin, 2-Man James Harden and F Chandler Parsons with newcomer Dwight Howard.
Over those last two games Lin played 23 and 35 minutes, Harden 27 and 29, Parsons 29 and 25 and Howard 24 and 24.
Orlando, meanwhile, is 1-2 this exhibition season, winning its last time out 102-94 over Dallas.
In a loss to Cleveland last Friday the Magic built up an early lead, then saw it disappear as youngsters replaced veterans on the court. Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo (he's a veteran on this team) each only played 18 minutes.
For the long run that's OK; Orlando is a young team, with little-to-no expectations for this season. The goal for the moment is to get the young guys court-time, weather the storms of the immediate future and make a run at the playoffs down the line, perhaps next year. But for right now, as in tonight's game, we're very leery of backing this team financially.
Most sportsbooks opened this game with Houston favored by seven points, the total at 203.5. Many shops then dropped the Rockets as much as two points. Good. We like going against the flow. We'll take Houston at the -5.5 points offered at Pinnacle for the second of our sports picks Wednesday.