The NBA schedule is a good one headed into the New Year. Here are several betting angles worth considering in some key matchups, including a Christmas Day Cavaliers-Warriors clash and a showdown between conference leaders the Rockets and Celtics.
Monday, December 25Cavaliers at Warriors (3 p.m. ET)
When asked about Stephen Curry’s availability for the Warriors’ Christmas Day clash with the Cavaliers, head coach Steve Kerr surmised, “He can’t play. That would be completely irresponsible if he did.” The two-time NBA MVP has been out for a few weeks with a high ankle sprain. Although taking part in light shootarounds, Curry has yet to scrimmage or play three-on-three drills to prove game ready. His availability for the Finals rematch would be a Christmas miracle.
Curry’s absence makes Cleveland an automatic lean against the spread. We’ve faded the Warriors for several weeks in this spot with the assumption no advanced stats or metrics can accurately weigh the sharpshooters' value to the squad. Curry is the heart and soul of the team and entire personnel rotations and schemes are drawn up with him in mind. The betting market is perhaps the best indicator to his worth. Since 2014, when the Warriors emerged a super team, they are 8-16-1 ATS, losing to a -6.8 spread by 3.2 points per game with Curry out.
Another angle to consider is this: the Cavaliers are 12-6 SU and 14-4 ATS as a small road underdog of 5 points or less with LeBron James in the lineup in this span. The Warriors are 5-point favorites as of publication. Expect this number to shrink a little more before tip.
Tuesday, December 26Pacers at Pistons (7 p.m. ET)
The Pacers and Pistons sit fourth and fifth in the NBA Eastern Conference standings. Although neck and neck in the playoff race, the Central Division rivals rarely play a close game when facing off recently. Since 2015, the winner has claimed victory by 12 points or more in seven of 11 matchups despite tipping off a pick ‘em on average. A 6-point difference is the closest finish in this span.
Which team will lay an egg here? The Pistons perhaps. Monitoring Andre Drummond’s minutes may be a strong indicator headed into the game. When the Detroit center is coming off a contest in which he logged 31.5 minutes or fewer, the team is 0-6 SU and ATS, failing to cover a 2.2 average line by 11.2 points per game. Drummond clocked just 26 minutes in a 104-101 win over the Knicks on Friday, forced to the bench for long stretches due to foul trouble. A loaded December schedule is likely catching up to the big man. Since December 1, the Pistons are just 4-8 SU and ATS.
Wednesday, December 27Raptors at Thunder (9 p.m. ET)
Fact: the Thunder are just 5-11 SU and 2-14 ATS when allowing 100 points or more in a contest. The Raptors, with their new-look, share-the-rock offense, average 111.3 points per game, hitting the century mark in 26 of 31 as of publication. Good news for OKC fans is that three of Toronto’s under-100 efforts occurred in five contests versus top-5 NBA scoring defenses. OKC ranks third, surrendering 99.8 points per game. The ‘under’ will be a good lean here. It is a perfect 13-0 when the Raptors score 108 points or less.
Thursday, December 28Rockets at Celtics (8 p.m. ET)
Chris Paul is dealing with a sore right abductor, his status up in the air for this post-Christmas showdown between Western and Eastern conference top teams. The Rockets offense will certainly lack punch if Paul is out.
The ‘under’ game total is on our radar regardless if the star point guard suits up. Houston is obliterating 3-point shooting records and excels at the long-range shot to make it the most efficient offense in the NBA (116 points per 100 possessions). The Celtics are one of the best at defending the arc. Their 35.0 opponent 3-point rate ranks sixth best in the NBA.
Boston has squared off against six teams averaging 11.7 or more from downtown per night. The ‘under’ is 5-1, a 190.7 final score staying 16.4 points south of a 207.1 average fame total. Opponents are shooting 28.6 percent from deep overall. The Rockets lead the league with 16.0 per game. We expect the combined score to be a little higher in this one, but the betting results in the same. Lean ‘under.’
Friday, December 29Nets at Heat (8 p.m. ET)
The Nets are surprising against good teams, keeping most games competitive and within reach of a win. They are 15-4-2 ATS versus opponents with a greater average scoring margin on the season. Miami owns a -1.9 point differential as of Sunday, Brooklyn -2.7 respectively. There are a couple of games scheduled prior to this matchup, but we’ll continue cashing the trend with our NBA picks until the market catches up.