Welcome to the first edition of CBS Sports’ NBA betting notebook. Each week we’ll take a look at a few trends going on throughout the league from a betting perspective, as well as examine the game of the week. All trends are courtesy of Oddshark.
Trending up: Brooklyn Nets at Toronto Raptors
Trend to know: Brooklyn Nets 4-1 both ATS and SU in their last five games
Are… are the Nets good? After an eight-game losing streak spanning late November and early December dropped them to 8-18 on the season, everyone understandably counted the Nets out once again.
Since then, however, they’ve ripped off a 13-4 stretch to surge into the playoff picture. Entering Friday night’s action, which will tip at 7:30 p.m. ET — (Watch on FuboTV with NBA League Pass extension), they’re in seventh place in the East, and appear to have a legitimate shot at making the postseason for the first time since 2015.
They play hard, shoot a lot of 3s, and shoot them well — sixth in attempts, seventh in percentage — and take care of the ball. That is a formula for success, or at least far more success than the Nets have had lately.
Over their past five games, the Nets have gone 4-1, and not only straight up, but against the spread as well. But on Friday night they roll into Toronto as 9.5-point underdogs against the Raptors. And despite the Nets’ recent hot streak, the smart play here is to take the Raptors to cover.
While the Nets have been playing well lately, it’s worth noting that in their last three games against top opponents in the Eastern Conference, they’ve lost by 16 points to the Celtics, by 14 to the Bucks and by eight to the Pacers. The Nets are fun, and have been playing well, but they’re still not talented enough to hang with the elite teams.
The Raptors are healthy, playing at home, and coming off a bit of a disappointing game against the Hawks, where they eked out a win by just three points.
Bet: Raptors -9.5
Over/Under: Los Angeles Lakers at Utah Jazz
Trend to know: Total has gone under in four of last five games for Lakers, seven of Jazz’s last eight home games
The still LeBron James-less Lakers have finally started to win some games without “The King,” beating the Mavericks and Pistons in their last two games. But now, they face a much tougher test when they hit the road for a matchup with the Jazz in Salt Lake City.
Utah has hung right around .500 for much of the season, which was a bit disappointing considering their strong run to the second round of the playoffs last season, but perhaps not all that surprising given how difficult their schedule was in the first half.
In any case, things should get easier for them, and they catch a break on Friday night by getting to play the Lakers without LeBron. But for this game, we aren’t going to focus on the spread. Instead, let’s look at the point total, which is set at 216.5.
There are a few trends to pay attention to here. On the Lakers side, the under has hit in four of their last five games, while on the Jazz side, the under has hit in seven of their last eight home games.
Even with LeBron, the Lakers have not been a very good offensive team this season, and since he’s been out injured, they’ve been downright dreadful. In those eight games, they’re putting up just 102.5 points per 100 possessions, which gives them the third-worst offensive rating in the league over that stretch. Meanwhile, they’ve actually boasted the second-best defensive rating since LeBron has been out. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that bad offense plus good defense leads to low scoring games.
The Jazz, of course, are elite on the defensive end. Led by one of the best rim protectors in the league, Rudy Gobert, they have the fifth-best defense in the league over the course of the season. And at home, they’re just on another level. In their last eight home games, in which the under has hit seven times, the Jazz have a defensive rating of 98.2 — a mark which would lead the league by over four points.
Los Angeles’ abysmal offense without LeBron, coupled with the Jazz’s elite defense at home should lead to a low scoring contest.
Bet: Under 216.5
Game of the week: San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder
In a strange bit of scheduling, the Thunder and will be playing each other for the second time in three days when they square off on Saturday in the marquee game of the night, (8 p.m. ET — Watch on FuboTV with NBATV add-on).
The first meeting, on Thursday night, was arguably the game of the season, a double-overtime thriller the Spurs won by a score of 154-147. LaMarcus Aldridge put up a career-high 56 points, while Russell Westbrook recorded an absurd 24-point, 13-rebound, 24-assist triple-double.
That was the third straight loss for the Thunder, while the Spurs have now won six of their last seven games, including wins over the Clippers, Celtics and Raptors, in addition to the Thunder.
While the two teams are trending in opposite directions, there is reason to believe in the Thunder. For one, they’re returning home for Saturday night’s contest. For the season, the Thunder are 13-6 at home, but perhaps more importantly, the Spurs have been awful away from San Antonio. Their 7-13 mark on the road is the worst away record among all Western Conference playoff teams.
In addition, it’s tough to beat the same team two times in a row — especially when the teams are of fairly equal standing.
There are no lines out as of this writing, but leaning towards the Thunder is the smart play.
Prediction: Thunder 108 — Spurs 100
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