COVID has officially reared its ugly head on the NBA season. From here on in, betters will have to grapple with how much of an effect these DNP’s will have on the outcomes of games. On one hand, it’s easy to treat these like any normal missed game from injury, but then again, this season has already proven itself to be anything but normal. Whether it’s been because of the shorter camps, no fans, or the abrupt start of the 2020-21 season after the bubble ended, the outcomes of games have rarely correlated to who plays and who doesn’t. The result is that the entire league seems to exist in a state of parity, with any given team having a chance on any given night.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at Sunday’s games that feature some of the more consistent teams through three weeks of play
Guess who woke up?
Steph Curry is doing his MVP thing again, averaging 30 points and nearly seven assists, the only player in the league who can make that claim. He is hitting 48 percent of his shots from downtown over Golden State’s last four games on 12 attempts per contest, and the Warriors have gone 5-2 since losing their first two games of the season by a combined 65 points.
As a result, the Warriors suddenly look like one of the surer things in basketball. They’ve covered three of their last four, with the only dropped game coming against the Clippers in which they fell short of the five-point spread by just two points.
Next up, they get the Raptors, who seemingly righted the ship against the Kings in Sacramento on Friday night. What had been one of the worst offenses in the NBA put up 144 against the Kings, and did so without Kyle Lowry, who missed the game for personal reasons. That number is probably why this line is as favorable to Toronto as it is, but keep in mind the Raptors did that against the Kings, who sport the second worst defense in the league.
Lowry figures to be back on Sunday, but betting against a rolling Steph Curry at home is never a good idea, with or without fans.
The Pick: Warriors +2.5 @ +100
It’s been a long, long time since anyone could say that the New York Knicks’ defense was consistent in the positive sense, but then again, it’s been a long time since Tom Thibodeau stalked the sidelines at Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks have had a few blips on the radar over the last two decades, but the last time they were a consistent league power on the defensive end, Thibs was an assistant coach under his mentor Jeff Van Gundy. Now, Thibodeau is back, and while the Knicks are lacking in talent, thus far at least, they’ve been playing hard.
That effort had them sitting with the fifth ranked defense in the NBA heading into Saturday’s games, although some of this looks like fool’s gold. New York’s defense is designed to wall off the paint and make multiple efforts to contest threes, but teams have been getting to the rim far more often than Thibs would like.
That makes Denver an interesting opponent. The Nuggets get to the rim at around a league-average rate, but they’re converting those looks at the second highest rate. Assuming they can move the ball enough to get some a high volume of shots at close range, they may be able to take advantage.
One wild card here could be Mitchell Robinson, who went into the weekend second in the league in combined steals and blocks, but who has also struggled against bigger centers like MVP candidate Nikola Jokic. This will be a tall task, but Robinson and the rest of the Knicks should be geared up after a disappointing Friday night showing against Oklahoma City.
The Pick: Knicks +6 @ -106
Don’t look now, but the 2-7 Pistons are officially feisty.
Well, by Pistons standards at least.
Detroit is coming off a come from behind home win against the Phoenix Suns, who had been riding high at 6-2 with the second best net rating in the league. Before that, they lost two straight in Milwaukee against the team with the top net rating, but they managed to put up 115 points in each contest despite the Bucks stout defense.
Most importantly for our purposes, Detroit five of their last seven games. The reason? Aside from being well-coached by Dwayne Casey and having a healthy Blake Griffin back for most of their games, offseason signee Jerami Grant is tearing it up. Grant is averaging 24 points per game and is hitting 36 percent from downtown on over seven attempts per game.
The Jazz have had some of their own good moments – including a win against the aforementioned Bucks on Friday night – but they’ve also been terribly inconsistent, including dropping the two prior games in New York against the Knicks and undermanned Nets.
The Pistons are playing well enough that the points you’re getting here matter.
The Pick: Pistons +8 @ -110
Other NBA Games
Chicago Bulls at Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are 6-4 but had another questionable performance against the Warriors on Friday night, turning a 14-point halftime lead into a 10-point loss. The Bulls have been just as inconsistent, but better of late, and this spread is begging you to take the road team. The Clippers haven’t earned these points; take them and run.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Brooklyn Nets
The Nets should have both of their stars back on Sunday, and who knows how most teammates will respond to Kyrie Irving’s return after taking a mental health sabbatical. Thankfully for Brooklyn, the only opinion that matter’s is Kevin Durant’s, who will play and likely be ready to put on a shot. OKC’s feistiness is why this line isn’t bigger, but against a motivated former MVP, it won’t matter.
Miami Heat at Boston Celtics
The Celtics are the walking wounded, with barely enough guys to play, but that didn’t stop Philly from (barely) covering on Saturday. Plus, Boston still has Jaylen Brown, who’s been a top-five player in the league this season. Miami will also be on the second half of a back to back. Go with the home team.
Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets
Two highly inconsistent teams, making this one a stay away. That said, When Harden has been on the floor, the Rockets are scoring 117.2 points per 100 possessions. That would rank second in the league, and Houston is coming off a 42-point win. If you must, take the Rockets.
NBA Expert Picks
Warriors +2.5 @ +100
Knicks +6 @ -106
Pistons +8 @ -110
NBA Free Picks
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