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Jonathan Macri previews Tuesday's NBA games and gives us his picks

We’ve reached an important benchmark in the NBA season, which is when most of the league has played at least 10 games. All but the Mavs, Pelicans, Thunder, Rockets and Heat – each of whom have had games postponed due to COVID protocol - have played at least 10 times. That’s usually a large enough sample size to begin looking at trends, both betting and otherwise, and start to draw some meaningful conclusions.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some possible opportunities to be had.

Denver Nuggets vs. Brooklyn Nets

Neither of these teams has been great against the spread – the Nuggets are 3-7 while the Nets are 4-7 – but these are two squads headed in opposite directions.

The Nuggets, after an uneven (and somewhat snake bitten) 1-4 start, have righted the ship and have scored between 114 and 117 points in each of their last four games. They now face off against a Brooklyn team whose points against have increased from 96 to 109 to 115 to 129 over their last four games.

That last effort came against Oklahoma City, previously owners of the lowest ranked offense in the league and who two nights earlier scored just 101 point against the crosstown Knicks.

Speaking of New York, Brooklyn will be gearing up to face them the night after Denver comes to town. This will be Kevin Durant’s first opportunity to play the team he famously spurned a year and a half ago, and if there were ever the possibility of him looking past an opponent, it would be against Nikola Jokic & Co.

Oh, and Jokic? He’s still averaging a triple double and is moving into poll position in the MVP race. Brooklyn has been switching like crazy, and the big Serbian is good enough to punish like-sized individuals, to say nothing of guards and wings.

Kyrie Irving remains out, so the Nets will once again be undermanned. Denver will take full advantage.

The Pick: Nuggets -1 @ -110

San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

The second longest current winning streak against the spread in the NBA, after the Chicago Bulls, belongs to the aforementioned Thunder, who have covered three straight and are 6-3 ATS on the season.

Even so, the next time Oklahoma City is favored in a game will be the first, with the Spurs getting the nod here despite having a worse record. It seems like Vegas is still living off the fumes of the few times the Thunder received a shellacking, first at the hands of the Pels (by 23) and then the Heat (by 28). Outside of those two contests though, they’ve won or been in every game. What was supposed to be Team Tank has played sound basketball at both ends and they have a starting lineup lacking in firepower but that makes sense.

Not that the Spurs have been bad, although their last loss – a 96-88 defeat at the hands of a Timberwolves team that hadn’t won since the second game of the season – speaks to them running on fumes as they conclude this five-game road trip in Oklahoma City.

Will they have enough to win here? The key may be the Spurs’ defense, which is constructed to take away the one thing that Oklahoma City lives and dies by: the three. Only three teams give up a lower frequency of deep shots that San Antonio, instead giving up close looks at a much higher rate. Unfortunately for the Thunder, they have few players adept at getting to the rim outside of their young star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and he’s barely shooting 50 percent on those attempts, with a number of his successful looks coming in transition or on the secondary break.

Again, this is advantage Spurs, who are top-12 in the league at both taking away transition opportunities and opponents’ points per possession on the break. The Thunder may be rolling, but this is a bad matchup against a team that has already shown the ability to play with the big boys, having beaten both LA teams on consecutive occasions last week. Give the points.

The Pick: Spurs -2.5 @ -105

Indiana Pacers vs. Golden State Warriors

Golden State has finally figured out how to mesh Steph Curry with this new band of misfit toys. They’ve both won and covered four of five, and they look like a completely different team since the return of Draymond Green.

In Indiana, they’ll face a team that is 6-3 and has yet to lose a game by double digits. The Pacers also sport the fifth best net rating in basketball and their core four of Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner is as formidable a quartet as any in the league.

But much like the Spurs and Thunder, this is a bad matchup for their defense. Indiana thrives by conceding the area close to the rim, giving up more looks at close range than any team in the league. Their bet is that Myles Turner, the league’s leader in blocked shots, will be able to bother enough of those looks for Indiana to come out on top. That allows them to focus on taking away the three, at which they are better than anyone.

But as anyone who has watched basketball in the last decade knows, there is no such thing as taking away Steph Curry’s 3-ball when he is rolling, and before his 2-for-16 outing against Toronto, he had been hitting 44 percent of his long range tries on a dozen attempts per game over his previous seven contests. In essence, this is wager on whether you think Curry has two stinkers in a row. Here’s betting he doesn’t.

The Pick: Warriors (OTB)

Other NBA Games

Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers

The Heat are the walking wounded, with stars Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic currently on the team's health and safety protocol list after the completion of contact tracing. This one is a stay away until details emerge on who is playing and who isn’t.

Utah Jazz at Cleveland Cavaliers

Utah hasn’t been consistent, but Cleveland is on the second night of a back to back here, and the Jazz have righted the ship a bit with wins in Milwaukee and Detroit after losses in Brooklyn and New York. The Cavs, meanwhile, have dropped three of four, both in real life and against the spread. Go with Utah.

Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets

Houston just lost to these Lakers by 18, and we continue to see teams winning both halves of these baseball-style series. Don’t overthink this one.

NBA Expert Picks

Nuggets -1 @ -110

Spurs -2.5 @ -105

NBA Free Picks

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Article Author


Dean of Knicks Film School, host: KFS Pod, co-host: Pick N Pod. There isn't much about Knicks basketball that Jonathan doesn't know and he's here to break down the big games each and every week.


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