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

If you’re only going to have four games on the NBA slate, might as well have the league’s co-favorites for the title playing in two of them. Both are on the road Thursday night, facing off against teams at the bottom of the East, but that offer very different levels of resistance.

We start with the defending champs…

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Detroit Pistons

More than a month into this NBA season and it’s become apparent that there’s only one thing preventing the Lakers from making better very happy every time they take the court: Boredom.

That’s basically been the only reason LA hasn’t covered every spread they’ve faced since they righted the ship and started playing up to their potential nearly three weeks ago. Over that time, they’ve won eight of their ten games and covered all but three: a nine-point spread against Golden State in a game they led by 15 in the fourth; earlier this week against Cleveland, a game they controlled throughout but only won by seven on a 12 point line; and then last night against Philly, which they lost outright.

But even the Sixers game was one that saw LA enter the last few minutes down 11, only to take the lead when they finally woke up. A last second shot by Tobias Harris gave them the L, but that closing stretch was a strong reminder: when Los Angeles wants to bring its A-game, no one can touch them.

Enter the Pistons, who on paper at least are the Lakers’ worst opponent of the season. The Pistons are 4-13 but to their credit are over .500 against the spread. After four straight losses by single digits, they won on Monday against the Embiid-less Sixers before dropping Wednesday’s affair in Cleveland by 15.

This one comes down to how much energy the Lakers want to expend. If they’re in the mood, no spread would be high enough, and given the recent sample size, the smart money says to roll with them all season long. You might not win ‘em all, but you’ll take home the bag more often than not.

The Pick: Los Angeles -9.5 @ -106

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Los Angeles Clippers vs. Miami Heat

Los Angeles saw its seven-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks, but it came without stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, so take it with a grain of salt. That said, it was the second straight they’ve failed to cover, and are just 10-8 against the spread this season.

In Miami, the Clips face a team that is struggling mightily. They’re 6-11, losers of four straight, and owners of the second worst net rating in the league over the last two weeks according to Cleaning the Glass.

The issue has been that they simply don’t have the horses to compete on most nights. In their most recent defeat, a 109-82 home waxing at the hands of the Nuggets, they were missing Tyler Herro, Goran Dragic and Jimmy Butler, who has played just six games.

On the bright side, all three could be back for this game, and it’s not like they’ll need much time to get reintegrated into the swing of things. This is a situation where the status of all three warrants monitoring, but if you’re feeling lucky, it might be a good idea to take advantage of this line while it’s a favorable as it is.

The Pick: Miami -5.5 @ -102

Other NBA Games

Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets

The Rockets have been downright feisty since the Harden trade, going 4-3 since losing the former MVP, including the last three in a row. They have the 10th best net rating in the NBA over that time frame and are home for a Blazers squad that has alternated wins and losses over their last six. Their defeats have been massive and their victories have been tight. Go with the hotter squad.

Golden State Warriors at Phoenix Suns

Both of these teams played last night, so there’s no advantage there, and the Suns and Warriors rank 18th and 19th in net rating over the last 14 days. This is as even a matchup as you could ask for; take the points. 

NBA Expert Picks

(Click Odds To Bet)

Los Angeles Lakers -9.5 @ -106

Miami Heat -5.5 @ -102

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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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