Happy Valentine’s Day! The NBA is going to be filled with unhappy wives on Sunday with two thirds of the league in action, including six of the current top seven seeds in the West and four of the top seven in the East. We’ll start with a national television rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals.
I wrote earlier this season that the only thing that could hold back the Lakers would be boredom. They know they’re better than anyone out there, and it’s just a matter of mustering up the energy to show up night after night during a condensed regular season that follows an almost nonexistent offseason. So often, Los Angeles has appeared to be on autopilot for large swaths of games, yet have still wound up with wins.
Sure enough, according to ESPN Stats and Info, the Lakers have trailed at the end of the first quarter in each of their last 5 games and still won them all, making them just the second team in the shot clock era to do so.
That’s great for LeBron James’ MVP chances and LA’s odds at nabbing home court at least until the conference finals, but it has made better’s lives more stressful than they should be. Despite a 21-6 record, the Lakers are a game under .500 when it comes to beating their spread. On their current seven game winning streak, they’ve covered just three times, and three of their last 10 overall.
Notably, one of those was against Sunday’s opponent, the Denver Nuggets, who LA dispatched 114-93 just 10 days ago. That score is a bit of a misnomer though, as the Nuggets were leading with under two minutes to go in the third quarter before LeBron & Co. put the clamps down.
That game was also in Los Angeles, whereas this one is in the high altitude. Anthony Davis is also dealing with right Achilles tendonosis, and even though he played and scored 35 on Friday night after missing two consecutive games, there’s a chance he won’t have the same impact in the game. Against an MVP candidate himself in Nikola Jokic, that matters.
The Nuggets have been one of the more inconsistent teams in the league this season, but they’re about to start a stretch of eight road tilts in their last 10 games before the break, and it feels like they’ll be in this one until the end. The fact that they’re getting points should make the difference.
The Pick: Denver +3.5 @ +100
Sunday's Other NBA Games
Boston Celtics at Washington Wizards
Bradley Beal rested on Friday night, and the Wiz were down 25 in the fourth quarter to a Knicks team that didn’t play particularly well. Beal should be back for this one, meaning Washington can’t be counted out, but the Wizards are just 9-14 against the spread this season and just 3-8 at home. Boston, meanwhile, has dropped six of its last nine, and are just a game over .500. This screams stay away, but if you must, take the team that isn’t tied for the fewest wins in the league.
Minnesota Timberwolves at Toronto Raptors
The Wolves are the other team bringing up the rear with just six wins, but they’ve been playing spirited ball of late, going 6-1-1 against the spread in their last eight contests. That loss came in the last game, however, despite 25 points from Karl-Anthony Towns in his second game back from an extended COVID-related absence. They face a Raptor team playing their lone home affair in a 10-game stretch, and who has been starting to put it together recently with the sixth best net rating in the league over the last two weeks. Translation: this isn’t the matchup to take the six-win team.
San Antonio Spurs at Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets have risen to sixth in the East thanks to a 5-3 stretch during which they have the 10th bet net rating in the NBA according to Cleaning the Glass. The Hornets are getting points here, and enter this one 6-3-1 as a home dog. San Antonio is 4-3 over their last seven but with a negative scoring margin, and they shouldn’t be getting points here. Take advantage of the fact that they are.
New Orleans Pelicans at Detroit Pistons
The Pels looked like they were starting to put it together with four straight wins and covers, but have since dropped two straight (in Chicago and Dallas) to begin their four-game road trip. Detroit is 8-3 as a home dog this season, and even though you’d like to be getting a few more points here, the Pels haven’t warranted it. Pistons are the pick.
Portland Trail Blazers at Dallas Mavericks
Uh Oh. Luka is starting to get his team rolling, and the Mavs have suddenly won four in a row. That doesn’t mean they’ve figured out their defensive issues though, and as a result, have covered just two of their last 12 spreads. In Portland, the Mavs get a potentially potent offense that should be able to carve up Dallas, who doesn’t yet deserve to be getting so many points.
Milwaukee Bucks at Oklahoma City Thunder
This will be a get-well game for the Bucks after their humbling loss to Utah in the big Friday night matchup. Milwaukee has been feasting on bad teams for most of the year, and the Thunder have the fifth worst net rating in basketball. Don’t overthink this one.
Orlando Magic at Phoenix Suns
The Suns are the hottest team in the NBA, winners of seven of eight games, all of which they’ve covered. The Magic have covered two straight but are still just 8-15 against the spread since their 4-0 start. Go with the hotter hand.
Memphis Grizzlies at Sacramento Kings
The Kings had covered eight straight and were up in the fourth quarter over Philly before dropping that game on Tuesday night. They also failed to cover against the Sixers, and then got beaten by nine as a 6.5-point home favorite over the Magic. This game will be a good test to see if they can right the ship against a Memphis squad that has dropped five of six both in real life and against the spread. The home team gets back on track.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Los Angeles Clippers
The Cavs are 1-7 in their last seven games and have a league-worst minus 17.4 net rating over that time frame. They have failed to cover nine straight, and they get a Clipper team who has to face the Heat next before back to back games against Utah and then the Nets. They won’t mess around here, and this line can’t possibly be high enough.
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Denver +3.5 @ +100 (Click To Bet)
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