We have a packed NBA slate on Sunday with 10 games scattered throughout the day, most of which have close lines. We start with one that should be larger than it is.
Following their February 8 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Denver Nuggets were nearly a third of the way through their season and on the surface appeared to be just another middling team. They sat on the fringes of the Western Conference playoff race with a record of 12-11 and Jamal Murray, fresh off a 4-of-17 showing, was shooting just 44 percent on the season and 34 percent from three.
But upon closer examination, their positive 2.7 net rating – good enough for 6th in the league – warned of a team that wasn’t playing up to its potential.
Sure enough, since then they have the second best net rating in basketball at plus 9.0. and a much improved 13-5 record over that span. They’re now within shouting distance of a first round series at home, spurred on by a bounce back stretch from Murray, who has been averaging 24 a game on nearly 52 percent overall and over 47 percent from deep.
On Sunday, they face off against a Pelicans team that is tied for the fourth worst record against the spread at 18-23 – unsurprising given their negative 0.3 net rating this year. They’ve just lost back to back games in Portland and entered the weekend tied with the Thunder and Kings in the standings, perhaps ready to start selling at the deadline.
This is the game that could break them.
The Pick: Nuggets -6 @ +100
The Knicks are in a bit of an interesting stretch, having covered their last two losses and failing to cover their most recent win.
In short, New York has been playing a lot of close games. That’s what happens when you muddy up games as the result of not having a true point guard, which they’ve been missing for a while now sans Derrick Rose and Elfrid Payton.
Rose remains out Sunday against Philadelphia, who are one of the teams New York just barely lost to in the last week, but Payton will be back. Ask any Knicks fan how excited they are about that and you’ll probably get a curt response given his yearlong shooting struggles - just a .457 effective field goal percentage - and frequent blinders when driving to the rim.
Still, even the substandard Payton will be a help, what with Immanuel Quickley questionable with a groin issue and Frank Ntilikina better suited for an off ball role.
Philly, meanwhile, is still without Joel Embiid and will be playing on the second night of a back to back, having to make the trip up I-95 for this game in New York. Seth Curry is also out for this one and Ben Simmons missed Saturday’s Kings win with a knee issue. His status is uncertain.
The Knicks had a few chances to steal the last game, and will be looking to get above .500 for the first time since before the break. They’ll do just that.
The Pick: Knicks +1 @ -110
Other NBA Games
Indiana Pacers at Miami Heat
This is the second straight meeting between these two teams, with the Pacers winning on Friday night, 137-110. It was the Heat’s second straight defeat and fifth dropped cover in eight games. Indy looks primed to make a run with Caris LeVert finally a part of their team. Their march continues here.
Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics
The Celtics have lost three in a row on the court and against the spread and just aren’t a very good team right now, with an under-.500 record to match. At some point, you are what your record says you are. The Magic aren’t good either, but they fight, and are 5-1-1 against the spread in their last seven games. They get another cover here.
Washington Wizards at Brooklyn Nets
The Wizards ended their five-game losing streak with a 131-122 victory against the Utah Jazz, while the Nets’ six-game winning streak concluded with 113-121 defeat at the hands of the Orlando Magic. The latter results shouldn’t be a total shock, as it was the Nets’ third dropped cover in their last four games. The Wiz have covered their two games against Brooklyn this season, and with a sizable spread, they’ll make it three of three.
Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs have been coming out fighting but usually run out of gas before the end of these games, and have failed to cover four of five as a result. But Toronto is in a bad place, having lost seven in a row. There’s no reason they should be getting as many point as they are here. Bet Cleveland.
Chicago Bulls at Detroit Pistons
What is there left to say about the Bulls, who continue to find new and creative ways to lose games. But they’re almost always close, and as a result, the Bulls have the fourth best record against the spread at 23-17. That said, the Pistons aren’t bad themselves, with a 22-18-1 mark ATS, including five covers in their last seven games. The Bulls shouldn’t be getting points here, on the road against a team that has won two in a row. Take advantage.
Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns
After a LeBron James sprained ankle that will leave him sidelined indefinitely, the prospect of a successful regular season is officially in flux for the defending champs. The Suns have the best record in basketball against the spread and are 13-6 as a home favorite. They’ll push it to 14-6 after this one; LA has just a negative 3.3 net rating with neither LeBron nor AD on the court.
Dallas Mavericks at Portland Trail Blazers
Two of the more fun players in the NBA (and some stealth MVP candidates) face off here, with the only guarantee that this will come down to the wire. Take the team getting points.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets
Rule No. 1 in gambling: don’t bet on the team that has lost 19 games in a row. Rule No. 2: Don’t bet on the team with by far the worst record in the NBA against the spread at just 12-28. Rule No. 3: Don’t ever take the Rockets.
NBA Expert Picks
(Click Odds To Bet)
Nuggets -6 @ +100 (Click To Bet)
Knicks +1 @ -110 (Click To Bet)
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