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

There’s an abbreviated NBA slate for Sunday, but three solid matchups in the mix (and one game that probably deserves to be played in a YMCA somewhere).

Phoenix Suns vs. Charlotte Hornets

If someone told you before the season that both the Suns and Hornets would be sitting post-trade deadline in position to grab home court advantage in their respective conferences, well…you’d have called that person a little nuts.

But here we are, with the Suns holding the third best record and third best net rating in all of basketball, and Charlotte tied for fourth in the East.

Phoenix has all the makings of a legit contender, with an All-Star backcourt leading the way. Given their relatively middling preseason expectations, it’s unsurprising that odds-makers took a while to get adjusted to Phoenix emerging as something of a powerhouse, which helps explain why they are a league best 30-14 against the spread.

The Suns are also 10-6 as a road favorite, so it’s not like they’ve been falling asleep at the wheel when they’re supposed to shine.

The Hornets, meanwhile, may have a lofty perch in the East, but it’s a precarious one, as they sit as close to 11th place as they do third. There’s also a little fool’s gold going on here, as Charlotte has a negative net rating and only has three wins all season against the other top-four teams in each conference.

One of those wins came a month ago in Phoenix though, but that just means the Suns will be amped and ready to go for this one. Give the points on the road.

The Pick: Suns -6 @ -110

Atlanta Hawks vs. Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets may be knocking on the door of a top-four seed themselves, but they’ve been anything but consistent this season. They’re just 21-24 against the spread, which is second worst of any top-five seed in either conference.

Worse yet, their bread and butter – playing in the lofty altitude of Mile High – hasn’t translated as often as it’s supposed to, as Denver is just 6-10 as a home favorite this season.

The problem is that they’re not really reliable to be consistently good or bad at home. On their most recent home stand, they had blowout wins against the Pacers and Hornets, a close win against a Bulls team they were heavily favored to beat, and outright losses to the Mavs and Pelicans to bookend the set.

In Atlanta, the Nuggets get a squad that had their eight-game winning streak under new coach Nate McMillan snapped with back to back losses at the Clippers and Kings, and followed it up with a win in Golden State over the Curry-less Warriors. That makes them 9-2 in their last 11, but not a single one of those victories has come against a team currently over .500 with the exception of the Lakers, who were without both of their stars.

The Nuggets may not be the most trustworthy group, but the Hawks simply don’t fit the profile of a team that is going to pull off the upset. With Aaron Gordon set to make his debut, this is one time Denver should take care of business.

The Pick: Nuggets -4.5 @ -110

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Other NBA Games

Portland Trail Blazers at Toronto Raptors

The Raptors finally ended their nine-game losing streak with a pre-deadline blowout against the Nuggets, and then lost a close one to the Suns in Tampa, so it’s impossible to know what to make of a team that probably thought it was losing the best player in franchise history but now finds itself still in the thick of the play-in race. Against a hot and cold Blazers team who now employs Norm Powell, this is probably a stay away, but go Blazers on the road if you must.

Orlando Magic at Los Angeles Lakers

The Magic were one of the worst teams in the NBA before they traded away their three best players, and yet they managed to cover the spread in their first game after the moves. Here they play the defending champs playing without their two best players, but the Lakers also know they need this game in the worst way, with a tougher schedule coming up and the imperative to stay among the top four seeds. Go LA at home. 

NBA Expert Picks

(Click Odds To Bet)

Nuggets -4.5 @ -110 (Click To Bet)

Suns -6 @ -110 (Click To Bet)

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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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