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

Seven games are on the docket for Thursday night, and even though it’s lost a little of its luster, we have to start with a rematch of the two teams who decided the title in October.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat

We still don’t know exactly when either LeBron James or Anthony David will be back from their prolonged absences, but the simple answer for Laker fans is “not soon enough.”

If we include the Atlanta game when James went down, LA is just 4-6 without their King, and don’t have a win against a team with a winning record in that time. Over their last 10 games, the Lakers have a net rating of negative 2.9, which ranks 18th in the league over that time.

But 18th is still one spot ahead of the team their playing on Thursday, but that ranking may be a bit of a misnomer. Goran Dragic, who was as big a key to Miami’s Finals run last season as anyone, just returned to action five games ago. Miami won (and covered) his first four games back, and then dropped their most recent contest to the Memphis Grizzlies.

But Memphis has been playing as well as any team in basketball, with the Heat win making it nine covers in their last 10 games. The Lakers will not pose the same level of threat.

The Pick: Miami -8 @ -110 (Click To Bet)

Chicago Bulls vs. Toronto Raptors

Talk about do or die.

The Toronto Raptors – perhaps the steadiest organization in basketball over the previous three seasons – have continued their unfathomable free fall, with Tuesday’s home loss to the Lakers making them just 3-15 in their last 18 games. They now have the fourth worst cover rate in the league, with a 21-30 record against the spread, and just two covers in the last 10 games.

Here come the Bulls, who currently sit one spot ahead of Toronto in the Eastern Conference standings. On Tuesday, Chicago made quick work of the team directly ahead of them, the Indiana Pacers, 113-97, and this game gives them a chance to not only make up more ground on Indiana, but put even more distance between themselves and the Raptors. A win would leave them three games up with 22 to play.

Recent trends say they should get there. The Bulls are only 2-4 since the Vooch trade, but they’re won two straight and the first four all came on a tough West Coast swing, including against both the Suns and Jazz. They’ll put the nail in Toronto’s coffin here.

The Pick: Chicago -3.5 @ +100 (Click To Bet)

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Other NBA Games

Cleveland Cavaliers at Oklahoma City Thunder

These are two of the three worst teams in basketball by net rating, but whereas OKC is hovering around .500 against the spread, Cleveland has a 20-30 record for bettors. Take the home team here.

Milwaukee Bucks at Dallas Mavericks

The Mavs had five wins and five covers before their dropped game on Wednesday night to Houston, in which Luka Doncic had an uncharacteristic 9-for-26 shooting performance. The Bucks are more formidable than any opponents Dallas has faced in some time, but Milwuakee hasn’t been a reliable team all season long, evinced by their 22-28 record against the spread. They’re also outside the top 10 teams by net rating over their last 10 games. Go with the home team.

Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz

No team has a better record at home against the spread than Utah, who is 18-6 in such situations (and that includes dropping their first two). No reason to go against the grain now.

Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Clippers

Speaking of positive trends, the Suns have the third best road record against the spread at 15-8. They face a Clippers team marred by inconsistency, especially at home, where they recently lost to both the Magic and Nuggets. The Suns are the pick.

Detroit Pistons at Sacramento Kings

The Pistons may not be very good, but they fight, and when they fall, they don’t stay down for very long. The last time they dropped two straight against the spread was at the end of February, and they (barely) failed to cover their previous game against Denver. They’ll be ready to rebound for this one.

NBA Expert Picks

(Click Odds To Bet)

Miami -8 @ -110 (Click To Bet)

Chicago -3.5 @ +100 (Click To Bet)

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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