Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:55 AM

Weekly Betting Essentials

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Games to Watch

Tuesday - Lakers at Pacers

This will be a significant test of L.A.’s ability to remain unbeaten on the road since Anthony Davis will be nursing an ankle sprain. Kyle Kuzma will miss his fourth straight contest with an ankle sprain, so LeBron James could have to do the heavy lifting. The reigning Western Conference Player of the Week now is now talking about playing as much as he can as he closes out his career, but needs to be cautious with the anniversary of last year’s season-altering groin injury approaching.

L.A. has point guards Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo back and have minutes restrictions loosening, but there are still a lot of moving parts in place that include Thursday’s matchup in Milwaukee as potential obstacles to getting over the hump. Indiana forward Domantas Sabonis is expected to play through a toe issue.

Wednesday – Heat at 76ers

Jimmy Butler called out Miami’s defensive effort after Monday’s loss in Memphis and hasn’t liked what he’s seen from teammates of late on that side of the ball. With Justise Winslow (back) and Goran Dragic (groin) sitting out games, the Heat are playing through reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week Bam Adebayo and Butler more, which compromises their effect as two-way players. The Heat’s strength lies in its depth, so as Butler returns to Philly a second time following a 113-86 rout on Nov. 23, it’s worth seeing who lines up beside him.

Joel Embiid has been dealing with an upper respiratory infection but former Miami guard Josh Richardson is back to aid a perimeter defense featuring the dynamic Ben Simmons and superb rookie Matisse Thybulle, all of whom should see time against Butler, whose 4-for-13 shooting effort was his second-worst of the year.

Wednesday – Celtics at Mavericks

Marcus Smart is still dealing with an eye infection and has been greatly missed, and since the latest news had the affliction affecting both eyes on Monday, it’s hard to forecast him being a part of this one. Luka Doncic has been ruled out due to his ankle sprain and will likely miss the week despite being off crutches and out of a walking boot a little earlier than expected.

Dallas has gotten great play out of guard Jalen Brunson as the playmaker next to Kristaps Porzingis, who will be given every opportunity to step up as a No. 1 like he was with the Knicks. After pulling off an upset of the Bucks, it would be a mistake to write off Dallas simply because of the absence of their star. They won outright as an 11-point underdog despite Tim Hardaway, Jr. shooting 1-for-10, getting big shooting games from Seth Curry and Dorian Finney-Smith in addition to Porzingis going for 26 and 12. Dallas’ 10-2 road record ranks behind only L.A. and Milwaukee.

Thursday - Lakers at Bucks

The teams with the league’s top records square off in a game where no one is going to look past anybody, which means this one should be a classic. Davis is likely going to play here even if he sits Tuesday, so hopefully everyone makes it here intact as Los Angeles closes out a five-game road trip. Milwaukee won’t have point guard Eric Bledsoe due to a shin injury that could sideline him into January.

Giannis Antetokounmpo tried to prevent the Bucks’ 18-game winning streak from coming to an end with a 48-point, 14-rebound effort and is the even-money favorite at Westgate to earn MVP honors, so you know James and Davis will be coming for him in a statement game. The teams are joined by the Clippers as those considered your most likely NBA champions this season, so this game will be referenced for months.

Milwaukee destroyed L.A.’s other team 119-91 when they came into Fiserv Forum on Dec. 6 and these teams don’t meet again until March 6, so the Bucks could make a dent on their futures odds with another lopsided win. Westgate had Milwaukee at 7-to-2 to win the title in its latest odds update. James has won 14 of 18 career meetings against Antetokounmpo but has dropped two of three.

Thursday - Rockets at Clippers

After rallying from a 25-point deficit against the rival Spurs, the biggest comeback in franchise history, Houston hits the road for the beginning of a four-game West coast trip that culminates with their Christmas night clash with depleted Golden State. James Harden overcame 4-for-17 first-half shooting to help aid the second-half surge, but anyone who watched saw Russell Westbrook come through as the driving force. He’s taken a backseat so far, but the secret ingredient GM Daryl Morey is hoping emerges to finally make the Rockets a champion with this Harden-led group, Westbrook’s desire, really had an impact.

We’ll see if Houston can sustain its momentum as Westbrook reunites with Paul George again. These teams are playing for the third time, having split the first two contests, though George only played in the most recent game, a 122-119 comeback win where he shot 4-for-15. L.A. rallied from five points down in the final minute as George scored five points late and Kawhi Leonard nailed the go-ahead basket on a Jordan-esque jumper. Sure, we’ll take a second helping of that. Pesky PG Patrick Beverley will be hoping to be back from a concussion, while sixth man Lou Williams (calf) and key reserve JaMychal Green (tailbone) will be questionable.

Friday – Mavericks at 76ers

The Doncic-less Mavs continue their ambitious week with this matchup against Philadelphia, and since he shot 4-for-16 in last year’s loss, one of the uglier games of his rookie season, perhaps Dallas can compete without him. Porzingis is plenty familiar with Embiid since the two were linked as up-and-coming phenoms upon entering the league as the hopes of struggling Atlantic Division teams, but circumstances have obviously changed.

Al Horford entering the equation isn’t great news for Porzingis since he’s averaged just 12.8 points and 6.1 rebounds against the defensive standout, winning just three of nine individual matchups. Brunson, a Philly native and Villanova standout, will likely emerge as the driving force behind a Dallas’ upset bid here.

Saturday - Clippers at Spurs

San Antonio defeated Leonard in his last stop through town, pulling off a 107-97 victory by holding him to 8-for-23 shooting. He rose to the occasion upon getting love in Toronto, so maybe mercilessly booing him is the way to rattle the two-time Finals MVP. Gregg Popovich’s rotations down the stretch have been puzzling, so even the greatest coaches have trouble figuring things out, as has been the case this season for a San Antonio team that has underachieved. Blowing a massive lead like that against a division rival is another sign these aren’t your older brother’s Spurs. There’s still time to turn things around, but they’ll have to be better than just a .500 team in December to dig out of the hole they’ve created. They’re 2-2 as a home underdog, which they’ll likely be in this game.

Saturday – Rockets at Suns

After missing Devin Booker to open the week due to a forearm injury and dropping a one-point decision at home to the desperate Trail Blazers, Phoenix is hoping the end of its week will be far more gracious as it welcomes in Harden, who played his college ball at Arizona State and loves playing at Taking Stick Resort Arena. He’s scored 40 or more four times in 14 games and has a 12-2 record against Phoenix. Harden shot 3-for-17 in Houston in a 115-109 win on Dec. 7 against the suns, getting into it with Booker after a hard foul. This one should be spicy and should also feature former No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton, who is back from suspension.

Sunday – Mavericks at Raptors

Doncic won’t play here either, but Delon Wright, who was drafted by the Raptors and spent his early years trying to break into the rotation, will be motivated to help Brunson, Hardaway and Curry pick up the slack. Toronto is hoping guard Fred VanVleet will be back from a knee injury by this point, which will make Nick Nurse’s job of keeping everyone happy with minutes more complicated. Still, that’s always a good problem to have. Toronto has had one or two key cogs out of its rotation for well over a month and has remained in the hunt in the loaded Atlantic Division.

Sunday – Clippers at Thunder

Paul George will be back in OKC after seeking a trade, so don’t expect a great reception for him. That could fuel the star wing, who dominated in Indiana earlier this season after being booed almost every time he touched the ball in his second game there since being moved, scoring 36 points and making a season-high seven 3-pointers. Old friend Chris Paul has really hit his stride of late and will look for revenge after being held to just four assists in a 90-88 loss at Staples on Nov. 18. George won the game with a go-ahead 3-point shot with just 25 seconds left.

Sunday - Nuggets at Lakers

L.A. returns home from its Eastern swing to face the Northwest Division-leading Nuggets, who will be looking to return the favor after a 105-96 loss at Pepsi Center on Dec. 3.

Injuries to Monitor

Beyond those mentioned above, be aware that Andre Drummond’s eye issue due to an allergic reaction to an avocado down in Mexico has haunted him into the week. He should be back sooner than later, but the same can’t be said for Pistons teammate Blake Griffin, who is dealing with knee soreness… Jazz guard Mike Conley has missed a couple of games due to hamstring soreness but is expected to make his return this week… Kings PG De'Aaron Fox is returning earlier than expected, coming back on Tuesday against Charlotte barring any setbacks... Nets guard Kyrie Irving (shoulder) remains out and should be close to the returning by week’s end, but it looks like Caris LeVert (thumb) is much closer to being back in the fold and could play early in the week… Wizards PG Isaiah Thomas (ankle) and OKC wing Terrance Ferguson (hip) returned on Monday and Magic center Nikola Vucevic (ankle) got back in action on Sunday, so this section has some good news on occasion. Back to the ominous… Paul Millsap was bothered by a quad injury entering the week and could wind up being better suited for a reserve role since Jerami Grant has played so well with Denver’s starters… Talented Hornets rookie P.J. Washington will miss the entire week with a finger injury while veterans Marvin Williams (knee) and Nicolas Batum (hand) are also struggling to get healthy… Just to end on a high note, Hawks power forward John Collins should return from his suspension next Monday.

Free Winner

Saturday – Timberwolves at Trail Blazers

Expect the final game of the evening on Saturday night to be a wild one. It will be the first matchup of the season between these Northwest Division also-rans, who must each get their act together in order to avoid falling too far behind to realistically factor into the Western Conference playoff race.

The Timberwolves entered Wednesday’s home date against the Pelicans on a seven-game losing streak and had seen their last six games all go ‘over’ the posted total. The Blazers are on an ‘under’ run but will welcome the opportunity to stretch their legs at home and will struggle to stop Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins given their personnel. Expect to see the total close over 230 and the output wrap up over 240. Ride the high side.


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