Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:55 AM
Weekly Betting Essentials
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Games to Watch
Wednesday – Celtics at Raptors
Toronto keeps getting themselves into holes and digging out of them with Nick Nurse employing gimmick defenses one might face in a rec league. They rallied from 30 points down at Dallas and forced overtime Monday at Indiana despite falling behind by 15 points thanks to a box-and-one and 2-3 zone. With Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Norman Powell all sidelined, Serge Ibaka and Patrick McCaw have joined the starting five and OG Anunoby is getting more touches. Boston remains without Marcus Smart and Gordon Hayward but could get the latter back from a sore foot for this one. Smart has begun practices but remains unlikely to play on Christmas Day. The team got a big boost with Enes Kanter being allowed to enter Canada after years skipping the road trip due to his issues with the Turkish government forcing him to feel unsafe outside of the U.S. Boston has won three of the past four meetings between these Atlantic Division rivals, averaging 112 points per game and giving up exactly that figure as well due to a blow out loss (118-95) last time they visited the ScotiaBank Arena in February. The Raptors have won eight straight home games against Boston, last losing in April of 2015.
Wednesday – Bucks at 76ers
Joel Embiid played through a flu bug on Monday, while Ben Simmons did the heavy lifting in a rout of overmatched Detroit with 16 points, 13 boards and 17 assists, helping facilitate Tobias Harris’ 35-point outburst. The 76ers have dropped their last three games against teams with winning records and are were installed as just a one-point favorite, by far the smallest figure they’ve been saddled with at home this season. Following a 14-0 start at Wells Fargo Arena, Philly has fallen in two of its last three in its gym. Milwaukee’s 12-2 road mark is the best in the NBA, but it remains without Eric Bledsoe (fibula fracture) for at least another week. The Bucks have won four of seven between these teams since 2018 began and the last five games have all seen 225 combined points scored, including over 250 in each of last season’s final two meetings.
Wednesday – Clippers at Lakers
Although the Clips have won 20 of 24 matchups in what is undoubtedly the worst nightmare for fans of the Purple and Gold, the only game that really matters for our purposes is that 112-102 loss at the beginning of the season. Paul George didn’t even suit up, but LeBron James and Anthony Davis shot a combined 15-for-40 and the Clippers’ much better bench outscored the Lakers 60-19 to complement Kawhi Leonard’s 30-point outburst. Rajon Rondo and Kyle Kuzma are both back to improve the Lakers’ depth, but Davis is questionable with a knee issue and James is likely to suit up despite sitting Sunday’s home setback to Denver with discomfort near his ribs in addition to an ailing elbow. The Lakers are just 10-4 at Staples this season and 14-2 outside L.A. The Clippers are 14-2 on their home floor but will have to deal with a Lakers’ crowd here.
Thursday – Spurs at Mavericks
After destroying the Grizzlies 145-115 on Monday night behind monster games from LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan and 67 percent shooting, the highest clip in the league this season, the Spurs look to win consecutive games for just the third time this season. They made 19 of their first 22 shots and wil look to avoid dropping multiple games against Dallas in the same season for the first time since the 2014-15 season. The Mavs won last month at home 117-110, snapping a run that had seen them lose 15 of 17 against their in-state rival. Luka Doncic scored 42 points and finished with 11 boards and 12 assists but isn’t likely to suit up here since he’s still working his way back from an ankle sprain. Jalen Brunson has excelled as the primary facilitator in helping keep Dallas right behind Houston in the Southwest Division title chase, averaging 14.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 9.2 assists in relief of the fallen phenom.
Friday – Pacers at Heat
Indiana is hoping to have point guard Malcolm Brogdon back from a hamstring issue as they try and spoil Miami’s league-best 13-1 home record. The Heat rallied past Utah on Monday night and will be suiting up for the first time since that game here, so they should be well-rested fresh off the holiday. The same could be said about the Pacers, who have won six of seven despite nagging injuries as Domantas Sabonis has blossomed into an All-Star, averaging 16.8 points and 14.3 rebounds in December. This will be the first matchup of the season between these teams, which gives us an opportunity to see how another budding first-time All-Star, center Bam Adebayo, fares against Sabonis and Myles Turner. Indy has won four straight in the series, last losing in January of 2018.
Saturday – Raptors at Celtics
Boston should be back at full strength for this one barring any setbacks for Hayward and Smart, so count on it being favored here regardless of what happens on Christmas Day considering that it should be 13-1 at TD Garden after handling Cleveland on Friday. The Celtics are 2-1 SU and ATS on the second night of back-to-backs and entered the week with covers in seven of nine.
Saturday – Nets at Rockets
Houston won for the sixth time in seven games in Sacramento on Monday and will be heavily favored to close out a 4-0 road trip on Christmas night at Golden State. This will be their first home game since Dec. 16 and probably won’t feature Kyrie Irving’s only visit of the season since there’s a report out there that he’s now dealing with thoracic bursitis in addition to his shoulder impingement that has kept him out for weeks. Spencer Dinwiddie has averaged 27.3 points despite shooting just 29 percent from 3-point range this month. Brooklyn swept the Rockets last season, averaging 134 points in ending a five-game losing streak at the hands of Houston.
Saturday – 76ers at Heat
After splitting their first two meetings with Miami at home in this budding rivalry, the Sixers pay former teammate Jimmy Butler a visit looking to return the favor after absorbing their first home loss against the Heat (108-104) on Dec. 18. Embiid used to terrorize former Miami center Hassan Whiteside in winning five of six matchups entering the season but has found the going much tougher against Adebayo. The Sixers haven’t been an underdog since Nov. 13 but may be placed in that role here after playing in Orlando on Friday. Both teams will be playing the second of a back-to-back. Philly is 5-1 straight up (3-2-1 ATS) while Miami is just 1-4 SU in that situation.
Saturday – Lakers at Trail Blazers
After competing against the Clippers, L.A. will play its only road game between now and Jan. 10, returning for a five-game homestand that opens on Sunday. Portland had its season-best four-game win streak snapped in an upset loss to New Orleans on Monday and hopes to rebound at Utah mid-week. The Blazers surrendered 136 points in the first meeting between these teams. Only the Bucks have scored more (137) against Terry Stotts’ team this season.
Saturday – Jazz at Clippers
Mike Conley remains sidelined by a hamstring issue, but Joe Ingles is playing the best ball of his career to help keep Utah in the Northwest Division mix. The addition of Jordan Clarkson should help matters too. Among the teams with the Western Conference’s six best records, the Jazz are the only one with a losing record away from home.
Sunday – Thunder at Raptors
Considering they host the Grizzlies and visit Charlotte to open the week, OKC may carry a six-game home winning streak entering this one if they hold serve in games it should be favored in. Canadian second-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a Toronto native who scored 19 points in his lone visit to his hometown arena with the Clippers last season. He should be in every DFS lineup you utilize on Sunday considering he’s averaging over 20 points per game this month, scoring 32 in each of last weekend’s wins over the Suns and Clippers, shooting 58 percent from the field and making four of five 3-pointers.
Sunday - Mavericks at Lakers
Will Doncic be back for this one? He made Staples Center his playground in a 114-100 upset on Dec. 1, evening the season series between these teams.
Injuries to Monitor
Karl-Anthony Towns has missed four straight games with a knee injury, contributing to the Timberwolves’ brutal 11-game winning streak. He’s been listed as questionable every time he’s sat so there’s a chance he’ll return for Thursday’s matchup at Sacramento… Phoenix center Deandre Ayton has returned from suspension but is nursing an ankle injury and hasn’t suited up since his 18-point, 12-rebound game in his one contest against the Clippers but should be back at some point this week since he’s considered day-to-day. Phoenix has dropped seven straight entering a four-game road trip that begins on Friday… Detroit got a terrible effort from Blake Griffin in Monday’s loss due to the flu and was also missing shooter Luke Kennard due to a knee injury. Bruce Brown has been dealing with a calf issue… Brooklyn’s Caris LeVert should be closing in on a return date since he’s been back at practice this week for the first time, which means he’ll beat Irving back… Cavs reserve forward Larry Nance, Jr. is working through knee soreness… Heat wing Justise Winslow has returned to the active roster, so he should be back after being sidelined with nagging injuries for the better part of the last month… Wizards forward Davis Bertans has been one of the team’s biggest surprises but is dealing with a quad injury, which is disappointing since he was filling in nicely for injured rookie Rui Hachimura, who is out a indefinitely with a groin injury.
Saturday – Jazz at Clippers
L.A. has a couple of games to rebound from the Lakers game, but I’m expecting the Clips’ level to dip as the Jazz come to town in a decidedly less hyped affair. Take the points here with upstart Utah and expect to get at least six-plus points as cushion in what should be a tight contest.
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