Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:55 AM
Thursday's Best Bets
The holiday season is coming to a close, meaning that in the NBA, teams are back and ready to get back into the usual swing of things for a month or so before the All-Star break comes around.
How sharp guys during this next month can be questionable given it is the dog days of winter for them in their season, but this is also the time of year when the best teams in the league start to gain some separation from the pack and put into practice their plan for playoff seeding (or tanking for the draft).
There are nine games on the betting board tonight, and two of them have caught my eye.
Let's get to the plays:
Toronto at Miami (NBATV, 7:35 p.m. ET)
Best Bet #1: Miami Heat -5.5
Miami has really struggled during the holiday season, as they are on a 0-3-1 against the spread (ATS) run entering tonight, although they are 3-1 straight up (SU) in those games. But a pair of one-point victories, along with a three-point win over Utah before Christmas, preceded an embarrassing 18-point loss in Washington before New Year's. The Heat looked like they wanted to be anywhere but on the basketball court that night, as they played down to the poor scheduling spot it was. The before New Year's Eve, with multiple days off for the festivities, and sandwiched between home games against legitimate threats in Philly and Toronto.
Tough to really brand Miami with the 'look ahead' label for that Washington game, but in hindsight it does give off that stench. Miami had just come out of Christmas with a one-point win over Indiana, followed that up with a one-point win in OT vs Philly, and then had to travel up to Washington for a one-off before returning home for this game. That's about as good of a fade spot as it gets for a team, and hopefully many of you took advantage of it.
However, at the same time it was still a very embarrassing loss (whether they cared or not), and the next time out is always a good spot to expect a bounce back. Matching up against a quality team only enhances those bounce back chances in my mind, as there is little chance Miami isn't focused or looking past a team like the defending champs. They've already got an OT win over the Raptors this year, and would love to see a victory come much easier here at home.
And while the Raptors have shown a great champions fortitude this year with all the injuries they've dealt with, eventually there comes a time where that catches up to you. And with this being Toronto's 4th game in six days, coming out of the holiday season, this really looks like a good opportunity we see a dud from Toronto.
Miami is on a 9-1 ATS run after suffering a loss dating back to last year, and they've got a 7-1 ATS run going after double-digit defeats. A 12-4-1 ATS run at home suggests that there is plenty of favorable home cooking for Miami in this building, and with Toronto 2-5 ATS in their last seven trips here – games where the Raptors entered as the much better team in recent years – I believe we see the home side get a relatively easy victory tonight.
Oklahoma City at San Antonio (8:35 p.m. ET)
Best Bet #2: OKC/San Antonio Over 217.5
You can understand why there has been early love for the 'under' in this game, as both sides are far from good, and about as inconsistent as it gets from an offensive standpoint. But if you've followed the Spurs lately, you'll know that they have started to prefer getting out and running when at home, and letting the chips fall where they may there.
San Antonio is on a 6-1 O/U run since the start of December, as it was around then that this team seemed to make the conscious choice to be more of a running team. San Antonio had just spent the month of November going 4-12 SU and struggling through a eight-game losing streak in the process. The realized that they couldn't stop anyone on defense, so they might as well embrace that and try to win games 135-130. They went that route on December 1st in a game against Detroit where nothing went down for the Spurs in a 132-92 loss. But they followed that up with a controversial 135-133 win over the Rockets, and spent the rest of the month of December going 6-4 SU. They had five OT games in the month, which if nothing else, shows that they've become a team that's at least got more of a chance to win on a nightly basis, and if their shots are falling early, a 130-point effort is not all that uncommon.
With San Antonio being the home side tonight, I do expect them to get out and run from the outset, forcing a team that prefers to play slower like OKC, far out of their comfort zone. The Thunder's run of four straight 'unders' where games never had more then 207 total points scored has pushed more 'under' love for this game tonight, but you've got to remember they are still up against a Spurs team that gives up 114.9 points per game as it is. Plenty of easy looks will be there for OKC regardless of how they want to play, it's just up to them to take them when they are available.
The Thunder should be able to do just that, as both teams push the pace and get this total well above the current number. San Antonio is on a 17-5 O/U run the last 22 times they've been laying chalk on the point spread – 13-3