We’re into Week 4 of the NBA season and teams are starting to separate themselves from the pack. For our purposes, the more data we have on the teams we’re picking, the better.
So far, the guest pickers and I have been pretty hot to begin the season.
Season record: 15-9
Guest pickers: 6-12
I welcome a new guest picker, my colleague Michael Shapiro, this week. Let’s keep it going with two more games Tuesday night.
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Spread: Bucks -6.5 (-110) | 76ers +6.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Bucks (-250) | 76ers (+205)
Total: Under 220.5 (-110) | Over 220.5 (-110)
Injuries: 76ers C Joel Embiid—Out; 76ers PG Ben Simmons—Out; 76ers F Tobias Harris—Out; 76ers SG Matisse Thybulle—Out; Bucks C Brook Lopez—Out
Milwaukee has been one of the biggest disappointments of the season so far. The defending champions are in the bottom third of the league in scoring offense (106.7 PPG) and scoring defense (108.6 PPG).
The Bucks have been held under 100 points five times this season and are winless in such games. Giannis Antetokounmpo is playing at his usual MVP level, but the team sorely misses the injured Jrue Holiday, who has only played four games this season.
The Bucks are losers of two in a row and five of their last six games.
The Ben Simmons-less 76ers are about to be without All-NBA center Joel Embiid, who tested positive for COVID-19, for a few games. Philadelphia, for all of its offseason drama and in-season injuries, stands alone atop the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks snapped a six-game winning streak the 76ers had strung together Monday night, beating Philadelphia for the second time this season. With Embiid and Tobias Harris both missing time, the 76ers have flexed their depth, getting contributions from the likes of Seth Curry, Tyrese Maxey and Furkan Korkmaz.
Despite key absences, this team has the 11th-best offense in basketball (109.7 PPG) and the No. 8 defense (102.6 PPG).
Spread Pick: 76ers +6.5
It’s been that kind of year for the Bucks, who I think get a much-needed road win but do not cover the spread. Milwaukee is 4-6 Against The Spread (ATS) this season while the 76ers are 7-4, one of the best records in the league. Philadelphia pushed the Knicks to the brink Monday night despite poor shooting—if the 76ers shoot a little better against the Bucks they can hang with Antetokounmpo and Co. all night.
Over/Under Pick: Under 218.5
Injuries on both sides keep this under the point total. With Embiid in street clothes, Antetokounmpo will have his way under the basket. However, even with the former MVP averaging nearly a 30-point double-double, Bucks games have gone over twice in 10 tries. Similarly, the 76ers stifling defense has kept their games under the projected point total eight out of 11 times.
Prop: Bucks Total Points Under 111.5
Milwaukee has not been able to score at will with the same ease with which it did in recent years. On the road against a strong defense, I don’t see the Bucks breaking 110 points, something they’ve only done once in their last six games.
Guest Picker and SI writer Michael Shapiro’s take:
Spread Pick: Bucks -6.5
Joel Embiid’s absence could be a major problem for Philadelphia on Tuesday night. The 76ers are currently getting by on a stitched-together roster headlined by Seth Curry and Furkan Korkmaz, and while the duo has impressed relative to expectation, it may finally hit a wall against the defending champions. Milwaukee is dealing with significant injury issues of its own, but as long as Giannis Antetokounmpo plays, I’m alright laying the points.
Over/Under Pick: Under 218.5
Let’s not overthink this one. Philadelphia couldn’t crack 100 points against New York and Milwaukee enters Tuesday night a middling No. 18 in offensive rating. Expect a relative rock fight in the City of Brotherly Love.
Prop: 76ers Total Points Under 106.5
A shaky shooting night could ensure a winner here in a hurry, and even if one of Philadelphia's perimeter options heats up, it’s hard to see much scoring punch coming from Andre Drummond in place of Embiid against Milwaukee. The 76ers are a good bet to check in under 100 points again in this one.
Time: 10 p.m. ET, TNT
Spread: Trailblazers +3 (-110) | Clippers -3 (-110)
Moneyline: Trailblazers (+125) | Clippers (-150)
Total: Under 221.5 (-110) | Over 221.5 (-110)
Injuries: Clippers F Marcus Morris Sr.—Out
The Clippers are surviving without Kawhi Leonard on the back of Paul George. Beyond George, L.A. has four players—Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Terance Mann and Nicolas Batum—scoring 10+ PPG.
Los Angeles heads into Tuesday on a four-game winning streak with their last three victories all coming by double-digits. L.A. is the 18th-best offense in basketball (107 PPG) but makes up for it with the sixth-best scoring defense (102.6 PPG).
Portland has won two in a row and is well rested, having played its last game Saturday night—a win against the Lakers.
The Trail Blazers are the NBA’s No. 7 offense (110.3 PPG) and the 15th-best scoring defense (107.4 PPG). Damian Lillard’s struggles to start the season have not sunk this team, which often relies on his late-game heroics. The perennial All-Star is shooting below 40% from the field and 30% from three. Meanwhile. C.J. McCollum has kept the team afloat, averaging a team-high 22.1 PPG.
These two teams already met twice this season with the home team taking each game. L.A. won 116-86 at the Staples Center and Portland took the second meeting 111-92.
Spread Pick: Clippers -3
Los Angeles has come into form on both sides of the ball during its winning streak. The Clippers are holding opponents just under 100 PPG in that stretch. That will be difficult to do against the Trail Blazers, but L.A. has the wings to throw at McCollum and Lillard to bother them just enough. Portland is 4-6 ATS on the year and the Clippers are slightly better at 5-4. That record should improve Tuesday night.
Over/Under Pick: Over 220.5
Neither of these teams’ games have gone over often. Only three out of nine Clippers games have hit the over compared with three out of 10 for the Trail Blazers. Both times they played this season, the total barely cracked 200 points.
That changes Tuesday.
Both offenses are rounding into form and shouldn’t struggle too greatly to flirt with the 110 points each team needs to propel this game to go over.
Prop: Jusuf Nurkic Over 10.5 Rebounds
L.A. is one of the worst rebounding teams in the league and Nurkic is the NBA’s fourth-leading rebounder this season, grabbing 11.4 boards per game. In just 22 minutes against the Lakers, he grabbed 17 rebounds and he’s gone over 10.5 in five games this season.
Guest Picker and SI writer Michael Shapiro’s take:
Spread Pick: Blazers +3
Portland survived a 42-point explosion from Paul George in late October, and the Blazers are starting to find their groove despite a shaky shooting start from Damian Lillard. Portland enters Tuesday night No. 9 in net rating and No. 6 in effective field goal percentage, and the scheme tweaks made my Chauncey Billups on the defensive end have paid legitimate dividends. Expect the Blazers to eke out a narrow win on the road.
Over/Under Pick: Under 220.5
Tuesday’s matchup may not be as explosive as one may think. Portland has cleaned up its defensive issues from previous seasons en route to a top-12 defensive rating early on, and both teams rank in the top 10 in opponent points in the paint. Perhaps a duel between Paul George and Damian Lillard sinks us, but this feels like a game where one or both teams will hover closer to 100 points.
Prop Pick: Paul George over 5.5 assists
George has emerged as Los Angeles’s preeminent playmaker in Kawhi Leonard’s absence, soaking up a career-high 34.1% usage rate this season. The increased responsibility is paying dividends. He’s averaging 27 points per game on solid shooting splits, and the 12-year veteran enters Monday night averaging a career-high 5.2 assists per game.
After tallying six-plus assists in each of the last four contests, expect George to keep the streak rolling against Portland.
DFS Value Plays:
PG/SG Tyrese Maxey, 76ers (FD: $6,600 | DK: $6,200)
SG Grayson Allen, Bucks (FD: $5,400 | DK: $5,100)
SF/PF Royce O’Neal, Jazz (FD: $5,400 | DK: $4,400)
PF/C Bobby Portis, Bucks (FD: $5,800 | DK: $5,400)
C Ivica Zubac, Clippers (FD: $5,500 | DK: $5,300)