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Friday NBA Best Bets: Timberwolves-Hornets and Bulls-Magic

The NBA returns after a one-day hiatus for Thanksgiving and the odds are juicy.

When the NBA SO/UP series was launched, I wanted to make a point of including different teams and making a point to not only pick games involving the Lakers, Warriors, Knicks and so on. That commitment has largely been successful.

Four new teams join the SO/UP mix Friday night, only this set of picks is going to be a little different. Due to the Thanksgiving weekend this preview is going to focus on the teams in broad strokes, how they’re doing and how we think each matchup will go.

SI Betting editor Dave Scipione is back to offer his thoughts on the two games we've targeted for Friday.

Charlotte Hornets LaMelo Ball

Minnesota Timberwolves (9-9) vs. Charlotte Hornets (12-8)

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Spread: Timberwolves +2.5 (-118) | Hornets -2.5 (+100)
Moneyline: MIN (+110) | CHA (-133)
Total: Under 222.5 (-110) | Over 222.5 (-110)

The Timberwolves have picked things up in late November, rattling off a five-game winning streak on the backs of big scoring nights from Karl Anthony-Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards. That stretch included a 43-point shellacking of the Grizzlies. Minnesota ranks in the bottom half of the league in scoring (107.4 PPG) and has the No. 8 scoring defense (104.8 PPG). The T-Wolves’ Against The Spread (ATS) record is identical to their record (9-9) and because of their strong defense and below the pack offense, the vast majority (over 70%) of their games stay under.

The Hornets are playing great basketball. Winners of seven of their last eight, and against quality opponents, Charlotte has a playoff spot in the East if the season ended today. You can’t talk about the Hornets without mentioning LaMelo Ball or Miles Bridges, the team’s young stars, but Gordon Hayward, Kelly Oubre and Terry Rozier are all a big part of Charlotte's success. That being said, the Hornets have room to improve defensively. They allow the third-most points (112.4 PPG) in the NBA, and they make up for it with the league’s fourth-highest scoring offense (111.9 PPG). Charlotte also owns an 11-9 ATS record this season.

I like the Hornets to win at home, where they’re 6-2, but I do think the Timberwolves keep it close.

SI Betting Editor Dave Scipione's take:

This should be a really fun game to watch. I'm not sure about betting it, because I feel like the oddsmakers nailed the total and spread—so it's a little tougher to find value here. It's two of the top three picks from the 2020 NBA Draft going at it tonight, and while I feel like Minnesota has the better roster—Charlotte is talented, playoff hungry and playing at home.

It's the playing at home factor that has me taking the Hornets laying 2.5 points. Both teams can easily put up 100-plus points, so if I had to pick betting the spread or the total, I'd go with over 222.5 points and hope for an enjoyable game where the outright winner doesn't matter. With young rosters like this, and a prove-it game between two stars from the same draft class, there should be a lot of points in this matchup.

D'Angelo Russell to notch a double-double is definitely a bet worth placing. He's the veteran point guard going up against the NBA's next young star at the same position, and I think he'll fill his stat sheet to show up LaMelo Ball.  

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Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball reacts after scoring a basket against Toronto Raptors.

Chicago Bulls (12-7) vs. Orlando Magic (4-15)

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Spread: Bulls -8.5 (-110) | Magic +8.5 (-110)
Moneyline: CHI (-400) | ORL (+310)
Total: Under 213.5 (-110) | Over 213.5 (-110)

The Bulls, thanks to the reinforcements the front office got for Zach LaVine in the past year, are one of the best teams in the NBA. They’re a game out of first in the East with the No. 7 scoring defense (104.6 PPG). The offense is nowhere near as good, ranked No. 14 ( 108.2 PPG) despite having two players (LaVine and DeMar DeRozan) averaging more than 25 PPG. Chicago is 12-7 ATS and 58% of their games hit the under. The Bulls are an impressive 6-3 outside of Chicago, having gone 3-2 on their recent West Coast road trip with wins over the Clippers and Lakers.

The Magic have strung together four separate losing streaks of two or more games—they're keeping their victories socially distant. Still, there’s a lot to be excited about in Orlando. Cole Anthony has developed into a consistent scorer, Mo Bamba is healthy and lottery picks Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs are working out. None of that has translated to wins. Their ATS record (8-11) is marginally better than their actual record. Still, Orlando has the 28th-ranked offense (100.8 PPG) and the 24th-ranked defense (110.6 PPG). Victories are hard to come by with bottom five units on both sides of the ball.

The Bulls should roll in this one and I like Nikola Vucevic to have a good game against his former team.

SI Betting Editor Dave Scipione's take:

These are the games teams like the Bulls are supposed to win, and teams like the Magic are supposed to lose. A spread nearing double digits isn't as much fun to bet, because we all know what happens late in NBA games. I feel good about hammering the Bulls -8.5 for a comfortable win over the Magic. I have to agree with Kyle, this has all the makings for Nikola Vucevic to show up big. I'll be looking at his double-double odds and feel comfortable in placing a couple of bets in this game. 

The total of 213.5 seems too good to be true, so my instinct there is to stick with the under. I always try to imagine what the final score will be, and this one feels like Bulls 100-plus, Magic below 90. Give me the under, there is no way I want to bet a Magic game to hit the over. Out of all three bets, I like Vucevic to ball out for his double-double the most. 

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