- The LeBron James era isn’t off to a great start in Los Angeles, but the Lakers are only laying 4.5 against a below-average Suns team.
Here are our three top plays for Wednesday night’s NBA action:
1. Charlotte Hornets at Chicago Bulls (230.5)
8:00 pm ET
The last four meetings between the Hornets and Bulls have gone over the total and this one shouldn’t be any different. The average amount of points scored over those four games was 232.0 points per game, but this contest should be even more open because of Chicago’s porous defense. The Bulls have allowed 120.0 points per game this season. And it’s not like Charlotte is much better, giving up 110.0 per. The Bulls brought in a lot of young talent over the past few years, but the lineup lacks two-way players. The two biggest concerns for Chicago are Zach LaVine and Jabari Parker, who both rank in the bottom 20 in the league in defensive efficiency rating. Until those two make drastic changes to their games, there really isn’t a number high enough to scare off potential over bettors. But LaVine is especially important to the total, as he is also pouring in 32.3 points per game. Meanwhile, Charlotte has quite a few players that are capable of heating it up on any given night. Kemba Walker and Malik Monk are the two to watch in this one. Walker was the Eastern Conference Player of the Week in the opening week of the season, and he is playing the best basketball of his career. Even though Monk comes off the bench, he gets his fair share of opportunities, and this is the type of game that he should really play well in. Overall, it’s hard to envision these teams not hitting the mark easily.
Pick: Over (230.5)
2. Indiana Pacers at San Antonio Spurs (-2)
8:30 pm ET
The season is young, but the Spurs are off to an impressive start. Despite being pegged by Vegas as a borderline playoff team before the season, Gregg Popovich’s squad has looked like, well, a Gregg Popovich team. The Spurs are second in the league in offensive efficiency at 118.2 points per 100 possessions. While San Antonio can definitely stand to improve on its league-worst defensive efficiency rating, it has to be encouraging that the Spurs don’t appear to be missing either Dejounte Murray or Derrick White just yet. Big offseason acquisition DeMar DeRozan has done an excellent job of handling the playmaking duties for San Antonio so far. The Pacers present a new challenge, though. Indiana has the league’s fourth-best defensive efficiency rating, and Nate McMillan pushes all the right buttons on that end of the floor. And with Victor Oladipo and a number of shooters scattered throughout the lineup, this Pacers team can score, too. The real issue is that Indiana doesn’t play well away from home. The Pacers were 22-23 on the road last season, including the playoffs—and San Antonio is one of the toughest places in the world to play. Last season, the Spurs went 34-9 straight up and 27-15-1 against the spread when playing at the AT&T Center. This year’s team knows it needs to make the most of its home-court advantage if it hopes to make it into the playoffs. The Spurs are 17-3 straight up in their last 20 games against the Pacers in San Antonio. With a spread as low as this one, that record becomes even more important.
Pick: Spurs (-2)
3. Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns (+4.5)
10:00 pm ET
The Lakers find themselves in a unique spot this season. They are getting the best from their opponents every single night even though they haven't done anything to earn that type of respect. That’s life with LeBron James as the face of your franchise. Once James came to Los Angeles, people around the league started to look at the Lakers differently. That has showed early in the year, as Los Angeles has played three playoff-type games to open up the season. While the Lakers were unable to beat the Blazers, Rockets or Spurs, the team was competitive in all three. Now, Los Angeles finds itself searching for its first win of the year against a Phoenix Suns team that has looked uninspired outside of an opening night win over the Dallas Mavericks. In Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, the Suns clearly have young talent in place. The problem is that Phoenix isn’t deep or experienced enough to consistently win games. That’s going to hurt the Suns against a LeBron-led team. The Lakers will come out ready to go in this one. They’re desperate to get into the win column and know the importance of beating the teams they’re supposed to beat. It doesn’t hurt that Los Angeles is 4-1 both straight up and against the spread in its last five games against Phoenix.
Pick: Lakers (-4.5)