- Even with James Harden likely sidelined, a struggling Houston offense should be able to find its rhythm against the porous Nets defense.
Here are our three best bets for Friday night’s NBA action:
1. Los Angeles Clippers at Orlando Magic (+3)
7:00 pm ET
Orlando is 8-22 straight up and 13-16-1 against the spread in its last 30 games against Western Conference opponents, and that includes an 0-2 record both SU and ATS this season. Those games weren’t necessarily against the best of the West either. The Magic failed to cover against both the Portland Trail Blazers (+3.5) and Sacramento Kings (-4.5) at home over the last eight days, and they should run into similar problems against the Clippers tonight. Los Angeles has been good on both ends of the floor this year, ranking 14th in the league in offensive efficiency rating and eighth in defensive efficiency rating.
While the Clippers don’t have a true star, they do have the luxury of rolling out multiple lineups they’re comfortable playing against anyone. Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari, in particular, are two players that should make a huge difference here. Both players have the size and length to match up with the Magic, who have one of the biggest frontcourts in basketball. Harris also has some extra incentive to play well in this game, as Orlando gave up on him by trading him early in his career.
Pick: Clippers (-3)
2. Houston Rockets at Brooklyn Nets (Total: 219)
Four of the last five games between the Rockets and Nets have gone over the total, and the average number of points scored in those games—including the one under—is 232. The reason this total isn’t as high as some of the other ones we’ve seen this season is because the Rockets have struggled offensively without James Harden, who is doubtful for this contest.
But what might not be adequately taken into account is just how bad these two defenses have been this year. The Nets are currently the league’s 21st-ranked team in defensive efficiency rating, and the Rockets are 25th. For Brooklyn, that should mean that guys like D’Angelo Russell, Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert will see plenty of good shots tonight. And for Houston, this should be viewed as a good opportunity to get the offense going, even without Harden. Nobody on the Nets defends the point guard position well, so Chris Paul could be in for a big night. And with DeMarre Carroll still out for Brooklyn, it wouldn’t be surprising if Carmelo Anthony had a big night for the Rockets. He has had his struggles on defense over the years, and is therefore exactly the type of player bettors want on the floor when taking an over.
Pick: Over 219
3. Indiana Pacers at Chicago Bulls (+7.5)
The Pacers are one of the best defensive teams in basketball, as they’re currently ranked sixth in the league in defensive efficiency rating. The problem with Indiana is that the team can struggle to score at times. The last two games are a good example, as the Pacers averaged only 100 points per game against the Blazers and New York Knicks. That’s not necessarily a reason that Indiana is going to lose this game outright, but it should be a factor in determining whether or not it covers. The Bulls are loaded with talent offensively, so they should be able to score a decent amount no matter who they play. Their defense is terrible, but a game against an out-of-sync offense presents a good opportunity for the Bulls to get it (somewhat) together on the defensive end of the floor. This simply feels like too many points to be giving an explosive team that will be playing at home on a Friday night. Look for Zach LaVine to come out and turn in a good performance here. He’s averaging 28.1 points per game this season, and he should take his matchup with Victor Oladipo very seriously.
Pick: Bulls (+7.5)
Overall Record: 20-17-2