- The Magic are a good bet to keep the Cavaliers down, and Russell Westbrook should keep the Thunder rolling against the Pelicans.
Here are our three best gambling plays for Monday night in the NBA:
1. Houston Rockets (-1) at Indiana Pacers
7:00 pm ET
“It’s late if you’re in the Western Division,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said after a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers last week. While he mistakenly called it a division, there’s no denying that there is truth in what he was saying about the Western Conference. Since D'Antoni said that, the Rockets have won two straight—over the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls. Those aren’t strong teams, but it’s nice to see the Rockets playing with a sudden sense of urgency. Considering they're facing a very good Indiana team Monday night, the Rockets will need to bring that same intensity here. Fortunately for Houston, both James Harden and Chris Paul will be on the floor. That largely hasn’t been the case early in the year, and the two of them should really have their way with an inferior Pacers backcourt. Victor Oladipo is one of the better two-way shooting guards in the league, but asking him to lock down Harden is a tad unrealistic. Meanwhile, Paul should be able to completely dominate Darren Collison at point guard. Also, in big man Clint Capela, Houston has somebody that can contain Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis inside. That’ll be a significant factor for a Rockets team that is 21-9 against the spread in November games since the start of the 2016-17 season. It’s also worth noting that these teams met twice last season and the Rockets won and covered in both games, winning by an average of 22.0 points per game.
Pick: Rockets (-1)
2. Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic (-4.5)
Since the start of last season, the Cavaliers are 0-9 against the spread when coming off a blowout loss by 20 points or more—which is exactly what they suffered in a 126-94 beatdown at the hands of the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday. This Cleveland team is dealing with some next-level dysfunction right now, as the Cavaliers fired coach Tyronn Lue last week—he helped them win a title three years ago—and now have a number of veterans that are seemingly turning their backs on the team’s younger players. Meanwhile, Orlando isn’t nearly as bad as its record indicates. In fact, the Magic would probably have a few more wins if the team simply hit some more of its open looks from the outside. Orlando has the fourth-worst three-point shooting percentage in the league this season, but it’ll be tough for the Magic not to hit at least a little more frequently tonight. They’ll have a ton of open looks in this one, as they’re set to face a Cavs team that has a league-worst defensive efficiency rating. With Kevin Love out, Cleveland will also be especially weak on the interior. That’s not a good thing against a loaded Magic frontcourt. The Magic also went 4-0 against the spread against the Cavaliers last season. This could be yet another blowout that doesn’t go Cleveland’s way.
Pick: Magic (-4.5)
3. New Orleans Pelicans at Oklahoma City Thunder (-4)
The Thunder opened the season at 0-4, but a lot of that had to do with Russell Westbrook dealing with a knee injury he suffered during the offseason. However, Oklahoma City has now won four straight and the team has a good chance of making it five tonight. The Thunder have had a lot of success against the Pelicans over the years, as they are 7-3 straight up and 6-4 against the spread against New Orleans in their last 10 meetings.
The matchups here also point in the Thunder’s direction, as they have the defensive ability to slow a high-powered Pelicans offense down. Oklahoma City is currently sixth in the league in defensive efficiency rating, and that is without small forward Andre Roberson—the team’s best defender. In Westbrook, Paul George, Jerami Grant and Steven Adams, the team has four players who—when dialed in—are plus players on that end of the floor. Stopping a healthy Anthony Davis is a whole other story, but Grant’s length and athleticism should make it a little tougher on Davis than the superstar is used to.
On the other end of the floor, the Pelicans will have an even harder time containing the Thunder. Jrue Holiday is a good defender for New Orleans, but he doesn’t have what it takes to hang with Westbrook all game. George should also be in for a good game, as he is the best wing on the floor by far.
Pick: Thunder (-4)
Overall Record: 23-17-2