- All getting points, the Bulls, Magic and Jazz are in favorable spots against the spread tonight.
Here are our top plays for Friday night's action.
1. Miami Heat at Chicago Bulls (+3.5)
8:00 pm ET
With the way the Heat have been playing, it’s surprising to see them favored on the road here. Despite the fact that the Bulls are one of the league’s worst teams, Chicago is talented enough to win games at the United Center—the Bulls took down Phoenix 124-116 on Wednesday and are now 2-2 in their last four home games.
While the Heat are a better team than the Suns, the Bulls should still be able to earn an outright win tonight. Currently ranked 10th in the league in defensive efficiency, Miami wins games on the defensive end of the floor. But the Heat are a miserable 25th in offensive efficiency, and the team could struggle to come up with enough stops to cover against a Chicago offense that features plenty of talent. It doesn’t help the Heat that Goran Dragic continues to be out with a bad knee. The Heat really don’t have anybody that is capable of filling in for him at point guard, especially with Tyler Johnson also expected to miss this game with a hamstring injury.
Meanwhile, Jabari Parker is starting to figure things out for Chicago. In Wednesday’s win over Phoenix, Parker had 20 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists in 40 minutes of action. He should be in for yet another big game against the Heat. The same goes for Zach LaVine, who is due for a good shooting night after struggling this past week.
Pick: Bulls (+3.5)
2. Orlando Magic at Denver Nuggets (-8)
It seems like it might take some more time, but eventually the Magic are going to start getting respect from Vegas. While it’s completely understandable that the Nuggets are favored in this game, Orlando showed that it is for real by staying close with the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday. That game went all the way down to the wire, with the Raptors ultimately grabbing the W on a game-winner from Danny Green.
On the year, the Magic are now 10-7 against the spread. But at 5-2 straight up and 6-0-1 against the spread over its last seven games, Orlando is clearly rolling right now. Denver, on the other hand, is trending in the opposite direction. After a great start to the season, the Nuggets are 2-6 both straight up and against the spread in their last eight games. And considering the strength of this Denver team is at the center position, it’s worth mentioning that Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic is playing the best basketball of his career. On the season, Vucevic is averaging 20.0 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game on 55.4% shooting from the floor and 42.2% shooting from the outside. He might not have the skill set of Nikola Jokic, but he is capable of holding his own against Jokic on the interior. Orlando's lengthy frontcourt as a whole figures to stifle the Nuggets and keep this one close.
Pick: Magic (+8)
3. Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Lakers (-2.5)
This year's Jazz team hasn't yet tapped into what made it great over the second half of last season and, in an ultra-competitive Western Conference, the team needs to find its identity sooner rather than later. The biggest issue for Utah has been defense. Last year, the Jazz were first in the league in defensive efficiency rating, but this year’s team is just 17th. Until Utah starts to defend more consistently, the team is going to continue to hover around the .500 mark.
All that said, the Jazz should still be able to get the job done in Los Angeles tonight. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Utah is 11-7 against the spread when facing teams that make 36% of their threes or better. So while this team has struggled a bit to get after it defensively, Utah's wings generally close out on shooters. The Jazz are also 28-22 against the spread in games with a line of +3 to -3 in that same span. That suggests that Utah generally rises to the occasion in games that are expected to be close.
Looking closer at the on-court matchups, too, it’s hard to ignore the positional advantages the Jazz have here. An argument can be made that Utah is better at every position, with the obvious exception of LeBron James at the 3. But in Joe Ingles, the Jazz have somebody that can make things a little more difficult than usual on LeBron. On the other end, the Lakers have nobody that is capable of stopping second-year stud Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell has had a tough time matching the efficiency of his rookie campaign, but he remains a force and should be able to take over this game.
Pick: Jazz (+2.5)