• Boston's rejuvenated offense against New York's lackluster D provides all the ingredients for big points on the court.
By Zachary Cohen
December 06, 2018

Coming off two straight 2-1 nights, Three at 3 has bets for all three of Thursday night's NBA games.

1. New York Knicks at Boston Celtics (Total: 217.5)

8:00 pm ET

Since the start of the 2016-17 season, over the total is 28-14 in Celtics home games when Boston is playing a team with a losing record. Not only are the Knicks far below .500 at 8-17 but they’re also the league’s fourth-worst team in defensive efficiency rating. The Knicks give up a ton of points, a problem that has only worsened as of late. Over its last four contests, New York has allowed an average of 119.0 points per game. Meanwhile, the Celtics are starting to figure things out offensively. After a sluggish start to the season, Boston has the league’s third-best offensive efficiency rating over the last five games. The Celtics are pouring in 117.7 points per 100 possessions in that span, which is why this game against the Knicks has the potential to be so high scoring. Two players to look at in this one are Kyrie Irving and Al Horford. In Emmanuel Mudiay and Enes Kanter, New York has two of the league’s worst defenders at point guard and center, respectively. Any minutes that allow Irving and Horford to attack those two will be crucial for this total, as the Celtics should be able to cook them whenever they have the chance. Plus, New York has the offensive talent to help push this one over.

Pick: Over (217.5)

2. Phoenix Suns at Portland Trail Blazers (-14)

10:00 pm

The Suns are coming into this game having lost six straight games and nine of their last 10. Phoenix has only covered in two of those 10 games, and the team has mostly failed to remain competitive throughout the course of this season. The Suns have lost four straight games by double digits, and two of those contests were at home. That’s embarrassing for any team, but even more so for one that has respected veterans like Trevor Ariza and Jamal Crawford.

With all of that said, this seems like a team you might want to bet against. Right? Think again—at least for tonight. Over the last five seasons, teams that have lost three straight games by 10 or more points are 52-20 against the spread in games involving two teams that average at least 102 points per game. Teams in that situation are 9-4 against the spread this season, and one of those ATS losses came in the Suns’ game against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday. NBA teams generally don’t get their butts kicked that often, and it’s hard to imagine the Suns not showing up and playing with some pride in Portland tonight. It can only help that the Blazers have lost six of their last seven straight up, and haven’t covered in eight straight games and 10 of their last 11. Portland also happens to be just 2-13 against the spread after trailing by 15 or more points at the half in its previous game over the last three seasons. The Blazers were down 60-45 at halftime in Dallas on Tuesday.

Pick: Suns (+14)

3. Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz (Total: 216)

10:30 pm

Since Chris Paul returned to the Rockets lineup three games ago, Houston has the league’s 11th-best defensive efficiency rating. That’s not exactly excellent—and is obviously pulled from a small sample size—but it is an improvement over their season-long ranking of 25th in defensive efficiency. Meanwhile, the Jazz are 12th in the league in that category, and should see that number improve moving forward. Teams are finishing at the rim at a much higher percentage against Rudy Gobert this season, which feels anomalous. As positive regression kicks in for Gobert on D, the Jazz will improve defensively as a unit and start winning games at a higher clip. When these teams last met in October, only 189 total points were scored in a game that had a total set at 217. On top of that, three of the last five games played between these teams in Utah have gone under the total. Over the last two seasons, under the total is 13-3 when Houston is playing on the road with a line of +3 to -3. Overall, a lot of things point in the direction of this game featuring some serious defense. The fact that both teams have underperformed this season only helps. They both need a win, so there should be added intensity.

Pick: Under (216)

Overall Record: 57-48-3

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)