- Kemba Walker could be in for a big game tonight when the Hornets take on the Nuggets at home.
Having posted a winning evening on four of its last five nights in action, Three at 3 is back for Friday with its best bets against the spread.
1. Denver Nuggets at Charlotte Hornets (PK)
7:00 pm ET
Denver is one of the hottest teams in basketball right now, having won and covered in seven straight games. Meanwhile, Charlotte has lost three straight games both straight up and against the spread coming into this one. However, the problem for the Nuggets is that they are now playing the fourth game of a five-game road trip. This team is going to start getting a bit tired from all of the travel, and one has to imagine that the Hornets are due for a win as well. Charlotte is a good basketball team, and it’s hard to imagine it being kept down for too long.
This matchup offers some clear advantages for the Hornets. Despite the fact that Denver has the league’s fifth-best defensive efficiency rating, the Nuggets are vulnerable at defending two things: long mid-range jumpers and corner threes. And what do you know? The Hornets happen to be very good at shooting both long mid-range jumpers and corner threes. Charlotte’s 45.5% shooting on long twos is the third-best mark in the league, and the Hornets’ 41.1% shooting on corner threes is tied for the fifth-best number in the NBA. These might seem like specific stats, but it's a long game and the opportunities to take those types of shots will be there.
It’s also worth noting that Kemba Walker’s speed in getting to the basket could give Denver some trouble. Walker is a lot quicker than the Nuggets’ guards, and Nikola Jokic—who has improved drastically as a defender this season—is still too slow-footed to stick with him when switching in pick-and-roll situations. One last thing that needs to be mentioned is the fact that Denver is 7-17 against the spread when coming off a game in which it scored 120 or more points since the start of last season. The Hornets have a great shot at pulling this off and getting back into the win column.
Pick: Hornets (PK)
2. Oklahoma City Thunder at Chicago Bulls (+8.5)
Since Billy Donovan took over as the head coach of the Thunder, Oklahoma City is just 9-24 against the spread in road games after having won four of its previous five games. Meanwhile, the Bulls are an impressive 14-3 against the spread in December over the last two seasons. Chicago is going to be amped up for this one, as the team is returning home after a four-game road trip. The Bulls also happen to finally be getting healthy, as Lauri Markkanen is back from an elbow injury that kept him out of 23 games this year and Kris Dunn is finally over a knee injury that had sidelined him for the entire season. And while Oklahoma City has been the hottest team in the league since starting 0-4 on the year, the team did struggle in its game in Brooklyn on Wednesday. The Thunder needed a late Paul George scoring exhibition to ultimately win 114-112 as a six-point road favorite, and they could be due for a letdown after that emotional win. Also, while now-fired Fred Hoiberg was far from the problem in Chicago over the last few years, players tend to play hard when competing for a new coach. That proved to be the case in a hard-fought loss to the Indiana Pacers in Jim Boylen’s first game as interim coach, and the team should have a little extra boost in his first home game at the helm.
Pick: Bulls (+8.5)
3. Los Angeles Lakers at San Antonio Spurs (-1.0)
The Lakers and Spurs met in Los Angeles on Wednesday, and it was the Lakers that ended up winning that game 121-113 as an eight-point favorite. Los Angeles has now won four straight games and 13 of its last 16 games coming into this one. Meanwhile, the Spurs have lost four of their last five games. Two of those losses came by at least 30 points—against the Rockets and Jazz—and this team is running out of time to figure things out. Fortunately for San Antonio, Gregg Popovich is still an elite head coach, and he demands the very best from his team. Until we see a Spurs team truly fall off the rails, it’s hard to actually imagine it happening.
For San Antonio, the absence of Brandon Ingram is only a plus. Ingram hurt his ankle in Wednesday’s win over the Spurs, and he is going to miss the next two games for Los Angeles. While he and LeBron James have struggled to form a connection on the court, it’s never a good thing to lose a talent like Ingram. It doesn’t hurt that the Spurs are 33-20 against the spread in home games over the last two seasons. Things might be tough in San Antonio right now, but look for the team to put that aside and earn a hard-fought win here.
Pick: Spurs (-1.0)
Overall Record: 59-49-3