- 14-5 in their last 19 games, LeBron James and the Lakers will look to stay hot on Monday night when they take on the Heat.
With a 9-3 record over its last four nights of picks, Three at 3 is back with your best bets for Monday night in the NBA.
1. Sacramento Kings at Chicago Bulls (+2.5)
8:00 pm ET
By now, we all know what happened over the weekend: the Bulls lost to the Boston Celtics by 56 and the team nearly had a mutiny against interim head coach Jim Boylen on Sunday. But it’s worth noting that cooler heads ended up prevailing, and Chicago seemingly succeeded in its airing of grievances. “We were very, very honest with one another, very direct,” rookie Wendell Carter Jr. told reporters.
The expectation might be that this team is about to tail off, but the Bulls have enough in them to earn a home win over the Kings tonight. While Sacramento has been one of the more surprising teams in the league this season, the Kings are playing the final leg of a four-game road trip tonight. They already put up a dud of a performance in a loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday, and they are probably looking forward to getting back home. Meanwhile, Chicago is an inexplicable 15-4 against the spread when playing December games over the last two seasons. The Bulls are also 4-0 against the spread this season when facing teams that force 16 or more turnovers per game. Chicago plays a lot more carefully when facing teams that get into passing lanes. And in point guard Ryan Arcidiacono, the Bulls have somebody that is willing to hound De’Aaron Fox all over the court. With Kris Dunn making his return from a knee injury tonight, you can make that two guys that will be ready to apply some pressure to Fox.
Pick: Bulls (+2.5)
2. Orlando Magic at Dallas Mavericks (-4)
The Magic have lost two in a row heading into this game against the red-hot Mavericks, but Orlando has still covered in 11 of its last 15 games—with one of those non-covers being a push. The Magic also happen to be a ridiculous 7-0 against the spread in road games against teams that allow at least 106 points per game on the season. Meanwhile, Dallas is likely to be without Dennis Smith Jr. in this game. DSJ can be a negative for the Mavericks on some nights, but he would have helped Dallas here. The Magic simply don’t have much at the point guard position, so his talent alone would have made things tougher on Orlando. Another thing worth pointing out is that the Mavericks have the league’s eighth-best transition offense this season. Dallas is scoring 126.1 points per 100 transition plays this year, but Orlando is allowing only 113.2—the seventh-best mark in the NBA. That’s something to watch, as the Mavericks likely won’t be as good on the break without Smith Jr.’s blazing speed and uncanny leaping ability. In the halfcourt, Nikola Vucevic has the type of game that could give DeAndre Jordan some trouble. Jordan tends to go for blocks far too often, and Vucevic is crafty enough to take advantage of him being off balance. Over the last five games, the big man is averaging 22 points, 1.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game on 56% shooting from the field and 45% shooting from the outside. It wouldn’t be surprising if he were to put up some big numbers here, and that should allow the Magic to stay close throughout.
Pick: Magic (+4)
3. Miami Heat at Los Angeles Lakers (-6.5)
The Heat are starting to play their best basketball of the season, as Miami comes into this game having won and covered in four of its last five. The Heat just went on the road and beat the Clippers by 23 points as 9.5-point underdogs, and they have the league’s fifth-best defensive rating over the last five games. The problem is that the Lakers are even hotter, as Los Angeles comes into this game having won 14 of its last 19. Over their last five games, the Lakers have the league’s seventh-best defensive efficiency rating and the eighth-best offensive efficiency rating.
One issue for Miami in this game will be the Lakers’ ability to push the ball. Los Angeles plays at the league’s fourth-fastest pace, which could be an issue for a Miami team that tends to grind out wins. And while the Lakers do not have Brandon Ingram (ankle) right now, the Heat are expected to be without Hassan Whiteside in this one. In some ways, Whiteside’s presence makes things tougher on Miami. When the big man isn’t the on the floor, the ball zips around the court and the Heat’s wings have more room to make plays. But the problem here is that the Heat aren’t going to outgun the Lakers. So Whiteside’s ability to score in the paint will actually be missed greatly. Also working in L.A.'s favor in this one is the fact that Miami is 4-14 against the spread when coming off a win of 10 or more points over the last two seasons, and 5-17 against the spread when coming off back-to-back wins in that span. It also can’t be taken for granted that the Heat got to spend the weekend in Los Angeles. That can take its toll on any team.
Pick: Lakers (-6.5)
Overall Record: 62-49-3