- It took a Jimmy Butler game-winning shot for the 76ers to beat the Nets last month. With Butler likely sidelined tonight, the Nets should force a competitive game once again.
Wednesday night's NBA best bets include an underdog, a favorite and the over in a game involving the league's best defensive team.
1. Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers (-7)
7:00 pm ET
Since the start of the 2016-17 season, the Nets are 22-8 against the spread when facing teams that average at least 23 assists per game. Brooklyn is also 20-7 against the spread in road games after having lost five or six of its previous seven games over the last two seasons. Not only that, but the Nets also took the Sixers right to the final buzzer in the last meeting between these teams. Brooklyn and Philadelphia met at the Barclays Center on Nov. 25, and Jimmy Butler drilled a game-winning three as time expired to give the Sixers a 127-125 win as 4.5-point favorites. And while the final result of that game wasn't what the Nets were looking for, they showed they have what it takes to compete with Philly.
When the two teams meet again tonight, it looks like the 76ers won't have to worry about Butler at all. The star was downgraded to doubtful with a groin injury here and, considering what the Sixers dealt to get him, his absence leaves a significant hole in the lineup. Philadelphia can still win this game, but it’s hard to imagine it running away with it.
Pick: Nets (+7)
2. Oklahoma City Thunder at New Orleans Pelicans (Total: 234.5)
On first glance, it's a little startling to see the total set so high for a game that includes the league’s best defensive team. The Thunder are allowing only 101.6 points per 100 possessions this season, and they have been smothering teams on the defensive end all year. The problem is that the Pelicans are fourth in the league in offensive efficiency rating, and they tend to force teams to adjust to their tempo. New Orleans plays at the third-fastest pace in the NBA, and that’s not necessarily something Oklahoma City is going to fight. The Thunder are seventh in the league in pace, and they can definitely get themselves involved in an up-and-down game.
The difference in one like this is that the Pelicans are skilled at positions that the Thunder won’t have answers for. Russell Westbrook plays with a ton of energy on both ends of the floor, but he is prone to letting up easy buckets on defense. That could mean that Jrue Holiday is poised for a big night. Holiday likes to play against the league’s best guards, as he sees it as an opportunity to show just how underappreciated he really is. And while Jerami Grant and Steven Adams are both good defenders, neither of them is capable of shutting down Anthony Davis. On the other end, Westbrook and Paul George should also have an easy time getting buckets.
Pick: Over (234.5)
3. Minnesota Timberwolves at Sacramento Kings (+3.5)
Over the last two seasons, Minnesota is 15-5 against the spread when coming off back-to-back losses. The Timberwolves are also an impressive 49-27 against the spread when facing teams shooting at least 46% from the floor since the start of the 2016-17 season. And while Minnesota has lost two in a row coming into this one, it’s worth noting that those were road games against the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors. The Timberwolves are still playing some incredible basketball since acquiring Robert Covington in the Jimmy Butler trade, and they come into this one having covered in 11 of their last 16 games. One thing that should be mentioned when looking at this game is the fact that the Timberwolves have played two competitive games in a row, and the Kings are coming into this one after beating down the Bulls down in Chicago on Monday. The Bulls do not play at a high level on either end of the floor, so it will be step up in competition for Sacramento to face a team with the tenacity of Minnesota. Also, while the Kings will be happy to play at home here, they may be experiencing some residual fatigue upon returning from a four-game road trip.
Pick: Timberwolves (-3.5)