- The Nuggets are too short-handed to defend their home court against the Thunder, and the Kings and Heat look like smart picks.
After going 2-1 last night, here are Three at 3's best bets for Friday night's NBA action:
1. Miami Heat at Memphis Grizzlies (-4.5)
8:00 pm ET
If you've enjoyed watching high-scoring games with both teams launching threes and playing minimal defense, then Heat-Grizzlies isn’t for you. Miami and Memphis enter this game as two of the league’s worst teams offensively. Miami is 24th in the NBA at 107.2 points per game and Memphis is 28th in the league at 102.9. Both teams also happen to be very good defensively, as the Grizzlies are fourth in the league in defensive efficiency rating and the Heat are ninth. This game could end up being played in the high 90s. That would make it difficult for the Grizzlies to run away with a win. Miami should be able to keep this very close and potentially even win this game outright.
While Memphis has been surprisingly good this season, the Heat are still trying to find a way to start playing their best basketball. Miami has covered in seven of its last 10 games, and Hassan Whiteside being back in the lineup will be big. Against most teams, Whiteside’s inability to guard the perimeter can be an issue. But Memphis's old-school offense still runs through star Marc Gasol. Considering Gasol is one of the slowest bigs in the league, Whiteside’s speed shouldn’t be an issue. And while Mike Conley should be able to put up some big numbers in this game, the Heat match up pretty well at every other position. Over the last five games, Miami's Justise Winslow is averaging 18.4 points per game on 50.7% shooting from the field and 50.0% shooting from three. The Heat are also 29-15 against the spread when playing on the road against teams with winning records over the last three seasons.
Pick: Heat (+4.5)
2. Golden State Warriors at Sacramento Kings (+8.0)
10:00 pm ET
“We’re a ball club now,” Iman Shumpert said after the Kings beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 141-130 on Wednesday. It’s hard not to see why Sacramento is feeling confident. The Kings were projected to be one of the worst teams in the league this season, but they have won and covered in five of their last six games and now sit at 15-12 on the season—good for eighth place in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, Golden State has covered in only seven of its last 19 games. The Warriors are just 13-16 against the spread on the season, and they are 6-8 against the spread on the road. Steph Curry is back in the lineup for the Warriors, but this is still a tough spot for them. Over the last two seasons, Golden State is just 12-25 against the spread when facing teams with winning percentages between 51.0% and 60.0%. The Warriors are also just 31-44 against the spread when facing teams with winning records in that span. And while there isn’t a backcourt in basketball as explosive as Golden State’s, Sacramento’s can hold its own here. De’Aaron Fox has emerged as a legitimate All-Star candidate this season, and Buddy Hield is looking like the player the Kings thought he would be coming out of Oklahoma. The Warriors obviously have a great chance of winning this game, but doing so by eight points is a tough ask.
Pick: Kings (+8.0)
3. Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets (+1.0)
10:00 pm ET
With Paul Millsap out for the Nuggets, Denver loses its biggest positional advantage over Oklahoma City. Millsap is one of the better two-way power forwards in basketball, and words can’t describe how important he is to this Nuggets team. Considering Gary Harris is also out for Denver, it’s hard to imagine the Nuggets playing well enough on either end of the floor to win this one. Denver would need huge games from both Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, but the matchups at their positions are concerning, to say the least. Murray could spend a lot of this game opposite Russell Westbrook, who has the size, athleticism and motor to really make things difficult on him tonight. And while Jokic is a top-three center in the league, you can throw out your “tops” when going up against Steven Adams. Adams might not be a superstar, but he is the type of guy you can throw out there on any given night and expect him to hold his own. Oklahoma City is the league’s best team in terms of defensive efficiency rating, which matters when facing a short-handed Denver group. And if you need another reason to back the Thunder, then how about the fact that the Nuggets are 1-9 against the spread when coming off an over this season?
Pick: Thunder (-1.0)