Three at 3: Knicks Could Struggle Against Lowly Suns

The Suns might be miserable, but they have won two straight and now face a Knicks team that has the worst half-court defense in the NBA.
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Here are the Three at 3’s best bets for Monday night’s NBA action:

1. Milwaukee Bucks at Detroit Pistons (+3.5)

7:00 pm ET

The Bucks have been remarkable this season, as they currently sit only two games back from first place in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee is third in the league in offensive efficiency rating and sixth in defensive efficiency rating. Those numbers might be intimidating, but the Pistons are more than capable of beating anybody when playing at home. On the season, they are 10-6 straight up when playing in Detroit. The Pistons should also have a bad taste in their mouths after losing to the Bucks by 23 in Milwaukee on December 5. Detroit is 13-3 against the spread when facing teams that attempt 24 or fewer free throws per game under current head coach Dwane Casey. The Pistons should also have plenty of confidence after earning a 113-104 win over the Boston Celtics on Saturday. Blake Griffin was excellent in that game, finishing with 27 points, eight rebounds, and six assists in 36 minutes of action. He should find some similar success against the Bucks. Andre Drummond was also a monster against Boston, blocking five shots in addition to his 19 points and 20 boards. Brook Lopez has been phenomenal for Milwaukee this year, but Drummond presents challenges for him. That could be a big difference here. The fact that the Pistons are excellent in transition defense will also help them against a Bucks team that likes to get up and down the floor.

Pick: Pistons (+3.5)

2. Phoenix Suns at New York Knicks (-1.5)

7:30 pm ET

Over the last three seasons, the Knicks are just 17-32 against the spread when facing teams that get outscored by their opponents by at least three points per game. New York has consistently been awful during that span, but the Knicks have occasionally played up to their competition. But beating up on bad teams? Not so much. And this Suns team definitely qualifies as bad. Before winning each of their last two games, Phoenix had lost eight of its previous nine games by at least 10 points. But Devin Booker is now back in the lineup for the Suns, and that is an infusion of talent that can’t go unnoticed. Booker is one of the best offensive players in the league, and he didn’t seem to have much rust in Phoenix's win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday. Booker finished with 28 points, seven assists, and seven rebounds in 36 minutes of action. He should be able to go off against New York, which has the league’s worst half-court defense. The Knicks have been so bad defensively that they have had to switch to a zone often over the last few games. That might work in small doses, but NBA players are too good to not be able to figure out how to score against the zone. Also, Suns rookie Deandre Ayton has a good chance of absolutely dominating the Knicks inside. Enes Kanter is one of the league’s worst defensive players, which will make it hard for the Knicks to find a way to win here.

Pick: Suns (+1.5)

3. Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Clippers (-2.0)

10:30 pm ET

The Clippers are in the midst of a rough patch. They come into this game having lost five of their last six both straight up and against the spread. Fortunately for them, they now get to face a Blazers team that lost 10 of its last 16 games and went 4-12 against the spread over that stretch. Los Angeles also beat Portland 104-100 as a four-point favorite when the teams met at the Moda Center on November 25. In that game, the Clippers' Tobias Harris poured in 34 points and also added 11 rebounds. Harris should be able to play at a high level once again against a Blazers team that is weak at power forward. His supporting cast should be even better in this one, with the Clippers playing in the comfortable confines of the Staples Center. Portland also happens to be just 5-9 when playing on the road this season, and the Blazers have generally struggled away from home with this current core. It wouldn’t be shocking if Los Angeles won easily and regained a little swagger in the process.

Pick: Clippers (-2.0)

Overall Record: 68-58-3