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  • With Chris Paul out, the Rockets will have a hard time finding a way to take advantage of the Thunder’s swarming defense.
By Zachary Cohen
December 24, 2018

After going 3-0 on Friday night, Three at 3 is now 16-4-1 over the last seven days of plays. Stay hot with our three best bets for an exciting Christmas Day slate:

1. Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets (-1.5)

3:00 pm ET

When the Thunder hosted the Rockets on Nov. 8, Oklahoma City came away with a 98-80 victory as a five-point home underdog. The Thunder played without Russell Westbrook in that game, and they were still able to win easily. Oklahoma City has now won three of its last five against Houston, and the team has covered in four of those five contests. And while the Rockets have been playing a lot better lately—Houston has won six of its last seven both straight up and against the spread—the Thunder have what it takes to steal the show on Christmas Day. On the season, Oklahoma City is an impressive 13-5 against the spread when facing teams that allow opponents to shoot at least 46.0% from the floor. The Thunder are also 11-3 against the spread when coming off an over this year, which means that Oklahoma City’s league-best defense is capable of getting back to its roots following a slip up. With Chris Paul out for this game, the Thunder will have more firepower in this game, especially since Paul George has been playing out of his mind lately. Over the last five games, the two-way star is averaging 34.8 points per game on 52.6% shooting from the field and 48.8% shooting from three. If he stays hot, then the Rockets will get blown out.

Pick: Thunder (+1.5)

2. Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics (-4)

5:30 pm ET

With contributions from nearly everybody in the lineup, the Celtics emphatically broke out of their rut with a 119-103 win as 7.5-point favorites over the Hornets on Sunday. After a players-only meeting following an embarrassing home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, this win was exactly what the Celtics needed. The problem is that Boston now hosts a strong Philadelphia team that has won and covered in three of its last four, and Joel Embiid is a major part of that. The big man has tried to get in the paint more, which is making him more efficient. Over his last five games, Embiid is averaging 25.6 points per game on 56.3% shooting from the field. Compared to his regular season shooting percentage of 48.0%, it’s easy to see why he wants to start shooting less threes and focus on using his size. While Boston's Al Horford is a great defender at the center position, Embiid has the ability to body him around the basket. Philadelphia is 67-49 against the spread when playing as an underdog over the last three seasons. The Sixers play well when people are counting them out, and they’ll be looking to make a statement on Christmas Day.

Pick: 76ers (+4)

3. Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz (-6)

10:30 pm ET

The Jazz are coming off of a tough 107-106 loss to the Thunder in Salt Lake City, but Utah had beaten the Golden State Warriors and this same Portland team in its previous two games. Despite the fact that the Jazz lost a very tight game against Oklahoma City, they are starting to play a lot better. Utah beat the Blazers by 30 points in Portland. While the Blazers will be out for revenge, that will be trumped by the Jazz's hunger for a win in front of its home crowd. Ricky Rubio is shooting 42.1% from the outside. Last year, Rubio finding his stroke was a huge reason why the Jazz became one of the best teams in the league. His defense and passing have always been remarkable, but he is as good as almost anybody at the point guard position when he is hitting from the outside. Rubio had 24 points and eight assists in the win over the Blazers last game. If he can hold his own against Damian Lillard, this should be another convincing win for the Jazz. It helps that Rudy Gobert is around to continue protecting the rim for the Jazz. Gobert is a matchup nightmare for Portland, and he should make a mark on both ends of the floor.

Pick: Jazz (-6)

Overall Record: 80-60-4