- Kawhi Leonard's new team will be an underdog when the Raptors take the floor at the AT&T Center on Thursday night.
Here are Three at 3's favorite plays of the day.
1. Toronto Raptors at San Antonio Spurs (-1.5)
8:00 pm ET
Tonight brings one of the most anticipated East vs. West matchups of the season, with Kawhi Leonard returning to San Antonio to face the Spurs team that he effectively forced into a trade over the summer. Toronto has to feel good about the deal in which it exchanged franchise cornerstone DeMar DeRozan for Leonard, as the Raptors are off to a 28-11 start and—they hope—are better equipped to compete in the playoffs with Leonard as their star.
While the 2018-19 Spurs have the league's second-best ATS mark at 22-15-1, the Raptors rank 24th at 17-21-1. The Spurs enter this one having gone 10-3 after an 11-14 start to their season. They have a proven track record of beating spreads in what are projected to be close games, having gone 13-4 against the spread this season in games with a line between +3 and -3, and 16-4 ATS at home against such lines since the beginning of last season.
San Antonio heads into this one with an edge in the frontcourt, as 6'11" LaMarcus Aldridge has averaged more than 30 PPG during the team’s current four-game ATS win streak. The Raptors, meanwhile, are without center Jonas Valanciunas, who will be missing his 10th straight game with a thumb injury. If Toronto opts to pay additional defensive attention to Aldridge, the Spurs will have the ability to counter with a perimeter shooting attack that currently leads the NBA in three-point percentage (39.7%).
Pick: Spurs (-1.5)
2. Denver Nuggets at Sacramento Kings (Total: 227)
Oddsmakers can't seem to set totals high enough for Sacramento this season. The over is 25-12 in Kings games this season, the highest rate for any NBA team. Over bettors have cleaned up especially well in recent weeks with the Kings, as they have hit the over in nine of their last 11 games, including against such high totals as 233 vs. the Lakers on December 30 and 238.5 vs. the Clippers four days prior to that.
Tonight’s game appears to be a spot where that trend will be bucked. The under hit against a total of 229.5 in the Kings' loss to Portland on Tuesday despite the fact that the game went into overtime. And while the Kings have gone over the total in 10 of the 11 games they've played on at least two days rest this season, the over is a far less profitable 15-11 in games Sacramento has played on one or fewer days rest. Plus, while the over is an astounding 16-3 in Kings road games, it's only 9-9 when Sacramento is playing at home. Add all of that to the fact that Denver recently introduced elite perimeter defender Gary Harris back into its lineup after Harris missed pretty much all of December with a hip injury, and tonight's game between the two teams looks like a situational under.
Pick: Under (227)
3. Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors (-8)
Chris Paul remains out of Houston's lineup after having sat out five games with a hamstring ailment, and so does Eric Gordon, who missed the Rockets' most recent game with a sore knee. The injuries have hardly slowed down the Rockets, however, as they've won and covered in five straight games. That streak can be attributed largely to James Harden, who averaged a stunning 41.8 points per game in that stretch.
As impressive as Harden's one-man shows have been for Houston, that's a hard routine to pull off against a Warriors defense that is arguably the league's most tenacious when it's locked in. Look no further than the final two games of last season's Western Conference Finals, which Paul missed with an injured hamstring after averaging 19.8 PPG in helping lead to Houston to a 3-2 series lead. Without CP3, Houston proceeded to lose Game 6, 115-86, and then Game 7 by a 101-92 score. Harden shot only 41.5% in those contests, and only 6-of-25 from three. Gordon took on a key role in those two games for the Rockets, averaging 21 PPG, so his absence tonight will leave Harden on his own to an even greater degree. Warriors should win by double digits here.
Pick: Warriors (-8)
Overall Record: 90-69-4