- Having lost two straight games as a favorite, OKC should come out with intensity in San Antonio tonight.
After a 3-0 night on Wednesday, Three at 3 is serving up a trio of favorites for your Thursday night NBA bets.
1. Boston Celtics at Miami Heat (+2.5)
7:00 pm ET
Boston looks like a new team in the new year, starting off 2019 a perfect 4-0 with home wins over Minnesota, Dallas, Brooklyn and Indiana. The Celtics won each of those games by at least 13 points, won them by an average of 20.5 points and covered the spread in all four by an average of 13.8 points. Last night's win was by far the most impressive of the bunch, as Boston blew out an excellent Indiana team 135-108 (BOS -7.5). The Celtics never trailed and outscored the Pacers in every quarter, and racked up 32 assists. Of the six games in which Boston has tallied at least 32 assists this season, four have been in the four games they've played since Jan. 1. Brad Stevens finally has this team moving the ball effectively and consistently on offense.
The Celtics are only 10-10 on the road (8-12 against the spread) and 2-4 on zero days rest (1-5 ATS) on the season as a whole, which is why they're such short favorites in Miami tonight. But the back-to-back effect figures to be at least somewhat negated, given that no Celtics starter played more than 25 minutes in last night's rout of the Pacers. Plus, the Heat are the rare team that plays worse at home (9-12, 8-12-1 ATS, -0.4 net rating) than it does on the road (10-8, 12-6 ATS, +1.8 net rating). It's a perfect opportunity for Boston to find a rhythm away from TD Garden.
Pick: Celtics -2.5
2. Los Angeles Clippers at Denver Nuggets (-5.5)
The Nuggets are back at the Pepsi Center tonight after an underwhelming two-game road trip in which they lost 125-113 in Houston (HOU -1) and squeezed by Miami in a 103-99 nailbiter (DEN +2). Denver's failure to impress in those recent contests, paired with the fact that its last game against the Clippers was a 132-111 loss in L.A. on Dec. 22 (LAC -2), and you can see why some bettors might want to pile on the Clips in this one.
But to an even greater degree than most NBA teams, the Nuggets are a different team at home than they are on the road. (Maybe it's the altitude?) Denver is only 13th in the NBA in road net rating (-0.8), but ranks all the way up at second in home net rating (11.3). The Nuggets are 13-6 against the spread at home this season and 17-9 ATS when coming off a win, and should follow up their narrow victory in Miami with an emphatic one over the team that gave them their worst loss of the season.
Pick: Nuggets -5.5
3. Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs (+1.5)
While Boston earned the aforementioned luxury of resting many of its key players while blowing past Indiana, San Antonio had no such luck last night, falling 96-86 in Memphis as a 2.5-point favorite. The loss ended a five-game winning streak for the Spurs (and a six-game losing streak for the Grizzlies), and their offense was just as underwhelming as their season-low 86 points would suggest. Despite hitting 11 of 27 shots from deep (40.7%), they still shot a season-worst 36.1% from the floor. Such an offensive malaise can at least be partly attributed to the absence of Rudy Gay, who is San Antonio's third-leading scorer but missed his second straight game with a sprained left wrist.
Gay will remain sidelined tonight when the Spurs return home for a matchup with Oklahoma City, and the Thunder are the last team that an offensively shorthanded squad wants to see coming to town. OKC leads the NBA in defensive rating (102.2) and forces a league-high 18 turnovers per game. Coming off two consecutive straight-up losses as a favorite of at least 8.5 points, a prideful Thunder team figures to bring tons of intensity to tonight's matchup. Playing for the second night in a row, the Spurs will struggle to keep up.
Pick: Oklahoma City -1.5
Overall Record: 98-76-4