Pelicans vs. Bucks NBA Preview

D.J. Augustin #12 of the Milwaukee Bucks handles the ball.  Stacy Revere/Getty Images/AFP

D.J. Augustin #12 of the Milwaukee Bucks handles the ball. Stacy Revere/Getty Images/AFP

 

The Milwaukee Bucks are on a winning streak, but are they good enough to beat the New Orleans Pelicans and the NBA odds this Thursday?

New Orleans Pelicans vs. Milwaukee Bucks

at Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee

 

The vultures were circling for Mike Budenholzer. The head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks is not the most popular person in the Cream City – certainly not after the Bucks lost back-to-back games at home to the Toronto Raptors, bringing up painful memories of their crushing defeat in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals. But then a funny thing happened: The Bucks won their next three games. Granted, it was against three double-digit road dogs, but Milwaukee covered all three to improve to 19-13 SU and 16-16 ATS. Budenholzer’s job appears safe for now.

Stan Van Gundy has even more job security with the New Orleans Pelicans (14-17 SU, 13-18 ATS). This is Year One for Van Gundy’s rebuilding project in the Big Easy, and while there’s plenty of work to be done, he’s got one of the most promising young lineups in the Association. The Pelicans look like the right choice for Thursday’s matchup with Milwaukee after opening as 9-point road dogs on the NBA odds board at bet365. But there may be a better choice for your hard-earned money.

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Trail Blazers vs. Nuggets NBA Preview

 

Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets reacts. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP

Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets reacts. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP

The Over is a popular NBA pick for Tuesday’s Northwest Division matchup between the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets.

 

 Portland Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets

at Ball Arena

 

What happens when you take a tired team and make it climb a mountain? We’ll find out Tuesday night when the Denver Nuggets (16-14 SU, 13-17 ATS) host the Portland Trail Blazers (18-12 SU, 16-14 ATS). Portland played and lost Monday night; if that weren’t enough, they had to travel for Tuesday’s matchup. This is bound to have some impact on the NBA odds – specifically, the total, which opened at 231 points at bet365. The question is whether those tired legs will benefit the Over or the Under. Sharp bettors appear to have chosen the former for their NBA picks, pushing the total up to 232 points in early betting, and there could still be some value on that side; the Trail Blazers (Over 17-13) have the Over at 4-0 in their last four games playing on zero days of rest. The Nuggets, meanwhile, have been highly profitable with the Over this year at 21-9, including 10-4 at home.

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Raptors vs. Bucks NBA Preview

Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors and Pat Connaughton #24 of the Milwaukee Bucks on February 16, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.    Stacy Revere/Getty Images/AFP

Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors and Pat Connaughton #24 of the Milwaukee Bucks on February 16, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Stacy Revere/Getty Images/AFP

 

The Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks and the NBA odds on Tuesday. They’ll get another crack at it Thursday night at Fiserv Forum.

 

Toronto Raptors vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Thursday, February 18, 2021 – 7:30 PM ET at Fiserv Forum

 

It’s always nice to handicap a game that we’ve already seen before. The Toronto Raptors (13-15 SU, 12-16 ATS) visit the Milwaukee Bucks (16-12 SU, 13-15 ATS) this Thursday, two days after beating them 124-113 as 6-point road dogs. That performance tells us a lot about both teams – especially the Raptors, who went small with both OG Anunoby and Norman Powell in the starting lineup, and Aron Baynes coming off the bench.

Unfortunately, the Raptors might have to trot out yet another different starting five on Thursday. Kyle Lowry is iffy at the 1-spot after spraining his left ankle in their first meeting. We also don’t know as of press time whether Bucks point guard Jrue Holiday will make his return from the COVID-19 list. With those two players in question, this could be a good spot to roll with the Under.

 

Steady Freddie

This would be a different play from what I would normally recommend for the Raptors. They’re not the same defensive presence they were last year, now that both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka have moved on; the Over has been the better NBA pick thus far at 17-11. However, taking Lowry (plus-0.6 VORP) out of the lineup would change things somewhat. He’s still one of Toronto’s better scorers as he gets ready to turn 35 next month, but Lowry isn’t getting as many whistles at the other end of the court as he used to.

It won’t be a crisis for the Raps themselves if Lowry doesn’t play. His On/Off stats at Basketball Reference show a tiny minus-0.1 points per 100 possessions; Fred VanVleet (plus-1.2 VORP) is already putting his stamp on this team, and Pascal Siakam (plus-0.4 VORP) is also capable of moving the ball up the court. But Toronto’s offense is definitely better with Lowry in uniform – and their defense much improved now that Anunoby (plus-0.5 VORP) has returned from a 10-game absence, where the Over went 8-2.

 

Working Holiday

Milwaukee’s offense would certainly be better with Holiday (plus-1.1 VORP) running the show. They gave up a pretty penny to land Holiday during the offseason – maybe too pretty – but he’s a significant upgrade over their other options. The Under will have more legs Thursday if the Bucks start Donte DiVincenzo (plus-0.3 VORP) and Bryn Forbes (minus-0.1 VORP) in the backcourt again, and if D.J. Augustin (0.0 VORP) gets more minutes off the bench.

There probably won’t be any NBA lines for this matchup until more is known about the status of Lowry and Holiday, although there might be some odds available by the time you read this. Make it a small bet in any case, given all the uncertainty, but don’t be shy about taking the Under if both point guards are out.

 

NBA Pick: Under 234 (-105) with PoinstBet

Nets vs. Suns NBA Preview

Dario Saric #20 of the Phoenix Suns on February 13, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona.  Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP

Dario Saric #20 of the Phoenix Suns on February 13, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP

 

The new-look Brooklyn Nets have made the Over a highly profitable NBA pick – but can they can do it again this Tuesday versus the Phoenix Suns?

 

Brooklyn Nets vs. Phoenix Suns

Tuesday, February 16, 2021 – 10:30 PM ET at PHX Arena

 

The Brooklyn Nets are absolutely incredible. Now that James Harden is playing alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Nets have arguably the best offense basketball fans have ever seen – and the worst defense. I touched on this a couple of weeks ago when the Nets hosted the Los Angeles Clippers, and recommended the Over for your NBA picks; sure enough, Brooklyn (+1.5) won 124-120 to just slip over the 241.5-point total.

But is it too late to hammer the Over for Tuesday’s road game against the Phoenix Suns? With the Over now sitting at 21-8 for the Nets, their totals are getting larger and larger, and while Tuesday’s over/under opened at 230 points on the NBA odds board at PointsBet, that’s one of the biggest totals Phoenix (Under 15-11) have seen all season. Maybe the spread is the right call with PointsBet pricing the Suns at –2, and Brooklyn going 10-6 SU and 7-9 ATS since the Harden trade.

 

Better Call Paul

There’s no question about Phoenix (17-9 SU and ATS) and their ability to beat the NBA lines. This small-market team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2010, partly because of a string of failed front offices, but all those lottery picks are starting to bear fruit. Mikal Bridges (plus-1.0 VORP) has been the best of the bunch; Deandre Ayton (plus-0.2 VORP) has his flaws, but he’s a useful big man with a nose for rebounds, and Devin Booker (plus-0.3 VORP) is the club’s top scorer at 25.1 points per 36 minutes.

The biggest change for the Suns has been at point guard, where the offseason acquisition of Chris Paul (plus-1.2 VORP) has pushed them into the top half of the Western Conference. At age 35, Paul isn’t playing at the same MVP level we saw earlier in his career, but he’s still a viable All-Star, and a significant upgrade over Ricky Rubio. Jae Crowder (plus-0.4 VORP) has also provided solid 3-and-D play for his new employers after signing a three-year, $29-million deal in November.

 

Hamstrung

The Nets have been through even bigger changes the past season or two. They took a gamble when they signed both Durant and Irving (plus-1.2 VORP apiece) last year, given their injury situation and Irving’s difficulty jelling with his teammates. Then Brooklyn doubled down by adding Harden (plus-1.5 VORP) to the mix. Getting Harden and Irving on the same page hasn’t been easy, but Irving recently told reporters that he’s going to focus on scoring, while Harden handles the point guard duties. How serious he was about that remains to be seen.

Unfortunately for the Nets, they won’t have all of their superstars in the lineup on Tuesday. Durant was held out of Monday’s 136-125 win over the Sacramento Kings (Over 242.5) as 5-point road faves with a tender left hamstring, and was ruled out for the Phoenix game as well. Without the most reliable member of their Big Three, and playing on zero days of rest with travel included, this is a tight spot for Brooklyn – and a golden opportunity for Phoenix supporters to cash in.

 

NBA Pick: Suns –2 (–110) at PointsBet

Lakers vs. Nuggets NBA Preview

Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks to pass the ball. Meg Oliphant/Getty Images/AFP

Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks to pass the ball. Meg Oliphant/Getty Images/AFP

The Lakers will attempt to win their eighth straight game on the road against the Nuggets. Can Los Angeles stay hot? Here’s the best bet.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets

Sunday, February 14, 2021 – 10:00 PM EST at Ball Arena

 

The Los Angeles Lakers have won seven straight games and will put their streak up against the Nuggets when they travel to Denver. The Nuggets have won back-to-back games finally getting some momentum beyond .500.

As of now, the Lakers should be at full strength but a day of rest could be in the cards for either LeBron James or Anthony Davis. Make sure you follow injury reports and statuses before making a bet on this game.

The Lakers average 113.2 points per game and defend well allowing just 105.2 points per game. They’re scoring 114 points per 100 possessions and have an effective field goal percentage of 55.3 percent. Both of those numbers are top 10 in the NBA.

The Lakers will turn over the basketball at 15 percent and that should remain true against the Nuggets, who have done well forcing turnovers on defense. The Lakers are about average on the offensive glass and at getting to the line but match-up well against the Nuggets in both of those categories.

James averages a team-high 25.6 points per game along with 7.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists. It’s not quite a triple-double but it’s extremely close. James has still got it.

He’s been getting help from Anthony Davis who is also averaging over 20 points per game at 22.9 points. Davis has chipped in with 8.6 rebounds with two coming on the offensive glass per game.

The Lakers haven’t had the best offense but have been one of the best teams on defense. They’re allowing 105.2 points per 100 possessions and have limited teams to a 51.4 percent effective field goal percentage. They haven’t been a heavy turnover team on defense but should still get their fair share of about 14 percent in this game. The Lakers have also done well on the defensive glass and have limited free throws which has been the real key to their success on defense.

The Nuggets have been the best offensive rebounding team in the country. If the Lakers are able to prevent second chances and limit fouls, the Lakers will run away with it.

The Nuggets average 116.8 points per 100 possessions and have an effective field goal percentage of 55.6 percent. Both rank 6th in the league. What makes the Nuggets offense so special is their ability to get quality looks and if they miss, they’ll offensive rebound 29 percent of the time.

The Nuggets are led by Nikola Jokic who is averaging a near triple-double with 26.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.6 assists. Jokic is a monster on the offensive glass bringing down three offensive rebounds per game.

He and Jamal Murray play an average of about 35 minutes each. Murray is scoring 18.3 points per game as the point guard of this team. He’s the second best passer on the team, trailing the big man Jokic in assists.

Denver has a solid offense but their defense has been a bit off this season. Denver is allowing 113 points per 100 possessions and are allowing teams to shoot a 55 percent effective field goal percentage.

The only thing the Nuggets have for them on defense is their ability to force turnovers. The Nuggets are forcing 15.1 percent of turnover and should be able to get turnovers at that same rate against the Lakers.

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