Nobody wanted to play basketball on Sunday. Monday was a day. Tuesday was about a game that wasn’t played, not one that was.
But Wednesday crept closer to normalcy. Victor Oladipo returning gave us our first meaningful on-court story since Sunday. Twitter argued about James Harden and Damian Lillard. Games were played without honorary shot-clock violations. The basketball world started turning again.
That’s very important for gamblers. I advised bettorswith the news of Kobe Bryant’s death still fresh. It will still make an impact in the coming days, and today’s first pick reflects that, but at this point, betting in general seems safe. The basketball world appears ready to focus on basketball again.
1. Sacramento Kings at Los Angeles Clippers: Clippers -11.5
Thursday’s circumstances have created something of a rarity for bettors this season: for once, we know that the Clippers are going to take a game seriously. With Tuesday’s game postponed, it will be the Clippers, not the Lakers, to play the NBA‘s first game in Los Angeles since the death of Kobe Bryant. Doc Rivers had to fight through tears to speak about him when he first heard the news. Both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George (who is expected to play Thursday) are from Los Angeles and grew up watching Bryant. They are going to want to do Kobe, and his city, proud. That they are playing a Kings team two nights removed from blowing a 14-point lead with under two minutes to go just makes that task easier. Sacramento is in disarray, and the Clippers will pounce in their most important game this season to date.
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2. Utah Jazz at Denver Nuggets: Nuggets -1.5
Denver’s injuries create understandable pause here. While the Nuggets have generally played well since Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap went down, they laid an egg against Memphis that should reasonably make bettors nervous. That being said, this line is slanted too far in Utah’s favor to be ignored. The Jazz are only 14-11 on the road, a record that falls to 12-12-1 against the spread. The Jazz are dominant at home, but given their relatively uninspiring road play, they shouldn’t be treated as the juggernaut they’ve looked like at times over the past month in every game. This is a team that just lost to the Rockets without James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon. A road win in Denver is a tall order.
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3. Charlotte Hornets at Washington Wizards: Hornets +3.5
The Wizards have played horrid defense all season, but the past few weeks have been especially atrocious. They have allowed more than 150 points in back-to-back games, one of which came against a Bucks team missing Giannis Antetokounmpo, and three of their four games before that ended with the Wizards allowing at least 124 points. No, Charlotte hasn’t played well lately either, but let’s game this out. Washington has allowed at least 124 points in five of its past six total games. If that trend holds, the Wizards would need to score at least 128 to guarantee a victory against the spread. That’s hardly a lock even given their strong offense. While they’ve done so three times in their past four games, they went 17 games without doing so before that. Until the Wizards shore up their defense, they should be viewed as a target.
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