Philadelphia 76ers (+3.5) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (-3.5)
With Joel Embiid out for the season, Ben Simmons right there with him, and Nerlens Noel jumping center for the Dallas Mavericks, the Philadelphia 76ers may never be favored in a game again. And for good reason.
In the 2,210 minutes the Sixers have played without Embiid this season, they are getting outscored by 9.6 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com. That would be the worst net rating in the NBA by a country mile, a harrowing development knowing Philly already ranks 28th overall in that department.
The Milwaukee Bucks haven’t been world-beaters, particularly on the road. They have one of the league’s worst net ratings in crunch time, and their defense has placed among the worst in the NBA in recent weeks, once again according to NBA.com.
Still, given the option, there is no alternative here. Whenever the spread is this small against the shorthanded Sixers, it’s wise to bet against them.
The Pick: Milwaukee Bucks (-3.5)
Detroit Pistons (-4.5) vs. Chicago Bulls (+4.5)
The Detroit Pistons have one of the league’s best defensive ratings, in terms of points allowed per 100 possessions, since the start of February, according to NBA.com. That should pose a problem for a 19th-ranked Chicago Bulls offense that, despites its lackluster placement, has arguably overachieved.
But the Bulls know how to lock down. They are 13th in points allowed per 100 possessions and get to face a Pistons rotation that has one of the statistically worse starting fives in all of basketball, by net rating.
Which isn’t to say the Bulls will win. They have been iffy at best when playing on the road, posting a 12-18 record. But considering how the personnel on these two teams matchup, along with their overlapping play style, it’s best to expect a hyper-close outcome.
The Pick: Chicago Bulls (+4.5)
Atlanta Hawks (+5.5) vs. Golden State Warriors (-5.5)
It is taking the Golden State Warriors some time to adjust to life without Kevin Durant. They are 1-2 since his injury, if you include the contest with the Washington Wizards in which he was actually injured.
Perhaps their most concerning game came against the New York Knicks on Sunday. They barely won versus one of the worst teams in the Association. It took them until late in the fourth quarter to pull away, which didn’t allow their starters any rest. Throw in Stephen Curry’s recent slump from beyond the arc, and this second game of a back-to-back is dangerous territory.
Except, the Atlanta Hawks have been hot and cold themselves. And they’re working off a buzzer-beating loss to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday that sucked the life out of them. Even if the Warriors mess around again, they should still secure a victory by at least six points.
The Pick: Golden State Warriors (-5.5)
San Antonio Spurs (-3.5) vs. Houston Rockets (+3.5)
Offense meets defense when the San Antonio Spurs play host to the Houston Rockets. The Spurs lead the NBA in points allowed per 100 possessions, while the Rockets place second in points scored per 100 possessions.
Though the Spurs are efficient on the offensive end themselves, checking in at fifth on the efficiency scale, the Rockets drill nearly six three-pointers more per game—an 18-point difference that should make up any deficit they experience on the defensive end.
Roll with the Spurs, because they are the Spurs, but if the line moves to five or more by betting time, consider going the other way.
The Pick: San Antonio Spurs (-3.5)
Los Angeles Clippers (-6) vs. Boston Celtics (+6)
Al Horford probably won’t be suiting up for the Boston Celtics, who lost at the buzzer to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday in what can only be described as an inexcusable collapse.
Facing a full-strength Los Angeles Clippers squad on the second end of a back-to-back isn’t a remedy to that kind of loss. But Avery Bradley is expected to play, and the defense played by him, Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart should be enough to keep the Celtics within striking distance all night.