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NBA on TNT Thursday Preview: Celtics/Nets and Mavericks/Lakers

Jayson Tatum and the Celtics invade Brooklyn to take on the Nets without Kevin Durant before LeBron James and the Lakers host Luka Dončić and the Mavericks.

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NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA on TNT returns tonight with Inside the NBA at 6:00 PM CT before the games kick off at 6:30 PM CT with a thrilling matchup of Eastern Conference powers before two of the game’s best take center stage in Los Angeles.

First, Jayson Tatum will lead his defending Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics on the road to take on Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets. Then, LeBron James and Luka Dončić will square off in a highly anticipated matchup of MVP candidates as the Dallas Mavericks visit the City of Angels to battle the gritty Los Angeles Lakers.

Here’s a look at the betting breakdown ahead of tonight’s matchups:

DraftKings Odds

(As of 12 PM CT on Thursday)

You can bet your favorite spread, moneyline, total or game prop over with our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.

2022 NBA Playoffs - Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Celtics (-3, -150 ML) at Nets (+3, +130 ML) | Total: 228

Currently, Boston -3 is receiving 65% of the overall betting handle (proportion of total money wagered), and 73% percent of the total bets placed according to VSiN. That could change, though, if one or both of Marcus Smart (left knee contusion) or Robert Williams III (left knee injury management) are able to play after they both missed last night’s 125-114 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

This suggests the public is betting on the Celtics more than sharp, professional bettors are. Anytime you find a higher bet percentage higher than handle percentage, it’s a sign that sharps are fading the public. In this case, the public is fairly split on the game, but pros are favoring the Nets.

69% of the handle and 76% of the total wagers are on over 228, suggesting that the smart money is on the under in this matchup.

Tonight’s matchup is a fascinating one considering how different each team’s contribution distribution projects to be.

All year, Brooklyn has relied upon Kevin Durant’s incredible two-way consistency to lead them to the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference. Now that Durant (29.7 PPG) is expected to miss up to a month with an MCL sprain in his right knee, Nets Head Coach Jacque Vaughn will rely upon Kyrie Irving (26.0 PPG) to fill that lead scorer role, but beyond that, everyone up and down the Brooklyn roster — from Nic Claxton and TJ Warren to Royce O’Neale and Ben Simmons — will need to be ready to contribute in what should be a very fast-paced, up-and-down game.

On the other side, Boston Head Coach Joe Mazzulla will look to Jayson Tatum (30.8 PPG) and Jaylen Brown (27.2 PPG) to carry the league’s top offense. The Celtics are trying to rebound after a disappointing December, in which they recorded an offensive rating of just 110.9, good for 27th in the NBA. Even while the team struggled, Tatum and Brown still accounted for 58.5 PPG to keep the team afloat while no other player averaged more than 11.7 PPG last month. How much the Celtics can get beyond those two, especially from their A+ complementary guard triumvirate of Malcolm Brogdon, Marcus Smart and Derrick White, will likely determine the outcome of this one.

The Picks: Celtics -3 | Over 228

Assuming Smart and Williams III are able to give it a go, the Celtics are built to find success against a Nets team that will have to rely on its explosive offense to keep pace with the Celtics’ systematic attack that can take advantage of mismatches at all three levels of the floor. When your best strength (scoring) isn’t as good as your opponent’s ability to do just that, it’s hard to win in the NBA, especially if you find yourself at a star disadvantage, which the Nets do.

Give me the Celtics and the over.

Los Angeles Lakers v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Mavericks (-2.5, -145 ML) at Lakers (+2.5, +125 ML) | Total: 235.5

The Mavs are receiving 57% of the handle on the spread and 62% of the overall wagers, per VSiN. The public Dallas, but the sharps are leaning towards King James and the LakeShow. The sides are in agreement, however, on the total in this matchup; over 235.5 is receiving a whopping 93% of the total money wagered yet only 71% of the total wagers.

The Picks: Lakers +125 ML, Over 235.5

Nobody is playing a faster pace this month than the Lakers (105.3), who are 4-1 while boasting an above average offensive rating (115.6, 14th) and defensive rating (112.7, 11th). Dennis Schröder (21.8 PPG in January) has been fantastic as a second scoring option beside James, while Thomas Bryant’s return from injury has been a major boost as well. Russell Westbrook continues to deliver a solid punch off the bench as the team’s Sixth Man and different role players beyond those four have given important efforts seemingly every night to keep pushing the Lakers up the standings.

On the other side, Dallas is simply just too injured to be able to match what the Lakers are bringing offensively. Key long-term, complementary pieces to Dončić in Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber are out, while Dwight Powell (right hip contusion) is very questionable to play.

Christian Wood is not a positively impactful player on a nightly basis like the Mavericks need him to be, while Tim Hardaway Jr. and Spencer Dinwiddie experience too much shooting efficiency variance to be counted on to deliver supplementary scoring consistently. Beyond those three, rookie Jaden Hardy has been their next best option of late, which is a tough spot to be in for the Mavericks.

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Prop Report

While not the most popular angle for basketball bettors to take, I find it much easier to find an advantage against sportsbooks when researching player props. With that in mind, let’s take a look at one pick for each game that stands out. You can view DraftKings Sportsbook’s player props for each game here.

Celtics at Nets

The Pick: Royce O’Neale over 9.5 points (-115)

O’Neale may be averaging just 7.3 points per game over the Nets’ last three games but it isn’t for a lack of shooting. His attempts are up to 7.3 from 3 and 9.3 overall, clear jumps on his season averages as a result of Durant’s injury. I expect the bulk of the Celtics’ defensive attention to center on Irving and Simmons, which should open up secondary scoring options like O’Neale and Warren to see more shots. Boston is 20th in PPG allowed to opposing small forwards this season, so it’s worth a shot considering O’Neale should see 33-37 minutes in what could be a shootout.

Mavericks at Lakers

The Pick: Dennis Schröder over 15.5 points (-115)

There is clear value on Schröder here, whom DraftKings is clearly betting on to come down from his recent stretch of outstanding play. Dallas is 21st in defensive rating (114.8), allows the seventh-most shots in the short mid-range area (and fifth highest percentage on those shots), and Schroder has gone over 15.5 points in three of his last four games. Combine that with the 17.4 shots and 43.6 minutes per game he is averaging over his last five and you’ve got a good spot for Schröder to score some points


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