The NBA on ESPN is back tonight at 6:30pm CST, as Ben Simmons returns to Philadelphia with the Brooklyn Nets looking to slow down Joel Embiid, James Harden and the 76ers, who are 10-2 in their last 12 games and winners of their last five contests. Then, Ja Morant leads the Memphis Grizzlies into San Francisco for a Battle in the Bay with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the 9 PM CST nightcap.
You can bet your favorite spread, moneyline, total or game prop over with our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Nets (+5, +175 ML) at Sixers (-5, -205 ML) | Total: 224.5
As of writing, 62% of bets are on the Sixers to cover the spread, and 72% of the handle (money) is on Philadelphia as well according to VSiN. In short, public and sharp bettors are in agreement on this one. That makes sense, the Sixers have been rolling and the Nets have been overly reliant upon Kyrie Irving’s heroics since Kevin Durant went down with a knee injury. That may change if Joel Embiid (questionable with left foot soreness) is unable to give it a go tonight. As for the total, the public strongly favors the over, as 72% of bets are on over 224.5 points. Sharps are a little less sure, but 61% of the money is still on the over.
The Picks: Nets +5 | Over 224.5 (assuming Embiid is OUT)
The Sixers, surprisingly, have been scored more points, turned it over less, taken more 3s, and shot more efficiently from distance in the 12 games that Embiid has missed this season compared to when their perennial MVP candidate suits up. Head Coach Doc Rivers leans his squad even further into getting up in down the floor in transition with Tyrese Maxey and James Harden at the controls of the offense and give more minutes to their top shooter, Georges Niang. Between those three, Tobias Harris, De’Anthony Melton and Shake Milton, the Sixers have plenty of firepower and athleticism to turn this game into a track meet shootout. But without Embiid, their end of game offense won’t have a go-to option, and they may struggle to defend the rim in the half-court.
I see this style of game favoring the Nets. Irving is averaging 38.7 points over his last three games and 28.3 in Brooklyn’s previous 10 contests, while Simmons is one of the league’s top assets in an up-and-down game in which he can grab rebounds, sprint the floor and either finish or deliver darts to his teammates for open 3s. Between Irving, Royce O’Neale, Seth Curry, Joe Harris, and Yuta Watanabe the Nets have the advantage in floor spacing. They also have the leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year in Nic Claxton. So if the game does slow down, they have two of the best defenders on the planet in Claxton and Simmons, arguably the league’s top isolation scorer in Irving, and shooters all around them.
Grizzlies (+3.5, +140 ML) at Warriors (-3.5, -165 ML) | Total: 245.5
As of writing, 67% of bets have been wagered on the Warriors, along with 76% of the money. Both the public and the sharps are aligned here, with professional bettors on the Warriors slightly more than the average ticket placer. Golden State is an impressive 17-6 at Chase Center, while Memphis has turned in an 11-13 record on the road so far this season. It’s also a bounce back home spot for the Dubs, who are well rested after a 120-116 loss to the Nets at home on Sunday.
245.5 is a huge number for a total in the NBA, which is reflected by the skepticism from pros and joes alike. 64% of the total bets are on the under, while a whopping 78% of the handle agrees.
The Picks: Warriors -3.5 | Under 245.5
The Warriors are 14-8-1 against the spread at home (tied for sixth in the league), hitting at a 63.6% rate, and destroyed the Grizzlies in San Francisco back on Christmas Day without Steph Curry. Memphis talked a lot of trash before, during, and after their playoff loss to Golden State last season, and the Warriors don’t forget. They’ll be up to quiet a loud Grizzlies bunch whose villainous attitude has been fantastic for the NBA.
On the floor, Golden State Head Coach Steve Kerr has done a phenomenal job putting together defensive game plans to limit both Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane well below their season-long averages over the two teams’ handful of meetings. Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, and Klay Thompson create a rock solid triumvirate of defenders to mix and match on the Grizzlies’ dynamic pair, who haven’t been able to support Morant enough to lift Memphis over the defending champs. I expect that to continue tonight.
As for the total, These teams are first (GSW) and fourth (MEM) in pace this month, but are both below average in offensive rating. Memphis ranks 17th (113.6) and Golden State is 25th (111.6). A 61.5-point-per-quarter pace is a tough ask for two of the struggling offenses in the NBA right now. It’s hard to bet against the Splash Brothers and Morant, but there is too much defensive capability between Green, Jackson Jr., Wiggins, Dillon Brooks, and Kevon Looney to get north of 245.5.
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.
The Pick: Kyrie Irving o5.5 assists (-140)
Yes, I know there’s -140 juice here. But Irving has gone over this mark in eight straight games and Philadelphia has allowed opposing point guards De’Aaron Fox (9), Damian Lillard (11), Russell Westbrook (11), Mike Conley (8) and Killian Hayes (6, twice) and Corey Joseph (8) to go over this mark in their last handful of games. The Sixers are allowing the seventh-fewest assists to opposing point guards, but this line is too low; I’m surprised it isn’t closer to over 6.5 at -120 or -125, so I’ll take the -140 juice at 5.5.
Grizzlies at Warriors
The Pick: Desmond Bane u21.5 points (-115)
Bane has gone under this number in six of his last seven games against the Warriors, including the postseason. While yes, he is averaging 22.8 PPG over his last five games, Golden State is allowing the 12th-fewest points to opposing shooting guards and has shown the ability to keep him in check since he entered the league. If they continue to make him uncomfortable on the perimeter, run him off the line and force him to play below the arc, that’s a good recipe for success tonight.