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NBA on ESPN Preview: Hornets at Celtics, Cavaliers at Pelicans

It’s a Friday night doubleheader from Boston and New Orleans on ESPN

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NBA: Boston Celtics at Charlotte Hornets Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA on ESPN is back tonight at 6:30pm CST with a fun doubleheader. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and the Boston Celtics play host to the ... confusing, let’s say, Charlotte Hornets. If ESPN’s goal for tonight was to showcase two polar opposites in terms of ability to build and maintain a talented roster, they’ve accomplished that with their first game. Following the conclusion of that game, we will head south to watch the New Orleans Pelicans play host to one of the most fun League Pass teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers. This is the type of game that the NBA needs to do a better job of marketing, as it should be an absolute blast of a game to watch.

DraftKings Odds

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NBA: Boston Celtics at Charlotte Hornets Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Hornets (+10, +370 ML) at Celtics (-10, -460 ML) | Total: 226.5

As of writing 70% of bets are on the Celtics to cover the monstrous 10-point spread, and 70% of the handle (money) is also on Boston, according to VSiN. Basically, the public likes Boston, and the professional bettors who are laying down the serious money like them juuuuust a little bit more. That’s unsurprising to me, in large part because Charlotte just feels like the single most unserious franchise in the NBA right now. They’re in a dogfight for the best lottery odds in the league, and yet, they hung onto players like PJ Washington at the trade deadline that they seem to have no desire to pay.

Anyways, the public and the sharps are split on the total, in predictable fashion. Currently, 61% of bets are on the over (shocked face!), while just 36% of the handle is on the over. Assuming Boston plays with any effort and discipline, I think they will make this just a truly miserable experience for Charlotte. All of the things, aside from talent, that makes the Celtics real championship contenders are the things missing from the Hornets infrastructure that has them in the Victor Wembenyama sweepstakes.

The Picks: Celtics -10 | Under 228.5

I don’t want to spend this entire space trashing the Hornets. I really don’t. So, I’m going to take my mother’s advice, and go with “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Cavs (-2, -130 ML) at Pelicans (+2, +110 ML) | Total: 224

Even with Zion Williamson still out due to a hamstring injury, I am so, so excited for this game. As of writing, 75% of bets are on the Cavs as road favorites, and the pros like the Cavs even more, with 86% of the money on them as well. That’s a little bit surprising to me, with all Pelicans rotation players available to play aside from Zion.

As for the total, you will never believe how the bets are broken out. In a shocking turn of events, once again the public loves the over (75% of bets on the over), while 72% of the money is on the under. Who could have guessed that!

The Picks: Cavs -2 | Under 224

Have I mentioned I’m excited for this game? Because I am.

Okay, give me the Cavs. It’s a tougher spot than I’d like, but I just love this team, and really think their size is going to give New Orleans problems. Particularly with the way Isaac Okoro has been playing in between the four “stars” on Cleveland, they are beginning to round into form. Okoro is a defensive ace that handles most of the smaller players they see, but has also been shooting it well of late. That’s always been the swing skill for him, and over his last 15 games he is shooting roughly 36% from three. That’s nothing crazy, but it’s enough to make it harder for teams to just completely leave him alone.

On the total, I really just believe in the way Cleveland can both control the pace of the game, as well as their ability to defend. It should be no surprise that they lead the NBA in defensive rating, allowing just 109.0 points per-100 possessions. They completely shut off the rim with Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, and Okoro being playable has made their perimeter defense more stout as well.

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