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NBA on ESPN Wednesday Preview: Cavaliers at Sixers, Pelicans at Lakers

ESPN has two great matchups of teams fighting for postseason seeding as LeBron James, Joel Embiid, Donovan Mitchell and Brandon Ingram are set to take the floor.

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New Orleans Pelicans v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images

The NBA on ESPN is back tonight at 6:30pm CST, as All-Star starter Donovan Mitchell takes the Cleveland Cavaliers to the City of Brotherly Love to battle six-time All-Star Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers, before Brandon Ingram will return to Hollywood looking to put the New Orleans Pelicans on his back against LeBron James and new-look Los Angeles Lakers at 9 PM CT.

DraftKings Odds

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

Cleveland Cavaliers v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Cavs (+2, +110 ML) at Sixers (-2, -130 ML) | Total: 217

As of writing, 55% of bets are on the Sixers to cover the spread, while 53% of the handle (money) is on the Cavaliers to keep it close on the road, according to VSiN. In short, public and sharp (professional) bettors are in slight disagreement on this one. That may change if Joel Embiid (questionable with left foot soreness) is unable to give it a go tonight, but the Sixers being favorites tells me Vegas expects the All-Star starter to give it a go. As for the total, the public strongly favors the over, as 90% of bets are on over 217 points. Sharps are right there with the public, as 86% of the money is on the over.

The Picks: Cavs +2 | Over 217

Cleveland is coming into this one riding a seven-game win streak to start the month that has vaulted them into the top four of the Eastern Conference, putting them on track to host a playoff series come April. During that stretch, Cavs Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s crew has the league’s top net rating — a whopping +16.5 — fueled by elite defense (103.7 defensive rating, first in NBA) and highly efficient shooting (61.7% TS, fifth in NBA). Better yet, they are completely healthy, a huge plus when going against a team as talented as their opponent tonight.

The Sixers are winners of their last three, but haven’t been very consistent from game-to-game. Tyrese Maxey has three games of 25 points or more over his last six, but he’s scored 12, six, and 12 points in the other three, respectively, while Tobias Harris has scored less than 10 points in three of his last six games, and is shooting just 34.6% from the floor over his last five. Joel Embiid and James Harden have been absolutely phenomenal of late, but outside of them, the Sixers haven’t been anything special, and the Cavaliers have put together excellent performances in slowing down opposing point guards and centers. Give me Cavs +2.

These two teams have played at a snail’s pace this month (Cleveland is 27th in pace and Philly is 28th), and both boast great defenses. But 217 is too low of a bar to clear for two of the most efficient shooting teams and above average offenses in terms of assist-to-turnover ratio of late. I like the over.

Los Angeles Lakers v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Pelicans (+4, +150 ML) at Lakers (-4, -175 ML) | Total: 234.5

As of writing, 64% of bets have been wagered on the Lakers, along with 81% of the money. Both the public and the sharps are aligned here, with professional bettors on L.A. slightly more than the average ticket placer. It’s also a bounce back home spot for the Lakers, who are looking to right the ship after a 127-115 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, the Lakers’ fourth loss in their last five games.

234.5 is becoming a more standard number for a total in the NBA, but the pros and joes are in agreement on the Lakers controlling the pace of the game with their fast tempo brand of basketball. 60% of the total bets and 70% of the handle are on the over.

The Picks: Lakers -4 | Over 234.5

After a 2-7 start to the season with both LeBron and Anthony Davis in the lineup, the Lakers are 9-7 since, including a win over the Pelicans in L.A. on November 2. Tonight, James is expected to return to the court after battling foot soreness for most of the New Year. He will suit up for the first time with the newest Lakers D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley and Mo Bamba, while the Pelicans are still without Zion Williamson and could be missing McCollum.

LeBron will now be flanked by two high-level spot up threats in Russell and Beasley, while adding a hustle guy in Vanderbilt that can do the dirty work that enables James to focus his efforts on offense. Beasley, Vanderbilt and Bamba will make the L.A. rotation much deeper and should take pressure off James and Davis by way of extending leads or treading water, instead of the bench getting killed when the team’s two stars are off the floor. Starting Davis at center is a unique challenge for Jonas Valančiūnas, who struggles to defend in space. New Orleans is better suited to defend guards and smaller wings than a pair like the James/Davis tandem, and L.A. simply has more firepower than the Pelicans do.

If the Lakers can force turnovers can get out and run in transition, this game should both fly over 234.5 and result in a double-digit L.A. win.

Los Angeles Lakers v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/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.

Cavs at Sixers

The Pick: Evan Mobley over 15.5 points (-130)

Mobley is averaging 19 points per game over his last three outings, and 17.7 over his previous 10. Philadelphia allows the fifth-most points per game to power forwards this season, and Mobley put up 16 in his first outing against the Sixers this season.

Pelicans at Lakers

The Pick: Brandon Ingram over 36.5 points + rebounds + assists (-115)

Ingram has gone over this mark in four of his last five games and now faces a Lakers team that is last in the NBA in both points and PRA allowed per game to opposing small forwards. The former Laker had 44 PRA a few weeks ago, including 35 points. Additionally, CJ McCollum is very questionable with a right ankle sprain, so if McCollum is unable to go, expect Ingram to initiate most of the offense and rack up assists when he isn’t scoring. Ingram took 24 shots in a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, so the volume should be there tonight.

Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.