The NBA on ESPN is back tonight at 6:30pm CST with an exhilarating doubleheader. To kick things off, James Harden and Kyrie Irving meet again, as the Philadelphia 76ers play host to the Dallas Mavericks. Joel Embiid is the likely (for now) MVP, and he and perennial pre-season MVP favorite Luka Doncic are the headliners between two teams headed in opposite directions.
Following the conclusion of that game, we will head out west as Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and the Phoenix Suns play host to your Minnesota Timberwolves. We obviously have interest in this one from a Wolves perspective, but the greater public will be tuning in to watch Durant make his return form an ankle injury he sustained in early March.
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Mavs (+5.5, +180 ML) at Sixers (-5.5, -210 ML) | Total: 231
As of writing only 46% of bets are on the Mavs to cover the 5.5-point spread, and there is even less faith from the professional bettors. Just 33% of the handle (money) has been wagered on Dallas, according to VSiN. The public and the pros agree that the mercurial Mavericks are a tough team to back right now.
The Picks: Sixers -5.5 | Under 231
Simply put, I cannot bring myself to bet on the team with the worst vibes in the leagues right now. Is that sounds gambling advice? Absolutely not. Do I mean it wholeheartedly? Sure do! Feeling so strongly opposed to a team with talents like Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving is a bit nerve-wracking, but things seem so bad in Dallas right now that I’m not sure it matters. Plus, Dallas has maybe the worst interior defense of teams who have ambitions of playing into May, which is just a recipe for disaster against Joel Embiid. So long as he plays, I expect him to get 40+.
Wolves (+6, +200 ML) at Suns (-6, -240 ML) | Total: 235
The public and the sharps are on the same side in the nightcap as well. As of late Tuesday night, 41% of bets placed haven been on Minnesota, as well as just 25% of the money. People are excited about what a fully-operational Suns team with both Devin Booker and Kevin Durant looks like, and it’s hard to blame them.
As for the total we have a rather predictable outcome with the public (58% of bets) preferring the over and the sharps (77% of money) on the under. There’s still time for those numbers to meet closer to the middle, but it’s pretty clear the pros are banking on a Suns / under outcome. With Minnesota at the tail end of a brutal west coast road trip, that seems logical.
The Picks: Suns -6 | Under 230.5
Kevin Durant returns, and the Timberwolves figure to have their whole slate of stars as well, with only Taurean Prince and Jaylen Nowell being roation-ish players who are iffy to play. The amount of length and talent on the floor is going to be remarkable, and I am looking forward to this game regardless of the outcome.
The Wolves have been so impressive over the last week or so, and come into this game on a four-game winning streak. I expect this to be a tight game for most of the night, but ultimately, this is Minnesota’s third game in four nights, all against teams that hope to make the Western Conference Finals at a minimum. They expended a remarkable amount of energy Monday night against the Sacramento Kings, and could very well just be exhausted by the time this fourth quarter rolls around. The Wolves keep this one close, but Phoenix pulls away at the end to cover the spread.