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NBA on ESPN Friday Preview: Nets/Celtics and Grizzlies/Nuggets

Can Jayson Tatum keep it rolling? Will Ja Morant out-duel two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokić? ESPN’s Friday night slate will give us some answers.

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Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The NBA on ESPN is back tonight at 6:30pm CST, as All-Star Game MVP Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics host Mikal Bridges and the Brooklyn Nets, before Ja Morant the Memphis Grizzlies fly a Mile High to take on MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets.

DraftKings Odds

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

Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Nets (+11, +430 ML) at Celtics (-11, -560 ML) | Total: 227.5

As of writing, 70% of bets are on the Celtics to cover the spread, while a whopping 87% of the handle (money) is coming in on the same side, according to VSiN. In short, public and sharp (professional) bettors are in major agreement on this one. As for the total, the public strongly favors the over, as 70% of bets are on over 227.5 points. Sharps aren’t quite as enthusiastic about the over, but are also backing it, as 58% of the handle is on the over.

The Picks: Nets +11 | Under 227.5

The Nets are uniquely equipped with the individual defensive talents to slow down a Celtics team with a balanced attack up and down the roster. Mikal Bridges and Dorian Finny-Smith are capable of making life difficult enough for Jaylen Brown and Tatum, respectively, while Nic Claxton can match up with Rob Williams III in the front-court.

Now, the Nets are 26th in the NBA in defensive rating (120.6) over the last 10 games, and the team being bottom 10 in both opponent second chance points (14.2) and opponent points off turnovers (17.2) certainly does not help. But Brooklyn only needs to keep the game within 11 points, should have better focus after an embarrassing 24-point loss to the New York Knicks.

Boston is first in the league in 3-pointers made (17.8) and 3-point percentage (42.2%) over the last 10 games, but the team — and especially Tatum — has been living and dying with the 3. Conversely, Brooklyn’s defense is fourth in fewest 3-point attempts allowed per game over the last 10, and the Celtics are 22nd in paint scoring in the same span. If the Nets can run their opponent off the line and force them to play in the mid-range, I like Brooklyn to prevent a blowout in a lower scoring affair.

Denver Nuggets v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Grizzlies (+5, +160 ML) at Nuggets (5, -190 ML) | Total: 234

As of writing, 65% of bets have been wagered on the Nuggets, along with 85% of the money. Both the public and the sharps are aligned here, with professional bettors on Denver slightly more than the average ticket placer. It’s also a chance for the Nuggets to get back at the Grizz for a 112-94 loss without Aaron Gordon in Memphis last weekend, and extend their lead atop the West out to 6.0 games.

234 is becoming a more standard number for a total in the NBA, but the pros and joes are in disagreement on the this one. 58% of the total bets are on the over, but 67% of the handle is on the under.

The Picks: Nuggets -5 | Under 234

This one isn’t all that complicated. Denver is an NBA-best 28-4 at home, while Memphis is 12-18 on the road and lost by 14 without Desmond Bane in the Mile High City back in December to a Nuggets team playing without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. All three are back tonight, but the Grizzlies may fall victim to progression to the mean.

MPJ, Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Vlatko Cancar shot a combined 2/19 (10.5%) from 3 in Memphis last weekend, while Jokić took only 11 shots. I do not think the Nuggets will replicate that playing at home. And while Morant, Bane and Santi Aldama combined to shoot 3/16 (18.8%) from 3, Tyus Jones and Luke Kennard shot 9/15 (60%), which balances things out a bit.

I’d expect Jokić to be much more aggressive and shooters to find the bottom of the net more in a very slow-paced game that grinds on the Grizzlies’ interior defense. These two teams have played twice this season, with totals of 196 and 204, respectively. I’d be very surprised if the total got back up north of 234, but crazier things have happened.

Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/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.

Nets at Celtics

The Pick: Jayson Tatum under 28.5 points (-115)

Tatum has gone under 18.5 points in two of his last three games, let alone under 28.5 going up against a nightmare defensive trio of Mikal Bridges, Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale. So much of Tatum’s scoring is predicated on getting to the free throw line, as he’s shot a total of 6 free throws in games he’s scored 14 points, 18 points, and 12 points in his last 10. In his games of 41, 38 and 41 in the same stretch, he’s shot 37 freebies. I like the Nets to keep him off the line and under 28.5 points.

Grizzlies at Nuggets

The Pick: Aaron Gordon over 24.5 points + rebounds + assists (-120)

Gordon did not play in the matchup last weekend, but is back tonight, and he has been excellent at home. The beloved swingman is averaging 16.3 PPG at home over his last 10 home games, including three games of 24+ points, to go with 5.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists. Overall, he’s putting up 30.8 PRA over his last five games and 29.5 PRA over his last 10, and faces a favorable matchup against a Memphis team that is allowing the ninth-most PRA to opposing power forwards.

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