We’re getting deeper into March and college basketball is taking over the airwaves, but the NBA — especially on a Friday — will not be ignored.
Tonight’s slate is deep and full of storylines with Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich seeking a historic win, the Suns and Raptors meeting in a matchup of two postseason-bound teams, plus Knicks-Grizzlies and Wizards-Lakers on NBA TV.
But our crew of NBA handicappers is eyeing three games that are off the beaten path and see value in a first-half spread, player prop and total. Check out their in-depth analysis and best bets for Friday night below.
NBA Odds & Picks
Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Orlando Magic
Austin Wang: The Minnesota Timberwolves are one of the hottest teams in the NBA, winning (and covering) their past six games. Granted, they’ve played the Trail Blazers and Thunder each twice during this six-game timeframe, but the Orlando Magic is not much of a step up in competition.
I want to continue to ride the Timberwolves’ hot hand and I am looking to exploit an area they’ve been extremely successful: the first half. They are 39-26-2 ATS in the first half and 20-13 ATS in the first half on the road.
Malik Beasley has played extremely well. He scored 11 3-pointers in the last game and has hit 34 in their previous five games. They have also been getting some excellent bench production — Naz Reid and Taurean Prince have given them a nice boost. Anthony Edwards returned last game and is questionable for tonight’s game.
On the other hand, the Orlando Magic are 11-19 1H ATS at home. The Magic pulled off an upset on the road against the New Orleans Pelicans in their last game. In addition, it was also the second night of back-to-back. Now returning home, teams in this spot have not historically performed well and I see this as a letdown spot.
The Wolves are ranked eighth in first half Net Rating (+5.2) vs. 28th (-10.8) for the Magic. I am taking the Wolves -4 in the first half for tonight’s matchup.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Atlanta Hawks
Brandon Anderson: Last season, Clint Capela led the NBA in rebounding. At 14.3 RPG, it was a breakout season for the big man as he immediately fit right in with the Atlanta Hawks as a role man pairing with Trae Young and a rebounding center.
Capela is down to 12.0 RPG this season and that certainly feels like a bit of a disappointment, but it’s really not been a drop in production as much as a decrease in minutes at times.
Remember, Capela was injured coming into the season and took a bit to ramp up, under 30 minutes in each of his first six games. Once he did, he was the same old Capela as always, putting up 13.4 RPG in almost 31 minutes a game for 23 games — right up until he got hurt again. Capela missed two games, then played a couple weeks before missing a longer stretch.
When he returned, the heavy minutes load did not. Capela averaged only 22.6 MPG in his first 10 starts back, and his rebounds dropped off to 9.0 RPG, though his actual per-minute rebounding rate was up. Now over the last 10 games, we’re starting to get a more happy medium. Capela’s minutes are back up to 27.1 per game, and he’s played at least 29 in all but for of them. And his rebounding is back too, at 11.4 RPG, and that goes up to 12.5 RPG excluding the lower minute games.
We project Capela at 28 minutes tonight and have him at 12.1 rebounds, and that fits right in line with his recent production. He’s had nine rebounds in eight straight so the floor is still very high, and the Clippers rank dead last in offensive rebounding and bottom three overall on the glass. If Capela plays his expected minutes load, he should have another big rebounding night.
When Capela plays at least 26 minutes this season, he’s gone over this line an impressive 32 of 35 times, hitting this over 91%. The rebounds come easy — so this is really a minutes bet. He has at least 12 boards in 27 of those games too, 77% of them, so it’s worth playing the alternate over since it is only one extra board. You can play 14-plus or 16-plus too if you like.
Charlotte Hornets vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Raheem Palmer: Although both teams had Thursday night off, we could see some tired legs for these two teams that are playing their third game in four nights.
The Hornets have lost 13 out of their last 17 games and are 3-7 in their last 10, completely falling off a cliff coinciding with the injury to Gordon Hayward, one of the team’s best scorers and playmakers.
While this was once a team that could score but struggled to defend, over the past 17 games, this team is scoring just 108.3 points per 100 possessions despite playing the second-fastest Pace in the league at 100.7 possessions.
Unfortunately for the Hornets, they face a Pelicans team that boasts the second-best Defensive Rating in the league since the All-Star Break, holding opposing teams to 106.3 points per 100 possessions. While the Pelicans’ defense has stepped up, their offense has slipped during their last two games against the Magic and Grizzlies, primarily due to the loss of Brandon Ingram who will miss at least 7-10 days with a mild hamstring strain.
Without Ingram in games vs the Magic and Grizzlies, they’ve scored just 1.08 and 1.04 points per possession respectively and it’s tough to see that improving here against a Hornets team that has improved recently, ranking 15th in Defensive Rating (114.8) over the past two weeks. Although the Hornets play at a blistering pace, the Pelicans play much slower, ranking 21st in Pace (97.5) and 18th in Offensive Length of Possession (14.8 seconds).
With a slower pace and reduced efficiency without Ingram, I’m not expecting a big offensive output from the Pelicans. The Pelicans are also 25th in Defensive Length of Possession (14.8) so they’ve been quite adept at slowing down faster offensive teams.
Given the struggles of both offenses in the absence of Hayward and Ingram respectively and two teams playing their third game in four nights, this feels like a prime spot to back the under. Add in CJ McCollum’s absence and I feel offense will be even tougher to come by. Oddsmakers opened this total 232.5 but I’d play this under at the current number of 225.5.