Last Updated: 2017-12-03
A full week with nothing out of the ordinary comes your way in the NBA as we head on into December. The first full week of the 12th month means that we are drawing closer to the Christmas holiday, which is thought to be the start of the season for a lot of contenders. But, as Philip Rossman-Reich pointed out on BangTheBook Radio last Tuesday, the season started about a week and a half earlier and we have seen some of those good teams start to separate from the pack already.
As we know, the NBA is a great league for handicapping the schedule. We’ve seen an increase in off days, but we still see spots that simply make sense to play on or against. The day-to-day schedule is a grind and the travel schedule can be a nightmare. Players are human, as much as we like to think of these guys as being impervious to the things that interfere with the lives of us common folk. They also get jet lag. They also get run down. They also lack motivation. For us, it creates some strong situational betting opportunities.
Here are the NBA situational betting spots for the week ending December 10:
Monday December 4
Detroit Pistons at San Antonio Spurs – There are a handful of back-to-backs on Monday and one of them features the host San Antonio Spurs. Coming off of games against Western Conference rivals Memphis and Oklahoma City, the Spurs host the Pistons one day after playing in OKC. The Pistons are playing their third road game in four nights, but have been one of the biggest surprises in the NBA. This line should give us some sort of idea on how high the perception of the Pistons actually is. It isn’t a great spot for them, especially as the long non-conference game of this four games in six nights trip, but the Spurs are in a tough spot as well. Detroit has struggled on the road relative to the team’s performance at home. To me, I’d lean Spurs here at a reasonable number.
Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies – Games against the Spurs always mean a little bit more for the Grizzlies. Saturday’s matchup against the Cavs brought out the best in Memphis as they covered, despite allowing Cleveland’s winning streak to get turned up to 11. Memphis is having a rough go of it this season with injuries and has now dropped 11 straight. This feels like a game that a team like Minnesota can very easily lose. Young teams trying to establish an identity are susceptible to flat spots. Memphis’s urgency increases with each loss. At the very least, grabbing Memphis as a small pup with the expectation of a big effort makes sense. Also, the farther we get from the firing of David Fizdale, the amount of shock should continue to lessen and then the team can focus on basketball as opposed to everything else.
Brooklyn Nets at Atlanta Hawks – Let’s all get in our fuzzy pajamas and get ready for the NBA version of a pillow fight. The Nets and Hawks meet for the second time in three days. Atlanta’s upset win on the road in Brooklyn as a five-point dog could cause a bit of an overreaction in this line, as we engage the Rapid Revenge Theory. The Hawks actually have more wins on the road than at home this season. The Nets are quite bad, but have four road wins out of their eight total victories. My inclination here is that the Nets bounce back and get revenge. The Nets had 19 turnovers in that game to Atlanta’s eight, which feels like an outlier, so this looks like a spot to back Brooklyn.
Orlando Magic at Charlotte Hornets – The Hornets really need to keep banking wins at home. The Magic come in on a back-to-back after playing in New York City on Sunday, with a day off to look around town. Charlotte has two days off before this game. Orlando has been freefalling now that fortunes from beyond the arc have reversed. The Hornets are just 1-10 on the road, but they are 7-3 at home. A well-rested Charlotte team that needs to be a little more aggressive now that 25 percent of the season has passed should be a good bet in this spot a Magic team playing for the fourth time in six days.
Tuesday December 5
Washington Wizards at Portland Trail Blazers – We’ve got a light schedule on Tuesday, but all three games have some very interesting spots. This one is obvious, with Washington on a back-to-back after playing in altitude against the Jazz on Monday night. That game started a five-game trip with four games in six nights out west and then Brooklyn after two days off. Portland has two days off before this game and three days off after it, so it is a very isolated game. Certainly the spot favors Portland, especially with a Washington team tapping into its depth with John Wall out, but that will be built into the line. Washington could very well be a value side in this one, but it is a tough play to make.
Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder – The Jazz head to OKC right after hosting the Wizards on Monday. OKC will be sitting and waiting off of a game against San Antonio. The Jazz seem to have righted the ship a little bit, while Oklahoma City still can’t seem to get much consistency going. The Thunder are loaded with talent, but haven’t played well away from home with a 2-9 record. The Jazz have been terrible on the road and good at home, which isn’t a big surprise with the built-in advantage in Salt Lake City. With some big home/road dichotomies this season, I wonder if we start to see home court advantage adjustments in the numbers. Despite the bad spot for Utah here, I’d lean that way. Good defensive teams should be in decent shape against a Thunder team still searching for its offensive identity with so many moving parts.
Phoenix Suns at Toronto Raptors – This is a horrrrrrrrrrible spot for the Suns. Phoenix is playing its third road game in four nights with tilts against Boston and Philadelphia prior to this one. The well-rested Raptors are coming in with three days off. The way to play this game, in my humble opinion, is to consider Phoenix in the first half and then look for Toronto to blow this thing open in the second half. Maybe Phoenix first quarter, especially off a loss. The Suns head home after this long road trip to entertain Washington on Thursday and the last game of a long trip can be a flat effort. The saving grace here is that Phoenix can’t fall for Toronto’s alluring nightlife like a lot of teams have. Toronto should be able to name the score here.
Wednesday December 6
Golden State Warriors at Charlotte Hornets – This is a very long and arduous road trip for the Warriors. This will be the fifth road game in eight nights with stops in Los Angeles, Orlando, Miami, New Orleans, and now Charlotte. A visit to Detroit on Friday will wrap up this stretch. Teams always bring their best efforts when the Warriors are in town and the Hornets have been dramatically better at home than on the road. Still, the Hornets are outmanned and outgunned here. This looks like a live betting situation. The spot would dictate a gamble on the Hornets, but the Warriors are just so much better and have a day off prior to this game. If Golden State shows signs of fatigue, hit Charlotte live at a reasonable number. If the Warriors look good, the Hornets may be in trouble.
Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Clippers – The Clippers are really missing Chris Paul, who went to Houston, and Blake Griffin, who is hurt. This spot, however, is about as good as it gets for them. Minnesota has a brief two-game road trip with a stop in Memphis and then a trip cross-country to Los Angeles. With the bright lights of Hollywood and the club and bar scene, plus three days off after this game, the Timberwolves may not be fully focused. These two teams also just played on Sunday. Depending on the outcome of that game, as this article is being written in the morning, perhaps the Clippers are a team to back on the Rapid Revenge Theory as well. This might be the best spot of the week and the Clippers should be catching some points at home.
Detroit Pistons at Milwaukee Bucks – This one is a really interesting spot. The Pistons and Bucks square off on Wednesday night with Detroit playing its fourth road game in six nights with stops in Washington, Philadelphia, and San Antonio. The Bucks will be playing in a different city for the 10th straight game. Milwaukee hasn’t had consecutive games in the same venue since November 13-15. Despite the schedule, the Bucks have gotten on track and have started a move up the Eastern Conference. Detroit hosts Golden State at Little Caesars Arena on Friday. This feels like a look-ahead spot and a flat spot off of a lot of travel. With Detroit’s performance to date, Milwaukee should be a reasonable favorite here and they are the preferred side.
Sacramento Kings at Cleveland Cavaliers – The Cavaliers are clearly done screwing around, as they entered the week with an 11-game winning streak. However, that stretch includes a lot of Eastern Conference foes with the Cavs looking to make a point. Against teams they aren’t worried about, they’ve done just enough to win, including the Clippers win in overtime and the seven-point road win in Atlanta. This game is sandwiched between road division games. The Cavs will be laying a massive number. This is a spot to get LeBron a bit of a rest. It’s a spot to coast to victory. It’s a spot to not cover the number.
Thursday December 7
Los Angeles Lakers at Philadelphia 76ers – We’ve really got a lot of spots this week. In this one, we have a classic look-ahead spot. The 76ers have a rematch against the Cavaliers coming up on Saturday. The Lakers are starting up a four-game Eastern Conference road trip and will be hoping to start it on a positive note. The Lakers traveling cross-country to take on a Sixers team high on the perception charts should mean an inflated line. It would be dog or nothing for me here.
Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz – The NBA schedule makers must have had a lot of Makers while constructing this thing. The Houston Rockets played a standalone road game at the STAPLES Center on December 3. They had three days off before that. They will have had three days off since that. Utah will have played four games in that span when this game tips off on Thursday. This is a massive contrast of styles. Will the Rockets be crisp with all the downtime? Will the downtime coupled with the altitude be a factor? There are a lot of questions about the road favorite here. Perhaps you can start with a position on Utah pregame and then look to live hedge with the Rockets if they look better than anticipated or look like a team ready to flip the switch at any point.
Washington Wizards at Phoenix Suns – Sometimes you’re left with bad situational spots for both teams. This is one of those spots. The Wizards are playing their third road game in four nights with stops in Utah and Portland. The Suns are back home after a long and pretty miserable swing through the Eastern Conference. With one day off to return to normal, reconnect with family, and settle back into a rhythm, the Suns get a team that is limping around without its best player, but Phoenix may not be able to capitalize. I’d probably look at the Wizards here, since they’ll want to bank any win they can without Wall and this is a very attainable win.
Friday December 8
Boston Celtics at San Antonio Spurs – The Celtics have methodically gone about their business en route to the top spot in the East. The Spurs have played well despite some injury concerns. In this particular spot, the Celtics and Spurs should both come with premium efforts. Neither team is in a tough spot here, though the Spurs have played five games in nine days prior to this one and will head to Phoenix for a back-to-back on Saturday. Boston hasn’t played any back-to-backs recently. Gregg Popovich, unlike other NBA coaches, treats almost all regular season games the same. Brad Stevens probably won’t with his team here. Will that matter? We’ll have to wait to find out, but I think the Celtics will have a little more juice.
Dallas Mavericks at Milwaukee Bucks – What feels like a throwaway game on Friday night is anything but. The Bucks have been trying to find their way throughout the season. They may have found it, but do we trust them to cover a number like what this one will be? The Bucks entered this week as one of two teams with a winning record and a negative point differential. Dallas is awful, we all know that, but the Mavericks keep games pretty low-scoring. The Bucks should be laying double digits or close to it here and it’s hard to cover that with a team that is in the middle of the pack in offensive efficiency. I’d look to take Dallas here.
Saturday December 9
Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks – A Rapid Revenge Theory game is on tap on Saturday, with the Hawks hosting the Magic. These two teams played in Orlando on Wednesday. Two struggling clubs are trying to get wins wherever they can get them, so we should get a good effort from both here. The difference is that Orlando is on a back-to-back after hosting the Nuggets, whereas the Hawks are rested. Atlanta does fly out to NYC right after the game, but flights are always more fun off of a win. It makes the travel easier. I’d look Hawks in this spot, but we’ll see what Wednesday’s game does to perception and the line.
Philadelphia 76ers at Cleveland Cavaliers – This isn’t as traditional of a Rapid Revenge spot, but you can bet that the 76ers remember exactly what Cleveland did to them around the Thanksgiving holiday. The Sixers are one of those young, upstart teams looking to open some eyes. Sometimes the big bullies with the experience and the resume slap them down a few pegs. Cleveland did that in the first meeting. Will we get as motivated of a Cavs team here off of a division game in Indiana, a place where the Cavs normally struggle?
Sunday December 10
Philadelphia 76ers at New Orleans Pelicans – The workload of Joel Embiid is in question with every back-to-back. Coming off of a game that zapped a lot of emotion for the Sixers, I have a hard time believing that they’ll be ready to go here against the Pelicans. New Orleans’s front line gets a chance to rest on Saturday. The home team looks like the obvious choice in this one, even though a date with Houston looms on deck.
Toronto Raptors at Sacramento Kings – I realize I’ve waited too long in the week to mention this, but it is something to keep in mind. Recently, I read about how teams are staying the night in the place they just played instead of travelling and arriving in the wee hours of the morning. What that means here is that Toronto will sleep in Memphis and then fly out to Sacramento on Saturday. Sleep studies about the Circadian Rhythm have suggested that getting a good night’s sleep and then flying is a better approach. That may mean that we have some teams flying day of the game. This is why it’s important to follow beat writers and official team accounts. Try to figure out the itineraries for these teams. Those types of edges can mean a lot. Travel spots aren’t as bad with a decent night’s sleep and an 8 a.m. flight as opposed to flying late and getting to the team hotel at 4 a.m. Just something to consider as we go forward.
Keep an eye out for these NBA situational betting spots each week at BangTheBook.com.