Last Updated: 2017-12-31
Things are pretty much status quo in the NBA from now until the All-Star Break. Teams go through the mechanical nature of the regular season. There isn’t a whole lot to get excited about. Teams have spent the early part of the season trying to increase their margin for error for when we get deeper into the season. As a result, we should be able to find a lot of schedule losses over the next six weeks.
Now that we’re around the halfway point, the excitement of the start of the season is long gone and the motivations of a playoff chase have not arrived yet. Those back-to-backs and threes in four get a bit tougher. Those letdown spots get a little more obvious. The beauty of these situations is that oddsmakers have to leave these up to us, the bettors, to decide.
Here are the NBA situational betting spots for the week ending January 7:
Monday January 1
Portland Trail Blazers at Chicago Bulls – There are worse places to ring in the New Year than Chicago. Betting around the New Year’s holiday is tough. Teams playing on December 31 can fall victim to looking ahead to parties or nights out on the town. On January 1, there could be some hungover players just going through the motions. Portland suits up for this game with a trip to Cleveland on deck to take on the Cavaliers. Which game do they care about more? Precisely.
Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors – Toronto is a diverse city with a lot of nightlife options. Once again, it’s not a bad place to ring in the start of 2018. As it is, the Bucks are a team without much in the form of consistency. The Raptors are an overlooked contender in the Eastern Conference. With two days off before this game and one day off for travel before Wednesday’s game in Chicago, all signs point to the Raptors in this one.
Orlando Magic at Brooklyn Nets – Here’s another spot that could be tough on the road team. A slumping Magic team already dealing with a lot of injuries will ring in 2018 in New York City. It could be a very late night for both teams, but at least the hosts can sleep in their own beds and may be spending it with family. The Magic don’t have either of those luxuries. The injuries may lead to a slightly inflated line anyway, but Brooklyn has to be the side here.
Tuesday January 2
Portland Trail Blazers at Cleveland Cavaliers – Whatever the number, take Portland. Look, the Cavaliers have really stepped up in games that they want to play. They’ve given tremendous efforts in some of their games. This is not one of them. The Cavs play Boston on the road on Wednesday night with an ESPN broadcast crew on hand. Portland will show up. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum will show up. This brief stop at home for the Cavs is Cleveland’s first home game since December 21. They’re right back on the road for five straight. The Cavs may not even win this game, but their chances of covering as a decent-sized favorite certainly aren’t great.
Charlotte Hornets at Sacramento Kings – Hopefully the hangover is gone for the Charlotte Hornets, who rang in the New Year in Los Angeles after playing the Clippers. They’ll head right back to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers on Friday. The Hornets are a pretty big underachiever this season, all things considered. They’ve been awful on the road. The Kings, to their credit, have been playing better lately and have a respectable 6-9 record at home. They’ll be very live in this spot and could very well be laying a number. You’d obviously like to take a young, talented team catching points more often than laying them, but they should also smell blood in the water here.
Wednesday January 3
Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics – The first meeting between these two teams was marred by Gordon Hayward’s horrific ankle injury. Here’s Round Two. Round Three will be February 11 in Boston. This should be appointment television, with Boston eager to make a statement and Cleveland eager to do the same. The Cavaliers have done a great job in games when they have wanted to show up. The Celtics have been exceptional, especially on defense. This will be a tight line and a very scrutinized matchup. Look to get value before and after this game as opposed to for this game. This is not the type of NBA game you want to bet on.
Minnesota Timberwolves at Brooklyn Nets – We may get an indication of how much reach Tom Thibodeau has over this Minnesota team with Wednesday’s game. The Timberwolves may be in the West, but they want to prove themselves against elite teams. They’ll see one on Friday in Boston and then also have Cleveland and Oklahoma City coming up next week. Will they show up against the Nets? This is the third game in four nights and the middle game of a stretch of five games in seven nights. The Nets should be feeling good about themselves off of that aforementioned Orlando game on Monday. I think they’re very live as a dog here.
New York Knicks at Washington Wizards – The Knicks get a litmus test on Tuesday night with a visit from the San Antonio Spurs. Then they turn around and played a rested Washington team at home. The Wizards played a gauntlet-like schedule around the holidays, but things have quieted down a bit now and the Wizards have a bunch of home games in a short amount of time. This looks like a “name the score” type of spot for the hosts. The Knicks head down to South Beach to avoid the cold after this game and I can’t imagine they feel good about their depth in this back-to-back.
San Antonio Spurs at Philadelphia 76ers – I like games like this. I’m not sure how I’ll want to play it quite yet, but the Spurs have been atop the mountain for a long time. The 76ers are vying to get to that summit. They’ve got San Antonio in a good spot here. The Spurs are still treating Kawhi Leonard with the utmost care and the Sixers have two days off, while the Spurs are in a back-to-back. Still, it feels to me like the type of game in which the Spurs remind everybody what they are capable of and knock the 76ers down a peg. This is a Sixers team that was 13-9 after a win to open December and just 16-19 going into New Year’s Eve. They’re struggling. I’d be wary of taking them here.
Golden State Warriors at Dallas Mavericks – The Mavericks are not good. The Warriors are good. But, the schedule can be a great equalizer when it comes to the NBA. The Warriors play Houston on Thursday night. Dallas does not play anybody. How focused will the Warriors be before the big test the next night? Will their lack of focus be enough to allow Dallas to cover a big number? That’s the question you want to ask because you will get that big number.
Houston Rockets at Orlando Magic – The schedule makers are just cruel. The Rockets have to travel back from Orlando, a far longer trip than the up-and-down flight of Dallas to Houston, in advance of Thursday’s heavyweight Western Conference fight. How invested will Houston be for this game? It may not matter because Orlando is that bad, but, much like the Dallas game, the spread and the schedule are great equalizers.
Thursday January 4
Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets – On back-to-back nights, we’ve got Cleveland vs. Boston and Golden State vs. Houston. Let’s just fast-forward to May and start the conference finals right now. Again, this isn’t a game that you want to be invested in. It will be an extremely tight line with a very high handle for an NBA regular season game. You want to use this game to look for tendencies, find out things about these teams, and then play off of the overreactions going forward.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers – The only other game on the docket for Thursday is the late-night TNT doubleheader game between the Thunder and Clippers. The Clippers are not good right now because of injuries and the loss of Chris Paul. The Thunder still have to take every game seriously because they are trying to smooth out the edges before the playoff chase is really on. I’d expect to see a motivated Thunder team, unable to enjoy LA too much with the STAPLES Center back-to-back off of playing the Lakers on Wednesday.
Friday January 5
Chicago Bulls at Dallas Mavericks – Normally, going from playing the Warriors to playing the Bulls would be a letdown. If you’re the Mavericks, and you have 12 wins entering this week, beating a comparable opponent is a big deal. The Bulls, despite their recent play, still aren’t very good. The Mavericks aren’t either, but they’ll be in a good spot here, with the Bulls turning around to play a division foe on Saturday in Indianapolis. I’d be very interested in the Mavericks here and we may even see the Bulls as a road favorite, which is crazy to think about.
Minnesota Timberwolves at Boston Celtics – What sort of hangover will the Boston Celtics have on Friday night? The matchup against the Cavaliers is the crème de la crème for the C’s. What does it mean to play the Timberwolves? Not nearly as much. The Timberwolves, though, are fighting that uphill battle to be talked about with the upper echelon of the NBA. This is one of those games that can get those discussions going. I think they’re highly motivated going into Beantown. Wednesday’s result may dictate how motivated the Celtics are.
Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks – The Rapid Revenge Theory will be in play on Friday when the Bucks take on the Raptors. Toronto hosted Milwaukee on January 1 and now the venue will flip for Friday’s rematch. The Bucks have been significantly better at home than on the road. They head out for Washington in a back-to-back on Saturday, but this game will have the team’s full attention. The Raptors are so good, though, that this spot shouldn’t really faze them much. I’d look to go against the grain and take Toronto, especially if this is a revenge game for the Raps.
Saturday January 6
New Orleans Pelicans at Minnesota Timberwolves – I’d be all about the Pelicans on Saturday. This is the fifth game in seven nights for the Timberwolves. New Orleans’s offense runs through two big, physical, hard-to-defend players. Everything points to this being a really solid road spot for New Orleans. The Pelicans have two days off after an altitude game in Salt Lake City, which they had three days to prepare for. I’m not just thinking about taking the points, I’m thinking about the money line here as well.
Denver Nuggets at Sacramento Kings – The Nuggets have dealt with a lot of injuries early on in the campaign. On Saturday night, they’ll take on the Sacramento Kings in a back-to-back after hosting Utah on Friday. The Kings, meanwhile, will be extremely well-rested with three days off prior to taking the floor for this one. Denver plays Golden State on Monday, so that presents a bit of a look-ahead spot. The Kings are a team I think I’d look to back ATS for the rest of the season more often than not because they are a young team that is growing together. I think that carries weight in games like this that are sandwich spots for the visitors.
Boston Celtics at Brooklyn Nets – The Rapid Revenge Theory comes into play again on Saturday. The Celtics just played Brooklyn on New Year’s Eve. Both Boston and Philadelphia have some incredible schedules moving forward. The Celtics play this game on Saturday and won’t play again until Thursday. Their next game after January 11 is January 16. The 76ers play on January 5, January 11, and then January 15. The two teams play each other on the 11th and the 18th, with one game in between. Anyway, as that pertains to this game, who really knows? This is an outlier, but we do have a Boston team going from playing Cleveland and Minnesota to playing Brooklyn, which is a clear step down.
Sunday January 7
Atlanta Hawks at Los Angeles Lakers – I think it’s time for LA to claim another victim. The Hawks play on Friday night in Portland. This is a long West Coast trip and they are a bad team. A Saturday night off in Los Angeles is a godsend for a bad team. With a STAPLES Center back-to-back on the 7th and 8th, I’m looking at Los Angeles minus whatever number here. The Lakers are home from New Year’s Day until leaving for Dallas on the 12th. This is a good chance for them to string something together and a visit from the lowly Hawks is a pretty way to continue that or start something new.
Utah Jazz at Miami Heat – Going from snowy Salt Lake City or Denver to Miami is not a bad thing. The Jazz may not be fully focused on basketball for this one on Sunday. Much like the Hawks in LA on Saturday night, Utah finds itself down in South Beach on a Saturday night. The holidays just passed. Those are a stressful time for everybody. The Jazz have been terrible on the road. What’s one more loss at the expense of partying it up? Miami has a nice set of home games this week and is in a tremendous spot here.
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