As usual on NBA Friday, we’ve got a bit of a smaller schedule on the cards here. There are 3 games on the slate today, headlined by the Utah Jazz playing host to the Houston Rockets. Boston plays host to New York, whilst Phoenix travel to Portland in two games that appear to be mismatches on paper. That said, let’s take a look at our best bet in each of these 3 games in our daily NBA preview.
The Celtics enter this one in much better recent form, winning 4 of their last 5 games to sit 13-10. Kyrie Irving has been the standout offensive player for Boston this season, averaging an efficient 22 points, 6.5 assists and 5 rebounds per game. Gordon Hayward had his best performance in a Celtics uniform last time out in Minnesota, putting up 30 points, 9 boards and 8 assists off the bench. In Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris and Al Horford, the Celtics have 3 versatile frontcourt players that excel in the modern NBA environment.
New York Knicks
The Knicks travel to Boston at 8-17, losing 3 of their last 4 after a 3-game winning streak. Shooting Guard Tim Hardaway Junior has been the best offensive player for New York this season. He is currently averaging 22 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists per game, helping to carry an otherwise struggling offence. Center Enes Kanter has been very strong of late, averaging 15 points and 14 rebounds on 58% shooting over his last 5. Emmanuel Mudiay has also emerged as a legitimate starting Point Guard option, averaging 14.5 points over his last 5 games.
Prediction: Knicks +12.5
Having already won in Boston earlier this season, I think 12.5 points for the Knicks represents very solid value here. New York has been much more competitive as of late and I believe they can contain Kyrie in this one. Getting 12.5 points, there’s also a ton of room for a backdoor cover.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers have struggled mightily of late and we’ve made some good money fading them. They’ve lost 6 of their last 7 games, a 3-point home win over Orlando the only reprieve. Point Guard Damian Lillard is doing everything he can to break this slump, averaging 31 points, 7 assists and 5 boards over his last 5. Shooting Guard C.J. McCollum is doing a nice job supporting Dame, averaging 21 points and 4 rebounds this season. The Portland bench has waned after an excellent start and will need to get back to their best for Portland to remain in the playoff race.
Phoenix appears to be by far and away the worst team in the NBA this season, sitting at a dismal 4-20. They’ve struggled immensely on the road so far, winning just 1 of their 12 games. With star Shooting Guard Devin Booker out injured, they were blown out at home to Sacramento last time out. Rookie big man DeAndre Ayton has been a rare bright spot for Phoenix, averaging an impressive 16 points and 10 boards so far. Sophomore Forward Josh Jackson has been a notable disappointment and will need to raise his level with Mikal Bridges showing some promising signs.
Prediction: 1st Half Under 109.5 Points
We had some success with this market in Phoenix’ last matchup and will be going back to the well here. Without Devin Booker, Phoenix struggles to generate any quality offence consistently. With C.J. McCollum questionable, I can see more of a slow-paced and low-scoring game here.
The Jazz appear to be in better form of late, winning 3 of their last 4 games to sit 12-13. This included a thumping 34-point win over San Antonio last time out, which was probably their best game of the season. Center Rudy Gobert continues to impress, averaging 17 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 3 blocks over his last 5 games. Shooting Guard Donovan Mitchell was also back to his efficient best, pouring in a quick-fire 20 points that included 4 made three-pointers. In a rematch of last year’s Conference Semi matchup, I expect Utah to be well up for this.
The Rockets have been incredibly inconsistent all season and enter this one at 11-12 after losing 5 of their last 7. Shooting Guard James Harden is still putting up excellent numbers, averaging 32 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds over his last 5. Center Clint Capela is also having another excellent campaign, putting up 24 points and 8 boards in his matchup with Karl-Anthony Towns. It has been the regression of Chris Paul that has hurt Houston this season, shooting only 42% from the field so far. With very poor rotational depth, I don’t see Houston hanging in the Utah altitude here.
Prediction: Jazz -1.5
Given the recent form of these two sides, I think Utah is undervalued here favoured by only 1.5 points. Whilst the starting fives are very similar, Utah has a significantly deeper team, which becomes even more important in their altitude. Looking for revenge after May’s playoff defeat, I expect a hungry Jazz team to come out with a win and cover here.
With only three games on the slate today, the options aren’t really there for a daily multi. I expect Portland to prove too much for Phoenix, whilst Boston outlasts a competitive New York side. Combining this with the Tennessee Titans in Thursday Night Football represents solid value at $1.67