The Australian Friday is always one of the biggest days on the NBA calendar and this week is no exception. We’re treated to an excellent TNT double header here in the two featured games of the night. This kicks off in Oklahoma City as the Thunder host the Celtics, before moving to Los Angeles as the Lakers play host to Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets. A big night on the court is matched only by the value on the betting card. This preview features an analysis of my 3 best bets today, plus our favourite cross-sport multi.
The Pistons surprisingly enter this one 3-0 after a thrilling overtime win over the Sixers on Wednesday. Power Forward Blake Griffin led the way with 50 points and 14 rebounds in a career-best performance. He was capably supported by the 14 points and 16 rebounds of Andre Drummond and the 23 points from Point Guard Reggie Jackson. Despite a 3-0 start, the Pistons have enjoyed a very favourable start to this campaign. They had the Nets and Bulls first up, followed by a Sixers side without Ben Simmons. Admittedly, the winless Cavaliers aren’t exactly a step up from these sides.
Predictably, the Cavaliers have struggled mightily without LeBron James, slumping to an 0-4 start. They travel to Detroit off the back of a dreadful 16-point home loss to the Nets yesterday. Kevin Love has put up some solid counting stats so far, averaging 20 points and 14 rebounds. However, he’s done this on terrible efficiency, shooting only 30% from the field and 26% from 3. Other holdovers from some of those LeBron led Finals teams like Tristan “Sucker Punch” Thompson and JR Smith haven’t fared much better either. I expect this to be a long year for the Cavs and think they’ll struggle to pull out a victory here in Detroit.
Prediction: Under 223.5 Points
After some incredibly high points totals to start the season, there has been a recent trend towards unders. The Cavs game against Brooklyn totalled only 188 points yesterday and I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a similarly slow-paced game here. Neither of these teams is all that talented offensively and this total feels 5-10 points too high to me.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder enter this TNT matchup at a surprising 0-3 after Monday’s shock home loss to the Sacramento Kings. Point Guard Russell Westbrook was hardly the problem in his return from injury, totalling 32 points 12 rebounds and 8 assists. Small Forward Paul George and Center Steven Adams performed well in supporting roles, but OKC really lacks other complementary pieces. After a tough 0-3 start, things don’t get any easier for OKC here as they play host to Eastern Conference favourite Celtics. An 0-4 start would be even more of a disaster, and as such I expect a sense of urgency from the Thunder here.
The Celtics travel to Oklahoma at 2-2 off the back of a surprising home loss to Orlando. Despite the loss, Point Guard Kyrie Irving had his best performance of the campaign, totalling 22 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. A surprise to start this young season has been the relatively poor play of Celtics Shooting Guard Jaylen Brown. In front of a national audience, I expect a better outing from him here. This deep and well-coached Celtics team rarely loses consecutive games, so you know they’ll definitely be up for this one.
Prediction: Russell Westbrook Under 10.5 assists
I expect this to be a close game with both teams leaving it all on the court. It’s tough to predict which way this game will go, so I’m opting for what I believe to be a high-value player prop here. The Celtics are yet to allow 10 assists to an opposing Point Guard and Westbrook himself only managed 8 against the Kings on Monday. Against the strong Celtics defence, I don’t see the shoot-first Westbrook notching 11+ assists here.
Los Angeles Lakers
After a surprising 0-3 start, the Lakers rebounded with a 131-113 win in Phoenix yesterday. Each member of the starting five scored in double digits, whilst Lance ‘Born-Ready’ Stephenson chimed in with 23 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists off the bench. The Lakers fast pace was firmly on display with this one, as they shot 52% on their 100 attempts from the field. It doesn’t get any easier for LA here as they play host to the 4-0 Nuggets. For the Lakers to stand a chance here, they’ll have to improve on the 127 points per game they’ve been allowing
The 4-0 Nuggets travel to LA off the back of 4 impressive conference wins to start the season, highlighted by a win over Golden State on Monday. Center Nikola Jokic has led the way so far, averaging 23 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists on 61% shooting. Paul Millsap, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris have all started the season strongly and help make up a dominant Nuggets starting 5. An injury to Small Forward Will Barton does somewhat thin their rotation, however the Nuggets still have the pieces to compete here in LA.
Prediction: Under 239.5 Points
Given the ridiculously high scoring games the Lakers have had so far, this high points total makes sense. After last night’s taxing affair in Phoenix, I’m not sure the Lakers have the energy for another high scoring affair here. Denver’s defence has been strong to start the season and I expect them to contain LA here.
With a lack of quality options in the NBA, I’m opting for a cross-sport multi here. I’m very confident in a Houston Texans NFL victory and think this is complimented nicely by the Nuggets here. At even money, this is a tough one for me to pass up.