Shane McNichol makes his NBA predictions for Friday night's games, with four best bets.
As the NBA hits its stride this season, the league is being swallowed by stories off the court, particularly those emanating from the mess that is the Brooklyn Nets.
Digging beneath the drama, however, the basketball has been remarkable, with wide-open races for playoff spots and title contention.
Friday offers a marvellous slate of action, a feast for bettors looking to take advantage.
Sacramento Kings (-2.5) at Los Angeles Lakers
We’re now several weeks into the NBA season and it’s past time to panic about the Lakers. They are one of just two teams with only two wins so far this season and LeBron James looks poised to miss time with an injured groin.
Beyond the overarching issues with James, a declining Anthony Davis, and the disaster that is Russell Westbrook, the entire Lakers roster is broken. What does this team do well? Better yet, what is it supposed to do well?
The Lakers rank dead last offensively, scoring a measly 103.9 points per possession. They rank dead last in three-point shooting at 29 per cent. There are no answers for first year head coach Darvin Ham.
Without James, things look particularly dire. For a young team without the talent to compete every night, there’s an expectation that some wins can be stolen with hustle and extra effort. For an older team like this that looks like its moping through the season, take advantage while you can and fade the Lakers.
Over 220.5 points in Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Toronto Raptors
The Thunder are still knee deep in the rebuilding efforts required after the core of their once-promising team slowly shifted away from OKC. That leads to a lot of young players and some quirky outcomes.
For all their faults, the Thunder are not a low-scoring team and they play the ninth-fastest tempo in the NBA. Oklahoma City leads the NBA in field goal attempts per game. The young Thunder are going to get their shots up, forcing teams to respond and do so on the other end as well.
The Raptors are certainly capable of taking advantage. This total is too low and should hit the over.
Milwaukee Bucks (+1.5) at San Antonio Spurs
This line jumps off the page, but requires some real context to understand. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday missed Milwaukee’s last game with injuries. If they were to both miss again, the Bucks’ roster is severely depleted.
Yet there are some reasons for optimism Friday. Both players participated in walk-through prior to Wednesday’s game before being ruled out. With two additional days of rest, it’s possible one or both is ready to step back on the court. If that were the case, bettors would rush to catch a line this good.
Even without either of those notable names, the Bucks can compete and beat the lowly Spurs. Jevon Carter posted 36 points and 12 assists, the game of his life, in Wednesday’s win in Oklahoma City.
I’ll roll the dice that the Bucks’ big names come back or their second-unit can stay hot on a Southern road trip.
Rudy Gobert under 12.5 points vs. Memphis Grizzlies
The former Jazz center has been somewhat underwhelming for Minnesota so far, with the Timberwolves sitting at just 5-7 this season.
He recently missed two games with an injury, after a string of ugly offensive performances. A rim-running big man like Gobert should not be posting 4-11 shooting nights, like he did in a loss late last month in San Antonio.
Gobert has only hit this scoring mark in four of the ten games he’s played so far this season. An active, rangy Grizzlies defense will look to stymie him as the roller in the Minnesota offense. With constant challenging at the rim, expect Gobert to shrink away from impacting this game offensively.