Celtics -5.5 (alt spread)
Boston travels to Orlando for each organization’s second leg of a back-to-back. Even though being the home team is beneficial in the first back-to-back of the year, Orlando actually had more travel than Boston who faced the Heat last night- the Magic were in Atlanta. No time-zone jumps, the travel is not a huge factor, but I’ll rock with the veteran Celtics who know what it takes to win on a short turn around. Also factoring in the Magic’s advantage of being home is null because the Celtics played just down the road last night, C’s beat the Magic – who have gone down to the wire in their first two games which may account for some fatigue for Orlando’s inexperienced group.
Indiana and Detroit both had games last night- Pistons got shlacked in NYC and Pacers fought back to lose a close one to San Antonio in Indiana. The Pistons Pacers matchup is in Indiana which will be a huge advantage for the Pacers as they look for their first win of the season. Detroit in their first two games averaged 21 bench points – depth is an issue. Pacers’ rookie Ben Mathurin is averaging 22.5 in his first two games coming off the bench and the entire second unit is averaging 57.5 points. No travel on the back-to-back, bench depth, and pursuit of their first win will give the Pacers the nod on a matchup most books have as a toss-up.
After Cleveland’s day off, they meet the Bulls in Chicago who took a tough loss Friday night in Washington. Zach Lavine makes his debut against the Cavs. Garland will miss the game with an eye injury. So, buckle up for a whole lot of Donavon Mitchell PnR. The fresh Cavs and their size will be a handful for the trio of Bulls: Lavine, DeRozan, Vucevic – who all love to make their honey in the paint and midrange. Vuc has had two blah games, failing to shoot above 40%, against frontcourts much thinner than Cleveland presents. Even if Lavine can make up for the lack of front court production and backcourt playmaking without Lonzo Ball, DeRozan has taken 22.5 shots across his first two games – two more shots than he did in his career season a year ago. While DeMar is a volume scorer, some fatigue from the burden he’s carried early without Lonzo or Lavine and with Vuc struggling is likely to set in on the back-to-back. Parlaying a Mitchell pts-ast-reb + Cleveland W + UNDER would be a good formula.
Bucks -8.5 (alt spread)
Milwaukie won 65% of their games a season ago on one day of rest. I like them against anyone when they are fresh – especially against bottom feeders like Houston. Early in the season, before the ingrown toenail and phantom hamstring injuries impact availability of lower ranked teams’ best players, is a great time to pick an upset. Just don’t waste your time picking against the Bucks. One of the most efficient winning machines, even without Middleton, look for the rested Bucks to make light work of the Rockets. Last night in Houston, the young Rockets showed their inexperience squandering a game late to Ja Morant and company. The quick turnaround trip to Milwaukie won’t be a fun one for the Rockets.
Miami hosts Toronto for each team’s second game of a back-to-back. On Friday night, Toronto lost a close one in Brooklyn while Miami lost similarly while hosting Boston. Miami is 0-2 and start their season while opening on a 4-game home stand before a west coast trip (they host Toronto again Monday 10/24.) The travel, competition against the top of the East, and – Nick Nurse’s special – heavy minutes for the starters all add up for the Heat to get their first win. Miami has questions about front court depth and their lack of offseason moves, but this organization is one of the best in the league. They know they can’t squander all of these home games to start the year before heading out west for a week. Miami gets their first win.
After a day of rest, Luka and Dallas’ defense will be a handful for the Grizzlies. Memphis has had to work hard for their first two wins – OT against the Knicks and fighting back late to avoid an upset in Houston. It took 49 pts and 5 three pointers from Ja to beat the Rockets. Dallas’ defense is stifling. Without Jaren Jackson Jr. protecting the paint, Dallas guards and attacking wings will live in the paint while creating ample drive & kick opportunities for shooters. Dallas hands Memphis their first L.
Nuggets –9.5 (alt spread)
Denver outlasted the reigning champs last night in San Francisco. Even while playing on a back-to-back against OKC who rested Friday night, Denver travels home to take care of business against the Thunder. The Nuggets already forfeited an early season matchup to a potential tanking franchise on opening night. They know they can’t drop any more games to bottom tier teams. Look for Denver’s offense to ensure they get the job done, but their defense may not be so apparent. Parlaying the Nuggets win with the under may be a nice play. While I don’t think OKC has a shot, I think Denver playing last night will prevent them from a true waxing of the Thunder.
The Clippers will be without John Wall and Kawhi Leonard as they continue to monitor their implementation following injuries. Some may see the Clippers barely squeaked by the Lousy Lakers on opening night and combine Leonard’s absence for game two as cause for concern. Opening night, the Clippers had 9 players tally 14+ minutes – 8 of them attempted at least 6 shots. Without Wall and Leonard, there is more certainty in where the ball will go. The Kings are fresh tonight, but even without Wall and Leonard, the Clippers matchup well with the Kings’ offensive pressure points. Clippers win in a game that will stay close as they continue early season tinkering with availability and lineups. Tonight, with less of the Clippers’ endless depth, there is more clarity to what roles need to be played by those available rather than experimenting with the endless variables. Look for more decisiveness out of Reggie Jackson specifically to put the ball in the hole.