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March 24th 2014 - Posted at 5:00 PM Eastern Time

There are two bets risking 4% tonight.

#1: Take the UNDER 218 Total in Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder risking 2%

Two high scoring offenses square off tonight as the Denver Nuggets travel to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder. The total for this game is listed at 218 combined points and while both teams can put points on the scoreboard, we feel that the odds-makers have slightly inflated this number and we have strong reasons to believe that this number is just a couple of baskets too high. 

While these two teams are capable of scoring in bunches, there are a number of factors that have to do with offensive production that are missing from tonight's matchup. First off All-Star Thunder PG Russell Westbrook will likely sit out tonight's game due to his recently re-aggravated knee injury. Westbrook is a key piece in the Thunder's scoring department and pushes the pace. While Kevin Durant picked up a bulk of the scoring duties in his absence earlier in the year and Reggie Jackson has turned into a more than adequate replacement, Westbrook is still a key piece in the offensive puzzle. Having him in the lineup then out of the lineup and then back in again messes with the dynamic of this team. Chemistry plays a big part on the offensive side and when that that gets a bit muddy, it's almost a sure sign that things won't go as smoothly as they have previously. Something as small as the two extra baskets that Westbrook may have provided had he been in the lineup suddenly becomes "huge" when factoring in a total as high as 218 points! 

Speaking of injuries, the Nuggets have been a team that has been plagued by injuries all season long. Tonight they find themselves bit once again by the injury bug. While Ty Lawson is back in the lineup, players such as JJ Hickson, Nate Robinson, Danilo Galinari and Wilson Chandler who take on a bulk of the scoring duties are still either missing or questionable for tonight's game. Hickson and Chandler account for about 26 points and 13 rebounds per game combined! Production such as that can not simply be made up by inserting a bench player. The Nuggets' scoring options are somewhat limited tonight which means they will not be able to go basket for basket with the Thunder. Their best chance is to play defense, something that they have not done well this season but have recently fared better at.

A total of 218 points means that both teams are going to have to score an average of 27.25 points per quarter in order for this total to go over! That is a lot of points to put up all throughout. One quarter where the score is 22-20 could completely alter the course of this game and make that target number of 218 incredibly hard to attain. The average total for a matchup between the Thunder and the Nuggets is somewhere around the 212 mark. This number is a full 6 points higher! Only twice in the last 7 meetings has the total gone over the 218 point mark and one of those was due to the game going to overtime. 

Something else that we feel is somewhat of a telling sign is the fact that the Thunder are listed as 11.5 point favorites in this game. If this game is supposed to be a total "shootout" it makes it incredibly difficult for the Thunder to cover this kind of number, even at home. That would mean that the Thunder would need to score upward of 120 points to even come close to covering that spread and we just don't think that they'll be able to do that tonight. OKC's last 4 games resulted in scores of 119 (due to double overtime), 102, 97 and 86. Even taking out the highest and lowest marks leaves the Thunder at an average of 100 points per game. They should do better than against this Nuggest defense but taking into account Westbrook's likely absence plus the potential absences of Chandler and Hickson, it seems reasonable to see a final score in the neighborhood of around 111-101. There appears to be more ways that this total stays low than there is for this number to go 'Over'. If this game ends in regulation as we expect it to and doesn't go to overtime, this number should stay below 218. Take the Under. 

Two other notable facts to consider:

  • The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Denver's last 5 games when playing Oklahoma City.
  • The total has gone UNDER in 6 of Oklahoma City's last 9 games. 

#2: Take Chicago Bulls at -1.5 spread against Indiana Pacers risking 2%

These teams are no strangers to each other and have developed quite a rivalry over the last few seasons. Both teams play similar styles where the focus is not on the offensive side of the ball but instead on employing a physical and smothering defense to win ball games. These are the top two defensive teams in the league so if you are the type who likes a ton of offense and highlight reel dunks and 3-pointers, this is probably not the game to watch. On the other hand, if you enjoy watching good solid defense and fundamentally sound basketball, this should be a classic! This one promises to be a knockdown, drag out defensive battle with the team getting the key stops and turnovers down the stretch more than likely winning the game.

These two teams met just a few days ago so the quick turnaround adds another interesting element to this game. Back in Indiana on Friday, it was the Pacers who grabbed a convincing 91-79 victory over the Bulls. The Pacers were able to assert their will on the Bulls and their defense did what it has done for much of the season and that is shutting down opposing offenses. Chicago was held to 34% shooting in that game and was uncharacteristically out-rebounded 61-43! Now, just 3 short days later, these two teams meet at United Center in Chicago and it's the Bulls who are listed as favorites! We find it interesting the Pacers who were listed as 6.5 favorites and managed to shutdown the Bulls offense are now suddenly underdogs to a team they just beat by double digits a little over 72 hours ago! That seems strange at first glance but there are very good reasons behind it. 

Chicago has always been a strong home team. At United Center they seem to step up their defensive pressure even more and have held teams to an average of just 90 points per game! This is also a revenge game for the Bulls. They are 22-14 ATS when revenging a loss to an opponent this season! This particular matchup is also something that we have seen before this season. This will be the 4th meeting between these two Central division teams this season. These two met back in early November in Indiana and it was the Pacers who got a 97-80 victory. Their next meeting was exactly 10 days later in Chicago however and the Bulls were -1.5 favorites! Despite being outplayed just 10 days earlier and suffering a huge loss to the Pacers, the Bulls responded in a big way and emphatically blew out the Pacers 110-94 in the rematch! In that matchup the Bulls shot 50% from the field, 58% from downtown and went to the foul line 24 times. This second matchup sets itself up in a similar way to back in November. The previous meeting was the same, the line is the same and even the total which opened at 179 for this game is similar. Now we are not saying that this game will be a blowout like the first re-match, or that Chicago will shoot lights out like they did, in fact we don't expect that. But it does show that Chicago does have the potential to bounce back, has done so many times this season and should do so again tonight.

The Pacers have been struggling down the stretch in the second half of the season. They have covered the spread just 3 times in their last 19 attempts! In their most recent game they had arguably their worst offensive performance of the season. They were playing on the road against another strong defensive minded team in the Memphis Grizzlies. In that game the Grizzlies wore down the Pacers and held them to just 71 total points! While we don't expect the same result tonight, we have seen the Pacers struggle not only on the road, but against solid defensive teams all too often. It doesn't get much tougher defensively than playing the Bulls in the United Center. Again, this is a revenge game tonight for the Bulls and we highly doubt that they would allow the Pacers to embarrass them twice in the span of 3 days! We expect a much more solid effort at home tonight as the Bulls get payback and come out with a win. With this spread being as low as it is, a win should be enough to cover this small number. Take Tom Thibodeau's determined and tenacious team.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Pacers are just 2-5 in their last 7 road games.
  • Bulls are 5-2 when the total has been set between 170 and 179.5 this season!
  • Bulls are 9-3 in their last 12 home games.

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