January 27, 2016 (3:58 PM ET)
There are two recommended wagers tonight.
1) Take Charlotte Hornets at +7 spread against Utah Jazz for 3% of bankroll.
These two teams played an overtime thriller with a 124-119 final score nine days ago! It was the first game of Utah's 3-game road trip and a crushing way to start it as they not only took the loss but had heavy legs in the following game against Knicks, a game that also went past regulation and was decided in OT! The Jazz concluded that trip by taking care of the reeling Nets before losing the first game of this current homestand against the Pistons. Power-forward Derrick Favors made his return after a 16-game absence and played roughly 20 minutes. Favors is an integral part of this team but after such a lengthy layoff, he'll undoubtedly be rusty since it's going to take him at least 4-5 games to get back to NBA game shape! He'll also be on a minutes-restriction over the next few games as the coaching and medical staff carefully monitor his health. He's unlikely to have a positive plus/minus in his first few games back but the fact that he'll likely be re-insterted into the starting lineup in place of Lyles means the team has to alter its playing style. When an important player comes back from an injury, the average bettor automatically assumes he'll instantly improve the team as if it's a magic potion and not a work-in-progress. In reality, the team often suffers in the short run before reaping the full benefits over the long-term. That's because they have to go through somewhat of a transition again to integrate him back into their offensive sets and defensive schemes and that doesn't happen overnight. Favors is a very good player but after being sidelined for 16 consecutive games, it'll take him some time to be an effective contributor on both ends again.
The Hornets are a dangerous team to spot 7 points to at the moment. That's because they are incredibly confident and feel that they are in each and every game regardless of the scoreline. They rallied from a 17-point deficit against the Kings to force overtime and eventually walked out winners! That is not the first time that Steve Clifford's squad has shown its character and tenacity. They did the same in Orlando recently too and then followed that up with an OT win against the Knicks. Kemba Walker is the current Eastern Conference Player of the Week and for good reasons. He exploded for 52 points against the Jazz on January 18th and has since bucketed 20+ points in each of the next four games! He has the keys to this Charlotte offense and is an established NBA point-guard, unlike Brazilian rookie Raul Neto or sophomore Trey Burke. Those two are young and can perhaps get better in the future but are a long way away from being able to influence a game like Kemba Walker can at this early stage of their NBA careers. Neto is actually under the concussion-protocol program and may even miss this game. He had to exit the previous outing against Pistons after just 6 minutes! Whether he plays or not, however, the Hornets have a big matchup advantage at the PG position especially since Trey Burke is coming off a disappointing effort where he had zero points despite being on the court for 22 minutes!
While we don't expect Jeremy Lamb and Nicolas Batum to feature for the Hornets tonight, it shouldn't make much of a difference. Lamb's absence may in fact be a good thing since he's missed 6 of the last 7 games and could be rusty if he does play. Batum is a quality well-rounded player but he's been bothered by a toe injury and Charlotte has played well without him in the last 3 games. The emergence of Troy Daniels in the last game against Kings could be important tonight. That's because the streaky 3-point shooter had not received much playing time this season but finally got his chance in Sacramento and put up 28 points in just 31 minutes! With his confidence high again, it could be tough for the Jazz to guard all the capable 3-point shooters on this Hornets roster. Especially since their bigs, Hawes and Kaminsky can also stretch the floor and be effective from beyond the arc! That was Utah's undoing in their recent visit to Charlotte and while we expect them to guard the perimeter better tonight, it'll still be a difficult challenge.
What makes Charlotte a dangerous opponent tonight is that while they possess momentum and confidence on their side, they will not be complacent. That's because this team has dropped 8 in a row when visiting Salt Lake City and many of its players have previously struggled in those matchups. They all remember that and will be keen to make ammends. They won't be taking the Jazz lightly therefore and know that they will need to be at their best to get a result. We believe this will be a close game that either team can win. The Hornets are live underdogs in our opinion but even if the Jazz do pull away at the end and secure the W, we doubt it'll be by more than 7 points. This has the look of a game that could be decided in the final minute or so and for a defensive-minded ball club like Quin Snyder's, games are often won or lost by a few points and not much more.
Other notable facts to consider:
- Hornets are 6-3 ATS after an upset win as an underdog this season.
- Hornets are 20-7 ATS as road underdogs of 3.5 to 7 points over the last 3 seasons!
- Jazz have covered just twice in 10 games as home favorites of 6.5 to 9 points over the last 3 seasons!
2) Take Minnesota Timberwolves at +7 spread against OKC Thunder for 3% of bankroll.
Earlier in the season, the T-Wolves were almost at a disadvantage when playing at the Target Center due to the pressure that had mounted on them by the home crowd! The fans had been frusrtated by the team's futility in Minnesota while putting up impressive performances on the road. Now after 2 straight home wins, they no longer have the fans on their back and are enjoying their support again. Their last home game saw them upset the Memphis Grizzlies after previously blowing out the troubled Phoenix Suns! This is a young team that thrives on confidence. They've regained some of their swagger after a few wins and a good performance in Cleveland where they kept it respectable and should make it difficult for the Thunder tonight.
While we don't expect Minnesota to win this game, we do believe they'll be more competitive than the average NBA fan anticipates. They've already played the Thunder twice this season and lost on both occasions. The fact that this is their final home game against this Northwest divion opponent means that they'll likely suffer an embarrassing 4-0 sweep at the hands of OKC unless they can win this game. That's because the 4th and final meeting between the two sides will take place in Oklahoma City in March! The Wolves are a team in transition but they do have talent and pride on their roster. They don't wanna drop to 0-3 in the season series and know that this is their best chance for a rare win over Durant and company. With no playoffs or big upcoming games to look ahead to, this is one of their biggest games of the season going up against the division leader! Especially since they set out for a 4-game road trip after this. As for the Thunder? It's just another game and in fact more important matchups loom ahead.
Playing NBA games on consecutive nights is never an easy task for any club but what makes this particular situation even tougher for Billy Donovan's side is that last night's game against the Knicks went to overtime! Those intense 5 additional minutes after regulation often make a difference the following night as tired legs become more prevalent. Russel Westbrook and Kevin Durant each logged 44 minutes while Serge Ibaka was on the court for 47 minutes! Those superstars will still be a handful tonight but to think that they'll be at their best would be a mistake. The Oklahoma City Thunder not only had its key players give everything they have but on top of that, had to hop on a plane and fly to Minnesota from NY. This would be a more manageable schedule for OKC if there was at least no travel involved. On another note, keep in mind that the Thunder are just 0-8 ATS (against-the-spread) since Dec 17, 2015 on the road after Kevin Durant was their highest scorer in the previous game!
The Timberwolves on the other hand had the day off to rest yesterday and will have the fresher legs in the second half. Look for them to cover this spread in one of 3 ways. The first option would be to win outright which while not likely is most certainly a possibility given that the tired Thunder could be overlooking their lowly opposition. Afterall, Oklahoma City has not only beaten Minnesota twice already this season (and 9 in a row overall) but both games are fresh in their memory as they came earlier in January! That is precisely the type of rationale that leads to complacency. The second and perhaps most likely scenario would be that the Wolves stay within this generous spread and remain competitive in a tight game that goes down the wire and gets decided in the final possession or two. And last but not least, even if the Thunder do mount a double-digit lead, there's always a chance for a backdoor cover when a tired team lays this many points. That's because the only thing that OKC cares about is walking out with a W and not the margin of victory. If they could get their stars rest to avoid injuries while securing a narrow win, they would gladly take it. For all the aforementioned reasons, we'll side with the precious 7 points as they could come into play in more ways than one.
Other notable facts to consider:
- The Thunder have covered only 5 of 20 spreads in their road games!
- Karl-Anthony Towns leads all rookies with 22 double-doubles on the season!
- The Thunder are just 5-13 ATS in games where the total is set at 210 points or greater.
- OKC plays down to the level of its competition and is just 6-17 ATS against teams with losing records!
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