Saturday’s main slate features six games and gets underway at 7:00 PM ET with the final two games tipping off at 9:00 PM ET. Last weekend, my best bets went 2-1 — the only miss was due to a last second garbage time layup by the Rockets — raising my record to 8-4 on the season. Let’s survey the slate and pick the best bets for Saturday night.
Cleveland Cavaliers -2.5 (-110)
There are two unstoppable waves barreling through the NBA: COVID and the Cavs. More than 50 players are out due to health and safety protocols, and that number will likely continue to rise over the next week. Some teams are affected more than others, and the Cavs and Bucks are an example of that. The Cavs will be without only one player, Isaac Okoro, due to COVID because they battled through their outbreak earlier this season. That outbreak coincides with the last time the Cavs lost basketball games (Nov. 15 through Nov. 21). The loss of Okoro in the starting frontcourt hurts, but he was more of a role player as this team relies heavily on their big men down low. Even if Evan Mobley (questionable; hip) is unable to go — he missed Wednesday — the Cavs can win without him. On Wednesday, they won their fifth straight game and ninth in the last 11 — a streak that began once they were at full health after their COVID outbreak. Even more impressive is that they have covered the spread 13 games in a row and are 24-6 ATS this season.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Cavaliers C Evan Mobley has entered the league’s health and safety protocols.
The Bucks (19-12) are the defending champs and sit a half of a game higher than the Cavs (18-12) in the standings. Normally, this would be a case of experience likely beating the young upstarts. However, nothing is normal in sports today or the next day or for the next week. The Cavs are hot and the Bucks have COVID. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bobby Portis, Donte DiVincenzo, Wesley Matthews and Semi Ojeleye are out due to health and safety protocols. A Giannis-less Bucks team is not the same team, and the loss of Bobby Portis and Brook Lopez sets up what could be a tough day in the frontcourt against a Cavs team that plays big (three seven-footers in their starting lineup). Further complicating issues for the Bucks is that Khris Middleton is questionable (knee) after missing last night’s loss to the Pelicans. Yes, the Pelicans, the Bucks lost to the Pelicans because they’re short-handed, and now they face the streaking Cavs on the tail end of a back-to-back.
Orlando Magic Money Line (+215)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Nets C Nic Claxton (wrist) has been ruled out for tonight’s game vs. the Magic and PG Patty Mills (rest) will now be available to play.
Taking the money line on the road is a sign of the times. This is not the same Brooklyn team that sits atop the Eastern Conference standings with a 21-8 record. COVID has hit the Nets’ roster and hit it hard. The situation is so bad that the Nets blinked, and stopped playing hardball with Kyrie Irving and will now allow him to play the Nets’ road games. The current COVID outbreak and the excessive minutes per game being required of the Nets’ stars (Kevin Durant 36 mpg and James Harden 37 mpg) were threatening their championship chances. Unfortunately for the short-handed Nets, tonight’s game is at home and New York City laws prohibit Irving's participation. The Nets will have to play the Magic with an extremely short-handed rotation. Kevin Durant, Bruce Brown, James Harden, James Johnson, Jevon Carter, DeAndre’ Bembry, LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap are all out due to health and safety protocols. On top of that, Patty Mills is out for a rest day — probably not the best time for rest, but this is the first game of a back-to-back — and Nic Claxton is questionable (wrist). Even if Claxton plays, he just returned from injury earlier this month, and has not played more than 26 minutes in a game.
The Magic have issues of their own, but they still have some starters and possibly a star. That didn’t seem to help them last night, as they failed to cover a +8.5 spread against Miami, but that was against a real NBA team. On Saturday night, the Magic will be facing a borderline G-League team in Brooklyn. The Magic have been +7 point dogs or larger 25 times this season and have not been favored once. When this paragraph began, the Magic were +1.5 — the closest to being a favorite all season — but now they sit as six point dogs. These are strange times and betting in this nebulous environment presents opportunity. Of course the pessimist would say that making wagers amid the fog of war is dangerous, but the adage goes, “scared money does not make money.” Cole Anthony (questionable) could play and that would make this bet very safe and the market would quickly shift. However, if he doesn’t play, Gary Harris, Robin Lopez and Franz Wagner should be enough for the Magic to win in New York. That is the most unbelievable best bets sentence ever written, but those three players are significantly better than anything that the Nets can roll out tonight.
One note of warning and advice, these rosters are changing rapidly throughout each day and in every sport. For up-to-the-minute news, analysis and lineups, download the DK Live app. You also can follow DK Live on Twitter @dklive.
Utah Jazz (-10)
Editor’s Note: Jazz PG Mike Conley (rest) has been ruled out tonight vs. the Wizards.
This is a steep line, but it’s the price we pay to get a lineup that has not been ravaged by the dreaded health and safety protocols. The Jazz are coming off of a frustrating loss to the Spurs on Friday night, one in which they led by 14 points at half. That loss should have been an easy win for the best offense and fifth-best defense in the league (according to efficiency ratings), but Utah’s defense collapsed in the second half. The Spurs shot 61.7% from the field in the second half and out rebounded the Jazz 25-20. It happens, teams get hot, but the Jazz should snap back tonight after one poor half of basketball.
This is a rematch from last week, where the Jazz smoked the Wizards 123-98 at Washington. The Wizards hung around in that game for two and a half quarters, but eventually the better team pulled away. On the road against an angry squad, the Wizards will likely get run out of the gym before halftime. The Jazz are a team that was riding a seven game win streak yesterday (wins in 12 of 14), and the Wizards are a team that ranks 22nd in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Of course the Jazz are going to win this game, but by how many? How many points had they been winning by before last night’s surprising loss? In the four previous games, they beat the Clippers by 21, Wizards by 25, 76ers by 22 and Timberwolves by 32. They squash inferior opponents, and they were on their way to another double-digit win last night, but the Spurs got hot. Can the Wizards get hot? Probably not, the Wizards are 4-14 ATS on the road and six of their last eight losses have been by double-digits.
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