The New Year’s Day main slate features five games and gets underway at 7:00 p.m. ET with the final game tipping off at 9 p.m. ET. Last weekend, my best bets went 2-1 — the Jazz were disappointing but the Magic money line pick hit at +215 — raising my record to 10-5 on the season. Let’s survey the slate and pick the best bets for Saturday night.
Editor’s Note: Spurs SG/SF Lonnie Walker IV and SF Doug McDermott have entered the league’s health and safety protocols.
San Antonio Spurs -7 (-110)
This will be the third game in four days for the Spurs and it’s the backend of a back-to-back. It doesn’t matter. A healthy Pistons rotation cannot beat a worn out Spurs rotation, and the Pistons are not healthy. The Pistons are trotting out a G-League team, and not just a G-League team, the G-League players that Detroit could procure. On Wednesday, Hamidou Diallo scored 31 points in 38 minutes. It was the best game of his career but not because he is developing into a star. There is no one on this team. Diallo is not a star, his career average is 18 mpg. He can have another amazing night and it won’t matter. The Pistons lost by nine and failed to cover against the depleted Knicks on Wednesday
Here’s the kicker. Without Dejounte Murray, the Spurs beat the Pistons 144-101 on Dec. 26. Every Spur took part in the thrashing, but it wasn’t necessary. Two-thirds of the team can run cold on Saturday and it won’t be a problem. This was Detroit’s starting five on Wednesday: Saddiq Bey, Luka Garza, Frank Jackson, Hamidou Diallo and Derrick Walton Jr. Bey is the only true starter, and he is weakest link in the Pistons’ actual lineup. The Pistons are a 5-28 team with a league-worst -9.7 Net Rating, and since losing players to the health and safety protocols, their Net Rating has worsened over the last three games (-14.6).
Under 222 (-110)
It’s extremely risky to play the under in a game between the two best offenses in the NBA. However, this is also a matchup between two of the best defenses in the NBA — the Warriors are the best and the Jazz rank sixth in defensive efficiency. The Jazz are on the backend of a back-to-back and their third game in four nights. Meanwhile the Warriors are well rested (Thursday night’s game in Denver was canceled), but they’re playing without Draymond Green. All these details add up, so being in the uncomfortable spot of rooting for the under in an NBA game seems like the right side to be on in this one.
The Warriors are nearly at full strength, but Draymond Green plays a larger role than most people think. He does not fill up the stat sheet, but the offense is much more efficient when he’s in the lineup. The Warriors have role players that could be good and should be good, but they’re inconsistent. At home on Tuesday without Green, the Warriors shot 41% (down from 47% on the season) and 31% from beyond the arc (down from 36% on the season). The final tally was 86 points against the Nuggets’ below-average defense. Curry has to get hot for this team to hit the over, and Curry has not been setting the world on fire this season. His 39.7% three point percentage and 43.3% field goal percentage are near career lows, so it shouldn't be a surprise that the under is 23-11 in Warriors games.
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.
Brooklyn Nets -12 (-110)
Normally, a double-digit favorite would be an absolute stay away, but these are not normal times. The Clippers’ roster has been devastated by COVID-19 and physical injuries. Making matters worse, they are playing the second leg of a back-to-back on the road and their third game in four days. In contrast, Brooklyn is healthy.
These two teams played each other less than a week ago (Dec. 27 in L.A.) and the Nets won 124-108 — easily covering the -4 spread. Since then, Kevin Durant has returned to the Nets’ lineup and the Clippers have lost another player, Ivica Zubac. When Marcus Morris is your main scoring threat — and he has been the Clippers’ leading scorer in each of the last three games — then you’re in trouble. Even before Paul George's elbow injury, this team was struggling going 1-3 in the four games prior. That slide has continued, and they have now dropped six of eight. There one win and cover without George came against a Boston team that is playing very bad basketball at the moment.
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